Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Four Keepers of the Seven Legged Beast, county Waterford

 

Passage Point Perch possibly in the 1930s when it was in good health. Shamelessly filched from the Tides and Tales Facebook page as it is the only picture I could find of the light in its heyday.

I recently purchased Andrew Doherty's latest book of local history and reminiscences "Waterford Harbour Tides and Tales." It is a book I could easily have read at one sitting but I have been determined to make it last, so I have been limiting myself to one chapter per night. It really is a wonderful book and makes me want to write about the local tales of my own homeland but sadly, we moved around so much as children that home is wherever I lay my hat.
Anyway, finishing the chapter 'Long-legged Spider Light" about the Passage Point Pile Light, I learned that the lighthouse was very likely automated in 1914. (I say, 'very likely' because, following Andrew's sources, I was able to find a newspaper report stating that a new brilliant Aga light was to be ordered immediately to render the light automatic. Unfortunately, I cannot find a subsequent report to say it had arrived. But we'll assume so. For now)
This means that we now have the complete list of Passage Point's keepers. There are only four of them in 47 years, one of whom only lasted for three years.


After much to-ing and fro-ing between the Waterford Harbour Board, the Irish Ballast Board and the Trinity Brethren (who, for some reason, I always associate with the Dark Arts), the beautifully constructed barrel on top of a perch (above) was finally dismantled in 1867 and a brand spanking new seven-iron-legged pile lighthouse was erected in its stead. This was first exhibited on 15th August 1867 and, of course, somebody had to mind the fixed red light from sunset to sunrise.
The interviews had taken place in January of that year and one Michael Power, of Keyser Street, Waterford, was unanimously elected Principal Keeper. He was 22 years old at the time.
The position of assistant keeper was down to the two 'young men' (as opposed to the elderly Michael Power!) named John Barry and Edward Connors and the two were questioned by the Waterford Harbour Board and the 21 year old Edward Connors won out, consigning John Barry to be come the Pete Best of the Passage Point keepers. Michael Power's salary was £50 per year, Edward's exactly half that.
By May the following year, Michael Power was not a happy bunny and wrote to the Waterford Harbour Board, as reported in the Waterford News and Star: -


The compassion of the Waterford Harbour Board was next sought by assistant keeper Edward Connors, as reported in the Waterford Standard on 15th December 1875:-


Sadly, there is no indication as to how long the Board let the matter lie over. Nor is there any report that Mr. Clibborn got the wishbone stuck in his throat at Christmas as recompense for his snide remark. I imagine he had never spent sixteen hours on a Winter's night inside a tiny box above a raging river.
Whatever their causes for complaint, Power and Connors (sounds like a firm of whiskey bonders) stuck to their task for a further twenty years, until Michael Powers caught pneumonia and died two weeks later on 22nd September 1895. He was 51 years old, married and living in Passage East.
It appears that nothing was done to replace Michael for four years until Edward Connors applied to the board for superannuation on the grounds of ill-health, as reported in the Munster Express of 15th April 1899. The Harbour Board doctor said that Connors suffered from cardiac weakness and he considered his present occupation injurious to his health. Connors had been appointed assistant lightkeeper in 1867 at £25 per annum, which was subsequently increased to £46, and, since the death of Michael Power in 1895, had been the sole lightkeeper at £5 per month. The Board agreed to the request and awarded him £2 per month as a pension.
Edward Connors retired to Leckaun near Killea with his very young family


By 1911, he had fathered a further two children, despite his weak heart. He finally died in 1929 of senile decay.
At the same meeting that accepted Edward's retirement, one James Donnelly, 56, a fit, quiet and steady man, and a Harbour employee, was appointed the new lightkeeper at Passage Point. The same doctor who had reported that Connors had a cardiac weakness and could not perform the strenuous duties of a lightkeeper now reported that Donnelly, while incapacitated from work requiring much exertion, was well able to fulfill the duties of a lighthouse keeper. Donnelly was appointed on a salary of £4 per month "with the use of the dwelling-house in Passage." Obviously the Harbour Board were beginning to soften.

Detail of House No.9 Passage East 1901 Census

Sadly, James' heart wasn't up to the job for he died of heart disease on 21st March 1902. The same harbour board doctor signed his death certificate.


Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus was nothing compared to the new spirit in the Waterford Harbour Board, as reported in the Munster Express on 19th April 1902:-


And if Facebook had been around at that time, this report from the same paper would doubtless have gone viral:-


John James Molony was 23 years old at the time and did the job by himself for at least nine years and possibly until automation arrived in 1914. The 1911 Census describes him as a 32 year old single lighthouse keeper, living on his own at House no 50 in Passage. If anybody knows the site of the lightkeepers' dwelling in Passage, I would love a picture!!
It is difficult to imagine that, for twenty years, Edward Connors, James Donnelly and John James Moloney managed the light on their own. The keeper had to be present from sunset to sunrise, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A week in the depths of winter could be 112 hours long. One presumes there would have been some form of temporary attendant brought in by the Harbour Board, maybe one of the pilots, to give the poor lads a break.


Passage Point Lighthouse today (pic: courtesy Caroline Ryan and Andrew Doherty)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Candlestick Light, Howth (long lost lighthouse)

At the risk of sounding like Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a falsehood repeated often enough will eventually become the truth. Take Robert Reading and his six lighthouses that he applied for a patent for in 1665, the first state-sponsored lighthouses on our shores. All lighthouse books and articles tell us about Hook Head, the Old Head of Kinsale and Charles Fort. They tell us that there was a very short-lived lighthouse at Islandmagee and there were supposed to be two at Howth - one on the land and one to show ships over the bar. However, they tell us, the one over the bar was never built.


Of course, with no physical evidence for this lighthouse, this 'fact' was repeated again and again. And the longer it was repeated, the more sources agreed on it and the statement was accepted as the truth.
Lest I appear sanctimonious about this, I must point out that I have repeated this myself on my blog on several occasions. Even worse - and this is a real case of Chinese whispers - I took the phrase "to show the ships over the bar" to mean that the lighthouse was to have been built in the water. (Bill Long in his "Bright Light, White Water" appears to suggest the same, saying that "some sort of a crude perch and a buoy" replaced the original plan for a lighthouse.) It was only when I read an article on Jstor recently by Donal T. Flood (Dublin Bay in the Eighteenth Century from the Dublin Historical Record 1978) that I saw what a good argument he made for a) the light actually existing and b) it being situated on land.
To quote from Donal T. Flood's article,


Now, I am aware the wording (quoting the parliamentary committee) is slightly ambiguous. Possibly, it could mean simply that not having built the light that had been patented in 1665 was detrimental to Trade. But, I would tend to agree that specifically quoting thirty-two years would seem to imply that some sort of light was there until around 1671.
So where was it? Well, in order to guide ships 'over the bar,' it would need to be placed in a line with the Baily lighthouse. The bar was a rather inconvenient sandbank that had settled across the entrance to Dublin port. At low tide, a little yellow plastic duck might just have been able to sail over it. Boats invariably anchored outside the bar until just before high tide before entering the port. By day, this was marked by a buoy but at night there were no markings and many a vessel suddenly found they'd strayed too close to shore. 
Below is a detail from the Collins map from 1686 at the top of the page. The old lighthouse at the summit of Howth Head is shown top right. The infamous Barr with its Buoy is shown bottom left. Now, if you imagine a straight line from the Lighthouse to the southern end of the Barr, it would go through the 'd' of the word 'Candlestick' on the southernmost promontory of Howth, slightly north of Drumleck Point.


Detail from 1686 Collins map of Dublin Bay

Of course, this is conjecture. I have read that Cor Castle was once suggested as the site of the second light. The lower light merely should be somewhere along that imaginary line. However, it seems significant that out of all the places that must have dotted the south east Howth peninsula, the only two deemed worthy of recording were the 'Light-house' and 'Candlestick.' As a candlestick is basically a lighthouse in miniature, 'Candlestick' may well have been the nickname given to this early light. It was of course not necessary that the Candlestick Light should be viewable from the Summit Light and vice-versa. It was merely important that a boat in the harbour should be able to line them up.
Donal Flood goes on to detail the journey of a playwright called John O'Keeffe in the summer of 1768. After hiring a boat in Dublin, they alighted at Howth (probably at Red Rock Harbour, on the south coast near Drumleck Point.) They then ascended the cliff and enjoyed lunch "near the great iron pan, from which the coal fire blazed at night." Donal Flood claims this was the now-defunct pan that had been used as a brazier nearly one hundred years previously. The pan on top of the Howth Head lighthouse was relatively small by 1768, so, Flood argues, O'Keeffe must have been referring to the Candlesticks pan. It's possible of course but I'd be happier if O'Keeffe had written "from which the coal fire had once blazed at night."


Candlestick Bay watercolour by Alexander Williams

Further confusion was added to the fire when, in 1760 Roque published a map of Dublin Bay. Obviously borrowing from previous maps, he added 'Candlestick' where it had been but, unable to find what 'Candlestick' was, he added an 's' and attributed the name to a small group of rocks also known as The Needles just off the coast. As these rocks are ludicrously insignificant, the error is obvious but, once again, the mistake was repeated over and over until it became the truth. 


The Needles by Edward McFarland 1853 (Baily Lighthouse in the distance)

Coal for both the Candlestick and the Summit Lighthouse would have been landed by boat at a place called Bottle Quay, very little of which remains. It is a fair distance from Howth Head and also the Candlesticks. Howth harbour had not been built by then and Bottle Quay was possibly the nearest. On foot of the Parliamentay Commission's recommendations of 1703, Lord Howth was directed to build a new quay on his land in order to facilitate coal for both lighthouses. Lord Howth procrastinated, maybe justifiably. He was slow in receiving payment for the new quay and slow in receiving reparation for damage to his lands. Eventually, though, Redrock Quay, was built and coal for the lighthouse on the summit was landed there and transported up the steep incline. 


The remains of Bottle Quay


Redrock Quay


Ordnance Survey 1st edition map. Bottle Quay is top left. Redrock Quay is the small promontory directly south of Candlestick House. Flood suggests that Candlestick House may once have been a coal depot for the two lights. Then again, it may simply have been named after the defunct light.

As for the resurrection of the second light, more prevarication prevailed. Various proposals to increase the depth of water at the Bar were touted, considered, considered some more and finally shelved. Work began on the Great South Wall and by the 1730s a lightship had been established where the Poolbeg lighthouse now stands and there was no longer a need for a second light.
Incidentally, the name Candlestick would seem to imply that the brazier would have had some sort of column on which it sat. If the brazier / pan sat squarely on the ground, it would not look remotely like a candlestick, even to pox-ridden seventeenth century eyes. So it probably sat on a great lump of rock or maybe a concrete pillar. Though, as my wife would doubtless tell you, I have been wrong in the past.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Cataloguing Irish Lights Archives

 


The word 'cataloguing' looks wrong when spelled the proper way, but also looks wrong spelled the US way - 'cataloging.' Oh well, first world problem.
I was recently on to Irish Lights with a query about the lighthouse in Newcastle county Down. In former years, they would put me onto Frank Pelly who was snowed under by the archives in the Baily Lighthouse but always did his best to help as best he could. He used to describe his job as either preserving what archives or trying to catalogue - there was not the time to do both! And so, wisely, he concentrated on the preservation, so as to have records for future generations to catalogue.
Frank has now retired and, ironically, there is now a big project underway to preserve and catalogue the archives. This is the reply I received from the Project Manager - 
The project to catalogue the archive only began last year, 2019. The archive contains over one thousand volumes and two thousand boxes. The archive project is prioritising records of greatest historical significance. When the records were created in the 19th and 20th centuries they were not divided according to each lighthouse but rather, in common with other 19th century registry systems, the records were filed chronologically regardless of subject. Therefore it is only when the project is finished that comprehensive searches of the archive will be possible. Until the records have been catalogued we do not know what information they contain.
An Archive webpage is currently being developed which will provide general information. We hope to publish the catalogues when they are complete, after 2022.
I understand that, in the meantime, as archives are catalogued they will become available to researchers.
And very valuable they will be too!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Bangor Pier Head Light


The definition of a lighthouse varies from person to person, from lighthouse authority to lighthouse authority. Is a white box with a light on top a lighthouse? A skeletal tower with a light? Most people, I feel, appreciate the classical tower lighthouse and regard anything else as 'not a proper lighthouse.'
I agree with Russ Rowlett in his Lighthouse Directory that a lighthouse ought to be substantial. He suggests minimum dimensions and I can't really argue. I would add though, that I believe one should be able to enter a lighthouse, as per the 'house' part of the word.
Thus, as can be seen in the wonderful photograph above, the Bangor Pier Head light should be considered a true lighthouse. I believe the guy inside is Peter Scott, who is, or at least was, Duty Berthing Master at Bangor Marina and also the man responsible for servicing the light.
I use this post as an excuse to show some more photographs of one of Ireland's two truly red lighthouses!







 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

(My) Great Lighthouses of Ireland

Depending on what part of the country you live in, this post will delight you or annoy you, so I will stress beforehand that the following list is entirely my own subjective opinion. It is neither incorrect nor correct. You will doubtless disagree on many of my choices and your view is every bit as valid as mine. 
The premise of this list is CIL's 12 Great Lighthouses of Ireland, which, as I have mentioned before, should really be 12 Lighthouses of Ireland that have Tourist Potential. They are not the twelve greatest lighthouses of Ireland, as anyone outside CIL will agree. One of them isn't even a lighthouse. Others - Cromwell Point and Blackhead come to mind - are very picturesquely situated but most of our lighthouses, by their very nature, are anyway. And of course, lighthouses in Ireland are not limited to those under the auspices of the Commissioner of Irish Lights.
So, in no order of merit, but starting at Fair Head and circumnavigating the country clockwise, this is my list of Ireland's twelve greatest lighthouses, with a brief reasoning for its inclusion.

1) Chaine Tower (county Antrim)


A relatively new building (1888) in lighthouse terms but I love the way the designers tapped into the Irish DNA when drawing up the plans. Not originally designed as a lighthouse - a memorial and a daymark for boats entering Larne Harbour - but it beautifully links back to our ancient Irish past.

2) South Rock (county Down) 


Thomas Rogers may have his detractors, and rightly so, but his pride and joy must surely have been this magnificent lighthouse, dating back to 1797 and probably the oldest wave-swept lighthouses in the world. (Bell Rock in Scotland lays claim to being the oldest working wave-swept lighthouse.) Despite the fact that it has been inactive since 1877, it is apparently in excellent shape and could easily be pressed into service if technology fails us.

3) Drogheda Lights (East, West and North)


Three lights for the price of one and demonstrating that lighthouses need not be stone or iron monoliths. Dating from the 1840s, these three lights (there were originally four, but one was never lit) resemble three giant sand-hoppers waiting in the dunes. They are full of character and quite unique in Ireland. They light the entrance to the River Boyne.

4) Poolbeg Lighthouse


Somewhat squat and dumpy, this iconic red lighthouse, sitting at the end of an incredibly long breakwater out in the middle of Dublin Bay has seen off and welcomed home millions of people since it was first built in the 1760s. An aerial view gives a true sense of its spectacular location. A brisk stroll out to it will blow away any cobwebs you might have and you can see at least six other lighthouses along the way.

5) Wicklow Head


Once again, three lighthouses for the price of one but in this instance, all three are very different. It's great fun working out the angles between the high lights and the low light and even more so trying to find the foundations of the missing low light! And all, I say with complete bias, located in the best county in Ireland.

6) Hook Head


The vast amount of history of this place is truly remarkable and a guided tour here is a tour of the last 1500 years. Okay, some of the claims are slightly exaggerated but you cannot fail to sense the shadows of our ancestors in every nook and niche of this invincible stone tower.

7) Dunmore East


I was hesitant to include Dunmore East (1825) because of its proximity to Hook Head but in the end, I chose it for its beauty. Architecturally, it is the jewel in Ireland's lighthouse crown, with its fluted Doric exterior shown off by the natural stone. There is nothing like it on our coasts. Alexander Nimmo, take a bow.

8) The Fastnet


As Poolbeg is to Dublin, so the Fastnet is to Ireland. Probably the most iconic lighthouse in these islands (with Bell Rock and Eddystone) and one of the greatest in the world, the story of its construction will leave you speechless. A boat tour from Schull or Clear Island is well worth getting seasick for.

9) Inishtearaght


The one lighthouse on the list I have not been to, or even seen, Ireland's most westerly lighthouse sits, perched like a puffin on a tiny bit of cliff on the far side of the furthest of the Blasket Islands. It is Europe's westernmost lighthouse, outside of Iceland. One can only wonder how safe the keepers felt when a great Atlantic storm was raging. It took six years to build in the 1860s and it isn't hard to see why.

10) Beeves Rock


I love this most underrated of lighthouses. When the tide is high, it looks like a duck sitting on the water, a house seemingly built in the middle of the Shannon estuary. Only at low tide does the rock appear. Must have been a short working day building it. How many nearby houses dating from 1855 are in such good condition, I wonder? 

11) Slyne Head


Difficult to view, except from a distance, there are two lighthouses on Slyne Head, one unpainted and abandoned, the other painted jet black. Black seems to be a rare enough colour in marine navigation globally, but in Ireland, we love it. Slyne Head, Ballycotton, Poolbeg (once), our lightships - all painted black. I imagine Alcock and Brown saw it clearly enough when they flew in from Newfoundland though. The journey to and from it for relief keepers was an odyssey in itself.

12) Moville


Okay, I had to include one spider light and I plumped for Moville rather than Dundalk or Spit only because the north coast would not have been represented otherwise. Spider lights - or screw-pile lights - probably had the smallest keeper accommodation of all our lights and were once quite plentiful around our coasts, particular on the Foyle and in Belfast and Cork harbours. Now only four remain and Passage Point doesn't appear to be long for this world.

And that is my list and I'm fully aware of the many great lighthouses I have left out. No place for Fanad or Tuskar, the Upside Down light on Rathlin, Calf Rock (get there if you can), Ballycotton, Balbriggan, Clare Island, the Maidens. The list goes on. All showing what a rich diversity of maritime heritage we enjoy around our shores.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) Temporary light(s)


Kingstown Harbour 1830s - the dark blob at the end of the east pier is presumably the temporary lighthouse. Poolbeg can be seen to the left of the top of the mast of the left-most sailing ship. An exaggerated Bailey lighthouse is silhouetted against the sky to the right of the picture.

Temporary lighthouses are not an unknown phenomenon on Irish coasts. Rue Point on Rathlin Island had one for a couple of years before the first light was established. Ardglass had a ‘temporary’ light for nearly fifty years, housed in a private residence. Calf Rock’s temporary light was in operation for ten years on the end of Dursey Island. And so on.
Unlike the lights mentioned, the temporary light at Kingstown, as it was then known, was not a stationery light. When the East pier was being constructed – from the shore outward – the light was installed at the end of the constructed pier. As building progressed, the light kept moving, so it was always on the end of the pier, which made sense as there was no point having a light in the middle of a pier, where it would have done more harm than good.
The first stone of the new harbour was laid on 31st May 1817. The two main players involved in its construction were John Rennie and Richard Toutcher, who managed, somehow, to get unlimited quantities of free stone from the Dalkey quarries. The original plan was for two piers but, at first, funding was only secured for one – the east pier.
Dunleary became Kingstown in 1821 after a visit to the harbour by George IV and the following year, on 6th June the first Notice to Mariners went up. Despite it having a a light “of a bright Colour” – the best sort of lights, I always say – it’s visibility only amounted to nine miles. Not that it needed a large degree of brightness – the lights at the Baily, Poolbeg and the Kish Floating Light were already well established.


The light was actually smashed in a storm later that year, although it was repaired the following day. The new Harbour master, William Hutchinson, had to send to Dublin for the glass and thereafter, some spare glass was always kept on site for such emergencies. 
Aside from the fact that the temporary lighthouse was ‘brown’ and ‘wooden,’ we know very little of the construction of the light. A sketch from the Dublin Penny Journal of 1834 seems to show a reasonably sized construction with what is probably a lantern on top. Presumably the lamp would be tended from inside, as its position at the end of the pier would have rendered tending the light impossible in stormy weather. One suggestion has been that it was actually floating though, given the limited sketches we have, that seems unlikely. Also, the 1843 plan of the harbor depicts the two temporary lights at, not off, the end of their respective piers.


In 1841, a Notice to Mariners was issued announcing that the hitherto revolving white light would become a revolving white and red light, attaining their maximum brilliancy after thirty seconds, rather than one minute. The lighthouse itself was of timber and coloured brown and was elevated 34 feet and 40 feet above high water and mean water respectively.


Another view of the harbour. This time the temporary light looks like a large mooring bollard or whatever the technical term is

It was eventually decided to go ahead with building the West Pier and a second temporary light was installed at the end of the ever-moving pier head. This was fitted with a fixed red light. By this time, George Halpin of the Ballast Board had been drafted in to design proper lighthouses for the ends of the respective piers.
A great storm in 1844 failed to dislodge either temporary lighthouse although there were fears for their safety as large portions of unfinished wall got washed away.
Worse was to follow in 1849, when on October 17th of that year, the Athlone Sentinel reported on a large storm that caused much wreckage. The article concludes, "It blew with such force on Saturday night at Kingstown that the Friendship, of Halifax, coal-laden, was driven on shore near the old harbour and now lies a total wreck. Wm. Capel, the keeper of the wooden lighthouse on the west pier was drowned in trying to effect his escape." 
The Morning Post reported the tragedy thus - "The keeper of the lighthouse on the western pier at Kingstown was drowned on Sunday night by the sea washing over the wall. He was very feeble,"
Lloyds Weekly Newspaper elaborates slightly - "He was a feeble old man and it is supposed that in trying to escape from the lighthouse, he was struck by a sea, stunned and drowned in the pool of water which remained around him."
I suspect poor old William may well have been the only keeper to have been killed tending a temporary Irish lighthouse.


On 1st October 1847, the new lighthouse on the east pier was lit for the first time and 'the light, hitherto shown from the timber building' was discontinued. The 'small fixed red light in the temporary timber shed on the west pier' would continue as before until the erection of the new lighthouse there. Interestingly, an illustration from 1845 shows the East Pier lighthouse well advanced but no sign of the timber building housing the temporary light. Of course, this may simply due to artistic licence.


1845 drawing (Newman) East Pier lighthouse would not be lit for two more years, yet there is no temporary light in sight

On Tuesday 5th October 1852, the Liverpool Standard reported that "the temporary wooden pier-light, on Kingstown west pier, was blown down last night." Strangely, the Liverpool Mail had reported the same sentence word for word three days earlier. Somehow, I doubt it was blown down twice. The following month it was reported that "the harbour wall on the end of the west pier, where the old lighthouse stood, has been washed away," possibly bringing a temporary temporary light with it. The new lighthouse first exhibited in 1852, so maybe the destruction of the temporary light brought forward the introduction of the actual lighthouse.

My sincere thanks to Simon Coate, Dun Laoghaire Harbour Master, for his kindness and help in researching this post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Belfast Harbour light vessels

When I was researching the many, completely disappeared lighthouses that once adorned Belfast harbour, I was struck by the repeated references to light-vessels operated by the Belfast Harbour Board. We have come to view light-vessels as purpose-built 'floating lighthouses' towed into position to mark the existence of dangerous rocks and sandbanks, those in the UK painted vivid red, those here on the mainland painted black, with the name of the station painted brightly in white letters across the sides.
But, it seems, there were other, more adhoc light-vessels, pressed into service too. The Belfast Harbour Board, whenever a vessel sunk in the harbour, had a habit of leasing a fishing smack from a local boat-owner until the vessel could be raised from the surface and disposed of. In this post, which sadly contains no photographs at all, I detail the various impromptu light-vessels that I came across in the latter part of the nineteenth century.


Fishing smack

Unnamed vessel 1858
Thus we have, on 3rd February 1858, a fishing smack of 37 tons, leased from Richard Hull for £3 10s weekly specifically to mark the wreck of the Eyry (also spelled Eyrie) off Cultra. The Eyry was a coal-bearing schooner and had been sunk on 1st January that year. The Harbour Board provided the lamps and oil and the smack was put in place, though it had to run from its moorings in early March due to a broken windlass. "When the weather improved" the Eyry was destroyed where it lay and the smack was removed.

The smack Prosperity 1875
On 5th November 1875, it was reported that "the smack Prosperity" had been seconded into action. She had belonged to a Mr. John Cochrane and was engaged "as a light-vessel."


From the Freeman's Journal

The schooner Active 1876
On 16th February 1876, the Belfast Harbour Board removed the Prosperity from the rig of the St. Mungo and replaced her with the schooner Active, which they had leased from a Mr. J. McVeagh. There is no indication if the owner of the Prosperity simply wanted his boat back or if the Board were cutting costs by leasing a cheaper boat. Or maybe they needed the Prosperity elsewhere. 
On 25th September 1876, the Harbour master reported that "the lightkeeper on board the Active" had told him that the St. Mungo had been blown up by divers. A wreck buoy had been moved to her stern but the Active was still, erm, active at the site. Two months later, the schooner was withdrawn.

The Lightship Trial 1891
After the massive dredging and straightening of the channel into Belfast harbour in 1891, the old lighthouses were made redundant. On 9th July 1891, it was announced that the Lightship Trial had been moored on the site of the Old Seal Channel which, in dense weather and with a dense crew, could be mistaken as the correct approach to the docks. The spot had been previously marked by one of the pile lights. However, it was announced one week later that the Lightship was to be removed.
This is the first example I can find of a boat bearing the title 'Lightship' being employed by the Belfast Harbour Board in the inner harbour. This would seem to indicate that the vessel had been bought, rather than leased, by the Harbour Board.
An inquest on 21st July that year heard testimony from a William Sweeney of 16, Burke Street, regarding a man being found dead on board a yacht in the vicinity. He said that he was one of two men employed by the Harbour Board on the lightship, which was moored about 500 yards beyond the north end of the Twin Islands. His shift finished at sunrise at 4am and he took his boat and went to investigate. When asked why he had not gone sooner, he replied that he had no indication there was anything wrong and, anyway, "It is not my duty to leave the light-ship. I am placed there by the Harbour Commissioners to attend to the light from sunset to sunrise, and I could not leave the ship." He also declared that there were no rockets or signals on board the light-ship, even if he had suspected something was amiss. He added that, had he known there was an emergency, he would have left the ship to save a life.
The following year, Trial was employed as a wreck marker.


Wreck-marking vessel 1894
In February 1894, the Brig Xanthus went down in the harbour and a notice to mariners was issued .


Of course, this vessel could have been the Lightship Trial painted green. Or it might not. If it was leased for the purpose, presumably it would have to be ungreened at the end of service. So it would make more sense if this boat were owned by the Harbour Board.
On the 4th September, the smack was withdrawn when the Xanthus was removed. Sadly, I do not know my smacks from my luggers and so cannot tell if this was the same boat that was stationed at the wreck in February.

Lightship Bertha 1894
Around the time that the Manx Lugger was cosying up to the Xanthus, a Fleetwood ketch, named the Betsy and Sarah, was being refitted as "an auxiliary pilot tender and wreck light vessel." and was being re-named Bertha. Originally built in Hull in 1867, she had moved to Fleetwood in 1888 (proprietor one Lawrence Fish!) before being shunted onto the Belfast Harbour Board.
Unfortunately, I could find no details of any service rendered to her new owners but she was kept in their employ until July 1911, when she was sold to Mr. J.C.W. Rea on behalf of the Bangor (county Down) Committee for Commemorating the Coronation (of George V) for the princely (ha!) sum of £25. Her full history is on the fleetwood-trawlers.info site
Anyhow, the Bertha, or the Betsey and Sarah, went out in a blaze of glory. The Belfast Newsletter of Friday 23rd June 1911, describing the celebrations in Bangor, said, "In the evening, there were illuminations and bonfires. Public interest centred in the burning of a ship in the bay and the prospect of such a rare spectacle brought great crowds. The committee had purchased from the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, the lightship Bertha, formerly the Betsy and Sarah of Fleetwood. This vessel was 67 feet in length, 18 feet beam and 12 feet in depth. Her net registered tonnage was 52 with a cargo-carrying capacity of 150 tons. She was fully loaded with materials of a highly-inflammable character. Huge bonfires were also built on Connor's Point and the projecting rocks at Clifton bathing place and Ballyholme were illuminated by a chain of fires round the sweep of the bay. All these were ignited at the same time as the Bertha and the whole formed a magnificent and impressive display. Houses were illuminated at ten o'clock and this added fresh effect to the scene of rejoicing."
You would think that there would be a photo or a drawing of this event but I haven't come across one yet. My enquiries remain unanswered.
Way to go, Betsey...