LIGHTS BACK ON - ABERNETHY ROUND TOWER
Our beloved Abernethy Round Tower is a scheduled monument under the guardianship of Historic Environment Scotland (HES). Abernethy Community Council was responsible for the installation of the original floodlighting of the 11th Century Round Tower but the lighting has not been operational for several years and Abernethy Community Council agreed that it would add to the status and attraction of the village if the illumination of the Tower was re-established.
As a member of the Community Council with a background in electrical engineering I volunteered to manage the reinstatement project. My first impression was that it would just be a simple matter of replacing the old lights with modern LED equivalents and installing a new timer. However, my initial investigations revealed that more work was needed as well as ensuring that all parties and stakeholders who had an interest in the project gave their prior approval.
Due to the Round Tower’s location and scheduled status the list of stakeholders, as well as the Community Council and HES, included Gillian Monro, the Kirk of St Bride, Perth & Kinross Planning Department and Bereavement Services, EDF and Scottish Power.
HES was very supportive in assisting the Community Council with the design and specification of the new floodlighting scheme. They provided modern detailed CAD drawings of the Round Tower and used modelling software to predict the illumination footprint. The resulting design provides spectacular illumination of the north side whilst minimising any adverse impact to residents in the Square. The new timer is currently set to switch on the floodlighting at sunset and off again at 11pm each day.
Once the design was finalised the next step was installation. The use of temporary scaffolding on the gable end of the Old Town House facilitated the installation of one of the lights.
For readers with a technical interest the existing electricity meter and floodlighting controls were located in a “confined space” under the ground floor of the Tower. Mitigating this risk required trained personnel to test that the air had sufficient oxygen and did not contain any poisonous gasses. The new installation considerably improves the operation and safety of the site for the future as personnel are no longer required to enter the confined space in order to read the electricity meter or adjust the floodlighting timer.
I was fortunate to be able to secure the services of the Enterprise Contracting Division of my old employer SSE, who very generously undertook to carry out the installation work free of charge to the Community Council and complete the work as one of their “Community Engagement Programmes”. SSE’s Health and Safety ethos was a perfect match to HES’s rigorous requirements.
There are many people to thank.
Firstly, a huge thank you from the village to the family of James Roy in the USA who very generously paid for the new LED lights, time switch and all of the installation materials.
Thanks also to Gillian Monro for allowing the use of her gable wall for the light installation, Elizabeth Taylor and the Kirk of St Bride who kindly arranged for welfare facilities to be made available to the SSE team and to Cath in the Berryfields Tea Room for making delicious bacon rolls and coffee each morning.
Finally, a huge thank you to the SSE team of Conor, Ray and James who completed the work safely and to an excellent standard of workmanship.
I am sure by now that you will have noticed the Tower lights are on again.
Some time ago the Community Council decided it was time the lights were switched back on but in trying to do so they quickly realised they didn’t work and needed a major upgrade. You will have read Peter Glennie’s article in the September issue explaining in great detail the hard work he and others carried out to make the lights workable again.
If I may I would like to explain how the Roy family in the US became involved. Firstly, I am certain you all know where James Roy Court is in the village - just off School Wynd. The Roy family of the 1920s consisted of father and mother and five bairns; John, Willie, Dave, Jim and Jean. Dave, Jim and Jean finished their days in Abernethy, while Willie and John emigrated to the USA. Sadly, none are with us any more, however, their children live on, here and in the USA.
The news got out that the Community Council was hoping to raise enough money to pay for the refurbishment of the Tower illumination and this news reached Georgia, America.
I received a phone call one evening from Dave Roy Jnr. telling me his cousin May Davis would be contacting me from the USA. May explained that she and her husband would like to pay for the installation of the lights in memory of her late father and mother, Willie and Sarah Roy.
I suggested that they might like to contribute to the cost, rather than pay the whole bill, as it may turn out to be very expensive, but they insisted they would be happy to finance the whole project. Many emails went back and forth between Abernethy and the US keeping them up to date on how the project was going.
As Peter explained there was a lot of planning and costing to go through before the work could commence. The Community Council proposed a plaque could be put in place, with the permission of HES, commemorating the occasion. The cost of the plaque was met by the Community Council. The opening ceremony was meant to take place June 2020 but because of the Covid 19 situation this did not happen and it is hoped the event will take place Summer 2021. I still have the brass plaque, beautifully made by Newburgh Graphics, safely locked away in my cupboard.
I would again like to thank May (Roy) Davis for her very generous gift to the village.