Film ID:
NEFA 21975

NORTHERN LIFE: LONGSTONE LIGHTHOUSE

1976

Visitor Tabs

Description

Filmed report for the Tyne Tees Television Northern Life news programme, broadcast on 1 November 1976. Reporter Tony Cook spends time with three lighthouse keepers working at the Longstone Lighthouse on Longshore Rock off the Northumberland coast, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. One of the keepers, David Hindmarch, claims to have experienced a haunting at the lighthouse, said to be the ghost of Grace Darling.

At Seahouses, three lighthouse keepers load up a boat with more than £100's worth of food provisions for their month-long stay at Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands. The boat is the Grace Darling, owned by Trinity House.

Travelling shot across choppy seas towards the isolated red and white Longstone Lighthouse, designed and built by Joseph Nelson. The boat sets off from Seahouse harbour. A small group of people watch them sail away, one woman waving. Travelling shots from the boat and shots of the keepers and boat crew follow, all wearing inflatable life jackets. A voice-over informs us that they should have left a day earlier but, as often happens, the sea was too rough. More travelling shots and views on board follow as they sail to the lighthouse for the shift change.

Aerial footage and travelling shots from the boat document the trip. The Grace Darling comes into land and one of the keepers awaiting the change over is ready with a rope to secure the boat.

The voice-over talks about there being very few shipwrecks due to modern aids. During the last 12 months, the only incident of any significance recorded in the lighthouse log involved a group of skindivers whose boat sank. The lighthouse raised the alarm with the coastguards by radio link and there were no casualties.

Shot of the radio mast, with the sound of the lighthouse keeper communicating with coastguards over the radio. Aerial shot of the lighthouse.

Inside the lighthouse, reporter Tony Cook interviews the elder lighthouse keeper at the kitchen table, who explains that he tests the mobile radio communication with the coastguard station every morning. Cook thinks it's like 'a home from home' inside the lighthouse and he didn't think it would be so cosy. He pours the tea. He questions the keeper about why he chose this life because many people would consider it a bit desolate. The keeper explains it runs in the family. He has a brother who is a lighthouse keeper on the Lizard. His other brothers are all servicemen. Tony Cook suggests that maybe the myth of the sea isn't a myth afterall. The keeper agrees. He admits that he does, of course, miss the comforts of home. But it's also very comfortable at the lighthouse.

Next, Cook (off-screen) interviews the youngest lighthouse keeper who is just 22 years old. They discuss how to overcome the problems of living together so closely, and the rows that may occur between colleagues who don't get on. The reporter comments that 'most people of your age are out at discos. Don't you feel you're missing out?' The young lighthouse keeper says he goes to discos back on shore but that he knew he would have to give up these pleasures when he joined the lighthouse service. He says that he joined to get away from the rat race or humdrum of the world, despite then admitting that he had little experience of it. He had previously worked as a clerk at a brickworks and he was busy all day. The lighthouse service is quite the opposite. He explains that lighthouse keepers work a regular 58 hour shift before overtime. Cook comments that you would have to be a Jack of all trades on the lighthouse. The young lighthouse keeper says that the shared watch and cooking was about it. He didn't cook before taking this job but he's improved. The young lighthouse keeper is pictured peeling potatoes at the kitchen sink. In voice-over Cook is asking if the others complain about the food he cooks. He admits that they did in the first couple of weeks.

Various shots follow of the lighthouse in the rain. In voice-over, the reporter says that most lighthouses have their ghosts and on Longstone Lighthouse it's Grace Darling.

Interview with lighthouse keeper David Hindmarch who recounts his experiences of haunting at Longstone Lighthouse. He claims that he heard mysterious footsteps in the tower and that the principal lighthouse keeper claimed to have seen 'something' in the engine room and taken a photograph.

Two of the lighthouse keepers walk down the steps to the base of the tower where there is limited light as Hindmarch describes the spookiness of working in the tower. 'It's just like a haunted house. The whole tower is empty. Even your footsteps echo round.'

General exterior view of Longstone Lighthouse. Hindmarch says that he hasn't asked for a transfer since the haunting experience. But he would if he heard anything else. On a foggy day around Longshore Rock, the fog horn sounds.

In voice-over, Tony Cook sums up his report: 'One hundred and fifty years ago, when the lighthouse was built, it was lit by coal burners. Now, it's all electric and the light can be seen 21 miles away. In fact, automation has taken place to such an extent, it might be that we're in the last generation of lighthouse keepers. Who knows, when Longstone Lighthouse celebrates its next big birthday, it might have only the ghost of Grace Darling for company.'

The news report ends with a final aerial shot of Longstone Lighthouse.