Saturday, February 26, 2022

The old Ferris Point lantern


The old Ferris Point lighthouse. I'm guessing this photograph is probably 19th century, due to the fashion and the fact that the lightkeeper's dwelling appears to be single-storey. The lower photograph was taken shortly after the two people and the dog fell down a large sink-hole.

A lighthouse was first established on the southern entrance to Larne Harbour on 1st February 1839 on a headland named Ferris Point, Farres Point or any variation of the two. It is also called Larne lighthouse or Islandmagee lighthouse, sitting as it did on the northern end of that peninsula, bookended by Blackhead lighthouse at its southern point.

View of the old Ferris Point lighthouse, with the new dwellings, looking out to sea,. I'm assuming the guillotine on the right of the picture was erected by some over-zealous Principal Keeper.

During the 1890s, when the keepers and their families were still living out on the Maidens Rocks, there was a clamour for Irish Lights to provide mainland housing for the families and the off-duty keepers so that the children could receive a national education and the spiritual needs of the families could be attended to. And so, around the middle of that decade, it seems that dwellings were either erected or bought or rented in Bay Road in Larne. Ten years later, new dwelling houses, double-storey, were built at Ferris Point, as the keeper arrangements got very complicated. The Principal Keeper at Ferris Point also became the Principal Keeper at the Maidens, although he only spent 30 minutes a week on the latter on his inspection trip. The Assistant keepers ran the Maidens, but when onshore were expected to assist the Principal keeper with both the lighthouse at Ferris Point and the buoy depot there. (This all changed later on, when the nearby Chaine Tower and Barr Point Fog Signal were both annexed by Ferris Point and the Maidens keepers declared an autonomous republic. Yes, I know, I'm finding it hard to follow this myself)

Ferris Point and Chaine Tower lighthouses marking the entrance to Larne harbour. A ferry regularly ran across the harbour mouth near to both lights.

Irish Lights' inspectors checking the newly-built dwellings at Ferris Point for correct number of storeys etc

And so to relatively modern times and in 1976, the 137 year old light was extinguished and a new, state-of-the-art lighthouse erected in its stead. This light  - which I wrote about here - looked more like an airport control tower and doubled as a harbour office and a launching pad for the Irish space programme, which sadly never got off the ground. Unfortunately, with a bloody great power plant behind it, the light was swamped by the all the other lights and was discontinued in 1994.
In my innocence, I had believed that the 1839 lighthouse got knocked when the 1976 one was erected but, it seems, it was left to graze on the open space of the headland, with a warning to avoid any sinkholes. It was actually only in 1991 that it was decided to do something about it.

So, this is a good news story, right? The lantern and dome preserved as a tourist attraction, better than nothing.
Roughly eight years ago, I made enquiries and was informed that the dome had been purchased by Larne Council and was placed on a stone plinth at Hurry Head at Carnlough Harbour. This was on my to-do list ever since and, typical me, I never got around to it. Maybe this year.
However, I can find no mention of the dome on any tourist site - Glens of Antrim, Trip Advisor, Glenarm or Carnlough - and I've also failed to find it on Google street-view or satellite maps, either near a playground or on a headland. 
So, I won't be celebrating until I know for a fact its actually there.

Postscript - an update on ther old lantern can be found here


  1. Darn it - I was in Carnlough last week and didn't notice anything that looked like that - but then, I wasn't looking. I will make inquiries!

  2. The lighthouse which was built (on the land donated by my grandfather Thomas Ferris ) was removed and taken to Carnlough . It was badly vandalised and covered in graffiti. I saw it several times there with great sadness and was sorry that my father did not accept it when it was offered to him by the Irish lights .

    I’ve great memories of playing at the lighthouse with the children of the lighthouse keepers .

  3. Hi,spent holidays here 1962 when my father worked on the lighthouse just looking at pics taken then good memories.