Saturday, November 21, 2020

Dingle beacons


The remarkable sketch above is a detail of a drawing in the National Library of Ireland. The title of the piece is "Beacon Towers Erected by the Reverend Charles Gayer 1847 (Entrance to Dingle Harbour)" and the National Library have somehow decided that the artist was Samuel Watson (1761-1802) who obviously dabbled in clairvoyance as well as art. To me, it has more than a hint of Terry Gilliam about it.
I have written about these Dingle daymarks before (here) but in my naivety had thought they had only been three in number. 
The tower on the top left hand side is atop Carhoo Hill and is known locally Eask Tower. It originally stood 27 feet tall and was solid in structure, with a hand pointing in the direction of the entrance to the harbour. At the turn of the twentieth century it was increased in height to 40 feet and given a new hand. It is the only one that is relatively intact.

Eask Tower (the Dalek)

The tower on the right hand side of the sketch is on top of Beenbawn Head and would have been identical to Eask, with the obvious exception that the arm would have pointed the other way. Sadly it is now a pile of stones that adults like to play with.

Former tower on Beenbawn Head

The lower tower at the entrance to the harbour is The Towereen Bán, (presumably 'the little white tower') at Reenbeg Point. The remains of a whitewashed tower still reminds us of its former glories but, like its old pal Fungi, it seems to be lost forever.

Above, an old postcard of The Towereen Bán
Below, the sad remains in 2018. You can still see that it was not hollow.

Of the other two, the tower in the distance looks like it might be on that little headland where The Dingle Bar and Brasserie now stands. The other one seems to be across from Hussy's Folly. Maybe someone with more local knowledge has further information.

The five towers were erected in 1847 as daymarks at the instigation of the Reverend Charles Gayer, a protestant vicar and widower, who had nine children. As the famine started to bite, he gave employment to the Roman Catholic poor of the parish and thus saved many of them from starvation, like a Victorian Oskar Schindler. Dingle Harbour was a blind harbour and ships were occasionally wrecked for not being able to find its peaceful waters. The stone beacons served as great daymarks but weren't much use at night.That had to wait until the lighthouse was built in 1885.
In employing only poor Roman Catholics, there was doubtless a secondary motive, a mass conversion to protestantism by a grateful population. Unfortunately the Reverend shot himself in the foot (not literally, I hasten to add) by dying in February 1848, just as the works were coming to completion. 

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