Unexplained Mystery of Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers

The mystery happened on the largest of the Flannan Islands, Eilean Mor, which is part of a group of seven islands, sometimes referred to as The Seven Hunters. The three lighthouse keepers, Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald McArthur, disappeared on the island without a trace, leaving only speculation behind.

Three lighthouse-keepers disappeared from the island. Inside the lighthouse they found uneaten meals on the table and missing coats among other weird things.. The creepy part is the log book. It’s supposed to be used strictly for logging work related entries, but they started using it as a sort of journal/diary. It was explained in the log book how there was a terrible storm the was lasting for many days and that one of the keepers, an old, weathered seaman, was crying in fear. The last entry said that the storm had ended and everything was calm and fine. A neighboring island reported that there was never a storm.

A relief boat was supposed to sail to the island several days before, carrying supplies and a change of crew – but due to the storm this was delayed. When there was no sign of the keepers at the lighthouse, who should have been waiting at the front of the lighthouse to welcome the boat, a through search of the island and property was made – with nothing out of the ordinary uncovered.

The interior of the lighthouse itself was as should be, with oil in the lamps waiting to be lit and ashes in the grate. The only thing which appeared out of the ordinary was the two sets of missing oilskins – the outdoor gear the keepers donned. Only one set remained, belonging to Donald McArthur – meaning he had gone outside in a ferocious storm in just his clothes.

This was not only unheard of, but also illegal. One of the rules of the Northern Lighthouse Board was that one man always must remain inside the lighthouse. The following investigation carried out concluded that two of the men must have been outside during the storm and were swept away by the waves.

Captain James Harvey was in charge of the ship which was also carrying Jospeph Moore, a replacement lifehouse keeper. As the ship reached the landing platform, Captain Harvey was surprised not to see anyone waiting for their arrival. He blew his horn and sent up a warning flare to attract attention. There was no response. Joseph Moore then rowed ashore and ascended up the steep set of stairs that led up to the lighthouse. According to reports from Moore himself, the replacement lighthouse keeper suffered an overwhelming sense of foreboding on his long walk up to the top of the cliff.

Donald McArthur then ran out to their rescue but was also swept away. But even the official investigation was mere speculation as no proof to this story has ever appeared. It is simply as if the three men walked off the island.

nce at the lighthouse, Moore noticed something was immediately wrong; the door to the lighthouse was unlocked and in the entrance hall two of the three oil skinned coats were missing. Moore continued onto the kitchen area where he found half eaten food and an overturned chair, almost as if someone had jumped from their seat in a hurry. To add to this peculiar scene, the kitchen clock had also stopped.

Moore continued to search the rest of the lighthouse but found no sign of the lighthouse keepers. He ran back to the ship to inform Captain Harvey, who subsequently ordered a search of the islands for the missing men. No-one was found.


Harvey quickly sent back a telegram to the mainland, which in turn was forwarded to the Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters in Edinburgh. The telegraph read:

A dreadful accident has happened at Flannans. The three Keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the occasional have disappeared from the island. On our arrival there this afternoon no sign of life was to be seen on the Island.

Fired a rocket but, as no response was made, managed to land Moore, who went up to the Station but found no Keepers there. The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane or something like that.

Night coming on, we could not wait to make something as to their fate.
I have left Moore, MacDonald, Buoymaster and two Seamen on the island to keep the light burning until you make other arrangements. Will not return to Oban until I hear from you. I have repeated this wire to Muirhead in case you are not at home. I will remain at the telegraph office tonight until it closes, if you wish to wire me.

Log entries on the 13th December stated that the storm was still raging, and that all three men had been praying. But why would three experienced lighthouse keepers, safely situated on a brand new lighthouse that was 150 feet above sea level, be praying for a storm to stop? They should have been perfectly safe.

Even more peculiar is that there were no reported storms in the area on the 12th, 13th and 14th of December. In fact, the weather was calm, and the storms that were to batter the island didn’t hit until December 17th.

The final log entry was made on the 15th December. It simply read ‘Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all’. What was meant by ‘God is over all’?

After reading the logs, Muirhead’s attention turned to the remaining oil skinned coat that had been left in the entrance hall. Why, in the bitter cold winter, had one of the lighthouse keepers ventured out without his coat? Furthermore, why had all three lighthouse staff left their posts at the same time, when rules and regulations strictly prohibited it?

Further clues were found down by the landing platform. Here Muirhead noticed ropes strewn all over the rocks, ropes which were usually held in a brown crate 70 feet above the platform on a supply crane. Perhaps the crate had been dislodged and knocked down, and the lighthouse keepers were attempting to retrieve them when an unexpected wave came and washed them out to sea? This was the first and most likely theory, and as such Muirhead included it in his official report to the Northern Lighthouse Board.