Calf of Man
Calf of Man
The calf is situated at the south side end of the Isle of Man and although the lighthouse is technically not in Scotland it comes under the auspices of the Northern Lighthouse Board so I have included piece about it as well.
The island is seperated from the mainland by a sea crossing of only a few miles and access is by way of boat, In the summer months the ferry departs from Port Erin several times a day but for the lighthouse keepers the official trip was made from Port St Mary on the south east point of the isle of man and this trip took more than double the time of the port erin one.
Landing on the island is by three jetties the one on the south is for exclusive use of the lighthouse personnel and the other two facing the mainland, one being the modern concrete landing the others being the origional stone, as a tourist you disembark on the public jetty and face a stiff climb as the road immediately rises to the top of the hillside. This climb is often enough for old folk and is as far as they can manage, but once at the top, the road levels out for the rest of the journey to the lighthouse at the other end of the island, halfway along the road it branches, going left takes you to the south jetty, just before reaching this junction, and looking towards the light you may notice that there is in fact three lights. The two original and the disused top and bottom light towers, and the present operational one in the middle. If you look to the far left at certain points in the road you will also see the Chickens Lighthouse that stands just offshore on its rocky outcrop, now you have the unique sight of four lighthouses all in a row!
AS YOU CAN SEE IT COULD BE PERILIOUS ON SOME DAYS ALL IT NEEDED WAS A BIT OF SWELL IN THE WRONG DIRECTION (SCROLL DOWN ON PHONE)
The Calf is a nice island to walk around and as already mentioned the terrain the road follows is flat, making it pleasant to stroll around. On reaching the lighthouse you can’t help but to notice how out of character it looks for a lighthouse with its four walls and stunted tower, more akin to an American State Penitentiary wing, And what makes it even worse is that it is sandwiched between the skilled and decorative workmanship of the old towers. Although In its defence I’ve have to say that the accommodation was good with its being a modern building; with spacious kitchen, dining and living area, and more than adequate electricity supplied by Lister diesel engines, the only time you had to juggle the power usage being when the electric power shower was used, our water was pumped up from an underground spring in the field down the hill from the light by an air driven pump, The keepers did the job of upkeeping the roads on the island and this task required hooking up a trailer to the land rover and going down to the quarry on the other side of the island. as quarries go this was a very modest one, for it was just a piece of hillside that had been dug away over many years by the keepers and selected because it provided a good mixture of sand and stone, quarrying was a case of using the pickaxe to breakaway the sand/aggregate mixture and shovelling it into the trailer, really quite hard work especially on hot summer mornings, when the trailer was full you would then take it along the road and start shedding it. It was a case of the ‘Forth Road Bridge syndrome’ by the time you reached the end you just had to start all over again, a considerable amount of time was spent doing this over the summer months, and it earned us extra money. In the summer months the Island would be very dry and dusty, one of the keepers at the time tended to travel rather fast down these dry roads in the landrover, and he would produce a huge plume of dust behind him, so you always new when he was coming back from the other end of the island, We also kept in contact by radio and his call sign was affectionately known as dust-storm. When the tourists were on the road you would see them jumping off onto the verges as dust storm came thundering towards them, I know I shouldn’t but it did cause me to raise a smile.
In the middle of the island there is the old farmhouse which is now occupied by a warden (may have have changed now) as the whole area is classified as a nature reserve, one weekend a year the farm buildings are let out to a singles club from the isle of man I found this an odd but amusing choice of occupants, of course they would visit the lighthouse and they seemed a very jolly bunch and the keepers would be invited for a dish of spagbol or the like. The relief’s at the station could be a very frustrating experience in the summer months, for as I mentioned before, the boat sailed from Port St. Mary and many a time it was to rough to make the trip, yet the tourist were coming and going from the island all day the reason for this being that it was possible to sail from Port Erin to the island because different tide races and swells affected this route, cei,la vie!
Another of our jobs was that once a week we had to go down the road in the landrover with water pump and hose, to water grass kept in an old ruined barn this was really bazzar standing there with hoses in hand ,the grass had come from the courtyard inside the station, the lighthouse board sited three large diesal tanks in the centre of the station for the automation work and according to the warden at the time this grass was of historical interest so to keep the piece and good relations the board agreed to preserve the grass and replace it back to its original position when the automation was complete, now according to the keepers that had been at the station for many years, they remember the grass being sown and there certainly wasn’t anything special about it, I believe it was just the warden being difficult because he did not get on with the principle at that time all the same we still had to go and water it. You can see from the picture of the signpost that the keepers had a sense of humour but one of the principle keepers had a bit of an attitude problem and did not get on with the nature reserve warden and one night the sign disappeared no prizes for guessing who.
At the time I left, there was work going on to the original bottom lighthouse to turn it into a museum I assume by now the project will be finished, I must go and visit sometime I was sent out there in the capacity of relief light keeper to cover shortages due to sickness etc I must say this was probably my favourite light to visit as was the isle of man itself, on my first trip there I was sent to Point of Ayre the board was going to book me a flight but I asked if I could go by car and it would also save them a lot of cost so taking the car gave me the chance to explore the island which I fell in love with and wished I could have settled there at the end of my service I suggest if you have time to visit there you won't be disappointed