Lighthouse Beacons from Scotland

Bressay Lighthouse

Bressay in the Shetland Islands is 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) south-east of Lerwick. At 11 square miles (28 km2), Bressay is the fifth largest island in Shetland. The population is around 360 people, concentrated in the middle of the west coast, around Glebe, Fullaburn and Maryfield. The graphic on the right by John Winterbottom, via Wikimedia Commons, shows Lerwick from Bressay. The island is made up of old red sandstone with some basaltic intrusions. Bressay was quarried extensively for building materials, used all over Shetland, especially in nearby Lerwick. There are a number of sea caves and arches.

Bressay was one of four lighthouses built in Shetland between 1854 and 1858 which were designed by brothers David Stevenson and Thomas Stevenson. David Stevenson initially maintained that building a lighthouse in Shetland waters was impossible, too dangerous and too expensive, and that any ship's captain who took this route was mad! The lighthouse on Bressay is located at Kirkabister Ness overlooking Bressay Sound.

Sanction to build a Lighthouse on Kirkabister Ness (Bressa Sound) - a site at the South entrance to Lerwick Harbour was given on 14 November 1854. There was a lengthy correspondence with the Board of Trade and the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, regarding the cost of building the lighthouse and obtaining approval to plans and specifications, but work was eventually commenced on the stonework etc in February 1856. The light was first lit on the night of 31 August 1858. The graphic on the left is via Wikimedia Commons.

Bressay was electrified on 17 July 1967 and the fog siren was discontinued in 1987. The light automated in 1989 and is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

In 1995 the shore station was purchased by the Shetland Amenity Trust, a charitable organisation set up to conserve and enhance Shetland’s heritage. The two Assistant Keepers cottages have been refurbished and are available on short-term lease. The Principal keeper’s cottage is a self-catering complex and the Engine Room adjacent is a camping bod or bothy with bunks. The Engine and Radio room are to be turned into a Heritage Centre. The graphic on the right shows the natural arch beside the lighthouse.

The fog signal was discontinued in the 1980s. The notable red horn was removed, but the building that housed the siren is still in place and now houses a radar mast, and the five pressurised air tanks are still in place.

On the 12 September 2012 the light, which has been operational for over 150 years (picture on the left by Phillip Capper, via Wikimedia Commons), was permanently discontinued by the Northern Lighthouse Board. However, there was a seamless transfer of the provision of an aid to navigation for Bressay Sound. Instead of the 23 mile light shining from the original Stevenson lighthouse a new 10 mile light is now provided by Lerwick Port Authority.

Rather than the Lerwick Port Authority taking over the existing Stevenson structure they opted to erect a new light structure, which exhibits a 10 mile LED light showing the same character of flashing every 20 seconds. The new structure was placed on the site of the former radar station and fog signal adjacent to the existing light.

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