Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blackrock Castle, Cork

Annual open day at the Old Head of Kinsale lighthouse in county Cork. A long long way to go for one lighthouse, so I was up early and on the road at 5.30am, even though the weather forecast didn't look promising.

This is Blackrock Castle on the banks of the River Lee in Cork City, now more famous as an observatory. In fact, very few people are aware that it was once a lighthouse at all. The Castle's own site says "The original tower was built by the citizens of Cork in 1582 to guard the water approach to the city from pirates and other raiders. The tower also acted as a sentinel to guide shipping safely to and from the port. Indeed the motto on the crest of Cork City above the Latin phrase: “Statio Bene Fida Carinis” means “a safe harbour for ships.
'Following the 1601 Battle of Kinsale against the Spanish, Lord-Deputy Mountjoy replaced the fort with a castle in 1604 but this was as much to protect himself from the citizens of Cork as from the Spanish.
The people of Cork, ever-rebellious, were slow to acknowledge James the First as their King. It was during this time that Hawlbowline was fortified and James Fort was built in Kinsale. As well as being strong enough to mount artillery for the protection of Cork Harbour the main tower of the castle had an outside diameter of 10.5 metres and a wall thickness of 2.2 metres – unusually thick for an Irish castle.This would have enabled the tower to withstand a naval assault from the Spanish or any other would-be invaders while allowing those in the tower to return cannon fire with relative safety.
'In 1608 James the First returned control of the castle to Cork City. Peat fires were lit atop the tower to help guide ships in and out of the port at night. From now on the Castle would meet the needs of the City Corporation and have less to do with the defence of Cork."
 The castle was destroyed twice by fire, once in 1722 and once in 1827, being rebuilt both times. It appears to have been used as a lighthouse all during this time. A report by lighthouse inspectors in 1864 says that a white light was displayed from a window in the main, or lighthouse tower which rises to 100ft above the level of the river - presumably the thin tower in the photographs. It was in the care of a young woman and 'appears to be well-kept and clean.'

The light was one in a series of fixed lights and buoys designed to guide ships from the entrance of Cork Harbour up to the port in the city centre. There was a pile lighthouse near the eastern end of Lough Mahon and another - called the Dunkettle Light - round about where the Jack Lynch Tunnel disappears under the northern part of the Lee. From there, ships aimed for Blackrock Castle, the light on Kings Quay and the light on Tivoli Quay. The light was discontinued on 25th February 1903

The first three photographs are taken from the north bank, near the Jack Lynch Tunnel, where the river bends around to southward. The other four photographs are taken from points adjacent to the castle itself.

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