Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2022

Bell Rock Keepers Trapped by Fire


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The three keepers (l-r) Richard Nixon, James ...

It was 35 years ago this past September when three lighthouse keepers nearly lost their lives as a fire raged through the 118-foot-tall Bell Rock Lighthouse that sits on a tiny rocky outcropping 11 miles off Arbroath, on the east coast of Scotland.

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Bell Rock Lighthouse as it appears today. The ...
Photo by: Mark Caunt

It seems that the gas in the kitchen stove was on when a fuel pipe overflowed inside the lighthouse causing the fumes to ignite.

The three men immediately realized that there was nothing they could do to fight the flames that were spreading quickly. As they escaped the tower, they grabbed the portable phone and a small life raft and took refuge on what little sandstone around the lighthouse remained uncovered by the rising tide.

Although the batteries were weak on the phone, they managed to contact the mainland for help and a helicopter and a rescue lifeboat were dispatched.

With water quickly covering what land was left for the men to stand on, it was decided to winch the men up to the helicopter to rescue them.

With no way to actually fight the fire, it was left to burn itself out. The lighthouse was later repaired and automated.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2022 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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