Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Muglins

Many thanks to Andrew Phillips for the wonderful photo above. I thought it was taken from nearby Dalkey Island but it is from near Colliemore Harbour in Dalkey. In the past I have tried to photo the Kish lighthouse from Howth, from Poolbeg and even from the Holyhead ferry with little success but, as Andrew points out, Dalkey is the nearest spot on the mainland. Don't think I've ever seen a photo of two of Ireland's newest lighthouses together.
The Muglins is the outermost of a series of islands and rocks off the coast off Dalkey in south county Dublin. The only thing on it is the lighthouse. The best views are from nearby Martello-Towered Dalkey Island, which can be accessed via Ken the Ferryman who operates out of Colliemore Harbour.
In 1765, the Sandwich (a boat, not a large chunk of bread and ham) set sail from the Canaries, richly laden, bound for London. While rounding Brittany, four of the crew murdered the other three crew members and the passengers, save for two boys, and set sail for Ireland. Outside Waterford Harbour, they scuttled the ship, threw the two lads overboard and made for the coast in a cock-boat, heavily laden with bags of gold.
Landing near Duncannon, they buried most of the gold and then started acting the go-boys in Wexford, driving around in Ferraris and wearing purple trousers and the like. Suspicions were aroused, one of the two boys survived and they were arrested, tried up in Dublin and found guilty.
Two were hanged near the Pigeonhouse, the other two nearer to Ringsend which amused the gentility out for a stroll until they started to smell, at which juncture they were removed to the Muglins, probably not the best initiative that Tourism Ireland ever came up with.
In the middle of the 19th Century, there was wreck after wreck on the Muglins, probably caused by lookouts gawping at the skeletons on the gibbet. Eventually, in 1847, the Ballast Board solved this problem when the Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) East Pier light was established, its revolving beam supposedly keeping traffic clear of the Muglins.

One of my own inferior photos from 2014

Only it didn't. More wrecks followed and calls rang out to light the Muglins itself. The Adonis was one such ship. She fell foul of the rock in 1862 and would probably be long-forgotten except that her master was one George Silly. Captain Silly (I find I can't say the name without giggling like a schoolboy) had just gone below decks when the crash occurred and the inquiry laid the blame fair and square on the absence of a light on the Muglins. So Captain Silly sailed again.
To be fair to Irish Lights (as it became in 1867), they were all up for erecting a lighthouse on the Muglins but the Board of Trade thwarted them at every juncture. This is a report of one exchange in 1877: 

Yup, painting the island white would do it, all right...

Eventually in 1880, permission was agreed for a solid stone beacon to be placed on the Muglins. It was 30 feet high, 14 feet in diameter and was painted white, kind of like a mini Copper Point Three years later, the red band was added to make it look like a Scottish First Division football kit. It was only in 1906 that an unwatched light was placed atop the pillar, access to which was via an external ladder.

Rather like Pluto in reverse, the lighthouse was eventually promoted from a mere Beacon to full Lighthouse status on 30th July 1979. As it was unable to get through the door of the Mansion House, the Lord Mayor handed over the papers to it at a small ceremony in St. Stephens Green.

Two little known Betcha Didn't Know facts about the Muglins:

1) Despite the fact that it never had a population apart from two swinging corpses, one of the titles conferred on the King of Dalkey, was 'Emperor of the Muglins.' It should be pointed out that the Dalkey referred to in the title was Dalkey Island rather than today's village.
2) Future President and probably this country's greatest ever sex symbol, Eamonn DeValera, was once charged with being a 'Pretender to the Throne of the Muglins.' The mock trial macabrely took place in a cell in Richmond Barracks as Dev, Count Plunkett, Sean T. O'Kelly and others awaited trial after the Easter 1916 uprising. Dev was found guilty but the judge (Plunkett) refused to countenance the death penalty "despite the urgings of one of the prisoners who had a black cap ready for the occasion." (Alan Livingston Ramsay, Dublin Historical Record Vol. 48 No. 1 Spring 1995)

Dalkey Island with the Muglins behind (source - dalkeyhomepage.ie)

1 comment:

  1. Great piece. Also worth reading just for the comment about Dev.