A Scottish ‘Last’, with news of the recent death of the last Scottish lighthouse keeper.
Angus Hutchison, MBE, was the last lighthouse keeper in Scotland, and when he left the last manned lighthouse on Fair Isle (between Orkney and Shetland) in 1998, his departure marked the end of a 200-year tradition.
Fair Isle was automated on 31 March, 1998.
Mr Hutchison was keeper there for 36 years. The last light to be automated, it is now controlled (as are some 200 lights around the Scottish coast) from Edinburgh, by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB). The light still operates on Fair Isle, and its character consists of 4 white flashes every 30 seconds. It can be seen from at least as far as Orkney, about 25 miles away. Fair Isle is also notable as being the last to have its foghorn dismantled, in 2005, and all are now silent. So, this passing actually marks a number of Scottish ‘Lasts’.
Lighthouses were targets during World War II, despite being dark for the duration, they could still be activated for special purposes, such as providing navigation aids to convoys or aircraft:
The Fair Isle South lighthouse has endured some of Scotland’s fiercest weather and wartime bombing raids in its 100-year history. During an air attack in December 1941 the wife of an assistant keeper was killed and her baby daughter injured. Six weeks later the wife and daughter of the principal keeper were killed in a second attack.
We don’t spot many stories arising from World War I, so it’s nice to see one which is accompanied by a tale of genuine good conduct and life saving.
We’re told that the steam drifter Ugie Brae was one of 16 Scottish vessels unfortunate enough to meet U-36 on 23 June, 1915, and be sunk some 35 miles off the Skerries. However, the crew of the German U-Boat allowed the crews time to launch their lifeboats and leave. One fisherman died a few days later, a result of a shrapnel wound, while ten men and one dog escaped from the Ugie Brae.
Their lifeboat was a 16-foot clinker built item, and was left where they landed – with some difficulty as they were exhausted and needed help to land – on the Skerries (a small archipelago about four miles north-east of Whalsay), where it was recycled and became a sheep shelter. Later still, a floor was added, and it was used to house accumulators used to power a radio.
However, a century of exposure has left the old boat in poor condition, but it is to be saved, and will be fully restored by local boat builders Robbie Tait and Jack Duncan in the boat shed at Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick. Dr Ian Tait, curator of Shetland Museum, explained:
“Time and the weather have, however, taken its toll and the condition of the boat had deteriorated badly. Shetland Amenity Trust was therefore approached by the Skerries community to see if ways could be found to save this historic part of Skerries heritage. It was agreed that, if the Skerries folk arranged for the boat to be transported to Lerwick, then the Shetland Museum and Archives carpenters would undertake the restoration work.”
He added: “Once restored, the lifeboat will be returned to Skerries and it will be reinstated in its landmark position as a boatie-hoose again.”
You can see pics of the work here: Historic lifeboat to be restored | Shetland News
A second lifeboat landed, from the Uffa, but did not survive its time exposed to the weather.
The Maid of the Loch took to the water back in March 1953, and sailed on Loch Lomond until financial problems saw her service come to an end in 1981.
Laid up on the water’s edge near Balloch, she was prey to the elements and the attentions of any passing vandals, who slowly destroyed her interior and stripped anything of value from her structure.
Dumbarton council bought the remains in 1992, and through the course of the remaining 1990s, enthusiasts and volunteers came together to restore her to something resembling her former glory. Such was her popularity that is seems even appeals for the return of souvenirs looted from her over the previous years when she had lain derelict were heard, and a number of items that had ‘disappeared’ were returned to those working on the vessel.
Although the work has attracted limited funding over the years, it never seems to have attracted enough money to secure completion of the work, and restore the Maid to steam and have her sailing on the loch.
In my memory, this was always going to be delivered “In the next few years”, with the steamer’s own web site proclaiming that she would return to steam in 2013, her 60th birthday.
Alas, this will not be the case, although I hasten to add that I say that not as any sort of criticism of those who have worked hard to save her, and must be admired for their perseverance in the face of insufficient funds for such a task. It would have been all too easy to have given up in despair in recent years, especially the more recent of those, when cash has become even tighter than before.
See the Maid’s own web site at:
Renewed appeal for fund in 2013
The occasion of her 60th birthday has seen a renewed appeal for significant funds launched:
An appeal to raise £4.9m to restore the ravaged Maid of the Loch has been launched as she celebrates 60 years on Loch Lomond.
The vessel, which was launched on March 5, 1953, last sailed in 1981 and is currently docked in Balloch in West Dunbartonshire.
Charitable organisation Loch Lomond Steamship Company owns the Maid, which is the last paddle steamer built in a Clyde shipyard.
The group is hopeful of raising the cash for extensive restoration work as well as improving infrastructure at the Pier Road site where the steamer is currently docked.
While in operation, the Maid of the Loch would run a service from Balloch pier, initially to Ardlui and then to Inversnaid.
Jean Inglis, of A&J Inglis Shipyard where the Maid was built, was among those present to launch the fundraising campaign on Tuesday.
This short video shows the Maid in her original white livery (she has since been repainted in colours different to the original scheme), and is described as having been shot in 1979, at Rowardennan, one of the piers she operated from on Loch Lomond.
I may have been ‘little’ when I travelled on board the Maid, but at least I manage at least one day’s sailing before the fun came to an end.
It would be nice to have another…
We noted that the Fraserburgh Lighthouse Museum has suffered thousands of pounds’ worth of damage to a number of its large gallery windows a few weeks ago, as some brave vandals used the cover of darkness on January 28 to hide their attack on a number of the feature windows.
It looks as if the same fearless night warriors have been in action again, as it has now been reported that the windows of the engine room on the site were damaged during the night of Tuesday, 19 February 2013.
Inspector Alan Brown of Grampian Police, said: “I am disappointed that certain individuals have taken it upon themselves to damage what is an important part of our community which draws visitors from across the wider area. The large windows are a special attraction, allowing views across the coastal scenery and I would ask anyone who would have any information, however apparently irrelevant, to contact us and assist us in identifying those responsible.
“In the meantime, I’d like to reassure the local community that everything possible is being done by ourselves to identify those responsible.”
Anyone with any information can contact police on 0845 600 5 700 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
With too many stories appearing in this blog and telling of museum which are either closing, or threatened with closure, it’s nice to see the occasional tale of additional funding, or protection of funding for an existing museum.
In this case, it’s the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Fife, based in Anstruther, and tells the history of the Scotland fishing industry with a collection of more than 66,000 items. The museum will receive £75,000 in the period 2013/14, part of a £49.7 million allocation to Scottish museums and galleries.
Simon Hayhow, director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, said:
The Scottish Fisheries Museum is grateful to the Scottish government and the culture secretary for continued support for our work in increasing visitors and improving access to our collections.
This funding is vital to us, and allows us to unlock other sources of grants for exciting and innovative projects, such as ‘Home from the Sea’ and ‘Science and Sea Monsters’ and work on developing the museum’s range of public services for the future.
The museum hosts the historic floating vessel ‘Reaper‘ (built in 1902), which was repaired last year, and has plans to take the craft to the south Forth ports in May. Last year, it completed an upgrade to its tearoom, and opened a community curated exhibition, ‘Iconic Artists in Iconic Places’. More new exhibitions are planned for 2013, including “Science and Sea Monsters”, due to open on 16 February, 2013.
The museum also plans to find a site where it can locate a new Large Objects Store.
See also: Scottish Fisheries Museum
Although the norm these days seems to be the spotting of yet another museum or collection closing, I’m pleased to say I spotted a news item which announced the opening of a permanent museum in Grangemouth, dedicated to the liner Titanic.
Having been in existence since 2002 as a travelling museum, Titanic Honour and Glory has now opened the doors of it new and permanent home in Grangemouth to the public, in an event which took place on Saturday, 16 February, 2013.
You can view a video report on the opening by clicking here.
The Titanic Honour and Glory Museum is owned and operated by Titanic Honour and Glory exhibitions, and was opened by Christine Bole, whose uncle, William Young Moyes, was a member of the crew which was lost on the liner’s maiden voyage.
The small taster image is a US PD image, described as being of the RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10, April, 1912. At 11.40 pm on 14, April, 1912, the ocean liner struck an iceberg. Two hours and 40 minutes later she sank deep into the freezing Atlantic waters. Less than a third of the people on board survived.
The museum’s web site provides further details:
Moyes, an engineer from Stirling, was just 23 when he died. One of the objects in the museum is a teddy bear which he took with him on Titanic’s sea trials before giving it to his sister shortly before he left on Titanic’s maiden voyage from Southampton.
Christine Bole said: “She treasured it all her life. She used to sleep with it every night under her pillow.
“He was a very, very nice person. He was a very, very quiet person. I wouldn’t say William was academic, he was more sporty, but my mum was very fond of him. She always spoke of him.”
Titanic Honour and Glory exhibitions and events manager Sean Szmalc said the Titanic story continues to grip the public imagination more than 100 years after the White Star liner collided with an iceberg and sank, but the Scottish connection has been overlooked.
He told STV News: “Since I was five years old I’ve been absolutely captivated by the Titanic story. Think of the selfless acts of the engineers, all the crew, the passengers that lost their lives as well. James Cameron made a film: this was real life. People’s lives changed forever.
“People talk about Southampton, Liverpool, Belfast, but Scotland’s got a lot of Titanic connections and it’s something we should really be proud about and remember.”
Museum opening times, admission charges, and location
Please check these details if planning to visit some time after this report was written in 2013!
The Titanic Honour and Glory Museum is open Thursday – Saturday from 11 am – 4 pm.
Admission charges (2013):
Children: £1 (under 5 free)
Family: £5 (2 adults and 2 children)
The museum is located at:
Titanic Honour and Glory Museum,
1 – 3 York Arcade,
Sean:- 07833 630 287
Margot:- 07810 475 215
I’ve been watching developments regarding the future of the University Marine Biological Station Millport for a while, in the hope that something might have been resolved after the news that it had lost major funding and the likely result would be closure.
The station is the third-largest employer on the island in the Firth of Clyde, with 30 permanent staff, and attracts more than 1500 undergraduate students every year to carry out field work in the island’s coastal terrain. It also contains a museum and public aquarium that are one of Millport’s biggest tourist attractions.
A study by Jura Consultants in 2010 found that UMBC was responsible for 10 per cent of all employment on Great Cumbrae and contributed around £400,000 to the local economy each year.
Just two weeks ago it was awarded £100,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund towards renovation costs.
Closing the facility would also end more than 125 years of history that began when marine biologist Sir John Murray set up a floating laboratory at Port Loy in a disused barge.
Twelve years later local man David Robertson persuaded investors to fund a permanent research station at Millport.
It gained university status in the 1970s and has provided facilities for undergraduate, MSc and PHd students as well as hosting school field trips from around the country.
That news story appeared back in December 2012, just two weeks after the centre was awarded £100,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund towards renovation costs.
An online petition, which was collected in six days, was presented to First Minister Alex Salmond and Education Secretary Mike Russell on Thursday (January 17):
Last week, 42 Scottish marine academics, from six universities, signed an open letter to the Scottish government demanding “rapid” action to save the station.
Mr Russell responded by saying he had called a meeting of all those involved, including local MSP Kenneth Gibson, to discuss the situation.
Mark Blaxter, who co-ordinated the petition, said he was “humbled” by how many people had signed the petition.
“In only six days, thousands have registered both their dismay and their resolve, and are united in asking for swift action to save the station,” he said.
17 January 2013 – News of a Petition to save Marine Biological Station Millport
Accommodation for those visiting the station is in a purpose built hostel, to the right of the station and just out of sight in the picture above. The station began in the centre building, but soon grew out of the space available, and the similar building to its right was later added to provide the space needed for its work to continue.
28 January 2013 – Video report on the station: Cumbrae marine research centre under threat of closure
Without wishing to sound critical of those speaking, they seem to suggest that the island and town are wholly dependent on the presence of the station, which some might say could be interpreted as damaging to the island’s much better known role as a holiday and tourism destination. The report suggests “Residents on the Isle of Cumbrae on the Clyde say the possible closure of a marine research centre will devastate the island’s economy”, and one lady was quoted on camera as saying “Might as well do away with the whole town.”
However, it does indicate how strongly they wish the station to remain in place, and that is important if their campaign is to succeed. Many similar efforts fade and fail because nobody cares – apparently not so on Cumbrae.
30 January 2013 – Redundancy talks mentioned in the video followed quickly: London University begins redundancy talks at Millport marine biology centre | News | Glasgow | STV
Anyone with the slightest interest in renewables will be aware of the interest which has been shown in the seas off the north west coast of Scotland in recent years, with a number of research and development centres being opened there, and many advocates suggesting that the power in those waters could not only provide electricity for Scotland, but allow it to be exported as well.
It looks as if they knew what they were talking about, as it seems that the North Atlantic has given Scotland some of the largest waves on the Earth, a phenomenon confirmed on Monday when wave heights of 14.3 m (46.90 feet) were recorded there, and described as the highest anywhere in the World:
Scotland and Ireland experienced the highest seas anywhere in the world earlier this week, according to swell models. But what is a swell model and how do they work?
Far off the Western Isles in the North Atlantic a buoy called K5 gathers data on the movement of the sea.
The information is monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organisations such as the Met Office.
The data is also among resources surfers’ website Magicseaweed.com in Kingsbridge, South Devon, uses to create swell models – forecasts of wave sizes out to sea and their size close to shore.
On Monday, K5 – also known as station 64045 – was relaying some big numbers.
Wave heights of 14.3m (46.90ft) were recorded during Monday to create the highest seas anywhere in the world on that day, according to Magicseaweed.com’s modelling.
The size of the waves was verified by meteorological service Magicseaweed, which tracks sea swells and tidal movements across the globe.
Sea swells occur when storms are met by large land masses, which force wind and waves tightly together to create pockets of extreme activity. A phenomenon known as the Greenland Tip Jet sees these swells formed by Greenland’s coast, and pushed towards the Scottish and Irish coasts, and one of these swells pointing directly at the west of Scotland was the cause of this week’s extreme waves.
The waves battered the Western Isles on Monday, and smashed down a wall at Fair Isle’s South Lighthouse. Debris was washed over 200 yard inland by the wave, which could be seen an hour before it hit the island.
Forecaster Ben Freeston said: “It’s probably accurate to say that Scotland has some of the largest waves on Earth.”
I can almost hear the keyboards in VisitScotland’s media centre clicking into action, as the boss decrees that articles be circulated inviting surfers to the area in an effort to reach the “50% by 201
56″ tourism increase decree
I hadn’t realised it was just over a year to the day that I had first noticed and written about the pioneering hybrid ferries had commissioned, and were to be built in our very own Scottish shipyards – Fergusons Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow to be exact.
I won’t repeat the story behind these new ferries and their operation (you may read the original post here: The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real where links are given to the manufacturers description of the concept and its operation) , other than to say the two vessels are described as the world’s first sea-going roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries.
The first of the two hybrid ferries was completed recently, and the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00. The vessel is almost 150 feet long, and can accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars, or two heavy goods vehicles.
The launch was recorded by someone lucky enough to work at the yard, and get a privileged position:
Completion for delivery into service with CalMac is expected to be completed during early 2013, with the new ferry expected to come into service on the route between Skye and Raasay next summer, following fitting out, testing and certification. Trial are expected to take place in April/May, with the handover taking place in May.
So, since we appear to have a reasonably well thought out and Scottish-made hybrid ferry (and another in the pipeline) ready to go into service, why did I refer to battery operation in the title?
While Scotland has its ‘world first’ as its first hybrid car ferry gets set to enter operation…
I have recently come across another ‘world first’ in the form of the first car ferry powered by a purely electric drive system, as reported by Siemens on January 9, 2013.
Working together with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, Siemens announced development of the world’s first electrically powered car ferry, known as ZeroCat. Larger than Hallaig, their 80-metre (260 foot) vessel can accommodate up to 360 passengers and 120 cars, so is not only fully electric, but in a different class, given its ability to carry so many passengers.
Due to enter service in 2015, ZeroCat will serve the route between Lavik and Oppedal, across the Sognefjord. The electrically powered ferry was developed in response to a competition organized by Norway’s Ministry of Transport, and won by shipping company Norled, which was also granted a license to operate the route until 2025 as part of its prize.
Instead of the 2,000-hp diesel engine which powers the current ferry and consumes on average more than 264,000 gallons (over 1 million litres) of diesel each year, and emits around 570 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 15 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NO), ZeroCat uses an 800 kW, 11 tonne battery to drives two screws. Although the battery is heavy, the completed vessel weighs only half that of a conventional catamaran ferry, as its twin hulls are fabricated in aluminium. The hulls also use a particularly slim design which increases their efficiency, and Siemens estimates that the new ferry will need only 400 kW to cruise at 10 knots.
One critical requirements the design was required to satisfy was the need to fully charge the batteries in only 10 minutes – the time taken to turn the ferry around at each terminal. This power demand rendered conventional charging methods unsuitable, since neither port was supplied by a large enough electrical grid to deliver the required charging current.
Instead, each terminal is equipped with a high-capacity battery installation, able to be charged slowly while the ferry is en route. This means they are then ready to provide a quick “dump charge” in the 10 minute period during which the ferry is docked while it loads and unloads it cargo of passengers and cars.
Such a system would seem to be one which could be used to advantage in Scotland, where a number of short routes exist, and the ferry terminals are only a short distance apart. For example, Rhubodach/Colintraive, and Largs/Cumbrae come to mind in my own area.
These journeys are much shorter, and of lesser capacity than that given in the Norwegian example, simplifying the demands on the batteries, motors, and charging systems. The turnaround times are also somewhat longer here, allowing more relaxed charging criteria. Given the shorter routes, it should also be possible to relax the full charge requirement too, and allow such ferries to operate without having to receive a full charge at every docking.
Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone in this business now (I used to, long ago, and even worked on some ferries – no, not in the galley, but in a technical capacity), so have no idea if anything like this is even being considered for future vessels operating in Scottish waters.
The The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses at Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh, has become another casualty of the attention of mindless vandals, and suffered in excess of £1,000 worth of damage to three of the windows that allowed visitors to look out across the sea while they were visiting the cafe. Other windows at the museum were also damaged.
The damage was done between 5 pm on Monday Evening, and 7 am on Tuesday morning, when it re-opened:
Grampian Police is appealing for information regarding the damage.
PC Richard Cooper, from the Fraserburgh local policing team, said: ”The museum attracts many people to Fraserburgh and is a great asset to the local community.
“Many people go there to use the cafe and look at the views across the sea and the local wildlife, but unfortunately due to this mindless act the windows are now boarded up.
“I would urge the community to get behind our investigation and contact us with any information which may assist us in tracing those responsible.”
Anyone with any information can contact police on 0845 600 5 700 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The pic below shows the area of the broken windows, where the museum building features a glass corner where the cafe is located, and visitors could look out to sea as they enjoyed a break in their visit.
It’s a shame we can’t resurrect some of the fine test for innocence we had in days of witchcraft, and vandals could elect for such things as “Trial by Water” )instead of trial by jury), where they could be loaded with chains and thrown into the sea off Kinnaird Head… if they float, they’re guilty, and can be eviscerated or perhaps subject to exsanguination – if they sink, well, they’re innocent. I suppose they could create some special events, and maybe tie them to the various buoys and markers kept around the museum grounds, and these could be thrown into the sea for a few hours, to test if they were still watertight… and still floated.
Vandalism in the city is one thing, where you have too many people bunched up together, and other social problems, but I’m always depressed whenever I read about, or find evidence of such activities in small and remote communities where people should be getting on together better, and such things should not arise. But in truth, you can find such things all the way to the remotest corners in the far north of Scotland, where you might think you could escape from the sort of scum that thinks such activities are “fun”.
The museum is actually a great place to visit, and I’ve gone up there on a quite a few occasions. There really is a wealth of detail to be dug out of the exhibits and displays, and the guided tours and talks are very well worth joining and taking the time to follow.
Well worth a detour if you are in the area, just make sure you allow enough time to browse and see all the have.