Keepers return for special opening of lighthouse tower

Former lighthouse keepers have returned to Sumburgh Head to climb the tower at an official opening event this afternoon.

Chairman of the Shetland Amenity Trust Brian Gregson said the opening of the tower to the public was another “major milestone” in the history of the lighthouse.

After years of hard work, trust members and former lighthouse keepers were given the chance to climb the 42 steps to the lighthouse tower balcony and take in the stunning panorama in glorious sunshine.

Public tours start tomorrow and run between Friday and Sunday until the end of September.

Among the former lighthouse keepers who made the visit was Tom Eunson, 83, who  joined the National Lighthouse Board in 1968.

Tour guide Jane Autram speaks to former lighthouse keeper Tom Eunson. Photo: Stephen Gordon.
Tour guide Jane Outram speaks to former lighthouse keeper Tom Eunson. Photo: Stephen Gordon.

He worked at Sumburgh as an occasional keeper between 1968 to 1974 and spent 35 years working in lighthouses both in and outwith Shetland.

“It’s fine to be back and see it all again,” said Tom after climbing to the top.

“It brings back memories right enough.”

Working on the rocky outcrop the wind was much stronger, and if there was a force seven in Scatness, Tom said it would be a force eight up at the lighthouse.

The view from the top. Photo: Stephen Gordon.
The view from the top. Photo: Stephen Gordon.

“It’s the height you see, that’s what it is, you’re 400 feet above sea level up here,” he explained.

Access to the fully functioning automated tower has been possible through the help of the Northern Lighthouse Board, which carried out alterations to the lightroom to ensure the safety of the light and visitors.

Tours will be held between noon and 3.20pm with tickets from the visitor centre gift shop.

The lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson and built in 1821 and the light is controlled and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board as part of their on-going work to ensure the safety of mariners.

The £5.4 million lighthouse restoration project includes a new visitor centre, wildlife information and learning area.

The last keeper at the lighthouse was in 1991

For more photos and a feature of the opening see next week’s Shetland Times.


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