Bella Bathurst - The Lighthouse Stevensons (1999)
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
This is one of the more recent books to make the list, and time will show that it is definitely deserving of its place. In terms of cataloguing Scottish history, few books have better captured a moment and set in stone an incredibly important part of our landscape. Bathurst, through social commentary and sheer detail, has put the history of an oft-overlooked section of our engineering revolution on the map while giving a fascinating insight into Scottish society in the previous three centuries.
Our engineering history is world renowned and a part of that is both the expertise and innovation brought to the field of lighthouse building. Bathurst brilliantly explains the planning and effort put into placing lighthouses on some of the wildest pieces of rock in the world by a family at the forefront of Scottish engineering. She leads you on fascinating journeys to the four corners of Scotland, bringing to life the raw elements fighting against this family of pioneers. Meanwhile, an engaging history of Scotland's capital unfolds as you learn about the input into Edinburgh by the Stevensons, from the metal-works that still survive in many New Town flats to the creation of a new school to teach the methods of the fledgling industry to a new generation.
All the while, you are continually given great insights into the personalities of the different Stevenson generations, from Robert who started the tradition of lighthouse building as first engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Trust in 1786 to Alan who continued the family work until his death in 1971. Robert Louis is mentioned throughout but you are left with the knowledge that while he has become a significant part of Scottish cultural history, his predecessors left a legacy just as crucial.
View the complete list of the 100 Best Scottish Books.