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Robert Stevenson

Robert Stevenson

Robert Stevenson was born in Glasgow in 1772, the son of Alan Stevenson (a merchant in that city) and Jean Lillie. Alan died of fever in 1794 whilst in the Caribbean West Indies attending to the trading business which he and his brother Hugh ran from Glasgow. This unfortunate situation placed his mother in straitened financial circumstances. Eventually the family moved to Edinburgh where young Robert was enrolled at the High School. During this time, Jean Stevenson, through her church-going activities, had met Thomas Smith, whom she would eventually marry after the death of his 2nd wife. As a young man Robert acted as assistant to his stepfather (who in time also became his father-in-law), in the supervision of such lighthouses as then existed on the coasts of Scotland. These were few in number and were crudely illuminated by coal fires. Thomas Smith had already done much to improve them by the introduction of lamps and reflectors. Robert worked hard to qualify himself as an civil engineer, and even as early as 1793 he was known to have been entrusted, at least in part, to the building of the lighthouse on Little Cumbrae on the Frith of Clyde. It is to Robert Stevenson, however, the credit is mainly due for building up the family business of lighthouse construction and civil engineering, although there was been criticism over the years about exactly whose design was used to built the Bell Rock lighthouse. See "Who Built the Bell Rock Lighthouse". Stevenson marred Jean Smith (the daughter of his step-father by an earlier marriage) and had a large family of whom three sons followed their father into the lighthouse-building business. Robert retired in 1843, and his eldest son Alan became Engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board. Robert died in 1850 (his wife had died in 1846) and both lie in New Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh with their family, many of whom died in infancy.

Lighthouses - Bell Rock (1811), Toward Point (1812), Southerness (1812), Isle of May (1816), Corsewall (1817), Point of Ayre (1818), Calf of Man (1818), Sumburgh Head (1821), Rhinns of Islay (1825), Buchan Ness (1827), Cape Wrath (1828), Tarbat Ness (1830), Mull of Galloway (1830), Dunnet Head (1831), Douglas Head (1832), Girdle Ness (1833), Barra Head (1833), Lismore (1833).



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