100 YEARS OF BEACHY HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

WILLIAM Allchorn boats ran a special cruise on Sunday to celebrate the centenary of Beachy Head's lighthouse.

The famous lighthouse, which sits at the foot of the cliffs, is 100 years old today (Wednesday).

Sixty-one passengers boarded the vessel on a sunny September afternoon.

Among the passengers was the last of the Allchorn dynasty, Brian Allchorn, who sold the company to master mariner Christopher Laycock in 1995.

'My grandfather started the business in 1861,' he said. 'I was the fourth generation and ran it for 45 years.

'I was the last in the line interested in running the company. My son has his own business which is far more lucrative.'

Brian said days like Sunday brought it all back, but he didn't miss being in charge.

'People are always asking me that, but what they don't realise is the amount of work that went into running the company.

'It was a seven-day-a-week job you never got out and about.'

Another passenger who had booked for this nostalgic cruise was potter Jacqui Dawson.

She was on board with her son Oliver and his partner Stuart Harper.

Three years ago, Jacqui was one of Eastbourne's Champion Women and chartered the William Allchorn to sail to Beachy Head.

'I got a group of women together and read Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse' on the trip,' she said.

Skipper for the day was computer expert Rod Macdonald, who works for Allchorn boats at weekends. He shared the commentary with his wife Maggie.

Passengers were told how the lighthouse stands 144 feet high from roack to rail and the beam shines out for 25 miles.

Electricity only arrived in 1955 and the lighthouse has been automated since 1988.

When it was first built it was plain granite. The red paint arrived in the 1950s and the white paint added in 1973.

On arrival back at the landing stage Christopher Laycock was waiting with a slice of birthday cake for each passenger to mark the occasion.