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

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

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

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Until you're read "The Lighthouse Stevensons," it's impossible to imagine the vision, courage, and persistence of Robert, Alan, David, and Thomas Stevenson as they often risked their lives to erect the lights they did. He was especially engaged in the question of how his boys would earn a living, there was only one right answer to this question, although others might be reluctantly found to acceptable and since the engineering was a family business there was no escape from the father who would be on their case questioning the quality of their mortar and second guessing their design decisions. The book is written for the layperson, so it includes both history and technology, and it attempts to go fairly light on the tech side, but while still explaining the extraordinary achievements. It is impossible not to speculate what combination of courage and skill built the lighthouses around such an environment. Starting at the end of the 18 th century, the men of this family undertook the design and construction of dozens of lighthouses along the rugged Scottish coast.

Prior to this in 1791 Stevenson held a similar position in the building of Clyde Lighthouse on Little Cumbrae in the River Clyde. He also designed lighthouses in Japan, developing a novel method to enable lighthouses to better withstand earthquakes. In Bella Bathurst's fascinating history, we are taken on a journey that encompasses four generations of Stevenson's and four iconic Scottish lighthouses, starting with Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), the famous author's grandfather, who, in partnership with his own stepfather, developed the career of "lighthouse engineer" and built the famous (and many deemed impossible) Bell Rock Lighthouse. During Stevenson’s term as ‘Engineer to the Board’, in 1808-1842, he was responsible for the building of at least 15 significant lighthouses, the most important of which was the Bell Rock Lighthouse, which, owing to its sophisticated engineering, was Stevenson’s magnum opus. Any account of so many achievements would likely run to many volumes and, no doubt, be a dry affair.He was also an inventor of intermittent and flashing lights, for which he received a gold medal from the King of the Netherlands, as a mark of his Majesty’s approbation. The Lighthouse Stevensons is a story of high endeavour, beautifully told; indeed, this is one of the most celebrated works of historical biography in recent memory. If the book has a weakness, it is that Bathurst's interest rapidly tails off, Robert and Alan receive most attention, then Robert Louis, the last Lighthouse Stevensons were still building and inspecting Lighthouses well into the 20th century, She round up with a chapter on the Lighthouse keepers - the books they were given (one or two others in addition to the Bible were allowed), the liquor permitted for medicinal purposes, instructions for cleaning and so on. 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.

Most notable was his invention of intermittent flashing lights – marking the lighthouse as the first to use red and white flashing lights – for which he received a gold medal from the King of the Netherlands. Scotland’s coast is dotted with 207 lighthouses, the majority of which were designed by multiple generations of one famed engineering family: the Stevensons. But Stevenson first trained as an engineer under his dad's direction, and he used his experience visiting and working at lighthouse sites for some of the activity and descriptions in his novels, such as "Kidnapped.How will these lighthouses be built, and who is going to maintain these structures, on the most dangerous spits of rock in the North Atlantic? Elsewhere, many Irish Lighthouses and Lighthouses in the Colonies were fitted with apparatus prepared under the superintendence of Robert Stevenson. Though Robert’s mother initially hoped that he would become a minister, he ultimately followed in his step-father’s footsteps and was employed as an assistant to the engineer. For over one hundred and fifty years Robert Stevenson and his descendants designed most of Scotland’s Lighthouses. It's mind-blowing that anyone could build on those sites, especially in a era before power tools, as the key building period was the 1790s-1840s.

An interesting history of the family who built lighthouses in Scotland and beyond, whose family name was immortalised by the author Robert Louis Stevenson, along with a select few of the works … I would have rated it higher but for the authors annoying habit of repeating information, two or more times throughout the book. For me there wasn't really enough about the actual building design and challenges and a bit too much about the personalities though I can see how the author was "rebalancing" history towards the engineering feats. There's a lot of that, and a lot of narrative of how the Stevenson family, generation by generation, wrote the book on engineering not just the lighthouses but the long-range lights that were the main event once the towers were in place.

Then, the book does a great job of explaining the arduous, endless work of the engineers to design and build the lighthouses, as well as bridges, roads, harbors and other works of the nation during the crucial decades. I first saw the book while staying at Cantick Light, a set of lighthouse keepers' cottages on the island of Hoy, in Orkney, while there for a music festival two years ago. También sobre qué esperaban los padres de los hijos, cómo se organizaba una vida familiar, cómo se formaba un joven que entraba en la edad adulta.

The early parts of the book that covered the history of getting lighthouse construction started despite political and cultural resistance was the most interesting. Skerryvore is one that gets fully discussed (and as a youngster I often wondered why RLS had a Skerryvore editioni of his works) and it seems to have been one of the most difficult to complete, bearing in mind that it was 38. Robert Stevenson, as benefits the founding patriarch haunted all his sons and comes over as a particularly troubled and fearful person, who everyone else had to work round. The National Library of Scotland hold a collection of of 619 items in 80 volumes from the archive of the civil engineering firm of Robert Stevenson, his three sons Alan, David and Thomas, and later generations of the family.Reading this book I learned, once again, how incredibly creative and industrious our nineteenth century ancestors were. There is a brief treatment on the reluctant participation of author Robert Louis Stevenson in the family business, but the book is certainly not focused on the life of said author. The first formal mention of Robert Stevenson in connection with the Northern Lighthouse Board was when his step-father entrusted him with the Superintendence of the building of Pentland Skerries Lighthouse in 1794.



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