Friday, October 1, 2021

Tagoat Cliff lighthouse???

Yet another lost lighthouse, short-lived and precious little known about it. Any further information would be gratefully received. A photo would be nice, but I don't hold out much hope!

Historic last edition OS map showing location of the Cliff lighthouse, midway between the two train stations

I have written about the lighthouse near the end of the Ballygeary Pier before and learned no more about it. It had a lightkeeper and by the end of the 1880s was reportedly 'not used for many years.' Further research has raised more questions than it does answers and to complicate matters, we now have another lost lighthouse to contend with.

It seems the Ballygeary pier light was working at least by 1881 even though the 1891 US Bureau of Commerce, Special Consular Report Vol. 4 (a cracking read by anybody's standards) states it was established in 1884. At the same time, it says, a green flashing light was established from a white perch on the cliff 1.3 miles NW by W, at a height of 28 feet above sea level. The two lights together provided leading lights into the harbour at Ballygeary.

Evidently, this white perch was not very long-lived because on or about 1st February 1895, the rear light on the cliff was changed to a window from a house at a height of 55 feet above high water, nearly twice as high as the perch ...

Eagle eyes may have spotted that the character of the light was altered from a green flashing to a green fixed light. Being able to be seen eight miles away meant that this was quite a substantial light and not a 100W bulb on a pole. So whereas the first cliff light was a perch, this one, dating from February 1895, was an actual lighthouse. And not a little one like Duncannon Fort or Sherkin - though I'm not of course denigrating either of those fine lights - but a lighthouse that was actually lived in. It didn't necessarily have to have a tower. In fact, it probably didn't if the light was shone through a window. 

In the 1901 Census, one John McKenna was living in one of the four houses at Hill of Sea.

Dublin-born and a widower, John McKenna was possibly a brother of Thomas McKenna, the male half of the Maidens Lovers story detailed in the previous post. This would have been a handy number for a former Irish Lights keeper, now pensioned off.

There were only three houses at Hill of Sea on the 1901 Census. The House and Buildings Return shows the 'Cliff Lighthouse' as being the middle house of the three and, unlike the other two, as being built on land owned by the Great Southern and Western Railway. The two adjacent landowners were James Murphy and Mary Byrne. I wonder if anybody might be able to pinpoint the location of the lighthouse from these names.

Sadly for John, he didn't last too long after the census. Bronchitis set in during the summer of 1902, which affected his weak heart and he succumbed on St. Brigid's Day 1903. A few weeks later, neighbour Mary Byrne's son, Thomas, died aged 27 of acute pneumonia. Must have been cold on the cliff top. 

It looks as though the other neighbour, James Murphy was present at death. He may have taken over the running of the lighthouse after John's demise.

If James did take over, he didn't have long to express his lightkeeping skills as the current red lighthouse shone forth on the new Rosslare pier on July 15th 1906. I doubt the house on the cliff top was pulled down. Maybe the railway used it for something else. Anybody know?

If I were to have a guess, I'd estimate the house with the light stood somewhere near this railway bridge here at Hill of Sea, halfway between the Strand and the harbour. But perhaps a person with more local knowledge could put me right?

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