Friday, 22 February 2013

Lights of the Clyde

On the way down from the old light, we got a fine view of the iconic Stevenson light and its surrounding buildings.  This light was a replacement for the old light and was built much lower down the island to avoid the problems of mist and cloud which regularly obscured the old light.  Beyond the buildings, the Isle of  Bute can be seen across the Clyde.

Thomas Smith was commissioned by the trustees of the old light to design a replacement, and this building was the third design he submitted.  The engineer entrusted with its construction was Smith's stepson,  Robert Stevenson

This was really the beginning of the great surge of lighthouse building by the remarkable "Lighthouse Stevensons", who would design and build lights in the most hostile environments imaginable and would also number among their family tree the author  Robert Louis Stevenson.

The light tower is actually in much better condition than the modern, small tower containing the current light.

A feature of all the Northern Lighthouse Board lights built during this great period of 150 years or so is the exceptional quality of design and construction.  Prexision in both design and execution were hallmarks of a Stevenson light, but amongst the almost mathematical geometry of the buildings, fine features such as this frieze which still has some of the coloured paint attached.

It's possible to climb into the lightroom to see where the lantern would have been displayed; a very evocative place.  This fine light was in operation from 1793 and was originally fired by oil lamps.  These were replaced by an Argand gas apparatus in 1974 and the light was replaced by a small modern tower nearby in 1997.

I've seen this building many, many times when transitting the Clyde on a ship and it was a special moment to actually be inside.

We'd spent a long time exploring Little Cumbrae and the receding tide had left our boats high up a slippery boulder beach.  The extent of  the damage wrought by the recent winter storms. 

Soon after getting back on the water, our ways parted.  Douglas, Phil, David, Jennifer and Andrew headed around the south of Little cumbrae back to Largs whil I crossed the Cumbrae Gap to Bute.  On my way back to Kilchattan Bay I passed yet another of the Clyde lights, Rubh an Eun.  This was built in 1911 and flashes red once every six seconds, reflecting its position at the port hand side of the ingoing route for shipping.

It had been a great day - visiting no fewer than four lighthouses on a short winter outing.

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