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Lighthouse & Coastguards

Part Two: My Brief Career as a Lighthouse Keeper

However, my joy was short lived, a telegram arrived six days later “please report to Plymouth for a spell of duty on the famous Eddystone rock lighthouse.” I recall now the thrill and fear of that message, way back in ‘58 and both of these came into play, two days later after having visited one of the large stores with my list for two months supplies which would be shipped off with me. The following morning I arrived bright and early at Millbay docks. The air was cold, a grey mist hung low over the sea occasionally lifting to unveil the ghostly silhouettes of destroyers and frigates anchored in the sound. A rather large man emerged from the wheelhouse of a dirty looking tug which was moored alongside the quay and in real Devonshire dialect shouted out “all aboard for the Eddystone”. Some half hour later we were on our way slipping past the breakwater and out into the open sea and there on the horizon, like a giant needle, lay my home for the next two months. Two hours passed before we came up close to the Eddystone reef. My heart started pounding as I gazed in awe at this 162 foot high man-made achievement built in solid dovetailed granite blocks straight out of the sea and tapered like a tree so as to withstand everything that nature’s forces could throw at it. High up on the galley two keepers were preparing to winch me up on a rope to the tower, then a loud clattering broke the silence and brought me back to reality, the engines had stopped and a launch was being lowered from the tug which would allow us to get closer to the tower. Within a few minutes we were bobbing up and down like a cork close to the reef. Heavy seas were breaking over the base of the tower and cascading down close to the launch, quite a frightening experience but worse was to come. …

by Edwin Carter