An Illuminating Experience

By Gordon Medlicott

Format: Paperback

Offers an insight into the 32-year working life of a lighthouse keeper. This work covers the period of the change from oil lights to satellites, clockwork to computers and semaphore to mobile phones.

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Whittles Publishing

Whittles Publishing has been established for some years but recently has expanded significantly, becoming a well-known technical publisher on a global stage. They publish quality, well-produced and attractive books and specialise in the following subjects: geomatics, civil and structural engineering and applied science. They are also developing new lists in specific disciplines including architecture and landscape, manufacturing and materials technology, fuel and energy science and geotechnics. They also publish non-technical books within the following areas: maritime, pharology, military history, nature and exploration.

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Throughout the 1960s and '70s, despite having the technology to land men on the moon, some of our lighthouses were still operated by oil, not only for the main navigation light, but also in the keepers' living quarters. With some of the offshore stations lacking even the basic facilities of running water, a bathroom or heating life onboard was, to say the least, pretty basic. The author's story begins in 1966 - a time when oil lights were rotated by a hand-wound clockwork mechanism and keepers handled explosive fog signals. Little did the author realize that he would witness, and become part of, a new technological age that would sweep through the industry. Unmanned lighthouses being operated by remote control via telemetry links to a computer and satellite information provided by GPS. Travelling extensively around the coasts of England, Wales and the Channel Islands, his 22 postings varied from offshore lighthouses, such as the famous Needles Rock at the Isle of Wight, where the men were confined to just a handful of circular rooms, to those located on beautiful islands such as Lundy in the Bristol Channel where the accommodation was more spacious.


Due to their isolation, lighthouses and their keepers were in an advantageous position to assist the Coastguard and rescue services and the author describes how he became involved in two hazardous rescue operations for which he was awarded the Royal Humane Society bronze medal. With the onset of automation, it was frequently necessary for keepers to share their already-cramped living space with the contractors who installed the specialised equipment that would ultimately result in their redundancy. Although the introduction of helicopters was initially a godsend in overcoming late reliefs, it proved to be the nail in the coffin for the men of the service, as they offered virtually all-weather access. "An Illuminating Experience" tells the fascinating story of a way of life that has become a part of our maritime heritage.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Imprint Whittles Publishing
Publication Date 6 Oct 2009
ISBN 9781904445647
Number of Pages 144

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Press Reviews

'It is a story by a man who clearly loved his career and the sea and will be of interestto all those who have looked at the lights from the shore or from the sea.' The Royal Naval Sailing Association Journal

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