Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Baily, Howth

The last time I photographed the Baily was on a trip by ferry to Holyhead and the weather didn't help me to get a good view
This time, my intrepid brother-in-law Aido managed to get a much better photo from the same ferry! The original light here was a brazier atop a cottage on the top of the hill (where the bungalow below the Summit car park now stands) The second light was a proper tower built on the same site but proved to be too high. Finally they got it right in 1814! This iconic light is actually difficult to photograph from the mainland, as the compound gate and the contour of the land conspire against you

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tuskar Rock


Tuskar Rock lighthouses is one of the great Irish lighthouses. The oldest Rock lighthouse on our coasts that is still in active service (South Rock off the coast of county Down is older but is long derelict) Tuskar has guarded the treacherous shoals and submerged rocks off the south east coast of Ireland since 1815. The area itself is where the Atlantic Ocean sweeps up the Irish Sea and can be subject to ferocious seas, such as the one that swept away the workmen's huts when the light was under construction, killing ten of them instantly. The remaining fourteen clung grimly to the rocks for 48 hours until rescued.

 But how to photograph it? Well there are distant views from the coast - probably St Helens or Carne are your best bets, though you'll need good magnification. I looked around for boat tours - as they do for the Fastmet or Rockabill, but the only company who do them appear to be Harbour Thrills, a Wexford based company. They mention the Tuskar in their introductory blurb but don't specifically go there on their regular trips. Presumably you need to arrange with the captain and bring the numbers yourself.
 So I caught the Stena ferry day trip from Rosslare to Fishguard, hoping it would go close enough to get goosd views. I was quite disappointed with my recent photos of The Kish from the Dublin Holyhead ferry (very blurred and hazy) and was hoping the same wouldn't be the same here. Apprehensively I watched the Pembroke ferry ahead of us pass quite close and hoped we'd follow suit. Thankfully we did.

It must have been the morning sun though because the photos again were quite hazy. The sea was light gey, the sky was light grey and the lighthouse is white, so they didn't come out great. Fortunately on the return, the contrast appeared a bit sharper! Sun would have been nice but it only poked its head out of the blanket of cloud when we were practically docked.


The light was first exhibited on 4th June 1815 and in foggy weather a bell was tolled every half minute. The tower was and still is painted white. The two keepers committed the ultimate lighthouse sin in 1821 when they failed to light the optic one night. With bad luck (or possibly good luck, whichever way you look it) the King of England happened to be sailing past and complained to the lighthouse board that the light wasn't showing. A subsequent investigation showed that the two men on duty had promised to guard a consignment of smuggled brandy for a local boatman and had helped themselves too liberally to their charge! Both men were downgraded as a result!

 Tuskar was the third lighthouse on the coast to the converted to electric, the previous two were Donaghadee in 1934 and Chain Tower (Larne) in 1935. It was the first Irish off-shore lighthouse to be electrified. During wartime small rocks like Tuskar were very vulnerable to drifting mines which had parted from their moorings. One of these mines exploded when it struck the rock on 2nd December 1941 injuring two assistant keepers, W. J. Cahill and P. Scanlan. Both were brought ashore by the Rosslare lifeboat but unfortunately Patrick Scalan died in hospital the next day.

Rosslare Sea Buoys

The shallows and barely submerged rocks are quite treacherous off Rosslare. Coming out of Rosslare, two parallel rows of red and green buoys mark the route past the Tuskar Light that the large ferries need to follow, whether heading east across to Wales or south to France.


The one marker I was hoping to find was Splaugh ATON (Aid to Navigation) which is a new addition to the CIL charts. I quote -
The Splaugh Buoy (@IrishLightsBuoy) is a Type 2 Port Laternal Marker (the second buoy type in the Commissioners of Irish Lights inventory) which has been deployed off the coast near Rosslare. The buoy is fitted with a variety of meteorological and oceanographic sensors which will be tweeting data automatically via the automatic identification system (AIS) , giving a unique insight into weather conditions in the area
 Now, I'm not sure what Mr. Splaugh looks like. Judging by the icon on the CIL chart, it could be the laddo above, or maybe the buoyo in the bottom picture. Both the buoys have birds on them, so that might be where the tweeting is coming from. The point is, all the people who might have known were up front in the luxury control room. I tried asking the girl who was filling up the chip pan in the cafeteria but she looked at me blankly.
 Not sure what this fellow marks - rocks, shoals, a wreck?


Rosslare Pier Light


 The last time I was here in 2008, I had to content myself with a couple of long range shots of this very pretty lighthouse from the hill leading down to the port due to time constraints. This time around, I discovered that the pier is unwalkable - well, it's possible to walk it but Stena Line has it blocked off. I hate it when ferry companies do that - it's the same with the North Pier in Fishguard and the North Bank lighthouse in Dublin.


Apparently the first light on the pier here was established in 1886 but I have been able to find no mention of it. More to the point, nor has Leo Coy, who is very much the Rosslare Harbour expert. Maybe it was just a lantern on a pole?


This lighthouse was constructed when the new pier was built around 1906 ish to facilitate the larger ferries crossing to the South Wales coast and later to France. Unfortunately, the only way to get close up shots of this lighthouse is to take one of the ferries. I chose the Rosslore to Fishguard (Wales) day trip - which costs €5 on a Tuesday!

 The light shows white from the harbour itself, green from a more northerly direction and red when approaching from the south east.
 The lighthouse with the Tuskar Rock Relief Cottages framed on the hill above the port.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuskar Memorial

 High above Rosslare, there is a small memorial park dedicated to the men who lost their lives on the Tuskar, the gallant lifeboat service and the people who lost their lives in the Aer Lingus crash in the late fifties. Of the lighthouse tragedies - ten men got swept to their deaths by a freak wave while the lighthouse was under construction, one fell to his death from the top of the tower shortly after, and one of the lighthouse keepers was killed when a floating mine struck the rock in the second world war.
 Just off the memorial park, incidentally, is a small row of cottages, called Goulding Street. About time too.

Tuskar Lighthouse Relief Cottages (2)

 So, to continue the story of the lightkeepers' cottages from the previous post, the lightkeepers' families continued to live on the rock from 1834. Due to the cramped nature of the accommodation available, the Ballast Board endeavoured to only post unmarried or childless keepers to Tuskar. The dwellings were expanded in 1856, 1857 and 1875 and eventually shore accommodation was built overlooking Rosslare harbour in 1886.
 The houses aren't difficult to locate - they are the first block of houses along the cliff walk that leads from the main road to a point overlooking the pier. As per the bottom picture, they are highly visible from the port itself, though necessitating a steep walk uphill.
 The houses were eventually sold to the Railway Hotels company in 1973. The Great Southern Hotel next door is currently for sale for €350,000 and presumably these houses are part of a job lot. The doors and ground floor windows are boarded up and the gardens unkempt but oh, what a location!

Tuskar Lighthouse Relief Cottages (1)

 The only lighthouse I haven't photographed on the east coast of Ireland is Tuskar Rock, off the south east corner (though several will have to be re-visited) So yesterday, I betook myself down to Rosslare to rectify this situation.
 Tuskar Rock lighthouse, which marks an area of Irish coastline that has probably claimed more ships than any other, was built in 1815. Its construction was unusual in Irish lighthouse history, as there was a certain amount of tragedy involved - ten workmen got swept to their deaths in a storm and an eleventh fell from the tower and was killed. To compound the tragedy, the Ballast Board's compensation to the widows and dependants was derisory to say the least.
 Anyway, the lighthouse was built in 1815 and keepers' cottages - four in a row, were built on the seafront overlooking St. Helen's Pier (see below) from where they actually had a view of the light (bottom picture - click on it to enlarge!) The cottages were for the families and the keepers when they were on their 'off' weeks. With Rosslare nowhere near the major port it is now, the relieving boats came in and out of St. Helen's pier.
 However in 1834, the keepers' houses here were sold due to "the disgraceful attitude of the keepers while ashore" and the families were moved to the Rock itself. It's not difficult to find the cottages - in the village of Kilrane on the main road, turn right (when heading towards Rosslare) down the road marked for St. Helens Golf Club. Follow the road around - do not go into the Golf Club itself but keep going further. When you hit the coast, the pier is on your right, the cottages on your left. Unfortunately, they are fronted by a high wall, which makes photography rather difficult!
I'd love to know what the 'disgraceful attitude' of the keepers was!