Captain James Harvey’s voyage to the Hesperus marked the beginning of one of the most extraordinary events in Scottish history.
On December 26, 1900, a ship named Hesperus, led by James Harvey, sailed toward the island of Eileen Moore. Eileen Moore is part of the Flannan Islands in the Outer Hebrides archipelago off the northwest coast of Scotland. At the time, only the island of Eileen Moore was inhabited by the Flannan Islands. The Flannan Island Lighthouse was located near the highest point of the island. Due to the lighthouse’s maintenance and operational staff, Eileen Moore had the opportunity to enjoy human comfort among these desert islands.
From ancient times the sailors of the Flannan Islands have been terrified. Naval accidents were common because of the rough seas and the thick fog that often covered the area. The islanders looked at the Flannan Islands with awe. The history of the islands nurtured their fears. A 7th-century Irish saint named Flannan McTordelbeig (also known as St. Flannan) built a small cathedral on the archipelago, and at the time of his death, Eileen Moore is said to have claimed the land.
For centuries, shepherds used the islands to graze their sheep, but they never spent the night on the islands. This was because they believed that evil spirits were roaming the Flannan Islands. Although the Flannan Islands had a good historical background for the formation of a church for religious people, their belief in the occult and occult powers of the island did not encourage it.
As mentioned earlier, the dangerous nature of the sea around the Flannan Islands necessitated the construction of a lighthouse. Eileen Moore, who claimed that the saint belonged to her, chose the land. However, the locals did not like the construction. They feared that St. Flannan would vent his anger by building the lighthouse. Despite the traditional beliefs, the lighthouse began its first working day on December 7, 1899. But what happened at this lighthouse a year later is still unclear.
At that time there was a staff of four in the lighthouse. They were isolated on the isolated island, away from the mainland settlements and on duty. The staff consisted of James Ducat, who acted as chief trustee, and Thomas Marshall, Donald William MacArthur, and William Ross. Of these, Donald William MacArthur was not the only one considered a permanent employee. MacArthur was hired only when there was no permanent staff member.
On December 15-16, 1900, the SS Archtor issued the first indication of a change in Flannan Island. The ship was sailing from Philadelphia to Laith, Scotland. According to their logs, the lighthouse’s light did not work even in bad weather.
Subsequent investigations revealed that the lighthouse could not be seen even with the help of a powerful telescope between December 7 and 29. However, the light of the lighthouse was observed on December 7th. Again that light was observed on the twelfth, but no one observed the light of the lighthouse until the 26th after that. It is not uncommon for the lighthouse to go unnoticed for four or five consecutive nights due to inclement weather. However, the absence of light for nearly two weeks after the 12th was a very surprising event. After the SS Archtor arrived in Leith on December 18, 1900, the Northern Lighthouse Board sent its observations. Realizing that there was a premonition of an accident, the agency immediately prepared to send a relief ship to the Flannan Islands. However, due to inclement weather, the Hesperus was not able to leave on the scheduled date. The ship arrived in the Flannan Islands at noon on December 26.
The ship’s crew approached the lighthouse and noticed that the flagpole had not been hoisted near the lighthouse. Boxes used to store essential items were also placed on the landing platform. But the most surprising thing was that no one came forward to welcome the sailors. The captain of the relief ship, James Harvey, announced his arrival through the horn of the ship and lit a torch in the sky, but the lighthouse did not respond. Thomas Marshall, Donald MacArthur, and James Ducat were on duty at the lighthouse at the time, while the rest were on leave.
Joseph Moore, aboard the ship, boarded a boat and sailed alone to the lighthouse. He is said to have had a strange feeling that both the entrance and the main entrance to the lighthouse were open. He noticed the cluttered beds and the wall clock. On the kitchen table were dishes with meat, pickles, and potatoes, as well as a rolled-up chair. Another problem was the disappearance of two out of the three waterproof jackets belonging to the three employees. There was no sign of the crew left inside the lighthouse or anywhere on the island. The port on the east side of the island remained unchanged, but the port on the west side was damaged by recent storms. However, there was no evidence to support the disappearance.
Their findings led to many questions. There were many other issues such as one member leaving without a coat and all three leaving together despite being prohibited by law. All three had left for some reason, in the midst of the situation where they had to be on duty in any difficult situation. So Joseph Moore, who had gone to the island alone, returned empty-handed. The captain of the Hesperus ship conducted further investigations but was unable to find any information about the missing persons. He sent a telegram to those responsible on the mainland saying that something terrible had happened on Flannan Island.
The disappearance of three people without any trace can never be underestimated. Therefore, investigations into the incident were launched. Accordingly, attention was drawn to the logs of the lighthouse which were kept in the weeks leading up to the discovery of the disappearance. Staff member Thomas Marshall noted in the log that strong winds had been blowing around the lighthouse for the past 20 years. It was also reported that another member, MacArthur, had a very quiet time. However, it was not surprising that no storms were reported around the island during the days when strong winds were reported, and the stormy weather was only accurate until December 17th.
According to logs dated December 13, 1900, the island was still devastated by the storm, and all three were praying. As experienced lighthouse workers, they are not surprised by rough seas. At the time, this job was relatively unsafe and risky, so it was staffed by well-adjusted people. William MacArthur, on the other hand, was known as an experienced sailor and a man of great character. But why was no storm reported on the mainland so fierce that even such rude men could fear and pray to God?
The missing persons log was last updated on December 15. But the record that day was pretty ordinary. The note included daily weather conditions, daily activities of the staff, repairing and refueling the lighthouse lamp, and cleaning the large lens of the lamp. No mistakes were recorded as in the previous days. However, the lighthouse did not become operational that evening, and it became clear that this was the day they had disappeared.
Their logs ended as this “The storm is over. The sea is calm. God is above all”.
The riddle of the flannel niles has been an endless source of fascination. One which has inspired stories films poems songs and even an opera
but the whole truth may never be known. Something about the mystery of these three men isolated at the edge of the civilized world and surrounded by the vast and hostile atlantic ocean not only sends a chill up the spine, it tugs at the heartstrings.
They left their families with a promise that they would return over Christmas, but instead, they were never seen again. James ducat was married with four children, Macarthur married with two, and whilst marshall was single at the time of the disappearance. He must have sired children at some point in his life as there are descendants of his alive today, there would be no closure for their loved ones.
The lighthouse itself remained manned and without further incident up until 1971 when it became fully automated. It is still in operation to this day and the isles are now only visited occasionally for maintenance purposes over the years, The islands never could quite live up to their cursed reputation as nothing out of the ordinary ever took place there again but the mystery of alan Moore lives on perhaps forevermore in closing.