A blog about Irish Lighthouses past and present and other selected maritime beacons and buoys of interest
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Cape Clear Island
The ferry from Schull to Cape Clear Island (or Oileann Cleire) now only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so we drove down to Baltimore to get the ferry over to Ireland's most southerly inhabited island.
A lighthouse was established here in 1818 on the southern part of the island. However, it very quickly became apparent that, like Wicklow, Kinsale and others, its position on top of a cliff meant it was frequently obscured by fog and mist
Despite much petitioning by the maritime community, nothing was done about this state of affairs until the inevitable happened. The passenger-carrying sailing ship, the Stephen Whitney, was heading eastwards along the southwest coast of Ireland in heavy fog and, not being able to see Cape Clear light, mistook Crookhaven Light for the Old Head of Kinsale, and ran aground on one of the many jagged islands off West Cork, with the loss of 92 of the 110 souls on board.
Even then, the authorities procrastinated until a letter to the Times from A Seaman (believed by many to be a ship's captain) lambasted them for their tardiness and turn-a-blind-eye attitude and more or less ordered them to put a light on the Fastnet instead. When this happened on the first day of 1854, the Cape Clear light was extinguished.
From the north harbour, where the ferry leaves you, follow the road that cuts through the centre of the harbour, keep going around south harbour and then start climbing. The road leads all the way to the lighthouse.
The light is situated next to an old signal tower built in the early 1800s when the British authorities thought the French might attack, but quickly deserted when it was clear they wouldn't. The lighthouse keepers and their families appropriated the old signal tower quarters. In fact at one time, there was a covered walkway between the lighthouse and the signal tower, only recently removed.
The plaque above was originally placed on the lighthouse but is now situated on the main road between the North Harbour and the Church
Above, the view from the light, with the Fastnet in the distance.
The old cottages are now just end walls and no more.