Value is a relative thing. What might be of great value to one person may not be worth anything to someone else. That thought struck me yesterday as I was dusting two beautiful birds made out shells that sit on a bedroom shelf. The birds are not rare nor are they made of a valuable substance. To me they are priceless.
The birds were purchased at the estate auction of the last keeper of Eshaness Lighthouse. I went to the auction hoping to find a rare lighthouse treasure not really knowing exactly what that would be. The auction turned out to be the usual estate auction with mostly household things. At first I was disappointed until I talked to the keeper's son. He started showing and telling me about the items that had been a part of his life growing up in a lighthouse. Showing me two birds made of shells, he related with great detail how his father had displayed them in a place of honor at all eight Scottish lighthouses he had served. The look of pride combined with sadness in his eyes told me I had found my lighthouse treasure. He was absolutely thrilled that I might buy them and take them back to be displayed at Eshaness. When the birds came up for auction I would have paid a huge amount for them but no one else seemed to want them so I paid 5 pounds. I carried them back to the lighthouse knowing I had bought something of unlimited value.
Just so you will think I am not completely crazy I also bought a beautiful box which I found out later was a dry storage box, used to store spare parts for the lighthouse equipment. It was important enough in lighthouse operations that only the head keeper was allowed to have the key. By most people's standards this was a valuable lighthouse treasure so I donated it to a local museum for everyone to see.
For me the most valuable item I got at that auction was a pair of birds made out of shells which had been loving carried by a Scottish lighthouse keeper to eight different lighthouses to put on display. They are priceless to me because they remind me daily of a family who lived, worked and played in lighthouses of which Eshaness was the last. In my opinion any item that belonged to a keeper and their family while living in the lighthouse has incalculable worth. There are keepers no more and so no new personal items that called a lighthouse home will come on the market. That makes my birds very rare and precious.
P.S. They are not for sale for any price!
This story appeared in the
September 2007 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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