Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Inner Light, East Twin Island, Belfast, (lost lighthouse)

The Inner Lighthouse at the end of East Twin Island, I can find very little information about. Much of it is conjecture. As always, any suggestions, amendments, photos etc, please comment below or mail me at 
I believe that this was the 'substantial structure' built around 1851 along with the two pile lights at the Seal Channel and the Pool of Garmoyle.
The first mention I have found of the light is the Belfast Newsletter of 13th January 1872 which details the trials of a new lighting system at the lighthouse at the "North-east end of the East Twin Island" The light was "a large lamp which has been especially constructed by Messrs. Hincks and Sons of Birmingham... it resembles a cone and stands about eighteen inches in height and is provided with a conical glass funnel which rests on a smaller glass seat.... The light was set in its place, which is a case specially constructed for it, resembling an oriel window, having its three sides glazed with a decsription of glass called blue-green." It was, said the paper, a system of lighting that may be said to be perfect.
It is described on the Ordnance Survey maps as a Lighthouse, rather than a Light Tower, and that would tend to indicate a more substantial structure, possibly a house with a lantern attached to the roof. 
In 1891, it was announced it would exhibit a fixed bright light instead of a fixed green one. On New Years Day 1899, this was changed to three brilliant red acetylene gas lights forming a triangle fixed to a mast (the corresponding point at the tip of West Twin Island had the same configuration in green.) The newspaper report added that a reed horn, driven by an oil engine, would be added to the adjoining house at this stage. (Belfast Newsletter 31st December 1898) This seems to imply that the Inner Light was not actually a Lighthouse per se but a mast joined to a house, in which the keeper lived. A new house was built in 1925.
In 1931, the triangular red light system would be replaced by one flashing red light, giving two flashes every eight seconds, in a sequence of one second  light, one second eclipse, one second light, five seconds eclipse. The light at the tip of West Twin Island was similarly altered.

1964 photo of East Twin tip (Inner Light) taken from West Twin. The house at the tip of the promontory is clearly seen though it is unclear from which of the two masts the lights were shown.

We have speculated that the smaller East Twin Island Lighthouse would not have been large enough to house a lightkeeper and that the resident keeper of the Inner Light would have tended the East Twin Light as part of his duties. The 1911 Census for 7, Queen's Road, Belfast (the Inner Light) shows John  (61) and Elizabeth (57) Harrison, both Belfast-born. John is described as a Lighthouse Kepper (sic) There is no other lightkeeper shown on the road, which implies one keeper, two lights.
Another keeper of the light was involved in a court case in 1914, a rather nasty case of domestic violence but it sheds light on the role of the military in lighthouse affairs in WW1.

He was found guilty and sentenced to fourteen days hard labour.
The next person to kepp the light, one Samuel McKibbin, turned out to be the last. With his jolly wife, Ellen, acting as assistant keeper, Samuel kept the light for 44 years and the area around the house became known as McKibbin's Point.

Samuel and Ellen McKibbin

The Belfast Telegraph from 26th June 1961 did an article on Samuel and Ellen as part of a series called 'Job on their Doorstep.' I reproduce it here in its entirety.