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Little Cumbrae Lighthouse

A stumpy white circular tower on the west coast of the island of Little Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde, Little Cumbrae Lighthouse was completed in 1793. It was built for the Clyde Lighthouses Trust by Thomas Smith (1752 - 1815) assisted by a young Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850). The lighthouse is of the traditional design, a masonry tower, with a walkway corbelled out surrounding the glass lantern. It is 11m (36 feet) in height and was fitted with a new catoptrics lighting system, which used 32 oil lamps and mirrors rather than lenses. There are also two blocks of lightkeepers' cottages. It replaced the Little Cumbrae Old Lighthouse which was built in the centre of the island in 1757.

In 1826 the lighting system was upgraded, and a slipway and boathouse constructed. Later still, a dioptric system was introduced, lit by acetylene burners. In 1865, the first foghorn in Britain was installed here, along with an associated engine house to generate the necessary compressed air. This was a decade before the Northern Lighthouse Board installed its first fog signal.

The Clyde Lighthouses Trust merged to form the Clyde Port Authority in 1966 which, although now privatised, continues to own and operate the lighthouse.


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