Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Pile Light No.3, Belfast (lost lighthouse)

As part of Belfast Harbour's opening of the 'New Straight Channel' in 1891, four new pile lights were built, roughly one mile apart from the Holywood Bank to the approach of East Twin Island, where two further land-bound lights were in existence. 
We have already dealt with Pile Light No.1 (The Outer Light) which was larger than the other three; and Pile Light No. 2, which came a cropper in 1892 at the hands of the Medway, causing the deaths of the keeper and his six-year old son.

Sketch of Pile Light No. 3 in 1892

It was a wooden lighthouse erected on cast-iron hollow piles and had been made as stable and secure as humanly possible with the help of cast-iron tie-rods. Like her three companions, she had live-in accommodation for a keeper and his wife, the reasoning being that it would minimise the danger of constant rowing back and forth to the light in heavy seas to light and douse the lamp. It showed a single fixed bright light.
As we have seen, shipping in the Victoria Channel seems to have taken a spite to the Lighthouse. One of the original 1851 pile lights at Garmoyle was taken out by the Earl of Dublin in 1868; Alexander Mitchell's 1844 Holywood Bank pile light was ruthlessly butchered by the Earl of Ulster in 1889; and, as we have heard, the Medway took down Pile Light No.2 in 1892. Surely it couldn't happen again? From the Belfast Newsletter, Friday 8th January 1897: -


From the 1901 Census, we can see that Peter Johnston and his wife Margaret had been 54 and 36 years old respectively at the time of the accident. Both were Roman Catholics; he had been born in Cork; she in Lurgan. 
His occupation was listed as a Labourer.

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