The sketch above is the only representation I could find of the Dunkettle Pile Light, one of two pile lights on the stretch of Cork harbour between Lough Mahon and Blackrock. The other one, Lough Mahon Pile Light, we dealt with in the previous post.
With the difficulty for ships ascending the River Lee from Roches Point to the city, a huge programme of dredging took place in the 1840s and 1850s. When this was done, large ships could sail directly to the docks but, of course, only during daylight. There were still treacherous shoals that an unsuspecting barque could stray onto at night. Sir John Benson, Cork Harbour's chief engineer, designed a pile light for Lough Mahon, which was established in 1859, but it was soon realised that a second light was needed at the other end of the narrow channel leading up to Blackrock.
Lough Mahon pile light (bottom right) and Dunkettle Light (top left, a quarter of the way across) The other light near Dunkettle is Blackrock Castle
In early 1862, the Cork Harbour Board was approached regarding the viability of a second light and an investigation was conducted.
Having got the green light from the Harbour Board, the new lighthouse got the physical green light one year later in April 1863, courtesy of the contractor Mr. Henry Simmons.
It is difficult to be precise about the dimensions of the new lighthouse. According to a Harbour Board Report in 1864, Lough Mahon was octagonal in shape and built on piles. Dunkettle, it was said, was 'of similar shape' and 'built as the other.' It is elsewhere described as being built on a tripod, though the Irish Lights sketch at the top of the page shows more than three legs. It almost definitely had accommodation for a keeper and a fog bell, at least until 1905. So, the representation below, which is of Lough Mahon light, may or may not be what Dunkettle looked like!
In the Harbour Board inspection mentioned above, the report suggested the keepers at both lighthouses were too elderly to carry out their duties efficiently. The response of the Harbour Board was to remove the Lough Mahon keeper but to retain the Dunkettle keeper, whom they did not regard as being incompetent. Thankfully, four years later, the inspection recorded that the light was in good order. And in 1870, the lighthouse was "in a most creditable state."
Eventually a second light was affixed to the Dunkettle Bridge and, with the Dunkettle Light, formed a pair of leading lights around the bend in the river.
Towards the end of the century, Dunkettle Light, like many lights around the country, was used as the start and/or finishing point for races in the local regatta, for which, doubtless, the local keeper had a great view. At least until 1905, that is, when the introduction of an automatic Wigham lamp rendered the light unwatched. The fog bell was discontinued and a whole new series of buoyage was introduced.
In 1922, a complaint was registered by the Clyde Shipping Company regarding the intensity, or lack thereof, of the green light at Dunkettle and requesting it to be cranked up a notch or two. Whether the Harbour Board acted or not is unclear but any improvements did not last very long.
The very knowledgable Shipwrecks of Cork Harbour site states that "Dunkettle lighthouse lasted until 1926, when the SS Freddy Fisher collided with it and demolished it." The only reference I can find to the demise of the Dunkettle Light is from the Irish Examiner on June 17th 1926 -
Freddy Smith or Freddy Fisher? Well, it seems that the Kirk Shipping Company did have an SS. Freddysmith (all one word) on their books from 1920 to 1924. It was a Dutch cargo vessel with a capacity of 900 tons and the Dunkettle Lighthouse wouldn't have been able to put up much of a fight. In 1926, it was transferred to South America and, after many name changes, it became the SS Lucho in 1938. It was eventually scrapped in Buenos Aires in 1973.
The SS Freddysmith
As for the Dunkettle Lighthouse, it was replaced by a buoy. Probably just as efficient but completely lacking in character.
Addendum: In January 1924, "Cork's own" Pierrots Concert Party played that city's Opera House. On the bill, according to the Examiner, were various ensembles, while ...
Sadly, I doubt that any written copies of "The Harbour Light" exist and so we cannot judge the comic potential of pile lighthouses.