9780002570060 / 0002570068

The Lighthouse Stevensons: The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses By the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson





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About the book:

I for one had no idea that the 14 lighthouses dotting the Scottish coast were all built by the same Stevenson family that produced Robert Louis Stevenson, Scotland's most famous novelist. But Bella Bathurst throws a powerful, revolving light into the darkness of this historical tradition. Robert Louis was a sickly fellow, and--unlike the rest of his strong- willed, determined family--certainly not up to the astonishing rigours of lighthouse building, all of which are vividly described here. To build these towering structures in the most inhospitable places imaginable (such as the aptly named Cape Wrath), using only 19th-century technology is an achievement that beggars belief. The comparison that comes to mind is with the pyramid building of ancient Egypt. For instance, of the Skerryvore lighthouse we learn that the ground rocks were prepared by hand (even though the "gneiss could blunt a pick in three blows") in waves and winds "strong enough to lift a man bodily off the rock'" and that "it took 120 hours to dress a single stone for the outside of the tower, and 320 hours to dress one of the central stones. In total 5000 tons of stone were quarried and shipped"--and all by hand. It is mind-boggling stuff: you'll look at lighthouses with a new respect. --Adam Roberts

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