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Monday, 17 March 2008


My afternoon peace and quiet was shattered today by the noise of an approaching helicopter. I watched it hover over the field at the back of my house and eventually land by the lighthouse. It would seem some work is to be done to the lighthouse – the helicopter also transferred several boxes which had been delivered to the pier earlier by the Graemsay ferry. Don’t know if the work is rewiring of the lighthouse or maybe some work to the generator shed – we shall have to wait and see.

There are two lighthouse on Graemsay, one tall one “Hoy High” and one short one “Hoy Low”. Not sure why they weren’t called “Graemsay High” and “Low”! Except that the stretch of water they guard is called the Hoy Sound.

The lighthouse has been fully automated for many years, with a back-up generator if power should fail. The Northern Lighthouse Board send over engineers and contractors to paint the lighthouse at regular intervals.

Tommy used to live at the lighthouse and there are many tales of him painting both of them and the surrounding walls every few years. Nowadays there are several men dispatched to complete the task with lots of “health and safety” equipment, pulleys, ropes etc. From what I can gather Tommy used to just dangle from a rope and pulley to paint most of the tower and the walls.

The lighthouses are actually “leading lights” and were designed to guide the herring fleet into Hoy Sound and the shelter of Stromness Harbour back in the late 1800s. Nowadays with even small boats using GPS their usefulness is reduced, but they are still kept in tip top order.

The light beam doesn’t sweep across the sea in what I consider the “traditional” manner of lighthouses, but both Hoy High and Low give out a sequence of flashes. Neither of them have a “fog horn” either – a fact I checked when I first visited the house! Actually I really love looking out of my windows at night and seeing the light flashing – along with a selection of beacons and buoys heading into Scapa Flow.

I’ve never been to the top of Hoy High – the lighthouses aren’t open to the public – and anyway I don’t think I have enough puff to get to the top! I have however seen quite a few photos of my house taken from the top of the lighthouse over the years. I recently acquired one from a member of the family that used to live in the house many years ago and had found it in the Shetland Museum. The photo is of the house taken in 1912 when it had just been remodelled with it’s original design of two flats (apartments) being turned into one dwelling house. I just love hearing about the past of my home!


  1. What wonderful history stories! And I DO so envy your living by the sea.

  2. A lighthouse! It's a lighthouse!

    Seriously, though, what a fun picture. When we drove down to northern California last summer we stopped at a number of lighthouses along the coast. Every one is different and has its own story.

  3. Did I not mention I lived beside a lighthouse? LOL! Yes I just love the history surrounding lighthouses. The Graemsay lighthouses were built by "the lighthouse Stevensons" who built lots of Scottish lighthouses and some very remote ones on mere stumps of rock. The story of how they were built is amazing in itself, then there are the stories of the light-keepers and their families too.

    Mary Z - I love being by the sea. For as long as I could remember I wanted to be near the sea - hadn't expected to be *this* close though! :-)

  4. I'm so impressed you live by a lighthouse. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned this before.


  5. Bev - did I not mention I live by a lighthouse? Must have slipped my mind - LOL!

  6. You live by a lighthouse? What a surprise!

  7. Must have been hiding my light under a bushel.....