What was supposed to be a short Sunday afternoon photography visit to St. Mary’s Lighthouse on the northeast coast of England turned out to be a scary experience for a couple of grandparents who got stranded inside the remote lighthouse.
When Vera and Barry Singh came down from the top of St. Mary’s Lighthouse, just north of Whitley Bay on St. Mary’s Island, they were shocked to find that all the other visitors and staff were gone and the pair were locked inside the lighthouse.
“My wife was really panicking and said, ‘how are we going to get out?”’ recounted Barry. “Eventually, I found a fire exit and opened it and we ran out to the front.” It was then that the couple discovered that the tide was coming in and the water was too high to walk back over the causeway. “Thankfully, I had left the fire exit door open and we were able to get inside and get warm.”
Barry continued, “We managed to put on some lights and found a couple of electric space heaters, but alarms kept going off.” Starting at 4:17pm, Barry’s wife called the landline for the lighthouse three different times, but there was no answer.
Finally, they decided to call the police, who informed them that they could dispatch a helicopter. But the couple decided that they did not want to use emergency services and it might be best just to wait until the tide went out.
At around 10pm, after the tide had gone down, six hours after being stranded, the pair were helped to safety by the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, who guided the couple across the darkened causeway at night.
“We still can’t believe it,” said Barry. He continued, “We are now safe and well but it could have been a different story if we hadn’t been able to get back inside. It could have been a very panicky situation for children, anybody elderly, or anybody who has panic attacks. When I went outside, it was dark, all I could hear was the wind and the water was right up.”
The couple were honest and left a note and money at the lighthouse to pay for the snacks and hot drinks they had while they were inside.
The 1898 St. Mary’s Lighthouse attracts about 70,000 visitors every year. Officials reported that they have never had an incident like this before. Perhaps, in the future, the staff at the lighthouse will do a better job of making sure everyone is gone before they lock up and leave for the day.
This story appeared in the
Mar/Apr 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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