Stories about lighthouse-keepers

Published on 18 February 2008

With his tall silhouette, tanned face and sober and measured voice, Michel Berthelé has the look of one accustomed to the sea. He has been a lighthouse-keeper for thirty-four years, twenty-four of which were dedicated to the Stiff Lighthouse, on the Isle of Ouessant, out at sea from Finistère. It can certainly be said that he knows the Stiff lighthouse. “When there was a storm, the wind could reach up to 180 km an hour. You couldn’t stay standing up to make the 50 metres which separated the lighthouse from the house where I lived with my wife and children.”

The Four Lighthouse, on a day of rough sea
The Four Lighthouse, on a day of rough sea
(Photo : Damgm-Plisson)

Jean-Pierre Simon, was the lighthouse-keeper there for thirteen years. He has known nearly all the lighthouses at sea between Ouessant and the Isle of Ouessant : Le Four, Kéréon, La Jument, Ar Men. “At Le Four, when a storm was blowing, the lighthouse was completely covered by the waves. At La Jument, the tower moved in bad weather. It was a bit startling at first, but you get used to it.”

Jean-Pierre Lecocq remembers that his greatest fright was back in December 1989. “That year, the storm tore out all the windows at Kéréon and completely cleared out the furniture from the lighthouse. The top of the tower was swaying up to a metre . At the end of three days, the helicopter was finally able to land us some reinforcement, supplies and materials for repairs”, he remembers.

The sea is not easily tamed. It has never been tender towards these men. By being forced to live together, they have learnt never to forget it.

Source : Equipement-Magazine