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Eilean More, Flannen Islands


The mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on Eilean More in the Flannen Isles in 1900, is probably the best-documented mysterious disappearance to have occurred in Britain.

The construction of the lighthouse was only completed in December 1899, and a year later the keeper James Ducat, the assistant keeper Thomas Marstell, and an occasional keeper called Donald McArthur, were all to vanish in peculiar circumstances.

The first sign that something was wrong was when the light failed to illuminate on Saturday the 15th of December 1900, anxiety grew as it remained out of service, but there was no way of getting to the island because of bad weather that had started on the 16th. Finally the weather abated, and on the 26th of December the North Lighthouse Board Steamer the Hesperus, was sent to the island. On board was the relieving keeper Joseph More and two other men, they stepped ashore and went to search for the three men. They were nowhere to be found, all the quarters were empty and the lamps were primed and ready to be lit. The last entry on the record slate within the lighthouse was made by James Ducat at 9.00am on the 15th of December, on the day the light failed to be lit.

There were two sets of oilskins and boots missing, those of James Ducat and Thomas Marshall, and a tool chest was also missing from where it was usually stored in a crevice about 100 feet above one of the two jetties.

There have been many theories put forward for their disappearance, the most plausible is that they were swept from the jetty by a freak wave, although it has been pointed out that the bad weather did not start until the 16th. In some accounts it is stated that there was a half eaten meal of salted mutton and potatoes on the kitchen table, and that one of the chairs in the kitchen was over on its side. This would suggest that they disappeared between dinnertime and the lighting of the lamps, if the account is to be believed.

The island also has the remains of a small chapel with a corbelled roof, which is thought to date as far back as the seventh century. The chapel is dedicated to St Flannan, and was once a place of worship for islanders on Lewis. The island is about 15 miles from Lewis and the trip must have been some undertaking.

Directions: Eilean More is one of the Flannen Islands, situated 15 Miles to the West of Lewis.


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Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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Re: Eilean More, Flannen Islands

I have just been looking at the death certificates for the lighthouse keepers that went missing.

James Ducat was aged 43 years.  Married. Occupation Light House Keeper.

Thomas Marshall was aged 28 years.  Single.  Occupation Light House Keeper.

Donald McArthur was aged 40 years.  Married. Occupation Tailor.

In all instances the cause of death is shown as 'Probably Drowning, Body Not Recovered'

Date of Death 15 December



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