Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lighthouses - Sepia Saturday

While looking for some information I came across this verse by Rachel Lyman Field

I'd like to be a lighthouse
All scrubbed and painted white.
I'd like to be a lighthouse
And stay awake all night
To keep my eye on everything
That sails my patch of sea;
I'd like to be a lighthouse
With the ships all watching me.

It seemed so appropriate for this week’s prompt:

 It also reminded me of a poem I learnt at school, (all 69 lines of it), called The Inchcape Rock - by Robert Southey:
No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,
The ship was still as she could be,
Her sails from Heaven received no motion,
Her keel was steady in the ocean.

Without either sign or sound of their shock
The waves flow’d over the Inchcape Rock;
So little they rose, so little they fell,
They did not move the Inchcape Bell.

The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.

When the rock was hid by the surge’s swell,
The mariners heard the warning bell;
And then they knew the perilous Rock,
And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok.

A short story about the Inchcape Rock may be read at and Southey’s full poem at

Fortunately for all Robert Stevenson built a lighthouse (1807 – 1810) on the reef known as the Inchcape or Bell Rock which is located off the east coast of Angus, Scotland.

Bell Rock Lighthouse - 2006
(by Derek Robertson - CC BY-SA 2.0 - Geograph project collection)

This video tells how it was built. I suggest you watch the first 4.1/2 mins. (After this it’s about the man, who became Baron Inchcape and later the Earl of Inchcape, before ending as little more than PR for the Inchcape motor group.)

Britain also boasts of the smallest island in the world with a building on it – the Bishop Rock off the Isles of Scilly. The Bishop Rock Lighthouse stands on a rock ledge 46 metres long x 16 metres wide, 4 miles west of the Scillies.

Bishop Rock from Periglis Bay, St Agnes - 2006
(By John Davey - CC BY-SA 2.0 - Geograph project collection)

The first lighthouse on the rock did not last long

First lighthouse
It was started in 1847 but was washed away in 1850, before it could be commissioned.

Second lighthouse

The second Bishop Rock Lighthouse was started in 1858 – a solid tower structure constructed from dovetailing blocks of Cornish granite. It soon became apparent that even this was not strong enough to resist the large waves to which it was subjected. Cracks snaked up the sides of the tower and vibrations caused by the waves make the lighthouse shake violently. In 1874 waves over 40metres high broke over the tower washing away the lantern; tons of water coming down inside the tower threatened to drown the keepers.

Bishop Rock Lighthouse
In 1881 an outer stone skin built around the existing tower increased its height and strength; there have been no problems since, Changing keepers by boat was a hazardous operation. A helicopter pad added in 1976 mad this easier. The last keeper left in 1992 and the Bishop Rock Lighthouse has been fully automated since.

Bishop Rock Lighthouse - 2005
(By Richard Knights - CC BY-SA 2.0 - Geograph project collection)

For further enlightenment don't forget to cross over to Sepia-saturday-188.


ScotSue said...

I enjoyed very much the poems you found and they were so apt for the prompt - plus the stunning photographs.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

Love the first poem, and the video was gripping. It's amazing to think the lighthouse is still standing.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Oh boy....what a rough commute out there. The idea of landing on the lighthouse in a helicopter makes my stomach churn. Very interesting - everything. Loved the poems.

Joan said...

Lighthouses are a magnet for this high desert lady. The video was great as were the photos --- and of course the poems.

Joan said...

Light houses are a magnet for this high desert lady. Loved the power of the video. Thanks.

Little Nell said...

I have a thing about lighthouses as I see one every day from my window! I've already covred them (In Carmi's blog) so I went for the windmills this time. I like the poems but poor you, having to learn 69 lines! Mr Gove would be proud of you!

Brett Payne said...

What a lonely, perilous existence to be a lighthouse keeper in that one.

Alan Burnett said...

I'm glad I'm not a lighthouse
With a light that shines and sweeps
I'm glad I'm not a lighthouse
With it's fog bound noisy beep
So glad I'm not a lighthouse
I'd never get any bloody sleep.

Nice lights, Bob

Wendy said...

What an interesting story and history. I'm used to seeing lighthouses on the shore, not out in the middle of the sea. Rowing out to the lighthouse required a lot of bravery and luck, it seems.

Jackie said...

This is my first visit to sepia Saturday
I loved the information and pictures of Bishop Rock lighthouse very informative and your first poem was great

Sharon said...

It is hard to imagine the lighthouse keepers and their family living in light houses in the past, especially these ones!

tony said...

There Is Something So Romantic & Heroic About Lighthouses.Bob ,your post captures those feeling perfectly!

Karen S. said...

A most lovely post, I'm such a fan of lighthouses, and even if I did go off theme this week, and for the next few coming, in a long stretch my post has much to do with what lighthouses do, but in a different light! Ha! Ha! Check it out!

Alex Daw said...

Just amazing. And Alan's poem cracked me up.

Jackie van Bergen said...

Loved the poems, including Alan's.
A very distant relation of mine was a lighthouse man in Cornwall, I must look up where he was.
A great look at lighthouses

Liz Needle said...

A fascinating post and some very interesting photos. Thank you.

Kristin said...

It must have been terrifying to have all that water crashing down on you. I wonder how the keepers made their escape and lived to tell the tale.

Mike Brubaker said...

A perfect post, Bob, with poetry old and new! Alan made it even funnier. We should have a poetry theme one weekend for Sepia Saturday.

Anonymous said...

It must be a lonely life to live as a lighthouse keeper. Truly a special breed of people. Thank you for this great post!

Boobook said...

What an impressive place. I'd never heard of it so thanks for sharing.

diane b said...

Great post on lighthouses. It sure is amazing how they are built on such a small base surrounded by raging sea.


That first poem was a nice touch but I was totally unprepared for what followed. What a journey!! Loved the vid except for the ending... Amazing structures these are.
I wonder what it was like though, to be a keeper of such a lighthouse.
Depressing, or serene?
One thing is for sure,
no door-to-door salesmen...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Bob .. I've linked across to my L post .. but this is comprehensive and you've some lovely photos ..

Cheers Hilary