Helliar Holm

Helliar view me

Helliar Holm is an uninhabited tidal island which used to be connected to Shapinsay. It is still possible to walk over at very low tide but only for a short time. Its 42 foot high lighthouse has been home to many keepers and their families – one of them a relative of Ian James Mcleod Black who now lives in Solihull who told us:-

Ian Black   Helliar Holm Andrew mcleod blackHelliar Holm Ian's dad.‘My Grandfather Andrew Mcleod Black was a lighthouse keeper, based for a period of time on Helliar Holm. His wife Sarah Jane Black, who was in the later stages of pregnancy, was residing on the island in the lighthouse. In the final stages of labour a storm prevented her from leaving for Shapinsay and my father Albert Hellier Black was born at the lighthouse on the 26th November 1912. I believe my father was amongst the very few to have been born on a Lighthouse. His middle name was chosen after his place of birth, but on his birth certificate the ‘a’ was replaced with an ‘e’! My father had an older sister Helen Ross Black and until very recently it was not clear as to the exact year of her birth or the location. The wonders of the Internet! She was born on the 2nd March 1910 at ‘The Ayre’ Kirkwall. Parents residence….Hellyar Holm, Shapinsay. Both Helen and her parents appear in the 1911 census, at Hellyar Holm Lighthouse.

Of further interest is that my Grandfather and Grandmother were married on Helly er Holm on the 15th April 1911, the Minister being Archibald McCall, of the United Free Church of Scotland, Shapinsay. My Grandfather, served the Northern Lighthouse Board for a number of years, based at Helliar Holm, Dunnet Head, Bell Rock, Douglas Head, Isle of Man (Where my father became a King Scout), Start Point and the Pentland Skerries, where he lost his life in a drowning accident on the 27th January 1938, aged 52. His body was never recovered – only his cap was found, floating on the water. He was the last of the ‘Black family’ line to have served  for the Northern Lights, there being four others before him, including his father. 


Today interest in Helliar Holm continues and has sparked a recent creative project with islanders and mainland artists Katherine Diaper and Fiona Sanderson. Fiona’s family has historical links with the lighthouse on the island.

Helliar Group