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Flannan Lighthouse

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Flannan Lighthouse, 2012
MFlannan Lighthouse, 2012
© Chris Downer

Flannan Lighthouse is located on the largest of the Flannan Islands, Eilean Mòr, was completed in 1899, and automated on 28 September, 1971.

The lighthouse is 23 m high and was lit for the first time on December 7, 1899, and has a character of two white flashes every 30 seconds. The light is at an elevation of 101 m and emits a 140,000 candlepower beam, visible for some 20 to 24 nautical miles.[1]

Flannan lighthouse mystery

Just over a year after the light was first shown, on 15 December, 1900, when some disaster overcame the three keepers on duty at the Flannan light. This was the date of the last log entry, and indicates approximately when the keepers disappeared.

The remote location means the exact circumstances of their disappearance is, and remains a mystery, but when relief keeper Joseph Moore was finally able to row ashore and investigate, he found the gate and outside door to the keepers’ quarters closed. Inside the light house, the kitchen door was open, the clock was noted to have stopped, and the fire was not lit.

There was no trace of keepers James Ducat, Thomas Marshall, and Donald McArthur.

Investigators found an untouched meal set on the table, a toppled chair, two sets of oilskins, and a starving canary:

... lamps were cleaned and refilled ready for nighttime. An upturned chair lay on the floor alongside the table. In the clothes locker stood one set of oilskins [rain jacket] and a pair of wellies [galoshes], the other two sets were missing. The West landing had been hit by bad weather. Iron railings were bent, a life buoy had been ripped from its mountings and a stone weighing over a ton had been displaced high up on the island and still there was no trace of the keepers.

- The Mysterious Disappearance of the Flannan Islands Lighthouse Keepers.[2]

Although the loss of the keepers led to various theories being put forward, some more reasonable than others, their disappearance and the circumstances remain a mystery, but it is most likely that the ferocious storm led to events that drew the keepers out of their safe shelter, and to swept away by a massive wave.

The log is the only real evidence, and was current up to 13 December, with details for 14 December written in chalk on a slate. This noted weather conditions, state of the light, supplies, together with readings from the barometer and thermometer, the time of extinguishing the light on the dawn of 15 December, and the wind direction at 9:00 am.

Memorial to the keepers

Plans for a memorial were announced in 2015, to take the shape of the rock Flannan Lighthouse stands on, with a lighthouse on top and a bronze wave sweeping across in front of the stone.[3]


1 [email protected] Digest ... The Mysterious Disappearance of the Flannan Islands Lighthouse Keepers Retrieved November 09, 2015.

2 [email protected] Digest ... The Mysterious Disappearance of the Flannan Islands Lighthouse Keepers Retrieved November 09, 2015.

3 Memorial to Flannan Lighthouse keepers who vanished mysteriously | Highlands & Islands | News Retrieved November 09, 2015.

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