The Flannan Isles Lighthouse is situated on the highest point of Eilean Mòr, one of the Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland.
The Flannan Isles, named after St Flann, consists of seven rocky, uninhabited islands called the Seven Hunters. The lighthouse is situated on the island, Eilean Mor. Eilean Mor had two other ruined habitations which were described by the Ancient Monuments Commission (now Historic Environment Scotland) as The Bothies of the Clan McPhail. One of these ruins appeared to be a chapel and the other a dwelling.
In 1896, sanction was received from the Board of Trade for the construction of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse. But it wasn’t until 7 December 1899 that work started. The engineer was D Alan Stevenson and building work carried out by George Lawson of Rutherglen. The cost of £6,914 included the building of the landing places and stairs etc on Eilean Mor. George Lawson also built the dwelling houses for the lightkeepers’ wives and families at the shore station at Breasclete on the Isle of Lewis at a cost £3,526. Breascelete was chosen as the site for the shore station due to its close proximity to Loch Roag, a sea loch. This provided a safe anchorage and shelter for the lighthouse tender when taking on or putting ashore the lightkeepers, or when bad weather made it impossible to carry out the relief on the due date.
As there was no radio communication between the Flannans and Lewis at that time, a gamekeeper, Mr Roderick MacKenzie, was appointed as observer to the light for which he received payment of £8 per annum. Mr MacKenzie’s duties involved watching for any signals from the lighthouse 18 miles north west of his vantage point at Gallan Head, Lewis and to observe and report any failure in the exhibition of the light. In the event of such a failure it is required to be reported immediately by telegram to Head Office in Edinburgh so that the necessary steps could be taken to have someone sent to carry out any repairs as soon as possible.
Just over a year after the light was first exhibited, on 15 December 1900, the disaster which has since captured the imagination of the public in much the same way as the “Mary Celeste”, occurred at the Flannan Isles.
The Flannan Isles Lighthouse remained as a manned Station, reliefs and water supplies being carried out by the MV POLE STAR from Stromness until 28 September 1971. It was then demanned, and became a Major Automatic Light.
Today the Flannans receives an annual inspection and maintenance visit from NLV PHAROS.
“Though three men dwell on Flannan Isle
To keep the lamp alight,
As we steer’d under the lee, we caught
No glimmer through the night.
A passing ship at dawn had brought
The news: and quickly we set sail,
To find out what strange thing might ail
The keepers of the deep-sea light.
The winer day broke blue and bright
With glancing sun and glancing spray
While o’er the swell our boat made way,
As gallant as a gull in flight.
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson