The Lighthouse Hughsons National Museums Scotland volunteer guide David Hughson tells the story of two generations of lighthouse keepers in his family. The Hughsons come from Whalsay in Shetland, where the family can be traced back to the late 1600s. Generations had led a difficult existence as fishermen and crofters until the late 1800s when Thomas and his younger brother John both enlisted in the lighthouse service. This was to completely change their future and that of their descendents. Despite being poor fishermen, the family had always set much store by literacy, no easy task in the circumstances. At that time there was no school and, while other areas had ministers who taught their flock to read the bible, on Whalsay there was no permanent minister. Generally, children were taught by their fathers and it is moving to see the signature of your great x4 grandfather beautifully inscribed on documents of the 1770s. His handwriting is a lot neater than mine. Thomas Hughson 1847 - 1921 In 1863 when Thomas and John were boys in Whalsay, a young minister, Angus Willins was appointed and he educated them in his own time, a kindness Thomas never forgot. It changed his life completely, allowing him to embark on a career in the lighthouse service. When the minister died at an early age, Thomas provided a grave stone which reads: “In memory of the Rev Angus Willins, who came to Whalsay a missionary in 1863, when there was no school on the island. He saw due to his efforts a school, an enlarged church and enlarged manse, and the island made into a quoad sacra parish before he fell asleep on 27th June 1872, aged 44. This stone erected by Thomas Hughson to whom he gave a nightly lesson for two years in his parlour”. Above: Stone erected in memory the Rev Angus Willins by Thomas Hughson. The two men are commemorated in Brough churchyard on Whalsay, side by side, each extending a hand to the other. Of Thomas’ children, David, the eldest, went into the Merchant Navy and was lost in a convoy in mid Atlantic in 1941. Angus became a captain in the Royal Navy and survived both wars. I remember him from my childhood; very tall and straight, he drank only water. He retired to London. Thomas, named after his father, became an engineer and a fellow of Heriot Watt College. Anne was also very bright academically, going into teaching and winning academic medals. Sadly they both succumbed to TB at an early age. Thomas’ career in the lighthouse service spanned some 38 years. Above: Grave of Thomas Hughson, his daughter Anne and son Thomas. Northern Lighthouse Board records NLC 4/1/3 & NLC 4/1/4 Thomas Hughson Entry to service 12-8-1869 age 22 years Principal Lightkeeper 1-8-1888 12-8-1869 Noss Head Assistant lightkeeper 1yr 7 mths 15-3-1871 Inchkeith ALK 4yrs 27-2-1875 Dhuheartach ALK 2yrs 2mths 13-3-1877 Pladda ALK 5yrs 11mths 26-3-1883 Stornoway ALK 5yrs 4mths 10-9-1888 Hoy high Principal lightkeeper 6yrs 10mths 18-7-1895 Auskerry PLK 3yrs 5mths 8-12-1898 Stornoway ALK 6yrs 4mths 20-5-1905 Stornoway PLK 2yrs 3mths 16-8-1907 Superannuated (retired) John Hughson 1854 - 1924 John Hughson, my great grandfather, followed his brother Thomas into the lighthouse service in 1877 and was posted to St Abb’s Head as assistant keeper. There he married and raised a family, staying at St Abb’s for some 12 years before moving to other posts and becoming a principal lightkeeper in 1894. Education of the children again was paramount and my grandfather, John, was the first in my side of the family to obtain a university degree. My grandfather went on to teach and became headmaster in Lochinver school. Of the other children, Betty also became a teacher and David, the youngest, followed his father into the lighthouse service. Northern Lighthouse Board records NLC 4/1/3 & NLC 4/1/4 John Hughson Entry to service 20-9-1877 age 23 years Principal lightkeeper 6-7-1894 20-9-1877 St Abb’s Head Assistant lightkeeper 11yrs 5mths 8-2-1889 Loch Ryan ALK 5yrs 4½mths 15-6-1894 Cantickhead Principal lightkeeper 4yrs 14days 23-6-1898 Barrahead PLK 9yrs 16days David Hughson 1882 - 1954 Second son of John Hughson, lightkeeper, David’s career in the lighthouse service was sadly a short one. He went into the lighthouse service in 1911, serving at Start Point on Sanday (Orkney), Dunnet Head and Fairisle before resigning the service in 1925. He married in 1911 and had three children John, Mary and Jim. Mary was born at Sanday and Jim at Dunnet Head. Tragedy struck at Dunnet Head in 1918 when his wife Christine died of appendicitis. David continued in the service however and his sister Betty brought up the children. He was posted to Fair Isle but resigned in 1925, settling the family in Edinburgh. Before entering the service he had trained as a joiner and was able to find employment with Tom Anderson the builders in Easter Road. He worked on many of the tenement developments in the East side of the city at that time, including his own flat in Willowbrae Road, and became a master builder. One nice incident in his lighthouse career occurred when he was at Start Point. On 19 Feb 1915, HMS Goldfinch was wrecked in thick fog but all hands were saved. David and his wife were given a silver teapot by six of the crew in thanks for his part in their rescue. Above: Inscription on the silver teapot presented to David and Christine Hughson. Northern Lighthouse Board records NLC 4/1/4 & NLC 4/1/5 David Hughson Entry to service 8/11/1911 aged 29 years 8/11/1911 Start Point Assistant lightkeeper 4yrs 1mth 9/10/1915 Dunnet Head ALK 4yrs 6mths 5/4/1920 Fair Isle ALK 5yrs 2mths 25/5/1925 Resigned service Shining Lights is sponsored by: Shining Lights Exhibition Open: Fri 15 October 2010 – Sun 3 April 2011 Cost: Free Venue: Special Exhibitions gallery, Level 3 Thomas and John Hughson. John Hughson Sr and family. John Hughson at graduation. David Hughson in his lighthouse keeper's uniform. David Hughson with wife Christine Forrest and family.