Lighthouse Beacons from Scotland

Eilean Glas (Scalpay) Lighthouse

Photo by Simon Stewart via Wikimedia

Eilean Glas Lighthouse takes its name from Glas Island, Scalpay, in the Western Isles of Scotland. Its day mark of red and white bands makes it one of the more eye-catching of Scottish lighthouses. It was established in 1789 and was engineered by Thomas Smith. Its tower is 98 feet high which gives it white light flashing every 20 seconds a nominal range of 23 miles. The lighthouse can be easily seen from the Harris ferry sailing from the island of Skye. The graphic of Eilean Glas on the right is copyright Charles Tait.

The owner of Scalpay, Captain Alex McLeod of Harris, had been approached by the original Northern Lighthouse Trustees in 1787. The Trustees indicated that they would make arrangements to send their own masons to erect the Lighthouse. But Captain McLeod went ahead and engaged the services of his local Tacksman, a Mr Campbell, to provide the necessary building material and to engage the services of local workmen. He also recommended Mr Campbell as a suitable person for the supervision of the work. (The graphic on the left is by Chris McLean, via Wikimedia) However, it appears that the Trustees' masons had still been engaged in the building of Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse and to avoid a further year's delay McLeod had taken it upon himself to start work on the Scalpay Lighthouse and engaged Mr Campbell and his local workmen to lay the foundations and raise the Tower Wall to a height of seven feet in the summer of 1787.

The Trustees' masons, all of whom hailed from the Edinburgh area arrived at Scalpay in the summer of 1788 to carry on the building work, finally completing it in October of that year. It was found that McLeod's men and made the circumference of the tower four feet greater than as shown on the plans. But to save time and expense, authorised the project to proceed on this larger scale.

The lantern and lighting equipment were finally installed that summer and the light on Scalpay first exhibited on 10 October 1789.

Eilean Glas was one of the first 4 lighthouses built in Scotland. The lightroom had to be raised 25 feet above ground level to bring it to 73 feet above the sea. The graphic on the right is via Wikimedia and is by Tom Richardson. It shows the distinct form of Glas Island in relation to Scalpay.

The present tower was erected in 1824 when Robert Stevenson was sole engineer to the Board.

In 1852 the light was changed to a revolving system lens.

A fog signal was installed in 1907, its character at the time being 1 blast of 7 seconds every 1 minutes. The character of the light was also changed to flashing. The fog signal was eventually discontinued in 1987. In 1978 the Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation and the lighhouse keepers' accommodation was later sold to private owners.

The old lens and machine have been handed over to the Royal Scottish Museum for public exhibition.

The Lighthouse is now fitted with an Electric Dynamic Logic Alarm and in the event of failure it automatically telephones the office and reports the fault.

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