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Little Cumbrae Lighthouse
Lighthouse Hill, Little Cumbrae, Firth of Clyde
associated engineer
James Ewing
date  1757
era  Georgian  |  category  Lighthouse  |  reference  NS142514
James Ewing built the first lighthouse on Little Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde. It is sited some way from the coast, on top of what is now known as Lighthouse Hill, the highest point of the island.
The lighthouse was designed to ease the passage of shipping into the Firth and the port of Glasgow. Its tower is a circular stone structure standing 28 ft high with an external diameter of 18 ft. Its internal diameter is 12 ft. The lighthouse keepers were accommodated in a cottage about 9 metres north of the tower.
For the light, a coal fire was used, which burnt so fiercely that the grate on which it stood had to be replaced after only one year, and then regularly thereafter.
Ewing built the tower for 140.5.8d — considered a low amount. The light was to prove very profitable, and in March 1773 the dues from it were used to pay for the quelling of a mob of sailors who had brought business to a halt in Greenock and Port Glasgow for ten days.
The inherent limits of coal-fire lights, combined with the tower's position on top of a hill, meant that the Little Cumbrae light was often obscured by cloud or fog.
Complaints from seamen led to a plan in 1790 to replace the light in the tower. This eventually led in 1793 to the Little Cumbrae Lighthouse Trust commissioning another tower nearer the coast, the New Tower.
The original tower still stands. The Clyde Port Authority carried out restoration work on it in 1956.
Research: PS
"The World's Lighthouses Before 1820" by D. Alan Stevenson
Oxford University Press, London, 1959
"Lighthouses: Their Architecture, History and Archaeology"
by Douglas B. Hague + Rosemary Christie, Llandysul: Gomer press, 1975
"A Star for Seamen: The Stevenson Family of Engineers"
by Craig Mair, John Murray, London, 1978

Little Cumbrae Lighthouse