Foghorn signals re-opening of Sumburgh Lighthouse after delay

The first blast of the foghorn at Sumburgh Head in more than a year-and-a-half signalled the re-opening of the lighthouse visitor centre today (Saturday).

Despite a slight delay of 45 minutes – caused by a dead bird stuck in the valve – a cheer welcomed the familiar sound of the horn.

Lighthouse keeper Brian Johnson sets to work after problems with the foghorn on Saturday. Photo: Ally Munro.

The blast and opening of the 2021 season also signalled the beginning of a significant year for the centre, as it marks the 200th anniversary of the Sumburgh Lighthouse.

Families, birdwatchers, locals and some tourists – totalling more than 200 – made their way to top of Sumburgh Head to welcome the start of the season.

The crowd watched in eager anticipation as retained lighthouse keeper Brian Johnson kicked in two of the engines required to power the foghorn, then turned the valve – only to witness a puff of feathers blow out of the horn.

After 45 minutes of repairs and clearing the valve, Mr Johnson – who has worked with the Lighthouse Board since 1969 – managed to work his magic and get the horn operating, to the delight of those watching.

He said afterward: “I did wonder for a moment, it is the first time I have seen a bird in one of them.”

He added that he was glad it was sounding good, “given all the folk who have come along” and hoped it would bring some “normality back” after a year affected by the Covid pandemic.


Add Your Comment
  • Doris Van Natta

    • April 4th, 2021 16:47

    I visited the Sumburgh Lighthouse as an eleven-year-old in 1951. It was thrilling to see
    Robert Louis Stevenson’s signature in the visitor’s logbook just two pages before mine.
    It still looks beautiful to me, a nostalgic American.


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