Eilean Mor Lighthouse Mystery
Over the years, lighthouses have served the purpose of keeping those at sea safe from crashing against rocky outcroppings or running aground when approaching land. In recent time the lighthouse has gone the way of the great sailing vessels of yesterday. Now with the advent of GPS and radar the lighthouse has very little use but for the nostalgia of the seafaring community. However, in 1899, the lighthouse was a much-needed tool keeping sailors safe from harm and disaster. One such lighthouse was the lighthouse on the small island of Eilean Mor, 20 miles away from the nearest land of Lewis Island. Established in 1899, the lighthouse was kept by four men who ran six-week shifts. Three men were always on the island while one man took two weeks off.
Set up to deliver supplies, mail, and to facilitate the shift change was a ship called the Hesperus. On December 16, 1900 the Joseph Moore set off to relieve one of the men presently stationed at the lighthouse. Little did he know that he would never see his friends Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, and Donald McArthur ever again. It took until December 26, 1900 to get to the island because a storm had delayed arrival. Approaching the island on December 24th the Hesperus noticed that the huge light that guided the ships was not on. Despite their curiosities it still took them two days to arrive to the island because of the weather. What Joseph Moore found when he stepped off the ship was a deserted island. Normally, the men at the lighthouse would prepare for the arrival of supplies. Nothing was done. When he entered the lighthouse he noticed that it was cold and dark and that no one answered his continued calls. Joseph made it back to the ship afraid of what he would find. Upon getting help and a search party going there was no sign of the men left on the island.
The only thing out of place at all was that two pairs of oilskins and boots were missing. What made no sense was there was no sign of the third man. Even the lantern wicks were snipped and the lanterns filled for the evening. Nothing was out of place. Searching the island the only thing that was discovered was that the West dock was heavily damaged by a storm, assumed to be the one that the Hesperus had just sailed through. The only other clue as to what had happened was the log entries.
- Dec 12th: gale north by northwest. Sea lashed to fury. Never seen such a storm. Waves very high. Tearing at lighthouse. Everything shipshape. James Ducat irritable.
- Dec 12th, midnight: storm still raging, wind steady. Stormbound. Cannot go out. Ship passing sounding fog horn. Could see lights of cabins. Ducat quiet. McArthur crying.
- Dec 13th: storm continued throughout night. Wind shifted west by North. Ducat quiet. McArthur praying.
- Dec 13th, noon: Grey daylight. Me, Ducat, and McArthur prayed.
- Dec 14th: No entry
- Dec 15th: storm ended, sea calm. God is over all.
These were the last words ever uttered by the men stationed at the lighthouse. There are many inferences that could be made as to what happened. Thomas Marshall was obviously the one writing the log entries since he referred to himself as “Me.” Accounts from Joseph Moore had stated that none of the men had ever prayed, especially in a storm since they were all experienced seamen. He could not understand what the men would have been so afraid of. It may have been that the men, trying to repair the dock or something of the like, were washed out to sea by the surging waves. But again since they were all experienced seamen it would not make sense that they would risk their lives in a storm they knew was bad. And if they were washed out to sea why was the third man not wearing protective clothing when the other two were.
One plausible situation was that one of the men went insane and killed the other two and in turn threw himself into the sea. However, all the men were known for their level headedness and worked on the island for many years. What would have made one of them snap all of a sudden, what would have made them begin to pray, to even cry? The mystery of the Eilean Lighthouse, to this day, goes unsolved. One last detail emerged from the story that adds a little more mystery to what happened on the desolate island. Only twenty miles away, Lewis Islandreports for December 12th 1900, shows no storm on record. The SS Archer passing by on the night of December 15th almost ran aground because the light was out. Only one thing is certain that three men disappeared without a trace on December 15th 1900 never to be seen again.