General info about lighthouses (UK)

There are 3 Lighthouse Authorities in the UK:

* Trinity House: responsible for England and Wales: the Channel Islands and Gibraltar
* Commissioners of Irish Lights: responsible for Northern Ireland and Eire
* Northern Lighthouse Board: responsible for Scotland and Isle of Man


The 3 Lighthouse Authorities are self-financing. Ship-owners pay per ton shipped. Since 1993 “light dues” have been collected by the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. Light dues are paid into a General Lighthouse fund which is under the stewardship of Secretary of State for Transport.


Before automatisation there were 2 main types of stations:

* Rock lighthouse: where only the light keepers went. Accommodation for families were at shore stations, sometimes situated in town and sometimes very isolated. As lighthouses progressed towards the 20th Century more of the most remote lighthouses were designated Rock Stations. Rock Stations were manned by 3 Keepers and laterly there was a compliment of 3 relief keepers ashore rotating at four week intervals.
* Shore lighthouse: where keepers and their families were stationed. Laterly they were manned by 3 keepers residing at the lighthouse with one local assistant and up to two occasional keepers providing relief for the Principal and assistants for holidays and days off, with the acceptance of One and two man stations where the manning was reduced accordingly.m


Using Northern Lighthouse Board as a standard there are different levels of light keeper:

* Starting as Supernumerary light keeper (SLK) and the lowest rank of keeper with seniority. Roughly translated this means more than numerically required, in practice it meant remaining at this stage until a position of Assistant became available but subject to successfully completing a probationary period. In theory a Supernumerary Keeper might find himself Keeper-In-Charge of a lighthouse station especially a Rock Station where both the Principal and 1st assistant were taken ill or were absent from the station.
* On appointment to Assistant Keeper your status as Light keeper was assured subject to obedience of the rules pertaining to Keepers...the worst offence being failure to maintain the light and or allowing that light to become a standing light ( stationary and without character). Invariably this would result in instant dismissal but subject to mitigating circumstances. Advancement to Principal was usually as the result of death or retirement rarely by dismissal or establishment of a new Light.
* Principal Light keeper (PLK) this is the head keeper responsible for the running of the station. The buck stops with him, answerable in the first instance to the Superintendent and the secretary with monthly correspondence to them both made formerly by returns detailing the status of the Lighthouse.
* Local Assistant light keeper (LALK) was normally appointed to 1 station as he was someone locally.
* Occasional light keeper is a part time keeper normally appointed to 1 station, covers keepers days off, sickness, …
* Attendant is a part time keeper who usually visits an unmanned station to check and clean.


After automisation

There were only attendants left. But since 2003 minor lights are solarised and monitored from Edinburgh and some major lights being discontinued; the attendants role is fast becoming redundant as the Keepers role before them.