Friday, November 18, 2022

Blackhead lighthouse, county Antrim


As part of the ALK'S AGM weekend in Belfast in October, we got the opportunity to visit Black Head lighthouse in county Antrim and access the lantern and balcony, courtesy of the good people in CIL.
Black Head marks the northern entrance to Belfast Lough. Because of this important location, it is surprising that it was only established in 1902, although a short-lived cottage-style light was built on top of the hill above it in the 1660s. The reason for this is probably the presence of the two Maidens lights several miles north east, which were probably deemed adequate enough to signify where a ship was in relation to Belfast. It is obviously not a coincidence that when one of the Maidens was discontinued, Black Head was established.

The lighthouse is accessed by way of a narrow 'high' road from the town of Whitehead (I kid you not) or by way of a path along the bottom of the cliffs from the same place. The path is great fun and probably better in rough weather, due to the little bridges and caves that adorn its route. I walked it with Joanna Doyle and 'Auntie' Lorna Grimes, of the same lightkeeping stock of Loughreys and Ryans that had lived here when it was a working, manned lighthouse prior to 1975.

One of the advantages of visiting with the ALK is that you get access to a lot of places normally out of bounds. Thus, I was shown a small dwelling house out the back, in which were plans of the lighthouse: -

William Douglass' signature can be seen bottom right

And there was also a list of names of keepers at this station since its inception in 1902, probably drawn up by the irrepressible Frank Pelly:-

The Principal Keepers

and the Assistant keepers and attendants. It's amazing how many of the old dynastic lightkeeping names keep turning up, Higginbotham, Lavelle, Corish, Luccan, Ryan, Loughrey, Staniforth, O'Donnell, Moore, Maguire, Stocker, Polly - the list is endless.

Being a shore lighthouse and relatively new, it probably doesn't have the history associated with some of its more illustrious compatriots but the location is incredible. I did write about Johnny Connell's experiences here in the 1950s, but in the meantime, I'll shut up and leave you with a few views !

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