For centuries, the lighthouses round the rocky coasts of Britain have been a lifeline to ships at sea. The lighthouse keeper used a sundial to find the time. It was part of lighthouse equipment before telegraph, radio and automation eventually took over. We have been asked to make a replica of one of these sundials.
The replica is for a travelling display of Scottish lighthouse memorabilia, which the owner will use when he gives one of his regular talks on lighthouses to interested groups of people. He has built up a significant collection of items but a sundial is an essential missing piece he has been unable to obtain so far.
Surviving examples of lighthouse sundials are hard to find. We were disappointed to discover there is one held in store at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, but we could not go to see it because of lockdown. Luckily the museum has been very helpful and supplied accurate dimensions of the dial and good quality photographs for us to work from. The museum sundial is from Lamlash on the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, but our replica is for Skirrevore, further north than Lamlash. We have adjusted the angle of the new gnomon and the graduations on the dial for the proper latitude.
Skirrevore is in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, 12 miles offshore from the Island of Tiree. The lighthouse was built by Alan Stevenson between 1838 and 1844 on rocks exposed only at low tide. It was one of the most difficult locations for the famous Stevenson family of lighthouse builders in Scotland.