Friday, June 24, 2022

Good news from Ballyglass

Currently spending two weeks near Blacksod lighthouse in county Mayo, a view of Black Rock from the front of the house and we're walking every inch of the fantastic white beaches of the Mullet peninsula. Two days ago, we happened to chance on Ballyglass lighthouse on beautiful Broadhaven Bay (no idea how we got there, just turned a corner and there we were, totally unexpectedly). 
The last time I was there was ten years ago, less than an hour before I wrote off the car near Crossmolina after a blow-out. The keeper's cottage, I noted, seemed to be in a state of disrepair and news since confirmed that it was on a definite downward trajectory.

Writing in The Irish Builder in 1880, John Swan Sloane who, by that time, had been pensioned off from his position of Chief Engineer of Irish Lights much to his disgust, wrote of the loneliness of the station, in words that would probably not go down too well today!!: -

So we roll up to Gubacashel Point aka Broadhaven lighthouse aka Ballyglass Lighthouse, expecting to find the gates locked and trees growing up through the cottage. Not a bit of it. There's a sign on the outside of the gate mentioning Mark Stephens Architects of Swinford and some feverish hard work going on at the cottage with some planks of wood getting drilled and sawn.
Further research determined that the cottage was, yes, being done up - well, put in such a state that it will not continue to decay. Mark, a fellow blogger, has written a post on the project here and hints that there is some quite exciting news to come in the near future. Maybe Irish Lights are bringing back the keepers?? Oh okay, probably not.

Ballyglass always struck me as one of the most underrated lighthouses on the Ireland circuit. It doesn't have the glamour of a Fastnet or a Hook; it doesn't have the terrible history of a Slyne Head or a Skellig Michael; it is not a tourist attraction and so doesn't appear on the list of Great Lighthouses of Ireland, like Rathlin or St. John's Point. It very much goes under the radar, which is a shame because it is a lovely little lighthouse, despite its alleged loneliness.
Naturally, I took loads of photographs, including some from Inver across the bay. 
PS A further post from Mark can be found here. So heartening to see a man with such a passion for his work

While on the subject of Ballyglass, I thought I would append a few names of the lightkeepers that served at the station. Some of the birth certs may be misleading due to the confusion over 'place born' and station served. The dates are 'definite sightings.' Their dates may be much longer. Broadhaven was always seen as a kind of easy station for keepers about to retire. Any omissions very gratefully received!!

Robert Redmond (1860-62) - marriage cert and birth of son Robert
John Whelan (1862 - 64) - there were of course 2 John Whelans serving as keepers at the time!
Patrick Tighe (1866) - son's birth certs
Peter Page (1866 - 1867) - children's birth certs
Patrick Keenan (1871) - Irish Lights list of keepers
Patrick Keenan (1872) - daughter's birth cert
Joseph Williams (1881 - 1882) - bird reports
Michael Duffy (1882) - bird reports
Patrick Keenan (1883 - 85) - bird reports
John A. Murray (1886-89) - bird reports
Francis James Ryan (1896) - bird reports
Robert Armstrong (1901) - Census
Patrick Corish (1908) - daughter's birth cert
William Glanville (1911) Census
Thomas King (1923 - 25) - Irish Lights record
Walter Coupe (1931) - the last keeper

National Library CIL photograph in Album no. 2. Note the natural stone colour.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ballagh Rock lighthouse


Ballagh Rocks from nearby Calf Island

Over two months since we spent a week on beautiful Arranmore Island off the coast of Donegal, its about time I wrote about the two lighthouses in that part of the world. The first of these that the visitor encounters is Ballagh Rocks, a lighthouse since 1982, though a beacon has stood on the treacherous rock since 1875.
As most people live on the sheltered eastern side of the island, and as practically every house has a sea view, the Ballagh Rocks, much more than the main Arranmore Island lighthouse, is a very familiar sight to islanders and visitors alight. It was indeed the first thing I looked for on pulling back the curtains in our own rented accommodation, although my wife, as usual, dismissed it as 'not a real lighthouse.'.

Rather like Long Island in county Cork, the construction of a beacon at that point was a long time coming about. The rocks sit in the middle of the main northern channel between Arranmore Island and the mainland and were therefore a hazard to any craft entering Burtonport or indeed Arranmore. It was recommended that a beacon should be erected there in 1867 but it was not until 1875 that the 30 metre high stone beacon was erected. It was built by a local landowner, John S. Charley, who apparently earned little affection from his hard-pressed tenants, despite the obvious advantage of this new maritime aid.

At some point, probably after the terrible 1935 Arranmore disaster, when lighted beacons were hurriedly erected between Burtonport and Arranmore, the broad black band was added. Eventually, like Long Island also, lighthouse status was conferred at a ceremony in Killiarney in 1982 and the Ballagh Rocks beacon was required to take the Lighthouse Oath and took its place amongst the lighthouses of the world. Unlike Long Island though, it was not merely a case of sticking a light on top. As it was to be a West Cardinal light, requiring propane, new equipment was needed, with new construction. During the course of the transportation of the equipment to the lighthouse in 1981, the helicopter was forced to ditch in the sound where, according to the kayak instructor, who somehow managed to get us onto nearby Calf Island, it still lies today. The pilot managed to bail out and was saved.

It must be said, I took far too many pictures of this photogenic beacon.