D. Alan Stevenson's authoritative
book on world's lighthouses
David Alan (known in the family as D. Alan to differentiate
between himself and his uncle David A.) was born in Edinburgh
on 7th February 1891. His father Charles had married Margaret
Sheriff (daughter of a general in the Indian Army) in 1889.
D. Alan was educated at Edinburgh Academy and even from
the earliest days he was always aware that he was destined
to continue in the family business of lighthouse building.
Even as early as 1906 he was taken through to the Clyde
to see experimental work being done on the lights there.
During the First World War, he was commissioned into the
Royal Marines as Captain, and was sent on a top-secret
mission to erect lights in the Dardanelles.
In 1919 he became a partner in the family firm, the eighth
consecutive engineer; and although he did not know it at
the time, he would also be the last! Due, more to his uncle's
stubbornness more than anything else, he never did hold
the official post of Engineer to the NLB. David A. continued
in office until 1938, when he was then in his 80s. By that
time the Board probably felt that the time of automatic
succession of one of the family as Engineer was over, and
appointed someone else. Alan continued with his lighthouse
work, particularly with the Clyde Lighthouses Trust,
for which he had a lifelong interest. In later years he
busied himself with a variety of pursuits, mainly writing,
and in 1959 produced "The World's Lighthouses before
1820". When he died in 1971 he was considered one
of the world's greatest experts on lighthouses of the day.
Before he died in 1971, D. Alan was working on a new
version of RLS's "Records of a Family of Engineers"
(Chatto & Windus, 1912), but unfortunately the book
was never finished. It was to be called "Some Records
of R.L.S.'s Family of Engineers".
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting
him at his rooms in Great Stuart Street in 1965. He was
pleasant and courteous, and was very interested in my own
family connection with the Bell Rock. Two things I particularly
remember about my visit. Firstly, was a little invention
of his (a pulley type arrangement) which he used to lift
light items (mainly letters) from the ground floor to his
office upstairs. This no doubt was much appreciated by the
"postie". Secondly, he showed me an original certificate
carried by the seamen employed on the Bell Rock construction
(1807-1811) to protect them from impressment into the Royal
Navy. Press gangs had been very active on the east coast
of Scotland at that time. In this instance, the certificate
was countersigned by my great-great-great-grandfather, Captain
David Taylor, who at that time commanded the "Sir Joseph
Banks" tender, the vessel used to house the artificers
before the beacon house was built.