Lanarkshire lighthouse expert shines with illuminating exhibition

A Lanarkshire lighthouse expert is in buoyant mood as he stages his first exhibition in three years – showingcasing treasures including a bespoke model of the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse.

Peter Gellatly is staging his Following the Lights display at North Ayrshire heritage center in Saltcoats for the next three months, coinciding with Scotland’s current “year of stories”.

It brings together a wide range of memorabilia including unseen color video of Clyde Lighthouse Trust keepers, a complete guide to the country’s last remaining lightship, plus original books, photos and letters from the Stevenson family of engineers.

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Coatbridge resident Peter praised the “wonderful addition” of the six-foot replica of the Bell Rock lighthouse, which has pride of place among the items on show.

He told Lanarkshire Live: “It’s been constructed specifically for the exhibition, to celebrate 211 years of the Bell Rock lighthouse, and it’s an amazing feat of model engineering construction.

“I’ve also been collecting new items for the past few years and have found out some more interesting information, including the original plans from 1825 for the extension of Arbroath harbor by Robert Stevenson.”

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The model of the Angus coast lighthouse – designed by renowned engineer Robert Stevenson, the grandfather of famous author Robert Louis Stevenson – was designed and constructed by Bravo Delta Models.

Company representatives had begun liaising with Peter on the project back in late 2018; and although it was delayed by the Covid pandemic and supply issues affecting the paint needed for the model, it was finally completed just in time to be sent straight to the Ayrshire exhibition venue.

Peter said: “We’d like to thank everyone on the team for all the work that went into creating this exceptional model, bringing such an iconic lighthouse of this size from design to construction; it’s now in place and taking center stage.”

He added: “I’m working to support Visit Scotland with their year of stories theme, since the exhibition celebrates the stories of lighthouses, light vessels and the famous Stevenson lighthouse engineers – and it includes many Robert Louis Stevenson photographs, handwritten notes and books .

“Following the Lights is a unique historical journey around the lighthouses and light vessels of the UK, and highlights include never-before-seen color video footage of Clyde Lighthouse Trust keepers and their families at Little Cumbrae, a one-hour guided tour of the history on board Scotland’s last lightship, North Carr and original signed books, photographs and letters.

“There’s a display of photographs of lighthouses and scenery from Scotland and the Isle of Man, complimented by a history of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ancestors and books, to bring the past alive.”

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College lecturer Peter has been fascinated by lighthouses for nearly three decades and has combined his interest with his photography skills to produce a book, also entitled Following the Lights, showcasing lighthouses around Scotland and the Isle of Man and with proceeds going to fund the structures’ keep up.

He has also stayed at numerous lighthouses and former light ship vessels around the country, is a consultant to the project team bidding to restore the North Carr light ship and even Hollywood advised directors of Gerald Butler movie The Vanishing.

The current exhibition in Saltcoats runs every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from now until June 28.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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