Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

The Caretaker

Esha Ness and Lighthouse by Martin Southwood via Wikimedia Commons

This story is dedicated to wonderful man I have come to treasure in a special way. When I told him I was going to write this article being an extremely private person he asked I not use his name so he will just be called “T” throughout.

When we purchased Eshaness Lighthouse in the Shetland Islands one of our biggest concerns was who would take care of it when we were not there. Being a listed historic building it deserves constant tender loving care. Not knowing any of the people in the area it could have been a major problem. The local crofter who had held the keys for the previous owner while the property was on the market had been prompt and thorough in his dealings with us. We had the impression he cared about the building so I inquired if “T” would be interested in taking care of the property in our absence. He was more than delighted to tend the keeper’s accommodations just as his half brother tended the light for the Northern Lighthouse Board. I was ecstatic that our buildings would have a caretaker. My husband often states I need a keeper but in relationship to Eshaness without doubt I needed a caretaker. What “T” did not know at the time was his responsibilities would not only include the buildings but nurturing me in the ways of the Shetland Islands. (The graphic on the right is of "T" gathering sheep near the lighthouse).

Since my husband could not get away I had to take possession Eshaness alone. I was so excited that we were finally getting our lighthouse home, I chuckle inside when people kept asking me if I was nervous about going to such a remote location without a car and by myself. I felt no fear or uneasiness about the secludedness. My only apprehension was not getting the furniture delivered so I could be comfortable.

I arrived in Lerwick six hours late because Sumburgh airport was fogged in - the picture here via Wikimedia Commons is of the airport on a sunnier day. I hurried to buy groceries and collect all the small items on my list so I could get to the furniture store before the lorry and the furniture left for the lighthouse. I made it only because the table I ordered was on the P & O ferry, which was also late!

Finally arriving at the lighthouse our new caretaker was waiting patiently for us. The shutters were open and the house warm with a fire burning in our royal red Rayburn cooker. “T” even helped the delivery people set up the furniture. After the delivery people left he assisted me in unpacking some of my things and taught me my first lesson on how to look after the solid fuel Rayburn stove. When he left he urged me to call him if I needed anything. I assured him I was fine and would not need to bother him.

I discovered managing a Rayburn stove a complex task. Quickly, I named it the “red monster.” Learning to start and maintain the temperature with coal as the fuel takes talent and practice. I both got it too hot and was boiling the hot water or it would go out and I could not get it started. The first day I called “T” over and over again. From then on he just stopped by while he was out checking his ewes which where beginning to lamb. The first thing he would do when he came in the door was open the Rayburn’s door and check on the fire. Without fail I needed either to open the damper to give it air or put in more coal.

When I finally got the Rayburn more under control I decided I wanted to plant some rose bushes to give the place a little color and a lived in look. Having never grown flowers so near the sea once again I turned to “T” for assistance. We got our little “trees” as he calls them planted which I am glad to report at time of writing are still alive. This fall brought some bigger rose bushes from his garden and helped me plant daffodils.

From Rayburn and flowers “T” lessons have broadened to customs of the Shetlands, the different types of fish and potatoes and how to cook them, and more about the area. He teases me and seems amazed I do not know how to do something as simple as putting light bulbs in lamps. (Sounds simple except American light bulbs screw into the socket while Scottish ones usually click in - see the graphic from Wikimedia Commons showing a lightbulb and socket.) Most of all he is always there willing to teach and help me. This kind and gentle caretaker has become my coach, special friend and an adopted member of our family.

This week I have been working on my upcoming nonfiction book about my episodes getting settled at the lighthouse to be titled “Shine on Me,” from Moira Kerr’s beautiful song, Eshaness. The more I write the more I realize how important Eshaness’ caretaker has been to making it easier, fun and most of all meaningful.

Thanks “T” for Shining on Me. I am grateful and look forward to my peat digging lessons next spring...

Return to Index of Lighthouse Letters or Index of All Guest Writers

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line