North Ronaldsay and ‘the invention that saved a million ships’
It’s my only chance this year to go to North Ronaldsay from Westray. There’s an inter-island excursion, with a ferry which goes from Westray to North Ronaldsay and back. I love it there. Here’s my previous experience:
I managed some great photos of Billy the lighthouse-keeper:
The lighthouse has as many steps up to the top as the number of verses in the longest chapter in the Bible. I wonder how many people know that’s Psalms 119? I also wonder if people have walked up there, reading a verse for every step. If this was Rome then they definitely would have; except in Rome they would be on their knees. It’s 176 steps in total. It’s appropriate that the 176th verse of Psalms 119 is ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments,’ as the top of the lighthouse is the perfect place for spotting lost North Ronaldsay sheep.
There’s a framed ‘Notice to Mariners’ at the top:
The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses hereby give Notice that the Lighthouse formerly advertised as being built upon the Island of North Ronaldshay in Orkney, has been completed, and the Light will be exhibited on the Night of Friday the 1st September 1854, and every night thereafter, from the going away of day-light in the evening, to the return of day-light in the morning.
It’s now electric and the light bulbs seem as big as my head.
It is still lit from the going away of day-light in the evening, to the return of day-light in the morning. I can see it flash every ten seconds from my bedroom window.
The lenses are from a French man’s design from the early 19th Century. Augustin-Jean Fresnel had the genius idea of cutting out most of the lens leaving simple round stepped sections in the glass, meaning the lens was lightweight and easy to make. It truly was ‘the invention that saved a million ships’.
My telephoto lens for nature photography is built using exactly the same principles. Unfortunately it wasn’t easy to make, or cheap to buy.
There’s just time to admire the stonework of the slipway and the pebbles that are scattered upon it.
Then it’s time to cycle to the ferry for the journey back.
North Ronaldsay, it’s been a pleasure, and lunch was fabulous. I may have bought two fruit scones for later.
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