26th September 2019

Harbour’s Leading Lights Receive Listed Status

A pair of cast iron Leading Lights at Aberdeen Harbour have received Category B Listed status from Historic Environment Scotland.

The Leading Lights were first put up on Sinclair Road in Torry in 1842 and are still used as an aid to navigation while transiting the navigation channel.

The lights, which were designed by Marine Engineer James Abernethy, were the first Leading Lights in Scotland to be made from cast iron and are amongst the few surviving lights of their kind in the world.

Their position has been changed over time as the Harbour’s infrastructure has developed: most recently, the lights were repositioned in 2013 as the navigation channel widened. 

Alex McIntosh, Acting Harbour Master of Aberdeen Harbour Board, said: “Since 1842, these lights have been crucial for safe navigation in the approach channel into Aberdeen Harbour.  They are monuments to traditional navigation methods that have stood the test of time, despite so many modernisations to vessel technologies and the port’s infrastructure. 

“It is a privilege for them to be recognised as historically significant while still being used on a daily basis.”

Leading Lights are a specific navigation aid, consisting of two lit towers.  When the two lights are visually aligned, it is an indication to a vessels’ bridge team that they are navigating in safe water.

Aberdeen Harbour’s lights were initially fuelled by sperm whale oil, but this changed to gas in 1877, and to electricity in 1928.  The Lights are currently operated from the Harbour’s Marine Operations Centre. 

The listed status is one of several within the historic Harbour.  Other listed buildings include the octagonal Captain’s House at the foot of the North Pier, the Valve House at Mearns Quay, and the Pump House at Torry Quay.

Watch the repositioning of the Leading Lights in 2003.