By John Morris

On the night of Saturday 15 December, 1900, a transatlantic steamer, Archtor, was ploughing through the ocean from Philadelphia to Leith in Scotland. As it passed Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides, the crew noticed that no beam of light shone from the lighthouse

Three days later the ship docked in Leith and a message was sent to the Northern Lighthouse Board office telling them that the light at Flannan lighthouse was off. The lighthouse relief ship, Hesperus, was sent to investigate.

It arrived on St. Stephen’s Day and the captain, Jim Harvie, sounded the ship’s horn and set off a flare hoping to attract the attention of the three lighthouse keepers. But there was no response from any of the three men, James Ducat, Thomas Marshall and William MacArthur.

Relief lighthouse keeper, Joseph Moore, disembarked the Hesperus and climbed the one-hundred-and-sixty stone steps to the lighthouse.

The door was unlocked and he went inside. Entering the living quarters, Moore saw that the clock on the kitchen wall had stopped, the dining table was set ready for a meal, and a chair had fallen over. But there was no sign of the lighthouse keepers. Moore returned to the ship and made his report to the captain who sent two sailors in search of the three men.

The sailors carried out a thorough search of the lighthouse and its surroundings. A set of oilskins was found suggesting that one of the men had left them behind as he went outside in a hurry. At the landing platform on the west side of the island they found evidence of a massive storm.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own