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Former Keeper Returns for 192nd Anniversary of Light

Published: 16 January 2013

Tommy atop the tower at Sumburgh Head Tommy atop the tower at Sumburgh HeadZoomA former Sumburgh Head Lighthouse keeper returned to the tower for the first time since 1969 yesterday at the invitation of Shetland Amenity Trust.

Tommy Eunson, from Virkie, visited the tower to commemorate the 192nd anniversary of the light first being lit. The occasion was also an early birthday celebration for Tommy who will be 81 on 28th January.

Tommy joined the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1961 as an Occasional Lightkeeper at Sumburgh Head. For more than 6 years, he replaced keepers who were away due to illness or on annual leave. After this time, he was appointed a regular keeper and worked his way up the ranks to become a Principal Keeper. After Sumburgh Head, Tommy worked at Mull of Galloway, Muckle Flugga, Fair Isle, Duncansby Head, North Ronladsay and Strathy Point. He retired from the Service in 1997.

Tommy is one of the many keepers who is working with the Sumburgh Head Project to give information about what it was like working at Shetland's first lighthouse. Like others, the extreme weather is a popular memory. Tommy recalls: "I was on the pathway between the engine room and smithy, my quarters were above the smithy. I had to get through the passage way while carrying a box. I was twice forced back into the courtyard, but on the third attempt, I got round to the door. That's the strength of the wind up there."

ZoomMembers of the local media came along to join Tommy in his first trip up the tower in over 40 years, along with Interpretation Officer, Matt Arnold. Matt said "Part of my job is to meet former keepers and find out what life was like for them living and working at Sumburgh Head. It's been a real pleasure to have Tommy down here today and to hear his stories which will form part of the interpretation for the completed project, and will undoubtedly improve the experience for visitors, as it has for me."