Thursday, July 7, 2022

Old Head of Kinsale lighthouse (2)


So there we were, sitting in Teach John Joe's in Eachleim near the foot of the Mullet peninsula, enjoying the midsummer fire and the creamy pints, when the proprietor, who we shall call John (because that's his name), an avid golfer, got a call inviting him to play a round of golf at the world-famous Old Head of Kinsale golf course. 
He was unsure what to do. His clubs were up the road at Carne, the weather forecast was not promising and it would mean getting up at silly o'clock for the five-hour drive down the N17 with its unique stone walls and green grass.
On the other hand, such an opportunity doesn't cross a golfer's path every day and in no time at all, he had left one of the locals in charge of pouring the pints and was haring up the road for his clubs.
"Tell you what you can do for me," I said, when he arrived back, and explained to him about the old lighthouse and its inaccessibility to non-golfers. I had some previous photos of the really old 1667 brazier burning lighthouse but nothing of the comparatively short-lived (1814 - 1854) tower lighthouse. John was more than agreeable, though I doubted that the torrential rain forecast would help the quality of the photographs.
But, as you can see, he came up trumps and two nights later, two elderly men were hunched over the bar trying to transfer one set of photos from one phone to the other!

The original coal-burning lighthouse continued on and off until 1st January 1804, when a temporary lantern was erected. It ran on 12 oil lamps and reflectors and showed a steady light, rather than "flash and disappear like the Light from Coals." 
Then in 1814, the Ballast Board established a stone lighthouse with a traditional tower, at a cost of £9,459 4s 9d not far from the cottage lighthouse, naturally with the oil lamps. To quote the Irish Lights website, "Its design was similar to the new lighthouse under construction at Baily, Howth Head, that is a forty two foot (12.8m) high tower with a concentric Keepers' dwelling around its base. The new lighthouse was designed by the Inspector and built by the Board's tradesmen at a cost of almost £9,500. The fixed white light was established at a height of 294 feet (89.6m) above high water on 16 May 1814. The light comprised twenty seven Argand oil lamps each with its own parabolic reflector and in clear weather it could be seen at a distance of 23 miles (37.0km). The tower and outer wall of the dwelling were whitewashed, thus making the station conspicuous during daytime."

And there she remained for less than forty years. Not only was she built too high on the headland but she was a good half a mile from the tip of the headland and visibility was a big factor in the calls for her replacement. On 1st October 1853, the current lighthouse was established and the tower of the 1814 light dismantled. 
In the writing of this post, it occurred to me that I don't actually have a drawing or a painting of the 1814 lighthouse. Surely there must be one around somewhere.
Meanwhile, John had very kindly taken some photos of the current lighthouse from his unique position on the golf course.

Historic photographs c. 1905-6 in the National Library. The stripes were originally red.


  1. Angry every time I think about the Old Head.

  2. I suppose you could pay for a round of golf and go snooping? Such a pity it's inaccessible