- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
The Lighthouse Stevensons Hardcover – 6 Apr 1999
Special offers and product promotions
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
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
From the Back Cover
For centuries, the seas around Scotland were notorious for shipwrecks. Mariners negotiated not just the natural obstacles – jagged coastline, riptides, currents and storms – but also the human threats of press gangs, privateers and wreckers. The sailors' only aids were skill, luck and a single coal-fire light on the east coast which was usually extinguished by rain.
In 1786, the Northern Lighthouse Trust was established and a few years later Robert Stevenson was appointed their Chief Engineer. It was the beginning of a partnership spanning almost two centuries and four generations of the same family, who became known as the 'Lighthouse Stevensons'.
Robert fought foul weather and opposition to build the Bell Rock light near Arbroath. His eldest son, Alan, designed Skerryvore, considered 'the most beautiful lighthouse in the world'. David Stevenson was responsible for the light at Muckle Flugga, Scotland's northernmost point, and Thomas Stevenson for Dhu Heartach, immortalised in Kidnapped. In all, the family designed and built ninety-seven lights speckled around the Scottish coast, as well as an exceptional range of works including harbours, roads, bridges, and railways.
It was the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, who trained as an engineer but escaped into writing, that brought fame to the Stevenson name. But the Lighthouse Stevensons, as much as anyone, are responsible for their country's appearance today.
Bella Bathhurst has traced the extraordinary careers of the Stevensons, from the first of the lights to the last of the keepers. In sharp, inspired prose she presents a mesmerising account of these little-known Scottish heroes, of whom their better-known literary descendant remarked, 'I might write books till 1900 and not serve humanity so well.'See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The Northern Lighthouse Trust was established in 1786 and Robert (senior) was later appointed chief engineer and built the Bell Rock lighthouse and the 3 generations built a further 96 lighthouses and also developed many engineering innovations in the fields of roads harbours,bridges and railways.
But it was the grandson Robert who became most famous with his books including Kidnapped and many others.
Well written and researched with good pictures.
This book gives a picture of the history of the construction of the lighthouses between the late 18th century and the 1990s.
Bella Bathurst seemed to be getting impatient towards the end, or maybe the later Stephenson correspondence books weren't as plump: there's an awful lot of paraphrase and quotation - some of it unattributed - I'd say.
Whilst I would have liked to hear a little more about the non-lighthouse projects, and about the professional lives of the later Stevensons, I found this a rivetting book. It deserves to be lined up with Gordon's "New Science of Strong Materials" and Shute's "Slide Rule" for readers who want to know what it is to be an Engineer.
The book offers an interesting account of how lighthouses were built on some of the most inhospitable places imaginable. There is also plenty of discussion of how the Stevenson clan grew into this engineering dynasty, and the obstacles they faced both from nature and man.
However, the subject matter is a little thin to hold one's attention for 260 odd pages. Despite being well written, there are only so many ways to describe how a lighthouse is built and the necessary permissions, approvals etc. each one requires. Perhaps more pictures would have helped or more diagrams explaining the tremendous pressures the lighthouses have had to withstand.
If one is besotted by either lighthouses or the Stevensons then this book is a masterpiece. Others may prefer to wait until Ms. Bathurst turns her considerable talents to a more substantive topic.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
collection of books and postcards concerning lighthouses