Rua Reidh Lighthouse was built in 1912 by David Alan Stevenson, cousin of the writer Robert Louis Stephenson, and one of the famous “Lighthouse Stevensons”.
The original light was manned by three lighthouse keepers, and Stevenson designed a block of three apartments for the Principal Keeper, his two assistants, and their families, to live on site adjacent to the lighthouse tower.
A lighthouse keeper’s life was hard. Taking four hour shifts, the keepers constantly tended the light throughout the night; a tough physical job. The clockwork mechanism had to be wound by hand, keepers had to regularly ascend and descend the 87 steps in the lighthouse tower, and the lonely watch on hard winter nights had to be carried out regardless of the bitter weather screaming off the Atlantic. Life for the keepers’ families was arduous too. All supplies had to be brought in by boat, landing at a tiny jetty only accessible at high tide in calm seas, or else by a long overland journey on foot or by pony. With no inside bathrooms or electricity, the keepers’ wives had a tough time, keeping the house warm with coal fires and cooking on paraffin stoves. Children had to pull their weight at home as well as walking to school in Melvaig, a daily round trip of 8 miles.
But there were compensations too. The raw, rugged beauty of this stunning stretch of coastline; the peace and quiet; the abundant bird and sea life; the camaraderie of the families living here. On endless sunny summer days, and dark starry winter nights lit up by the Aurora Borealis, the keepers and their families must have thought they were in paradise.
As he proudly watched the light exhibited for the first time on 15th January 1912, David Alan Stevenson could not have anticipated that less than 100 years later all the lighthouses in Scotland would be automated, and with no further need for keepers to live at Rua Reidh, their accommodation would be sold into private ownership. He would surely not have imagined that one day the building would be welcoming guests from around the world, wishing to experience something of the lighthouse keepers’ paradise; the remoteness, the stunning views, and the abundant wildlife and walking opportunities.
We are Susan and Kiva Fateh, a mother and son duo.
Susan is of Iranian and Scottish heritage and grew up in both countries. With a BA from Scotland, she went on to work in southern Portugal and in Paris, before completing an MA in New York, where she remained for almost two decades. Susan first came upon Rua Reidh when co-ordinating overseas workshops for a non-profit arts organisation.
Kiva was born in 2000 in New York City and adds to the diversity by throwing African and Portuguese genes into the mix! Kiva spent the first 13 years of his life in rural Tuscany before moving to Scotland for his secondary education. He is a keen photographer, who enjoys hiking, drawing, travelling, and cooking.