Saturday, September 22, 2018

Souvenir Saturday: a lighthouse keeper in the family (Bell and Gadsden)

A reminder of what my great grandfather's duties were as Lighthouse Keeper at the Bluff Light, Durban. Polishing and more polishing - brass and glass. There was a long list of all the things the keepers had to accomplish but the most important was to keep the light shining bright. 

'The lightkeeper on duty at night shall on no pretence whatever during his watch leave the lightroom or balcony until he is relieved. A bell is fixed at or near the base of the tower with a cord leading to the balcony to enable the lighthouse keeper on duty to summon the absent keeper, and if at any time the lighthouse keeper on duty shall think the presence or assistance of the lighthouse keeper not on duty is necessary he shall call him by ringing this bell and the keeper so called shall repair to the lightroom without delay. In like manner when the watches come to be changed the bell shall be rung to call the lighthouse keeper next in turn after which the lighthouse keeper on duty shall at his peril remain on guard till he is relieved by the lighthouse keeper who has the next watch.' 

On the left is a Fresnel (fray-nel) lens, a type of compact lens originally developed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel for lighthouses.

There were always two keepers - in Britain, three - at any station. During Thomas Alfred Gadsden's career his brother-in-law Douglas Bell was Assistant Lighthouse Keeper. It was often the case that a lighthouse was a family concern, sometimes generation upon generation.

But Thomas Gadsden died in 1893 and Douglas Bell in 1899; neither left descendants who were lighthouse keepers. 

See Keeper of the Bluff Light:

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