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  • Writer's pictureEunice Taylor

Skerryvore - An Sgeir Mhòr building of a lighthouse

My third great grandfather William Mackenzie was born on the Black Isle, Ferintosh, Scotland on 23 December 1804 to John McKenzie and Jessie ( McKenzie or McCrae) (1). He was a granite quarrier, most likely learning his trade in the Cullicudden Quarries and the Findon Quarry of the Black Isle. By 30 had married and moved to the Ross of Mull (the bit of the island of Mull nearest to the island of Iona and was working as a quarrier at the Tomore Granite Quarry near Fionnphort, Mull.

He and his wife Ann Ross had their first child Alexander in Iona (parish of Kilfinichen and Kilvikeon) on 7 September 1839 (2). At this same time in 1841 the quarry of Tomore near Fionnphort Mull was supplying the stone for Skerryvore (An Sgeir Mhòr - big rock in gaelic) Lighthouse. By 1841 60-84 masons were working to produce and dress the stone for Alan Stevenson's Skerryvore lighthouse. At 48 metres it is the tallest lighthouse in Scotland and 50 miles from the mainland. The work to supply the stone was difficult and skilled - 'The roughly hewn rock was taken to Hynish where the blocks were hammered and chiselled into shape. The largest weighed over 2+1⁄2 long tons (2.5 t), the smallest 3⁄4 long ton (0.8 t) and the precision required meant that a single block could take 320 worker-hours to complete' (3). William and Ann lived in Iona and the Ross of Mull until at least 1843. Three of their children were born there: Alexander on 7 September 1839 in Iona, John in May 1841 ( Iona/Ross of Mull) and Catherine (Tyree) on the 19 March 1843. Hynish in Tyree was where the lighthouse construction shore station was based. His son Alexander stayed in Mull working as a quarrier and married Ann Campbell a local woman daughter of one of the seven Beaton sisters of Mull.

  1. Death (CR) Scotland. Old Machar. 21 July 1871. MCKENZIE, William. 168/2 486 : accessed 17 February 2021

  2. Births (OPR) Scotland. Kilfinichen and Kilvickeon. 7 September 1839. MCKENZIE, Alexander. FHL: 1041079. (transcription) Scotland Births and Baptisms 1564-1950. accessed 22 May 2020

  3. Wikipedia. Skerryvore. ( transcription) Nicholson, Christopher. (1995) Rock Lighthouses of Britain: The End of an Era? Caithness. Whittles.(1995) pp. 104–5. accessed 5 March 2024


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