Lighthouse to feature in new TV documentary

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Kinnaird Head Lighthouse is to feature in a new documentary due to be aired on BBC 2 on Tuesday, February .

It will chart the work of the Lighthouse Stevensons over the course of five generations from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, creating lighthouses on some of the most storm-lashed and inaccessible outcrops of Scotland imaginable.

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Fraserburgh’s Kinnaird Head saw the first light installed in 1787 by Edinburgh man Thomas Smith who then passed the baton on to his son-in-law (and stepson) Robert Stevenson, who founded a dynasty of lighthouse engineers including sons, Allan, David and Thomas (father of Robert Louis Stevenson), and in turn David’s sons David Alan and Charles and finally Charles’s son, David Alan.

Two local interviewees included in the documentary are Bill Gault from Strichen and Fraserburgh man Jimmy Oliver.

Bill was an Assistant Keeper in Fraserburgh between 1978 and 1982 and worked for the Lighthouse Board from the 1960s until retiring and Jimmy Oliver who was the Principle Keeper at the Broch is now the Senior Guide at the Lighthouse Museum.

Bill told the Herald: “I worked in over 23 different Lighthouses during my career, including five that will be featured in the documentary and was stationed at the Fair Isle South Lighthouse when it was automated in 1998.

The life as a Lighthouse Keeper is a different life, it can be a lonely life and a hard life, having to move regularly and being unable to put down roots.”

The film, produced by Caledonia TV and narrated by Denis Lawson, takes viewers through the Stevenson’s remarkable achievements and the strange world of lighthouse-keeping – including its strains on family life – through to modern-day automation.

Jimmy Oliver, who worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board for 38 years before taking up his position with the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, said: “It’s great to have the first lighthouse of the Northern Lighthouse Board here at Kinnaird Head. The Scottish Lighthouse Museum is a great monument not only to the Stevenson family but also to the keepers that manned the lighthouses who were there for the mariners safety and we are lucky to have them in Fraserburgh.”

The programme is being transmitted as lighthouse aficionados prepare to celebrate the 200 years since the first light was lit on the famous Bell Rock Lighthouse, near Arbroath, on February 1, 1811.