Flannan Isles Lighthouse building one step closer to community buyout

The Flannan Isles lighthouse is known for the mystery surrounding a trio of keepers who vanished from their posts back in December 1900



Please credit - © Copyright Chris Downer- Geograph.org.uk
The Flannan Isles lighthouse is known for the mystery surrounding a trio of keepers who vanished from their posts back in December 1900 Please credit - © Copyright Chris Downer- Geograph.org.uk

An onshore station once home to the families of the Flannan Isles lighthouse keepers could soon be bought over by the local community.

The famed lighthouse set around 20 miles west of Lewis on Eilan Mor has been the centre of theories for decades, after three men keepers vanished from their post in December 1900.

Residents of Breasclete have long wanted to take control of the onshore building as a community asset, which would be used to mark the area’s maritime heritage, while also reflecting on the mystery of the three men.

The Urras an Taighe Mhoir group want are now one step closer to taking control, after being awarded £17,740 of funding from the Scottish Land Fund and Architectural Heritage Fund to carry out feasibility and technical studies.

Chairwoman Liz MacBain said: “This funding has taken the community one step further towards acquisition of An Taigh Mhor, for which there is so much attachment locally, giving us opportunity to explore the potential of the heritage, history and cultural importance of the building whilst also providing economic opportunity through the development of the asset.

“The building and it’s iconic design stand out within a rural island village, but for us as a community, it has become part of our landscape. Its links with the Flannan Isles tragedy of 1900 are significant not only to maritime history but also to the village within which subsequent keepers and their families lived for over seventy years following the tragedy.”

The famed lighthouse set around 20 miles west of Lewis on Eilan Mor and has been the centre of theories for decades, after three men mysteriously vanished from their post back in 1900.

John Watt, Scottish Land Fund chairman, said: “The Scottish Land Fund is pleased to be able to assist Urras an Taighe Mhoir in its endeavours to purchase An Taigh Mhòr. While this award may only be the first step of any future community buyout, it shows how a relatively small amount of funding can be of great significance in helping communities begin the process of purchasing a local asset.”

A feasibility study will now be carried out and has been awarded to a team including Dr Calum Macleod, Duncan MacPherson and Faye Macleod, with a technical assessment of the building to be undertaken by Anderson Associates, Chartered Architects.

Community consultations are expected to place in the coming months as the Urras an Taighe Mhoir group seek to discover the main use for the building, should they be successful in taking over ownership.

The mystery of the three keepers’ disappearance

The mystery surrounding the three keeper’s disappearance from the Flannan Isles Lighthouse has been the centre of speculation for decades.

The issue was raised by the passing vessel Archtor on December 15 in 1900, however the relief crew and keeper were unable to check in at the lighthouse until December 26.

Upon arrival relief keeper Joseph Moore discovered the entrance gates closed, with beds unmade and the clock stopped inside the building, with no persons present.

The captain of the vessel transporting Mr Moore to Eilean Mor, Jim Harvie, sent a telegram to the Northern Lighthouse Board stating: “A dreadful accident has happened at the Flannans. The three keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the occasional have disappeared from the island.

“The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must have been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane.”

Theories over the men’s disappearance have stretched with some believing they were washed into the sea by a freak wave, murdered and even abducted by aliens.

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