Some fictional accounts take their credence from factual existences. The Bell Rock or the Inchcape Rock is the perfect example to the previous statement as it finds its presence in not just popular maritime history books but also in children’s English poetry syllabus. The intrigue behind it along with the facts and the fictional aspects can be unravelled in here.
Inchcape Rock Legend
A reef, the Inchcape Rock or the Bell Rock, is located in the North Sea, close to the coastal area of Angus in Scotland, to the east of estuary of Tay. However, while most other reefs might have derived positive comments and popularity over the countless years of their existence, the Inchcape Rock became known for its infamy as causation for shipwreck.
It has been mentioned in various historical accounts that towards the very late 18th and almost at the start of the 19th century, the Bell Rock was instrumental in effecting a ship wreckage tally of almost 100 vessels.
The main reason for such unprecedented accidents was because of the position of the reef. Before the lighthouse was constructed, no one could really know about the reef until the last moment – when the ship would collide against the reef. The reef is completely submerged during high tides while during low tides; only a sliver of it is visible to the naked eye. As such, ships and sailors really undertook a big gamble with their lives while happening to be on this route before the lighthouse was constructed
In the year 1807, construction work for a lighthouse on this reef was undertaken by Robert Stevenson and was successfully completed three years later in 1810. Since the architecture of the lighthouse resembled that of the then-prevailing bee-hives, the lighthouse was christened as the ‘Bell Rock Lighthouse.’ By virtue of it being placed on the Inchcape Rock, it is also referred to as the ‘Inchcape Rock Lighthouse.’
The lighthouse measures 35 metres in length and at present is regarded to be amongst the oldest operating lighthouses across the world. The most noteworthy feature about the lighthouse is that even now, over 200 years later, its construction is as sturdy as it was when it was built. And though, operations have changed to suit and fit the present times, the lighthouse is still an integral and indispensable marine constituent in the area.
A poem composed by the famous poet of that era Robert Southey, talks about the famous folktale of an Abbot (monk) placing a bell on the reef to issue warning to seamen about the impeding danger during storms and gales in the 1300s. According to the folktale, it is said that whenever the bell used to ring, seafarers used to bless the abbot’s wisdom and thank him for saving them from danger.
But a sea robber named Ralph the Rover cut the bell down in order to pocket the money and treasures that used to be churned up after the ships fatally crashed against the rock. However, there came a time when Ralph’s pirate vessel too encountered harsh weather and crashed against the rock. At that time, says the lore, Ralph heard tolling bells just as though the Devil was ringing them to signify his death.
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