Section Index
Bicentennial - 2011
Visiting the Rock
Underwater Life
at the Bell Rock

"Inchcape Rock" by Robert Southey
Light-keeper's Duties "1823"
The Bell Rock Prayer
Sir Joseph Banks and Mutiny on the Bounty
Sir Walter Scott's visit, the "Pharos Loquitur"
"The Year without a Summer"
"Death of HMS Argyll"
Pharos Experience
Preparing for Automation
Life in the Bell Rock
Lighthouse (1865)

A Keeper's Account
'"A Quiet Night In"

A Keeper's Account
"Outdoor 'Excursions'"

North Carr Lightships
Lighthouses of the Forth
The Bell Rock Tartan

Instructions for the Bell Rock Light-keepers

(as at 1st August 1823)

(plus Daily Allowance of Rations for Light-keepers working in the service of the Bell Rock Lighthouse)

I - The Keepers of the Bell Rock Light-house are hereby instructed and directed to keep the lamps of the reflecting-apparatus burning bright and clear, from the going away of day-light in the evening till the return of day-light in the morning. The better to obtain this purpose, the period of night is to be divided into Watches, and each keeper in rotation will mount guard for three hours. The fountains of the lamps being daily supplied with oil, the wicks must be frequently trimmed in the course of the night, but more particularly at the end of each watch.

II - The motion of the machinery of the reflector-frame must be so regulated, that one of the lights of the natural appearance, and one of those coloured red, shall be exhibited to the mariner in their most brilliant effect, in the course of every four minutes; or the reflector-frame must make one entire revolution in the space of eight minutes.

III - The keeper on watch will look out for the occurrence of foggy or snowy weather, and during the continuance of either, the bells must be kept tolling both day and night.

IV - At the end of each watch, the keeper respectively on duty must ring the house or bed-room bell, as the case may be, and thereafter remain at his post until he is relieved by the keeper in person whose turn it is to mount guard.

V - In the event of any thing getting out of order about the machinery of the reflector-frame, so as to prevent its operation, the Lights, and also the Bell-hammers, if required, must be moved by hand, as nearly to the periodic time as possible, until the repair of the machine can be accomplished.

VI - Should the stock of Oil in the Light-house by any means be reduced to 150 gallons, between the 1st day of October and the last day of February; or to 50 gallons between the 1st day of March and the 30th day of September, the number of lights on each side of the reflector-frame shall be reduced to three; but in the event of the stock of Oil being respectively lessened to one-half of the above quantities, or that any of the other stores essential to the support of the Light, are getting so low as to endanger its total failure, only one burner shall be lighted on each side of the reflector-frame, or four burners in all.

VII - Unless, under these circumstances, a supply comes to hand, recourse must ultimately be had to the use of the Wax Candles in store.

VIII - During any period that the stores or provisions appear to the acting Principal Light-keeper to be in danger of falling short, or in the event of sickness, or under any other circumstances considered of a calamitous and hazardous nature, the signal of distress shall be observed, by ceasing to hoist the Signal-ball at the stated periods, until the arrival of the Attending-vessel.

IX - In all cases of difficulty, especially such as are referred to by the tenor of the Articles VI, VII and VIII of these Instructions, the acting Principal Light-keeper shall use his discretion and judgment in lessening the daily allowance of provisions, water and fuel, according to his view of the circumstances of the case.

X - No lights of any kind are to be left in such a situation as to endanger accident by fire. If at any time it should be found necessary to enter the store-room under night, the light must be carried in a lantern.

XI - The better to ensure regularity and good order in the Light-house-duty, it shall be performed in three distinct departments. The keepers to shift in rotation weekly, from the performance of one department to another. These changes are to take place every Saturday-night.

XII - The light-keeper performing the duty of the first department, shall, in the course of the day, supply the lamp-fountains with oil, and the burners with cotton; he shall clean the reflecting-apparatus, and all the utensils connected with the trimming of the lights. He shall also take his turn in mounting guard both day and night.

XIII - The day-work of the second department includes the cleaning of the machinery-case, windows, walls, floors, and apparatus connected with the light-room, not already specified as coming under the first department; he shall likewise clean the balcony and library; the books of which must be dusted or cleaned on the first Saturday of every month. The keepers in this department will also take his turn at day and night watches.

XIV - The third department includes the cleaning of the bed-room, kitchen, and provision store-room; together with the passages, stairs, and whole utensils connected with these apartments. He shall likewise cook the provisions, and take charge of them from the time of their being served out, until they are set upon the table in a prepared state. The keeper acting in this department shall only be subject to the performance of night-watches.

XV - The acting Principal Light-keeper will mount guard in his turn by day and night, and do the duty of the first and second departments, but he is hereby exempted from personally performing the duty of the third department; he will, however, serve out the stores, and keep the light-room store in a cleanly and orderly state.

XVI - The chimney or smoke-tube of the kitchen-range, and the windows of the several apartments, are to be cleaned on the last Saturday of every month, or as soon thereafter as the weather will permit: The performance of which is to be entered into the Monthly Return.

XVII - The wharfs or cast-iron railways, rope-ladder (now brazen stair), shall, in like manner, be overhauled and examined during the period of spring-tides, on the full and change days of the moon. the condition of these works to be also regularly entered into the Monthly Returns.

XVIII - The light-keeper on guard is to give immediate notice to the acting Principal-Keeper of the appearance of the Tender, or of any other vessel, or boat, which is seemingly approaching the Rock; when the proper signals will be made as to the practicability and safety of landing, and the necessary attendance given; according to the instruction of the Signal-Book.

XIX - The Keeper on watch between the hours of 9 and 10 in the morning, shall hoist the signal-ball to the flag-staff-head (if the weather will permit), and, in this position, allow it to remain during that hour, and when all is well; but in the event of foggy or stormy weather, such as shall obstruct the view with the telescope between the Light-house and the Signal-tower at Arbroath, the ball shall be hoisted between the hours of 1 and 2 in the afternoon, should the weather have then improved. These circumstances are to be stated in the Monthly Returns.

XX - The keepers, in rotation, shall have leave, and be carried ashore in the Attending-vessel, at such periods as may best suit the service. When this occurs in regular succession, each of the four keepers will remain six weeks at the Light-house, and two weeks at Arbroath with their families.

XXI - The keeper who for the time being is on leave at the establishment at Arbroath, will there attend the duty of the signal-room, from 9 to 10 every morning, and likewise from 1 to 2 in the afternoon, when, from the state of the weather, the signals at the Bell Rock cannot be seen and repeated at the appointed hour in the morning, agreeably to Article XIX.

XXII - The rotation for leave on shore must be so regulated, that the turns of the Principal and Principal-assistant Light-keepers do not immediately or successively follow each other.

XXIII - When at the Light-house, the keepers will have Rations of provisions and other allowances, as stated in the annexed Schedule, but while they are on shore they provide for themselves.

XXIV - In case the Rations served out should not at any time be used, the same must be returned to the store, as no provisions of any kind are permitted to be taken away from the Light-house.

XXV - The Principal Light-keeper, and, in his absence, the Acting Principal-keeper, is held responsible for the due performance of the duty of the other keepers; for the correctness of the Requisitions made for stores; for the Monthly Returns written by the Assistant or Expectant Light-keepers; for all Entries made in the store and journal books; for the regular and properly serving out of the daily allowance of lightroom stores and provisions; for the regular use and cleanly state of the bed and table linen; for the good order of the Light-house furniture, apparatus and appurtenances; that none of the stores be wasted or embezzled, but that the strictest economy and careful management be observed, yet so as to preserve a good and sufficient light.

XXVI - The light-keepers are hereby prohibited from receiving, bringing, or allowing to be brought to the Light-house, any spiritous liquors, as private stores. the Acting Principal Light-keeper is held responsible for the conduct of his assistants; and the Master of the Tender for the conduct of his men in this respect.

XXVII - The Bell Rock being the chief station at which Light-keepers are instructed in their duty for the service of the Northern Lights, the Principal, or, in his absence, the Acting-principal Keeper, is directed to superintend this department, and they are respectively held responsible for the certificate they may ultimately give as to the qualifications of Expectant-keepers. Upon production of the certificate to the Engineer, the light-keepers will be found entitled to the premium stated in the annexed Schedule of Allowances.

XXVIII - Each Expectant-light-keper is to be resident for at least six weeks at the Bell Rock. In the course of this period he is to practise the whole duty performed in the light-room; to write the Monthly Returns; and carefully to peruse these Instruction. If, at the end of this period, he is found qualified, he will receive a certificate to the following effect: "Bell Rock Light-house," (here insert the date.) "These certify, that (here insert the name,) "has resided" (here insert the number of) "days at this Light-house; and having been duly instructed in the whole practice of the Keeper's duty in the Light-room, he is considered qualified to act as an Assistant Light-keeper," or is found deficient in certain points, (here state the case as it may be.) "witness my hand," (Signature of Principal, or, in his absence, of the Principal Assistant Light-keeper.)

XXIX - The Inventory of the Light-house apparatus, books, furniture, and utensils, is to be compared with the Inventory-book upon the first Friday of the months of May and November half-yearly, or as soon thereafter as the Principal and Principal Assistant Light-keepers are both upon the rock. Any deficiency in the articles of the Inventory-book is to be stated in the respective Returns for these months.

XXX - It being a rule in the Service of the Commissioners of the Northern Light-houses, that access to their establishments shall be free and open to the Public, the keepers are enjoined to pay attention to Strangers, shewing them every civility in their power; and, particularly, to afford their aid and assistance, in cases of Shipwreck; yet so as not to neglect any thing incumbent upon them, in the proper discharge of their duty as light-keepers.

XXXI - It is recommended to the light-keepers to be cleanly in their persons and linens, and proper in their apparel in general.

XXXII - The Light-keepers are enjoined to assemble in the Library, for the purpose of reading the Scriptures, and for Prayers, every Sunday, as 12 o'clock noon, in their Uniform-dress. This service is to be performed by the Acting Principal Light-keeper, or Principal Officer of the Board present. The table is to be covered during this service with a flag; and, when the weather is moderate, the Light-house flag is, at the same time, to be hoisted to the mast-head, and allowed to remain till sunset.

XXXIII - Should any difference of opinion arise among the Light-keepers about the meaning of these Instructions, the duty shall in such cases be performed agreeably to the explanation and orders of the Acting Principal Light-keeper. In the same manner, in all matters to which these Instructions may not seem fully to apply, the orders of the Acting Principal Light-keeper are hereby declared to be binding upon the respective Light-keepers.

XXXIV - In case of neglect of duty on the part of any of the Assistant-keepers, the Principal shall, according to the nature of the offence, communicate the circumstances to the Superintendant Light-keeper, on his first visit, or immediately by letter to the Engineer, that the offending party may be reprimanded, put under stoppages, or ultimately dismissed from the service, as the case may require.

XXXV - These Instructions, with such additional orders as may be issued from time to time, are to be read by the officiating Officer, immediately before reading Prayers, on the first Sunday of the months of May and November.

Edinburgh, 1st August 1823
Engineer to the Commissioners of the Northern Light-houses


SCHEDULE referred to in the XXIII and XXVII Articles of the INSTRUCTIONS

Daily Allowance per Man, 1lb Beef; 1lb Bread; 2oz Oatmeal; 2oz Barley; 2oz Butter; 3quarts Beer; Vegetables and Salt no stated allowance; For Tea and other necessaries 4d per day; For Instructing each Expectant-Light-keeper £2 distributed as follows, viz Principal Light-keeper 15s, Principal Assistant 10s, each of the two Ordinary Assistants 7s 6d.


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