Rattray Head Lighthouse
Rattray Head Lighthouse Tide In 2010
Copyright Ian Cowe

12th.November 1973 Arrived on appointment as ALK at Rattray Head the Shore station was situated on the edge of sand dunes about a quarter of a mile from the sea.A set of buildings consisting of a block of three apartments for 2-ALK's and "The Boatman" and two semi-detached houses for the PLK and 1 ALK, various store sheds and garages.
I was going out with the PLK to do the "Relief",exchange of keepers,in this case two keepers going onto the "rock" and two coming off.
We loaded various stores,victuals,etc.onto a tractor and trailer climbed aboard and headed for the beach,on arrival at the beach,lights shining down from the lighthouse and all you could see was sand and rocks,with the tide out you could take the tractor right out to the lighthouse.

Rattray Head Lighthouse Tide Out 2011

Copyright Ian Cowe

Rattray Head lighthouse sits about a half a mile into the North Sea and certainly during the summer,when working the tides was usually easy to reach,but during the winter months you sometimes had only a couple of days a fortnight when you could get out there and they were sometimes dodgy.They lost a tractor the year before I got there,when the tide turned early on the back of an easterly gale,the main reason was that it was an old petrol engined 1947 Fordson Major tractor with an external magneto mounted quite low down.They changed to a diesel engined tractor,much more reliable in the circumstances.
At times with an easterly gale,the water would run up the lower tower and thump down and around the little tower and make it vibrate,a good time if it woke you,to turn over and snuggle back down into the duvet.
With the gales we quite often had water flying past the kitchen window(first window above the doorway in the little tower).

Again a paraffin light with a clockwork drive and Kelvin Diesels with a fog siren
Usually when the weight was rewound it mechanically sounded a bell,Rattay was different,no bell,when I arrived tape was wound round the cable,the cable went under a pulley and across under the lightroom floor over a pulley and down a channel cut into the tower wall,which meant it soon became worn and dark and since the only illumination in the lightroom was from the light itself it became harder to see,so I made a switch operated by the weight connected to a battery and bulb which worked very well,but later the technicians replaced the switch with one slightly more sophisticated,with no indication you were liable to overwind and have a big thump,and the bedrooms were just below the lightroom.
The clockwork required winding every hour,if you were not on duty it was accepted practise to call at the lightroom on the way to bed and wind-up.

Old Rattray Head photograph - From Scottish Lighthouses by R.W.Munroe

An old photograph (From Scottish Lighthouses by R.W.Munroe) but it gives you some idea of the scale and also shows the fog horn which was removed on automation.
My bedroom was just below the balcony overlooking the fog horn.We once had it running for ten days and nights,after a time you do eventually start sleeping through it,but I don't think I would call it a particularly enjoyable experience.
Whilst I was there Mains electric and telephone cables were laid out to the lighthouse,buried under the sand.With mains electric available the paraffin vapour lamp was replaced with a Mercury Vapour lamp,which meant operating a switch instread of waiting 15 mins to light the old-style light,it was still clockwork drive so we still rewound every 60 mins.
When I arrived on appointment as ALK.I was told "Don't get too settled were going to automate your light very soon ",when I left in 1978, the story was "shame your leaving were just going to automate you",the light was finally automated in 1982.

tower bedrooms
Bedroom flat
Two three tier bunks with drawers under