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 good 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 grey, 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 Scanlan died in hospital the next day.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful lighthouse Peter. Great stuff as usual. Cheers.