Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Thursday, November 26, 1998 Published at 15:23 GMT


UK

Lights out for the last keepers

Dermot Cronin: "I had no idea I would be closing the door of the last manned lighthouse"

The Duke of Edinburgh has presided over the closure of the UK's last manned lighthouse. The BBC's Dominic Hughes sheds light on a tradition dating back 400 years.

The forward march of technology means that the keepers at North Foreland Lighthouse in Kent are the last of their kind.


Watch Dominic Hughes report from North Foreland
For hundreds of years, the lighthouse at North Foreland in Kent, has both warned and welcomed mariners. For those who lived their lives on the sea, its presence has been a constant. Whatever the conditions, there has always been someone looking out for them.


[ image: North Foreland's light will keep up its signal]
North Foreland's light will keep up its signal
Lighthouse keeper, Dermot Cronin remembers starting the job 33 years ago. "I had no idea I would be closing the door of the last manned lighthouse in the British Isles," he said.

"To me a lighthouse was meant to be lived in. It was part of working life. And ships passing, day or night, knew there was somebody there, looking at them."

It is a poignant moment for Dermot that marks the end of a long career.

"I think its going to be harder first of all on my wife, having to get used to me being home for 365 days of the year. That'll be on both our parts I suppose. But yes, fitting into a job on the shore - that will be the difficulty, because here we have a watch keeping system.

"At night time you are your own boss, you can do whatever you like and you have your freedom. It can be lonely at times but that's part of lighthouse keeping".


[ image: Lighthouses have been around since Roman times]
Lighthouses have been around since Roman times
The lighthouse at North Foreland has witnessed the departure of armies and adventurers, the arrival of countless trading vessels and more than one shipwreck from sailors who failed to heed its warning.

With automation, the regular human activity that gives the building its soul will cease. North Foreland's light will keep up its signal - five times every 20 seconds - only now a computerised system will monitor it from 200 miles away.

But retired teacher and local historian Dr Alan Kay, a keen student of the life and times of the North Foreland, says its important to look to the future:

"From a historical point of view I feel sad. But for someone of my age I think one has to look forward to the 21st century, and to look forward to advances and not always look back to the historic past, wonderful though that may have been."

The automation programme, started in the early 1980s, is now at an end. Its completion means the job of watching over British shores passes to a new age.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England
In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online