Robert Stevenson (1772-1850)

The first of the famous family closely associated with lighthouse engineering for nearly two hundred years. He was born in Glasgow, the son of Alan Stevenson who died prematurely in the West Indies. His step-father and father-in-law Thomas Smith had been appointed Engineer to the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses in 1787. On joining Smith he was entrusted with the superintendence of the building of the Pentland Skerries light for the Commissioners in 1794, having already had experience at Little Cumbrae with his step-father. Robert Stevenson held the post of sole Engineer until 1842 and was responsible for at least fifteen major lighthouses. Although he is generally credited with the design of the famous Bell Rock, and without doubt was resident engineer, existing correspondence with John Rennie makes it clear that Rennie was the responsible engineer in charge. Acrimonious debate over this relationship has yet to be settled amicably. Of all Robert’s magnificent towers perhaps the most beautiful is Girdleness.