Monday, November 16, 2020

Newcastle county Down - the missing lighthouse! (Probably...)

A month or two ago, I posted about a lighthouse that had been erected on the pier at Newcastle county Down. The evidence I had was sketchy. A lighthouse showed at the end of the pier on the Ordnance Survey 2nd series map. An 1861 report mentioned that a 'small lighthouse' had been erected in Newcastle in 1849. In 1869, a violent storm washed away the south pier. Later estimates for its repair included £10 for a cast-iron lighthouse.
From all of this, I surmised that the original 1849 lighthouse had been washed away in 1869 and that it had been comparatively small and cast-iron, probably like the one that had stood at Bray, I said at the time.
Well, I scoured the net trying to find an old photograph of this light, to no avail. I concluded that there was no further point searching. If such a photo, or sketch, or painting existed, it would fall into my lap, rather than me finding it. Only now it appears that I had a photo of the lost lighthouse all along. And, what's more, I took it myself.
Back in 1880, a former Irish Lights engineer, John Swan Sloane, wrote a series of articles detailing the construction of Irish lighthouses to that date. And, right at the end of eleven months of articles, I found the following nugget:

I admit I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I had it correct. The 1849 Newcastle light became the 1876 Buncrana light! Not since Roches Point lighthouse floated around the coast to Duncannon in county Wexford has an Irish lighthouse made such a trip.
Fair dues to Peter Gurrie and the Buncrana and West Inishowen Historical Society for rescuing this light from the scrapyard. Not only have they saved the Buncrana light for posterity but the Newcastle one too!

Plaque on the rescued lighthouse at Grianan Park, Buncrana

There's just one tinsey-winsey problem here. The Lighthouse Directory suggests that this light dates from 1916, though the station itself was established in 1876. That would imply the ex-Newcastle light was replaced around 1916, though I can find nothing in the archives suggesting this. The plaque above indicates this is the original 1876 lighthouse. More research needed.

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