Bishop Rock Lighthouse, UK, photo by Ian Cowe
Gordon Partridge checked the lighthouse duty schedule and blew out a breath.
It was his turn to do his least favorite job at the lighthouse.
With three keepers at Bishop’s Rock Lighthouse, each keeper was assigned duties on a rotating basis. As a result, everyone did every job at some point, whether it was cooking for the crew, doing night watch, checking the fuel tanks, monitoring the weather or washing and vacuuming the floors.
Gordon readily accepted each chore when it was his time to do it. However, there was one chore he dreaded – cleaning the outside glazing of the lantern room. Simply put, it was window-cleaning, an essential part of lighthouse keeping that assured the best output from the light. Constant assaults on the glass by sea spray and “calling cards” from sea birds made the job even more necessary.
Yet this job was no easy task, and the only way to clean each panel of glass was by standing on a ladder outside the lantern room high above the sea below. Gordon said in his book, Hands That Made Lights Work, this job was “not for the squeamish.” Even though the work could only be safely undertaken when the winds were minimal, utmost precaution was still required.
First, a keeper put on a safety harness, then he clipped the harness into links around the outside of the lantern room. Next he climbed a ladder that was hooked onto a railing before beginning to wash each window pane. Even with all the safety measures in place, Gordon uttered a prayer for God’s protection when he was hanging outside the lighthouse. He learned that it was vitally important during that time to keep his eyes focused ahead on his task and not down at the rocks and ocean 200 feet below.