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Light Established: 1895
Engineer: David Alan Stevenson
Position: Latitude 57 36.6'N
Longitude 01 48.9'W
Character: Flashing (3) White every 30 secs
Elevation: 28 metres
Candlepower: 156,000
Nominal Range: 24 miles
Structure: White tower. Lower part granite, upper part brick, 34 metres high. There are 64 steps to top of tower.
Fog Horn: 2 blasts every 45 seconds.

In 1849 Mr Alan Stevenson, Lighthouse Engineer, undertook a series of experiments to find out whether Rattray Briggs could be effectively marked by a red arc shown from the flashing light of Buchan Ness. On the completion of these experiments in 1857 he reported that such a scheme was not possible. In 1859 the Commissioners again sanctioned experiments after a suggestion by Captain Bedford, who reported that the lantern at Buchan Ness be altered. The Engineers reported In October 1862 and January 1863 that it had been found impossible to obtain a cut off which would be of any practicable value, and that Rattray Briggs should be marked by the aid of a light. The matter rested until 18 November 1874 when the Sheriff of Renfrew and Bute called for a light at Rattray Head. Once again the Engineer was asked to report and once again he recommended the erection of a Lighthouse. Consequently, on 17 December 1874, Trinity House was asked to agree. On 18 January 1875, Trinity House wrote stating that the dangers of Rattray Briggs could be avoided by use of lead and by not coming under 20 fathoms of sounding and refused permission. It was decided that the Commissioners' Inspection Committee should examine the site during their Inspection Voyage. Having done so they resolved to continue pressing for the building of a light.

The matter fell into abeyance until 18 March 1887, when William R Lord, Master, SS "Critic" reopened the subject by writing to the Commissioners, "It is a rare thing to pass this dangerous point without finding a ship of some sort stranded and it is one of the most prominent turning points of North East Scotland. Mariners will consider it a great boon by having a light placed here". He was informed by the Commissioners that there was no money available for such a project. On 14 November 1889 a further application for a light was received from the local Fishermen of Peterhead and this was sent to the Engineer, David Alan Stevenson, who reported that the area "was notorious among mariners for its foul ground, rapid tides and high and dangerous seas. No part of the East Coast of Scotland was more dangerous than this. Also a light was more important in view of the fact that a harbour of refuge was being built at Peterhead at an estimated cost of £500,000". In March 1890 Trinity House was approached for permission once again. They refused sanction stating that they had "no reason for reversing their previous decision in the absence of any evidence that traders, upon whom the cost of its support would fall, are desirous of a light on Rattray Head and are willing to pay the necessary toll for its maintenance". The Engineer set about obtaining the necessary support from shipowners and received it from the following.

1)   Henderson Brothers, Glasgow
2)   Langland & Sons, Liverpool who sent 4 reports from 4 Captains sailing in the area.
3)   James Currie & Co, Leith
4)   A C Gow & Co, Glasgow
5)   C Salvesen & Co, Leith
6)   G Gibson & Co, Leith
7)   Joseph Robinson & Sons, North Shields
8)   John Warrick & Co, Leith
9)   Secretary, Leith Shipowners Society
10) Secretary, Lloyd's London
11) Arrow Shipping Co, Newcastle
12) North of Scotland, Shetland, Orkney Shipping Co
13) Dundee Harbour Trustees
14) Peterhead Harbour Trustees

The Commissioners decided to by-pass Trinity House and forwarded the list direct to the Board of Trade. On 30 December 1890 the Board of Trade wrote stating that they had sanctioned the building of a Lighthouse and Fog Signal at Rattray Head. Trinity House's sanction followed on 8 January 1891. Estimated cost £18,169 2/6d made up as follows:-

1) Offer by David Porter of Aberdeen for Tower and dwelling houses 12,216 2/-1d
2) Lantern, parapets, apparatus 2,892 0/-0d
3) Fog Signal apparatus 2,200 0/-0d
4) Oil cistern 120 0/-0d
5) Water Supply 200 0/-0d
    17,623 2/-1d
  10% Incidentals (of 2,3 and 4) 541 0/-0d
    18,169 2/-1d

Actual Cost = £18,949 1/1d

Quite a new departure in lighthouse design was planned. Stevenson built a rock tower in two parts, the lower containing a foghorn and engineroom, the upper the lightkeepers' room and lantern. It was the first time that a first-class siren fog signal had been installed in a rock lighthouse.

Work was begun in 1892, and the masonry of both portions of the tower was completed in sixteen months, spread over three seasons. The lower section was 46 feet high, with an entrance door reached by a 32 foot outside ladder, at high water it is covered to a depth of 7 feet but it is possible to walk ashore when the tide is out. The upper section brings it to a total height of 120 feet above the rock. The five-wick paraffin lamp, when first lighted In 1895, had a candle-power of 44,000, compared with 6,500 at neighbouring Buchan Ness. The Light was exhibited for the first time on 14 October 1895. Many changes have taken place since 1895. A mains electricity supply and telephone cable were laid under the sea-bed and completed in September 1977. In February 1982, the light was made fully automatic and the keepers withdrawn.

Rattray Head Lighthouse (Lighthouse Depot)
Rattray Head Lighthouse (Fred D.)
Scottish Lighthouse Museum

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Lighthouse Internals
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Lighthouse Cottages, Rattray Head, Rattray, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. AB42 3HA
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