The Lighthouse Stevensons: The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses by the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson

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The Lighthouse Stevensons: The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses by the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson

The Lighthouse Stevensons: The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses by the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson

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Stevenson served as an apprentice civil engineer to his stepfather, Thomas Smith. He was so successful at it that, at age 19, he was given responsibility for supervising the erection of a lighthouse on Little Cumbrae island in the River Clyde. His next project was overseeing the building of lighthouses on Orkney. While working on these projects, he continued his civil engineering studies: He diligently practised surveying and architectural drawing, and attended maths and physics lectures at the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow.

Bella Bathurst (born in 1969 in London) [1] is an English writer, photojournalist, and furniture maker. Her novel The Lighthouse Stevensons won the 2000 Somerset Maugham Award. [2] [3] Biography [ edit ] Engineering skills were in high demand after the Battle of Waterloo, which marked the end of the continental wars, as the focus turned toward improving the country's infrastructure. So Stevenson was kept busy. In addition to his work for the Northern Lighthouse Board, he served as a consulting engineer on many projects, collaborating with other engineers such as John Rennie, Alexander Nimmo, Thomas Telford, William Walker, Archibald Elliot, [7] and William Cubitt. These projects included the construction of roads, bridges, harbours, canals, railways, and aids to river navigation. He designed and oversaw the construction in Glasgow of the Hutcheson Bridge, and in Edinburgh of the Regent Bridge [7] and approaches to it from the east. He also produced a number of designs for canals and railways which were not built, and new and improved designs for bridges, some of which were later implemented by his successors. He invented the movable jib and the balance crane as necessary aids to lighthouse construction, and, as George Stephenson noted, he led the trend toward using malleable rather than cast-iron rails in the construction of railways. [8] Robert Stevenson was born in Glasgow. [3] His father was Alan Stevenson, a partner in a West Indies sugar trading house in the city. Alan died of an epidemic fever on the island of St. Christopher in the West Indies on 26 May 1774, a few days before Robert's second birthday. Robert's uncle died of the same disease around the same time. Since this left Alan's widow, Jean Lillie Stevenson, in much-reduced financial circumstances, Robert was educated, as a young child, at a charity school.

The relationship between the family and lighthouse engineering began with RLS’s grandfather, Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), whose mother Jean Lillie (1751-1820) married Thomas Smith (1753-1815), an engineer at the Northern Lighthouse Board. In 1797, he was appointed engineer to the Lighthouse Board, succeeding to his stepfather's place there. In 1799, he married Smith's eldest daughter Jean, who was also his stepsister, and, in 1800, Smith made him his business partner. Biographical Sketch of the Late Robert Stevenson: Civil Engineer (1851), by Alan Stevenson. From Google Book Search The Lighthouse Stevensons, published in 1999, is an account of the professional accomplishments of Stevenson and his sons, written by Bella Bathurst ( Harper Collins Publishers, 1999, ISBN 0-06-019427-8).

The name "Robert Louis Stevenson" probably rings a bell for most of us - he did author a few famous literary classics like "Treasure Island" and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" - but beyond being one of those authors we were all forced to read at some point in our educational careers, Robert Louis Stevenson has another interesting credit to his name: he is descended from a line of intrepid Scottish lighthouse engineers. Throughout his latter teenage years Robert quite literally served his apprenticeship as assistant to his stepfather. Together they worked to supervise and improve the handful of crude coal-fired lighthouses that existed at that time, introducing innovations such as lamps and reflectors. There are two types of building plans in the Stevenson archive – those relating to industrial buildings and those relating to civic buildings in Edinburgh. Those relating to industrial buildings include farms and quarries but are predominantly of mills. This was likely associated with the family’s ongoing expertise in river engineering and the manipulation and movement of water. Geographically, these plans of industrial buildings range across all of Scotland and date from across the nineteenth century. Stevenson also developed lighthouse apparatus that was fitted in Irish lighthouses and lighthouses in the colonies, such as rotating oil lamps placed in front of parabolic silver-plated reflectors. Most notable was his invention of intermittent flashing lights – marking the lighthouse as the first to use red and white flashing lights – for which he received a gold medal from the King of the Netherlands.


He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. In July 1955 these two lights were discontinued (Notice to Mariners No 13 of 1955 refers) and the Dalen revolving light, giving one flash of 0.5 seconds duration every 10 seconds, was re-exhibited until further notice. Delving into the history of the beacons that mark Scotland’s dramatic coastlines, the book touches on the construction of Scotland’s first lighthouse which was built on the Isle of May in 1636, as well as the important role played by those stationed at Scotland’s lighthouses during the Second World War. Donald S Murray is the author of non-fiction, fiction and poetry, with a particular focus on Scotland’s islands. His books include the acclaimed As the Women Lay Dreaming, The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands and The Guga Hunters. His work has received widespread critical acclaim and has been shortlisted for both a Saltire Society First Book Award and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. Donald was awarded the Jessie Kesson Fellowship in 2013, and received the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, an annual award which allows Scottish writers to enjoy a month-long residency in France, in 2012. In 2020, Donald was awarded the Paul Torday Memorial Prize for As the Women Lay Dreaming. I lived on the island from about 1970 to about 1974 and all that time I had no idea of its history. Or of the history of any of the lighthouses that circle Britain.

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