It isn't really a place that you would pass by accident. Coming from Belmullet, you go through the village of Corclough West and continue until you hit the coast. The road to your right leads to Dún na mBó (where there is a blowhole) and the Eagle Island viewing point. The road to the left passes Scotchport and curls back around to Termoncarragh Bird Reserve and graveyard, which, if either was your destination, would have been more easily accessible from Corclough West.
The plaque continues
Martin Donoghue Pete Williams
Anthony Gallagher Patsy Kilker
John Gallagher Tom Keane
Martin Gallagher John Keane
Anthony Gallager Johnny McAndrew
Mickey Dixon Martin McAndrew
Jamesey Dixon John McAndrew
John Dixon Paddy Tom Carey
Anthony Dixon John Reilly
Martin Rua Dixon Pake McIntyre
Anthony Rua Dixon Mike Gaughan
Seamus Mor Shevlin Anthony Gallagher
The original boat contractor for Eagle Island lighthouses was Martin Donoghue of Termoncarragh. (The two lights on Eagle Island, incidentally, were established in 1835 and Scotchport appears to have been selected as the point of embarkation for the relief boat since that date)
The contract required trips to the rock every two weeks, weather permitting, plus a trip on the next suitable day. The boat often went out when conditions were unsuitable and occasionally was unable to re-enter Scotchport.
The Irish Light’s boat contractor’s responsibility included bringing lighthouse keepers’ food and materials from Belmullet to Scotchport and bringing those items by boat to Eagle Island West Lighthouse.
Eventually, men and materials were lifted onto the island by means of a hoist using a boatswain’s chair to lift people, and nets for materials, which made the operation easier and much safer.
Calm day at Scotchport
When Martin Donoghue got killed in an accident involving a horse and cart at the crossroads in Corclough West, the Commissioners of the Irish Lights continued the contract with Martin’s grandson Anthony Gallagher of Corclough West – although Anthony was only fourteen years of age at the time. Anthony was required to travel to CIL head office to sign the contract. (This would have been around the 1860s)
Anthony Gallagher remained the boat contractor until his son John Gallagher took over upon Anthony’s death in 1926. Anthony had been a lynchpin in many of the major events in the life of the lighthouse including landing on the rock two days after the storm of December 1894 when Eagle Island East was destroyed and later abandoned. This was the catalyst for the keepers' families being evacuated to the mainland and later housed in Corclough West. The last boat built for Anthony Gallagher was the 'Rose of Scotchport’.
The Rose at Scotchport c.1915 (courtesy Eamon McAndrew)
John Gallagher had the ‘Queen of Scotchport’ built in the late 1920s for the relief contract. The ‘Queen’ was destroyed on rocks in rough seas at Bun na Sconsa, west of Gladree, (the rocks visible to the North of the Mayo County Council car park) when it broke free from her moorings. Fortunately, there was no loss of life. If seas were too rough to re-enter Scotchport, the boat would head North to Och Lathaigh, Aughadoon to make land.
The Queen of Scotchport arriving at the island in 1932 (courtesy Eamon McAndrew)
As a result of the destruction of the 'Queen’, John had the ‘Saint Mary’ built by Mr. Patten of Saula, Achill Island in 1936. The cost of the boat was £300. Some of the timber used in the construction of these boat would have come ashore, which has probably led to the boat’s longevity. The design of the boat is based on the traditional Achill yawl. The boat was originally designed to be rowed by means of oars by four men. Two others completed a six-man crew.
The St. Mary at Eagle Island in the late 1930s (courtesy Eamon McAndrew)
John Gallagher died suddenly in 1951, (his death certificate gives his occupation as 'boatman' ) following which his widow – Mrs. Nora Gallagher became the boat contractor until the helicopter service commenced in 1969. John and Nora’s son Anthony remained involved in the operation of the boat, while their son John Patrick joined the lighthouse service. In the 1950s a seagull outboard engine replaced the oars.
The St. Mary in the late fifties (courtesy Eamon McAndrew)
Occasionally the ‘Rose’ was brought back into operation when the ’Saint Mary’ was being repaired, until the ‘Rose’ was left permanently in the store.
Shortly after the boat relief was replaced by the helicopter service, the 'Saint Mary' ceased to be used and was stored in the Irish light’s store in Scotchport. In 2009, it was returned to the Patten family of Achill for renovation and is now occasionally used for deep sea angling - but only in fine weather.
The St. Mary at Scotchport in the late sixties, just prior to the helicopter service being introduced (courtesy Eamon McAndrew)
The second thing that I find amazing is that an outboard engine was only introduced as late as the 1950s. Prior to that, the six man crew used to have to negotiate the heavy swells by oar-power alone. It just leaves me in awe of these incredible men, well-deserving of the plaque on the stony beach.
The Rose after refit at Achill (courtesy Sean Walker)