Sunday, November 1, 2020

Bullock Harbour


This little beauty of a light has adorned the quayside at Bullock Harbour in Dalkey since 2017. I say 'Bullock Harbour' but some call it 'Bulloch.' To paraphrase Woody Allen, if the two factions ever met, a very dull argument would ensue.
Fishermen have plied their trade from this tiny south county Dublin harbour for centuries. The Cistercian monks were granted the rights to the fisheries here in the twelfth century and built a castle to protect their assets. The enclosed community of fishermen were thus safe from the marauding hordes of Wicklowmen but not from the outstretched hands of the monks, who demanded protection money. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the castle fell into private hands. 

Sketch of Bullock Castle by Francis Place, 1699

A 'new' stone pier was erected here in 1770, implying that some sort of pier existed beforehand. The harbour became a base for pilot boats guiding ships into Dublin Port and also for the Revenue Commissioners. As a natural harbour, it was small and unlikely to expand. In addition, it was, and still is, prone to the most extraordinary seas on the east coast of Ireland which wash over the western part of the harbour and sometimes completely submerge the quay walls. A very recent history of the harbour by Elizabeth Shotton, compiled using the latest scientific methodology, can be found here

Bullock harbour under siege during the 2018 storms

For many years a crane used for loading and unloading cargo stood on the quay walls. At length, it became redundant and was left to rust until finally removed a few years ago, leaving behind a rather fetching stone plinth, just crying out to be used for some sort of public art or memorial. 
Over in Dublin Port, millions of common terns had taken to nesting on the 1902 mooring dolphins outside the ESB Power Station. (Yes, in my naivety, I had to look up 'mooring dolphins.' You wouldn't believe the strange visions that had flashed through my mind.) Basically, a dolphin is a big not- particularly- aesthetic wooden platform on piles used to supply additional mooring facilities and also to take in water. Being located in a navigable channel, each of them required a light.

1902 Dublin mooring dolphin built as part of the construction of the power station by the Dublin Electric Company, later the ESB. Note the red light.

Concerned by the state of one of these dolphins, Birdwatch Ireland, who had been monitoring the dolphins as nesting grounds, contacted the ESB, who agreed the dolphin was in a parlous state. In previous years, they would have simply knocked the dolphin and thrown the light in the nearest skip but there is a great ethos in Dublin Port at the moment for conserving maritime heritage in the port. Not only was the dolphin replaced by a brand new nesting platform for the terns but the light was sent to Bullock Harbour to adorn the vacant plinth there. (Bullock Harbour comes under the auspices of the Dublin Port Authority) The light, it should be stated, is purely ornamental.

Old Dolphin light with Bullock Harbour and Castle behind


  1. Hi Peter my Granfather was Dan Farren lighthouse keeper in Ture

    1. Ture and Quigleys Point are 2 of the lighthouses I know nothing about. Would love to hear about Dan and Ture. Pete