The Curious Disappearance of the Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers – A Scottish Mystery

The Curious Disappearance of the Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers – A Scottish Mystery

The Flannan Isles, situated in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, are a set of small and uninhabited rocky islands with a curious historical past. One of the islands, Eilean Mor, was the setting of an ideal historic thriller – the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in 1900. To this present day, a concrete rationalization for the unusual occasion stays elusive.

The Setting: The Lighthouse and Island of Eilean Mor

Since the automation of the lighthouse in 1971, the Flannan Isles have been with out everlasting residents. The Isles get their identify from a seventh century Irish saint of the similar identify who is claimed to have constructed a stone church (one of the few man-made buildings nonetheless discovered immediately) on the island of Eilean Mor. The Flannan Isles are situated 32 km (20 miles) from their closest neighbor, the Isle of Lewis .

Steeped in fantastical tales of hauntings, Eilean Mor (which means Huge Isle) is the largest of the Flannan islands, regardless of its modest measurement of 17.5 acres (7.1 hectares). The first and most populous inhabitation of the island is from the days of St. Flannan and his followers of the Celtic church. Shortly after they deserted the island, it acquired a long-standing status as an unfortunate place full of harmful spirits. The superstitious tales of Eilean Mor contain beings similar to big birds and little males, in addition to the haunting the St. Flannan and his “flock.” The tales have been sufficient to maintain shepherds (to not point out most different individuals), from spending the night time there.

Nonetheless, the lack of inhabitants might have elevated the ghostly presence on the island, as a number of ships apparently discovered the rocky Flannan Isles troublesome to navigate when lower than ultimate circumstances struck. To stop this, a 22.6 meter (74 foot) lighthouse was accomplished in 1899 to enhance the passage.

An 1898 map of the Flannan Isles.

An 1898 map of the Flannan Isles. ( Public Area ) The Eilean Mor lighthouse was created at the tallest level of the island following a number of shipwrecks.

Indicators of the Disappearance of Macarthur, Ducat, and Marshall

The lighthouse keepers of Eilean Mor had a comparatively straightforward, although lonely job for the time and labored in shifts with three males on and one having fun with two weeks off always. Nevertheless, the three males who might have met their destiny on the island, James Ducat (43), Donald Macarthur (40), and Thomas Marshall (28), might have disagreed about the ease of their work.

Shortly after the one-year anniversary of the lighthouse’s completion, one thing modified on the quiet little island. Captain Holman of the steamer Archtor, who was passing by the space on path to Leith, Scotland, on December 15, observed that the lighthouse’s lamp was not shining. He despatched a wi-fi to the Cosmopolitan Line Steamers (CLS) headquarters to report the outage however, as Lighthouse Digest reviews “CLS failed to notify the Northern Lighthouse Board because “other more pressing matters caused it to escape from memory.””

To make issues worse, Roderick MacKenzie, who was additionally chargeable for checking on the mild from the Isle of Lewis, didn’t even discover the mild was out.

The state of affairs turned extra perilous as solely days earlier than what ought to have been the finish of the three males’s shift, dangerous climate got here to the islands. This delayed the arrival of the fourth attendant who was going to exchange one of the males on December 20, however couldn’t make the journey till issues cleared up on December 26.

Seek for the Vanished Males

On December 26, 1900, Captain Jim Harvie was imagined to be bringing aid to the lighthouse in the type of the fourth attendant, Joseph Moore. As he approached the island he famous there was one thing off, as the “relief flag” was not flying and nobody was anxiously awaiting their arrival at the touchdown of Eilean Mor. He sounded the whistle and shot a flare to attempt to catch the lighthouse keepers’ consideration, however the island remained silent. Thus, Moore was despatched ashore to research.

The ruins of the St. Flannan church down the slope from the famed lighthouse on Eilean Mor, Scotland.

The ruins of the St. Flannan church down the slope from the famed lighthouse on Eilean Mor, Scotland. ( CC BY SA ) Moore would have needed to cross the church to succeed in the lighthouse.

Upon getting into the unlocked lighthouse, he instantly knew that one thing was improper. Inside he discovered that no hearth was lit to thrust back the damp coldness, the beds have been unused, and the clocks had stopped.

Moore turned more and more frightened about his fellow keepers and, returning with assist, he searched the lighthouse from prime to backside. He additionally checked and found that the mild was in working order.

When Moore returned to the ship he advised the captain of the disappearance and what he encountered inside the lighthouse. The captain ordered Moore to return to mild the lamp. Three volunteers provided to stick with Moore and supply an much more thorough search of the small island the subsequent morning.

The captain headed to the nearest telegraph station, on the Isle of Lewis, and there he despatched a message to his employer, the Secretary of the Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh: “A dreadful accident has happened at Flannans…”

The Proof at the Lighthouse and on the Island

Earlier than turning to the hypotheses on what might have prompted the disappearance of the three males, some of the details found in the seek for the lighthouse keepers must be famous.

  • All three of the males who vanished have been skilled at their work, and Ducat had even been chosen as the lead keeper throughout the development of the lighthouse. Ducat additionally had lived on Eilean Mor for 14 months, so he was nicely conscious of the potential climate circumstances.
  • Ducat and Macarthur have been married males and Marshall was single. Ducat typically advised his household that the circumstances at the extremely uncovered lighthouse on Eilean Mor have been harmful and he needed to be persuaded to remain at his job.
  • The development of the lighthouse took 4 years, not the two that have been deliberate for it, because of delays brought on by tough seas round the Flannan Isles and harsh climate.
  • In his report of the occasions, Moore said that he famous that the kitchen door was the just one he might open to enter the lighthouse, the outdoors gate was closed, the hearth had not been lit for “some days,” and every thing inside the lighthouse was in “proper order.”
  • When he searched the island with the volunteers they famous that on the western touchdown there had been storm injury sooner or later: “The iron railings of the trolley tramway had started from their foundations and broken in several places and the box containing the mooring ropes had vanished, despite having been firmly wedged into a crevice and then anchored.”

The tramway to the lighthouse. The lighthouse keepers used this until the 1960s.

The tramway to the lighthouse. The lighthouse keepers used this till the 1960s. ( CC BY SA )

  • Robert Muirhead, the superintendent in cost of the lighthouse confirmed Moore’s account, including that the dishes had been washed and the kitchen cleaned. He additionally wrote that the crane platform above the western touchdown was positive, however that a life buoy had additionally disappeared. After he examined the ropes he asserted that “it was evident that the force of the sea pouring through the railings had, even at this great height (33.5 m/110 ft. above sea level), torn the life buoy off the rope.” Muirhead noticed that the morning’s work on the lamp had been accomplished, however it had not been lit after that.
  • Captain Harvie believed that the males went lacking on the 20th of December. He based mostly his declare on the stopped clocks and an incredible storm that passed off throughout the western coast on that date.
  • The logbook had been accomplished by the lighthouse keepers till December 15, round midday.
  • In 1920, an American journal revealed the following as the last entries: Dec. 12: Gale, north by north-west. Sea lashed to fury. Stormbound 9pm. By no means seen such a storm. Every thing shipshape. Ducat irritable. 12pm. Storm nonetheless raging. Wind regular. Stormbound. Can’t exit. Ship handed sounding foghorn. Might see lights of cabins. Ducat quiet. Macarthur crying. Dec. 13: Storm continued by way of night time. Wind shifted west by north. Ducat quiet. Macarthur praying. 12 midday. Gray daylight. Me, Ducat, and Macarthur prayed. Dec. 15: 1pm. Storm ended. Sea calm. God is over all. – Nevertheless, some have claimed these entries are only a sensationalist hoax. It’s fascinating to notice that the keepers additionally supposedly skipped the entries for December 14 in these entries.
  • Secondary sources of the time stated that the climate on the 15th of December was “calm.” The Captain of the Archtor, confirmed that the climate close to the Flannan Isles was “clear, but stormy.”
  • Two of the males’s coats have been lacking, however one (Macarthur’s) remained on a peg beside the door.

What Occurred to the Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers?

One attainable purpose for the males’s disappearance is available in the type of one man falling from the steep and slippery touchdown steps whereas making an attempt to retrieve a crate throughout the storm, and the different two following go well with in a botched rescue try.  This rationalization explains the proven fact that the field with the mooring ropes was lacking, however doesn’t clarify why two of the males have been outdoors in the climate with their coats, however one was not. It additionally doesn’t assist that none of the our bodies have been recovered.

Landing steps on the southwest corner of Eilean Mor, Scotland.

Touchdown steps on the southwest nook of Eilean Mor, Scotland. ( CC BY SA )

One other speculation states that the males merely select to hunt “greener pastures” or maybe journey as they hopped on a passing boat, taking them removed from the harsh winter local weather of the island. It’s also attainable that, for some cause, the males have been taken aboard a ship with out their permission. The ordered lighthouse can help the first however not the second concept right here. The coat problem arises once more on this state of affairs. There’s additionally the query of if the two males would have chosen to go away their households.

There are lots of who lean towards the concept that two of the males have been killed by the third, who adopted his devious act with suicide. If the logbook entries are actual, it will recommend that occasions have been robust on the island main as much as the final entry. Nevertheless, the validity of the entries has been delivered to mild very nicely by Mike Sprint, who suggests strongly that they have been a hoax.

With the superstitious notions surrounding Eilean Mor, it isn’t too shocking that some have prompt that the three lighthouse keepers have been “abducted” (or worse) by the island’s brief and mystical inhabitants or by a UFO. This concept is possible to some, attainable to others, and unthinkable to many, relying on their level of view.

A rogue or “freak” wave, is one of the extra fashionable trendy hypotheses to elucidate the lacking males. The phenomenon of a particularly giant wave all of the sudden showing and sweeping the males from the island could also be based in the proven fact that the climate of the time was stated to be “calm, but stormy” and, in accordance with Alasdair Macaulay, a researcher of the thriller: “I have heard about a woman at Crowlista in Uig who had been hanging out her washing on that day” when she saw a giant wall of water coming in from the west so “she apparently ran back to the house as this large wave hit the shore. Her washing and washing line were said to have been swept away.” This too is troublesome to determine, each with the arduous proof and the contradictory nature of the particulars of the day’s climate.

Remembering the Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers

The unusual and unhappy story of the lighthouse keepers continues to be remembered at this time. Final yr, a memorial was unveiled of their honor on the shoreline the place a ship would transport the keepers to the island. It has a plaque with the three names of the lacking males and a sculpture of what The Courier describes as “a bronze wave sweeping over a sandstone lighthouse sitting on a Lewisian gneiss boulder.”

A movie starring Gerard Butler has additionally been created to inform an adaptation of the lighthouse keepers’ story. Initially referred to as ‘Keepers’ and now often known as ‘ The Vanishing ’, the movie has acquired excessive reward at the Cannes movie pageant.

Even now, the thriller of the lighthouse keepers disappearance stays simply that, a thriller.

Featured Picture: The Eilean Mor lighthouse, Scotland. Supply: CC BY SA

By: Alicia McDermott

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