Saturday, March 20, 2021

Dunmore East

Dunmore East lighthouse 2014

For some strange reason that I haven't been able to fathom, my Google Newsfeed, when not telling me there's going to be some melodramatic weather ahead, keeps slipping in lighthouse articles. The World's most iconic lighthouses; Sierra Leone's most remote lighthouses; Milton Keynes' oldest lighthouses, that sort of thing. A recent one was "Ireland's prettiest lighthouses."
Now I'm well aware of the saying about beauty and eyes and beholders but Poolbeg pretty? It's iconic, for sure, but pretty? I always found it rather squat and dumpy. Blackhead, county Antrim? Yes, its nice enough, but nothing to make it stand out in the prettiness stakes. The article contained most of the so-called Great Lighthouses of Ireland, most of which are pretty due to their location, rather than any prettiness in themselves.
Ones that stand out for me are Donaghadee in county Down, Beeves Rock on the Shannon, Little Samphire Island in county Kerry and Ballycurrin on Lough Corrib. But the prettiest, by far, and like the others mentioned, didn't make the list has to be Dunmore East.

Engraving of Dunmore East by T. Dixon (1824 - 1842), with Hook Head behind. Not only is the light very classical but the pier doesn't look so bad either. Does anybody know what the contraption at the end of the pier is? Looks like something to do with tides.

The pier was famously built by the renowned Scottish engineer, Alexander Nimmo, whom I always see in my mind's eye as a Caledonian Derek Nimmo, which shows my age. He reputedly erected the five pillars at Tramore on the two headlands though others dispute this. It was built to facilitate a new mail packet route between Dunmore East and Milford Haven (it was superceded by Waterford in 1835). The tower was finished in October 1824, and was inspected by the Ballast Board in March 1825, when a few small improvements were noted and implemented. Finally in October 1825, the lamp was ready to be established. This clipping is from late summer 1824

The dwellings for the lighthouse were very cleverly incorporated into the raised parapet of the pier and protected from the sea by the boundary wall. However, on an inspection by Nimmo in January 1826, the dwellings were found to be damp and the keeper living away up in the town. The necessary improvements were made and the keeper moved in. The protection of the boundary wall was doubtless  a great advantage to Redmond (possibly Hugh or Josiah) as an 1838 letter to the Waterford Chronicle reveals.

It would indeed be very churlish to suggest that Redmond was the Spectator and I certainly wouldn't even broach such a suggestion.
The tower itself is a Grecian Doric column made of granite (Ref John S. Sloane - others say sandstone!), whereas the pier itself is made of red conglomerate or pudding stone. The reflectors were from the firm of Boulton and Watt and they were raised or beaten to the parabolic curve by Mr. John Thuillier, a name now more associated with Kinsale than Waterford.
The cast iron lattice work of the balcony is only found at one other Irish lighthouse (Haulbowline) although it is quite popular in Scotland

Photo of the harbour 1870 - 1890 Eblana Collection National Library of Ireland

Robert French photo 1880-1900 showing detail of the dwelling house National Library of Ireland

 The lighthouse in 2014

1 comment:

  1. I'm speculating that the contraption at the end of the pier may have been to support a diving was employed in the construction, and it seems to be a possibility? I fully agree with you Pete, a beautiful building