The newest addition to the LBSC fleet, Hope, skipper Martin Shairp, plays host to thirsty members at the end of the Campbell's Trophy race to Isle Martin which, by rights, her skipper firmly believes, if there's any justice, she will have won (he'll learn...)

Fannying About in the Flannans (and the Futile Search for Tennants)

LBSC stalwarts attempt to solve mystery of Flannan Isles lighthouse keepers and the absence of Tennants. More startling revelations to follow.

Here's our interim report of what Karta, Twister and Kumari's crew found (or rather did not find) when they landed on the remote islands. Beware: it makes chilling reading...

The skippers all dressed for the part


HOUGH three men dwell on Flannan Isle
To keep the lamp alight,
As we [John, Sandy, Alastair] steer'd under the lee, we caught
No glimmer through the night!
A passing ship at dawn had brought
The news; and quickly we set sail,
To find out what strange thing might befall
The keepers of the deep-sea light.
The summer day broke blue and bright,
With glancing sun and glancing spray,
As o'er the swell our boat made way,
As gallant as a gull in flight. [Vega owners prone to exaggerate]
But, as we near'd the lonely Isle;
And look'd up at the naked height;
And saw the lighthouse towering white,
With blinded lantern, that all night
Had never shot a spark [as it was mid summer, this is poetic licence]
Of comfort through the dark,
So ghastly in the cold sunlight
It seem'd, that we were struck the while
With wonder all too dread for words.
And, as into the tiny creek
We stole beneath the hanging crag,
We saw three queer, black, ugly birds-- [ask Paul, he will know what they were]
Too big, by far, in my belief,
For guillemot or shag-- [huge difference between a guillemot and shag, says Paul]
Like seamen sitting bold upright
Upon a half-tide reef:
But, as we near'd, they plunged from sight,
Without a sound, or spurt of white. [lesser black back gulls, definitely. Easy mistake to make]

And still too mazed to speak,
We landed; and made fast the boat; [now, rabbit goes up the hole, or was it down?]
And climb'd the track in single file,
Each wishing he was safe afloat,
On any sea, however far,
So it be far from Flannan Isle:
And still we seem'd to climb, and climb,
As though we'd lost all count of time,
And so must climb for evermore. [poetic licence again; not that steep or far]
Yet, all too soon, we reached the door--
The black, sun-blister'd lighthouse door,
That gaped for us ajar.
As, on the threshold, for a spell,
We paused, we seem'd to breathe the smell
Of limewash and of tar,
Familiar as our daily breath,
As though 'twere some strange scent of death: [the odour of three-day old socks, actually]
And so, yet wondering, side by side,
We stood a moment, still tongue-tied:
And each with black foreboding eyed
The door, ere we should fling it wide,
To leave the sunlight for the gloom:
Till, plucking courage up, at last,
Hard on each other's heels we pass'd
Into the living-room.

Yet, as we crowded through the door,
We only saw a table, spread
For dinner, meat and cheese and bread; [decent food, at last lads. Fill your boots]
But all untouch'd; and no one there: [dig in, terrible waste]
As though, when they sat down to eat,
Ere they could even taste,
Alarm had come; and they in haste
Had risen and left the bread and meat:
For on the table-head a chair
Lay tumbled on the floor.
We listen'd; but we only heard
The feeble cheeping of a bird [Paul will know. Probably a ring-necked whimbrel]
That starved upon its perch: [no, whimbrels seldom perch. Maybe a canary?]
And, listening still, without a word,
We set about our hopeless search. [they'd run out of Tennants]
We hunted high, we hunted low, [no joy with the Tennants then]
And soon ransack'd the empty house;
Then o'er the Island, to and fro,
We ranged, to listen and to look
In every cranny, cleft or nook
That might have hid a bird or mouse: [still no Tennants; getting desperate now]
But, though we searched from shore to shore,
We found no sign in any place:
And soon again stood face to face
Before the gaping door:
And stole into the room once more
As frighten'd children steal. [looks like a Tennants-free island]
Aye: though we hunted high and low,
And hunted everywhere,
Of the cans of Tennants we found no trace
Of any kind in any place,
But a door ajar, and an untouch'd meal,
And an overtoppled chair. [so, definitely no Tennants then]
And, as we listen'd in the gloom
Of that forsaken living-room--
O chill clutch on our breath--
We thought how ill-chance came to all
Who kept the Flannan Light:
And how the rock had been the death
Of many a likely lad:
How six had come to a sudden end
And three had gone stark mad: [steady on. There's always the cooking brandy]
And one whom we'd all known as friend
Had leapt from the lantern one still night, [delirium sets in due to lack of Tennants]
And fallen dead by the lighthouse wall: [dead drunk, maybe]
And long we thought
On the beer we sought,
And of what might yet befall. [help, a beer-free passage back to Ullapool]
Like curs a glance has brought to heel,
We listen'd, flinching there:
And look'd, and look'd, on the untouch'd meal
And the overtoppled chair.
We seem'd to stand for an endless while,
Though still no word was said,
Three men alive on Flannan Isle, [dying for a beer]
Who thought on three men dead.

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