Monday, October 17, 2016

Drogheda North Light

In stark contrast to my last post lamenting the dilapidation of the Passage East Spider Light, news has come out via the Drogheda Independent that the Drogheda Port Authority has commissioned a restoration of one of the three iconic lighthouses on the north bank of the River Boyne - Drogheda North Light. The work will be carried out by Fergal McGirl Architects of Dublin, who have a long history of conservation architecture.
Three lights were constructed in the 1880s in the Mornington area to guide ships past the treacherous sandbanks at the mouth of the Boyne. The three form a delightful cluster of interesting maritime archaeology which, when added to the Maiden's Tower, the Lady's Finger and the old lifeboat station, ensures a fascinating ramble at the estuary entrance.
Drogheda North Light was decommissioned in 2000 and it is much to Drogheda Port's credit that they are prepared to stump up a significant amount of money to restore it when other lights around the country are left to the elements. 
See also here for my last visit to this light.
See also here for the architects page on the project

Passage Point, the Spider Light

I am indebted to Andrew O'Doherty, who writes the brilliant "Waterford Harbour Tides 'n' Tales " blog  for drawing my attention to an excellent post of his on the Passage Point Light, which I visited in 2014 and which appears in a sorry state of disrepair.
There are only four such screwpile lighthouses left in Ireland - at Moville in Derry, Dundalk Bay, Cobh and here, marking the approaches to Waterford and New Ross harbours. The blind engineer, Alexander Mitchell, who designed the screwpile lights, also took his invention to England, where none survive. America seems to be the only place where they are thriving.
The lights at Cobh, Moville and Dundalk are very well maintained but here at Passage East, the Spider Light (as it is colloquially known) which marks a dangerous bank of sand stretching to the Waterford shore, appears uncared for. A brick support, for example, appears to have been replaced by metal bars. The paint is peeling and one can see, in years to come, that it will be replaced by one of those soulless poles with a light on top. It is already halfway there.
As a country, an Taisce and the like seem to be keen to preserve every old post office and bank but turns a blind eye when it comes to lighthouses. Greenore in co. Louth has been left to the elements. Castlemaine Beacon fell into the sea. The old lights at Inish Mor and Cape Clear have been left to the mercy of the elements. The incredibly important cottage lighthouses at Loop Head and the Old Head of Kinsale lie derelict.
Lighthouses are a valuable part of our maritime history and deserve our protection too. The Spider Light will be 150 years old next year and it would be a great boost, not only to the area, but also to those of us who care about our maritime history, to see it restored to its former glory.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Original Youghal Lighthouse

This is the only picture I can find of the original Youghal lighthouse. The current light was erected in 1852 on 'almost' the exact site of this tower which, according to most sources, went up in 1190 or 1202. Youghal had been recently peopled by men-at-arms and traffickers from Bristol, and to ensure mariner safety, a light tower was constructed and placed under the management of the nuns of The Chapel of St. Anne's. The nuns faithfully lit torches to guide ships into Youghal harbour at night until 1542 when the nunnery was abandoned and torn down at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The light tower appears to be have been the only part of the building to survive, 
The above drawing by William Willes gives a good idea of the lighthouse's appearance, though by that time, the tower had been allowed to deteriorate for nearly 300 years. The roof had perished and the stairs were so decayed that it was dangerous to get to the top of the tower, a portion of which had already collapsed.
The tower was circular, about 24 feet in height (it seems a lot bigger in the drawing unless the people at the top of the steps are only 2 feet tall!) and ten feet in diameter. The only entrance was a narrow Gothic doorway on the water-side. On accessing the door, a flight of spiral steps began on your right hand side, leading up to two  circular-topped windows at the top of the tower, one of which faced the middle of the bay, the other Capel Island. This particular design of window dates the tower to the end of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth centuries.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Castlemaine Beacon Update

Back in July, I had a long and ultimately fruitless walk up the length of Rossbeigh Spit to try and find the Castlemaine Beacon. Sadly, we didn't see it and we didn't even get the benefit of admiring the stunning coastal scenery of Glenbeigh as it was a very windy and rainy day. Furthe renquiries revealed that the beacon, which had been severely damaged by weather and coastal erosion and had been listing at a crazy angle, finally succumbed to the elements in February 2011.

That could easily have been the end of the story. A light that had stood for over 150 years gone, swept away. Another lost lighthouse to add to the already formidable collection around our coastline - Cranfield Point, Wicklow old low light, Calf Rock, Horse Rock, the pair of lights on Oyster Island, Belfast Harbour etc etc. But the good people of Glenbeigh had other ideas and painstakingly collected the stones from the original tower (which had become cut off from the mainland at high tide) to build an exact replica of the 39 feet tall stone tower complete with mast, next to the sports field in the village of Glenbeigh, where it doesn't have to battle raging seas any more, like an old racehorse put out to pasture.

The bottom four photos are by Dave Rolt of Davesphotos from Cromane

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wyon Point

And so to the final lighthouse on my North coast day out - Wyon (or Wine) Point, marking the southern entrance to the Sound of Aran. Not a classic lighthouse, another white concrete hut, 16 feet tall, in fact but tricky to get to and an army protecting it from nosey lighthouse freaks.

I had tried to find this place eight years ago and failed miserably. You need to head to Maghery, west of Dungloe. On entering the village, take the innocuous looking turn to the right, keeping the sports pitch on your left hand side. This brings you onto Inishfree Island, which is not really an island at all. The road is extremely narrow and bendy and up and downy but keep going for about a half a mile (ignoring the turn to the left marked Cul de sac) until you come to a sort of a T-junction. I say "sort of" because, really, the only navigable road lies to the right. The 'road' to the left deteriorates into a minefield of potholes. Unfortunately, this is the road you want. Either leave your car by the house there and walk or do as I did and drive very slowly down it, praying hard you don't get a puncture. After about three hundred yards, you can go no further. There is a barbed wire fence which opens when you unhook the string from the wooden post (don't forget to replace it!)Nearly there? Yup, the top of the hut can be seen over the brow of the small hill, guarded by the stupidest cows you ever met. Most cows when confronted by a jackeen shouting, "Heeargghhhh!" will turn around and amble off. Not these babies. They try and stare you down.
Anyway, if you can do an Indiana, its only about 300 yards to the hut.

 54° 56.5´ N 8° 27.3´ W, if that's any help. The light characteristic is Fl.(2)W.R.G. period 10s and it stands 25 feet above sea level. It has stood here since 1905.

The Turk Rocks beacon near Wyon Point


Inishsirrer is a skinny island off the northernmost part of western Ireland. It is about 1 mile long by 0.4 miles wide. It used to have a small population but they are long gone.

On the northern end of it sits a concrete hut. I have no idea why the Lighthouse Directory lists it as a lighthouse while other concrete huts of the same style and size (Ravedy Island etc) fail to qualify but an official lighthouse it is. It consists of a white square concrete hut 13 feet tall, sitting at an elevation of 65 feet. The light characteristic is Fl.W. period 3.7s fl. 0.7s, ec. 3s, if that makes any sense.

Best place to see it? Well you can see it from Bloody Foreland, but a couple of miles down the R257 somewhere near Brinlack is probably your best bet without hiring a boat.
Best time to see it? Well, it was after 5 o'clock by the time I got here and the sun was just at the wrong angle. From Bloody Foreland, the hut was just a silhouette but at least I gort a bit of light at Brinlack. Probably the morning time would be best, sun-wise.

Tory Island

Eight years ago, I made the boat trip from hell from Meenlaragh, near Bloody Foreland, to Tory Island. The island was fascinating, the light was brilliant, the sea journey bloody awful. I remember clinging to the mast in a downpour as the waves crashed over the boat, trying desperately hard not to be sick. I was amused to read on my blog from that time that only a quarter of an hour into the boat trip did the island come into view. On this beautiful sunny Sunday, Tory Island lay stretched out like a basking seal, its distinctive lighthouse, a beatific thumbs-up from the island that time forgot.

Built in 1832, the tower is 131 feet tall. The island is 9 miles from the coast of Donegal and its about 3 miles long by half a mile wide. It has a High King and less than a hundred other permanent residents.