Since its completion in 1811, the Bell Rock Lighthouse has been revered as an industrial wonder of the world. The iconic tower was built on the Inchcape Rock, a submerged reef some 12 miles off the coast of Arbroath, and now stands as the oldest sea-washed tower in the world, surviving over 200 years of violent storms and crashing waves.
The construction of the Bell Rock made the name of the Stevenson family, a dynasty of lighthouse engineers who dominated Scottish lighthouse engineering for 150 years. Robert Stevenson was the first man on the reef and the last man off, a personal commitment which saw the Bell Rock's actual Chief Engineer, John Rennie, almost deleted from the building's history.
The Bell Rock is, however, more than just Stevenson and Rennie. Not only was it a remarkable feat of engineering, but one which played host to a remarkable way of life. The light-keepers undertook nightly vigils on the rock for 177 years, their often mundane and monotonous duties occasionally being punctuated by technological improvements and world events.
The keepers are now all gone but the Bell Rock continues to show its familiar flash for the safety of all.
Fraserburgh born, Michael A. W. Strachan graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2010 with an MLitt in Modern Historical Studies, focussing mainly on Scottish and Irish studies. Since 2012 he has been involved with the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, currently serving as Collections Manager and tasked with caring for a nationally recognised collection of artefacts.