The rocks stretching out from the shore at Rattray have always been dangerous and many ships have gone aground there. There is even some speculation that shipwreckers may have lured some ships onto the rocks - see the Rattray Pirate's page.
Some comments on the dangerous nature of Rattray Briggs from the time just before the lighthouse was built -
David Alan Stevenson, the engineer who built the lighthouse – the area "was notorious among mariners for its foul ground, rapid tides and high and dangerous seas. No part of the East Coast of Scotland was more dangerous than this.”
Master of the SS Critic - "It is a rare thing to pass this dangerous point without finding a ship of some sort stranded and it is one of the most prominent turning points of North East Scotland.”
The lighthouse at Rattray was finally built in 1895. It had long been spoken about but finding the money to pay for it prevented any progress for many years. Alan Stevenson (one of the engineering Stevensons) carried out experiments in 1857 to determine whether a red segment on the Buchan Ness lighthouse could be used to mark the location of Rattray Briggs for shipping. He reported that this was not practical.
Further trials were approved in 1859 to look into the practicality of fitting screens which would block the light from Buchan Ness when ships were too close to shore at Rattray. This was finally ruled out in 1863 but further discussions, delays and lack of money meant that the lighthouse was only approved in 1890. The fact that the large harbour refuge at Peterhead was now being built at a cost of £500,000 would have helped justify the cost of £18,949 for the Rattray lighthouse.
It was started in 1892 and the structure was completed over 3 seasons and it was finally finished in 1895.
Originally it had a five-wick paraffin lamp which produced 44,000 candlepower. This was much brighter that Buchan Ness along the coats which only produced 6,500. Rattray was later upgraded to 156,000 candlepower.
Lighthouse keepers last tended the light in 1982 when it was fully automated.