Shedding light on Bell Rock

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The collections manager at Fraserburgh’s Museum of Scottish Lighthouses has just published a new book.

‘Bell Rock Lighthouse: An Illustrated History’ has been released by Michael Strachan.

Fraserburgh-born, Michael has been involved with the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses since 2012 and is currently serving as collections manager at the centre, tasked with caring for a nationally-recognised collection of artefacts.

In his book, he refers to the Bell Rock Lighthouse as having been an industrial ‘wonder of the world’ since its completion in 1811.

The tower on the Inchcape Rock, 12 miles from Arbroath, is the oldest sea-washed tower in the world having been lashed by the seas for over 200 years.

Her earlier cousins were all taken by the waves or replaced. According to the author, the construction of the Bell Rock not only proved the Northern Lighthouse Board had reached maturity, but it made the name of the Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers: a dynasty that dominated Scottish lighthouses for 150 years.

Michael says: “Robert Stevenson was the first man on the reef and the last man off, a personal commitment which has seen the Bell Rock’s actual chief engineer - John Rennie - almost deleted from the station’s history.

“Not only was it a remarkable feat of engineering, but one which played host to a remarkable way of life. The light-keepers undertook their nightly vigils at the station for 177 years, their often mundane and monotonous duties occasionally being punctuated by technological improvement and world events.”

“The keepers are now all gone, but the Bell Rock continues to show its familiar flash, guiding the mariner to safety.”

Michael says a large part of the book focusses on what was happening at the Bell Rock following 1811 and concludes in the present day.

He told us: “The book is also illustrated with 100 images which is arguably the best collection of Bell Rock imagery to be brought together in one title. Many of the images are taken from the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses Recognised Collection of National Significance, but the book has also been supported by other institutions.”

Released by Amberley Publishing, ‘Bell Rock Lighthouse: An Illustrated History’ is also available in Kindle, Kobo and iBook formats.