The Tale of a Lighthouse


We thank Jill Russell (nee Westmoreland) for sending us this interesting information...............................

I have been involved in some strange correspondence as a result of my name and e-mail address being on the Mundella website. Now the exchanges are complete I thought you might like to see the subjects of the e-mails and use them so that the total 50 odd pupils of the 1950’s and 1960’s might see their names on the letters after all these years. Intrigued? Read on!


I received an e-mail from a man, (his name is Andrew Stuart) in Gateshead saying he had come across some letters written by former Mundella pupils to the Lighthouse-keepers of the Lighthouse at Cromarty - which is on the east side, almost at the most northern part of Scotland. In a later e-mail he told me he had bought, at auction, a box of mail which had over the years been sent to the lighthouse-keepers at Cromarty. Apparently, old postcards can be collectors’ items and he intended to sell them on E-Bay. When he got the box home he discovered the box was mainly of postcards but included some letters on Mundella headed notepaper, sent to the Lighthouse-keepers at Cromarty. 

It appears the boys and girls of Form 4M in 1954 were studying a poem called, “Flannan Isle” by Wilfred Wilson Gibson (who I discovered was a WWI poet and his dates were 1878-1962). I Googled the poem and the poet. I think the actual lighthouse was built at the end of the 1890’s on a small island just off the mainland – presumably called “Flannan Isle”. In 1900 it appears the three lighthouse-keepers were sitting down to a meal of bread and cheese. Something happened to make them leave their meal. They disappeared – two must have grabbed their oilskin clothes because only one set was left hanging on its hook. They disappeared completely and their bodies have never been found – to this day their families have no idea what happened to them. 


The pupils of 4M in 1954 apparently wrote to the poet to find out if the story was true. He was still alive then and he wrote back answering their questions. He told them that the story in the poem was true. Probably back in 1954 the pupils wouldn’t find it easy to discover if the story in the poem was true. I was able to Google to find the official report of the incident. The end of the pupils’ letter made me smile, when they told the 1954 lighthouse-keepers, “hoping you will not meet a similar end!” 


Perhaps it was this last sentence which wasn’t met favourably – but it seems the letter went unanswered. However, the letter must have been picked up by Mr W. R. Aldebert, one of the lighthouse-keepers in 1967 and he wrote to the school and I think he thought he was answering the pupils of 1954 not realising they had left the school a long time before. We have the headmaster’s reply. It is obvious from Mr. Moody’s reply that the poem was still being studied and he enclosed a letter from Form 3H – and again all the pupils signed it. 


Sadly we only have the letters sent to Cromarty and not Mr Aldebert’s belated reply.