Nick and I chose as our Northword Storytagging response a poem about Bill Gault’s life serving with the Northern Lighthouse Board and the final days of service before automation. As one of the last serving lighthouse keepers, Bill served all round the Scottish and Mann coasts and had the significant but sad honour of turning off the last manned light at Fair Isle South on the 31st March 1998. Of all the stories in the database, this was the one that jumped out at us. It is an autobiography in miniature with so much detail and living memory, and Bill’s character shone through.
Long time pharolophiles, Nick and I are wedded to the sea on many fronts. My dad hailed from Tiree and his father sailed on tramp steamers in the Pacific and Far East. My mam came from a family of Clyde skippers (the ‘Skye Navy’) and others serving in the merchant marine. Nick is a navy brat, with his dad having served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. And I suspect my older cousin (Master Mariner) Ken MacLeod may even have been at that momentous switching-over ceremony, as he served for a while as the Commissioner of NLB. .
We planned to create a sound-work based around the Skerryvore lighthouse, one of Bill’s postings, as it was one that we were particularly familiar with, being 12 miles off the coast of Tiree. We wanted to recreate our first memorable trip to the skerry several years ago. Back then, we had been able to land on a perfect, calm day – no given on that rock light by any means – and spent a good while exploring. .
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