camille dresslerLocation: Small Isles
It took two maritime disasters on the coast of Eigg for a lighthouse to be finally erected on Eilean Chathastail (Castle Island), the small island on its South-East corner.
The first one was the sinking of a large brigantine bound for Liverpool with a cargo of salt. Running into the violent storm of 28 December 1879 which caused the Tay Bridge disaster, SS Southesk hit the rocks just off Castle Island and sank. Only 2 men managed to swim ashore but only one survived: a Norwegian sailor named Olaf Johansen, the other identified by the initials DML tattooed on his arm.
Two weeks later, twenty-seven more bodies were found, all unnamed. December 1904 saw a second vessel going aground between Castle island and Eigg pier. SS Herman from Rostock could not be salvaged and went down with the next storm. An enquiry into the disasters resulted in brothers David and Charles Stevenson being commissioned to build a lighthouse on Castle island in 1906: a cast iron tower lighthouse powered by acetylene gas.
First replaced in 1985 with an eight meter GRP (fibreglass) tower still using the lens and gas system until finally in 2002, an electronic lantern using an LED light powered by solar panels was installed, monitored by a UHF radio link to Ardnamurchan lighthouse, which is itself connected to Edinburgh on the telephone system!
More information on visiting the area can be found here.