Now for a description of rock life and its work, in the first place, it is an isolated rock, lying about 1½ miles from the Land’s End, and is considered the most treacherous and dangerous rock in the Service, more lives having been lost here than the whole of our rocks put together, showing the necessity of having old experienced hands here, there seems to be a kind of tidal wave come in occasionally, and when one least expects it, and often when there is very little sea on, and we are walking on the top rock for exercise and fresh air, (the rock being between 30 & 40 ft. high) without much warning a sea will often come in and wash the whole of the rock over, showing one that they must always be on the look out, it is indeed a very rough station, we are so subject to ground seas here, why it is so I am unable to say, for many years now, the Longships has been noted for the queer noises so frequently heard off there, I myself have often been asked if it was true or not, I must say, it is quite true, and I will try to explain the cause of it as far as I am able to account for it, it seems to me and also to many others that have been stationed here, that somewhere at the base of the rock there is a hole or crevice, into which some large boulders have been washed, and when we are troubled with a heavy ground swell, chiefly a NW sea, it rolls in and recedes again, and so washes these boulders about, and causes a great noise, and which ever room you are in, it seems as though it was in the room beneath you and the lower one goes down the nearer the noise seems to you, that of course is quite natural as you are nearer the seat of it, some of the keepers who have been here, are inclined to think that it comes from an opening in the rocks on the east side of the tower, facing the entrance door, in which is called the 'old man’ into which the sea rushes with such tremendous force, throwing the water up to an height of 70 to 80 feet, of course we are unable to account for it in any other way, it certainly causes a most unpleasant feeling, should you have occasion to go below at night time, until you get use to it, you can distinctly hear it is only boulders washing about, at the base of the rock, now for the last 8 or 9 months, I myself have not heard it, so possibly they have been washed out of the hole, I thought I would try to explain these noises, as the house has got rather a bad name by some of the residents in the locality, for being haunted, there was one of the keepers who used to be here, got so nervous one time, that he ran up from the kitchen into the lantern and said to the Principal, oh, captain come down, he is at it again, so who he meant I don't know, unless it was the old gentleman himself or his imps.
In the summer we often have a few visitors come off, of course that would only be when the weather is fine, and the landing good, they are then able to step from the boat without much trouble then, it is a most difficult place to land when there is any sea on, we have three landings here, they are the North Point, the Pollon or South landing, and the Bridges, it then depends on the state of the tide and direction of the wind, as to where to land, we have a jib we put up at the Nth. Pt. and also the Pollon, when it is a bit rough, and then all stores, water, coals and oil are hoisted on to the top rock, ready to be carried up into the house, and when it is too rough to step from the boat onto the landings, the keepers when we are relieving are hoisted up in the same way each man being provided with a lifejacket, to be used on all occasions when landing or embarking, we do not get many visitors at such times as that, but only in fine weather and generally their first words on landing are, oh, ain't this jolly, how nice, what a delightful place, how I should like a week off here, yes to a stranger it would look nice but when they are able to land Davy Jones is generally in one of his quiet moods, but for them to know what the place is like, they should be out here, when it is blowing hard from the westward, or when there is a heavy ground swell on, then I think they would think very differently then when they get on the top rock, they generally ask, do you ever get the sea up here, and when they are told yes, and over the top of the lantern as well, they seem surprised, and hardly credit it.
Now for the inside, on entering the bottom room, you see ropes and landing gear stowed away ready for use, also the tank for keeping the house supplied with water, that having to be brought from the shore, then comes the coal room, in which there is a pump, for pumping water from the lower room up to a tank in the kitchen, then comes the store room, in which there are roomy cupboards, for each keeper, also a cask (?) for each man, to keep potatoes in, then there is also a Magazine for storing our Fog signal explosives, we next come to our oil room, where we have large tanks for oil, also our Lifeboat Signals, next we come to our kitchen or living room, then comes our Bedroom in which there are 5 Bunks, the two top ones being used for any Mechanic that may have to be here, we have also a cupboard here, in which we have a good supply of Tinned Meat kept in reserve, then comes the Service room and Lantern, in which everything looks bright and clean how nice everything is, yes, but there are times when things do not look so pleasant, and that is when there is a change coming, then they would see the walls and the floors running with water, and everything you touch feeling cold and clammy, then again with a heavy sea on, (and we do get some heavy seas now and then, I have seen it myself come down the chimney and onto the kitchen range,) and all the shutters closed up, making the house look very dark and miserable or then again when there is a thick fog on for a couple of days not being able to get out, and one continual booming going on with the fog signal, sleep then being out of the question, they would then see that we have a few discomforts to put up with, and that everything was not always so nice as it looked, but give us fine weather so that we can get out for exercise and fresh air, and also good cheerful mates then we are as happy and comfortable as can be.
Now as to our reliefs, that is a thing all keepers at rock lights are always very anxious about, in fact it is our chief anxiety a day or two before relief day, all hands are watching the Barometer, and the weather & sea, the day before relief letters are wrote to wife and family, boxes packed, bunks all washed out for the incoming keeper or keepers, wind & sea looking favourable for a good relief next morning, the morn arrives, the cry comes from the man on watch, to tell us that a small flag is up, hoisted by the keeper on shore to tell us the boat with the relief is coming off, then there is a stir amongst us getting boxes tied up, that being left until we can see the boat, as we are sometimes taken in that way, the boatmen sometimes thinking there is too much sea, then the landing gear is got out, and put up, ropes all made fast ready for boat, at last it arrives, the anchor is thrown out and ropes thrown to them, very often the anchor does not hold and so comes home, causing a great delay, at last all is right, a box being sent up first to see that the landing gear is alright before the keeper is hoisted up, well everything is up and carried into the house, the boat leaves again for another 14 days very often more, however it has turned out a very good relief, and thankful we are it is done, now the boxes must be got up and unpacked, letters from home being of course the first item, after having mastered the contents of them, and the contents of boxes all stowed away, we sit down with pipes and listen to all the latest news, and little bits of scandal, and then peruse our newspapers, now we are settling down again, till our relief comes again, it arrives again, the same anxiety the wind and sea being very fine indeed for the whole fortnight but the night before relief is due, we note the sea is making and glass begins to drop, however if it will only hold out for a few hours more we shall do, at last they come and we can see we are going to get a drenching, the sea being rough the boat is unable to come in very close to the rock, the consequence is everything gets very wet, we on the rock being also continually drenched with the sea, but the relief perhaps is sometime over due, so we do not mind the soaking so much provided it is not too dangerous for us to remain on the rock, however we have got the relief done, then again it is often the sea is smooth for some time, and the day before the relief a ground swell will come on so sudden and in an hour or two what was so calm, is now one mass of foam for 1/2 mile around us, and that perhaps may last for nearly a fortnight, so you will now see we have our disappointments, and only those who have had it know what it is, and sometimes the sea will go down again very quick and we think there will be a landing in the morning, but very often our boatmen think different and so good landings are often missed through them, then it may be days before there is another chance, now who is the best judges to know, we who are out here and know the place so well, also the ways of Davy Jones, or the boatmen looking at it from the shore and very often from the fields, so we have to bear it.
We have some very nasty landings at times, only a short time ago, we had a young keeper come here to do sick duty for one of our men, and it was rather rough the day the keeper came off to relieve him, we were continually getting drenched that day with the seas washing over the landing, and as we were lowering him into the boat, a sea came in, and to me it seemed as though it washed him out of the sling but others say he left go, when he saw the sea coming, however he went in, and I must say he struck out bravely for the boat, fortunately he had on a lifejacket at the time, so came off with nothing more than a fright and a good soaking. It was rather singular, but the night before we were talking at tea time about swimming and I remarked to him, can you swim, he said to me, now did you ever know a coastguard's boy that could not, we little thinking at the time, he would be put to the test so soon.
We are rather more fortunate at the Longships than most of our other rocks, with regard to signalling we being well up in the Morse Code and Semaphore, great strides have been made, we are able now to hold communication with the Wolf Rock a distance of nearly 8 miles, we also signal to dwellings ashore every night and day so are now able to get all the latest news both for Service and private use which is a very great boon, the old style of signalling by hoisting flags being with us are almost obsolete, then again people wonder how we can manage to pass away our time off here, well it is a very dull monotonous life, but we manage to get over it very well, by passing our time away after our duty is done, by fishing, carpentering, knitting and various other things, nothing coming amiss to us, so with good cheerful mates, rock life is not by any means to be despised, then again there is our boatmen it lays in their power to make our lonely life more comfortable by being obliging and attentive to us, I will now draw my short narrative to a close, having endeavoured to give you a correct account of my experience as a Lightkeeper.