Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The short career of lightkeeper Edward Doran


The East Twin light 1946. The house was built in 1925, shortly after the events in this post. The original light was a large triangle.

Many lighthouse enthusiasts will be familiar with the IRA raids on Irish lighthouses in the late 1910s / early 1920s. Remote and difficult to protect, light stations such as Mine Head, Roancarrig, Hook and even the Fastnet, were raided by Republicans. They were mainly interested in the gun cotton which was used to fire the fog cannons but they wouldn't turn up their noses to personal hand guns and rifles, binoculars, telescopes etc. Such was the regularity of these raids, that the lighthouses had to withdraw their fog signalling service until normality was resumed.
One armed, sectarian raid on a lighthouse, though, did not fit into the above template.
Redmond 'Edward' Doran was a Catholic and keeper of the two East Twin lighthouses in Belfast Harbour.  In one of the houses, he resided and the other it was his duty to maintain. Although boats sailed past the two lights constantly, it was a remote and lonely spot, accessed by a long walk up a narrow lane. He had a wife and two young children.
And then one day, he received a visit from four armed men. Basically, they gave him twelve hours to leave his home and his job or else they would shoot him. Doran may have been a Catholic but he was evidently the wrong sort of Catholic. He had served in the British Army during the Great War and "always floated the United Jack from the lighthouse on festive occasions in connection with the Empire," according to an RUC report.
He made a statement about what happened next .

"I rang up the Harbour Master’s Office, then I proceeded to the Harbour Office myself. I stopped in the office until 6.30pm, then I returned with the Police in the Motor Boat to the Light House. At that time the police stopped with me until I got my Blankets. They also escorted me and my wife and my two children to the Old Pilot Boat where I had to take refuge for the night. The youngest child was only two months old at the time.

'The following day I proceeded to the lighthouse after working hours. I gathered all the wearing apparel possible to get. I had to take them to the Harbour in a rowing boat. I had to take them to Lurgan at my own expense.

'The remainder of my furniture was left in the Lighthouse.

'Three months afterwards I returned for my furniture. I was escorted by the Harbour Police with a Motor Lorry. When we got there, my furniture was Partly in a disused Military Hut and part of it in the Lighthouse, occupying my position.

'Afterwards I corresponded with the Harbour Master. He communicated with me and he let me know that my position would be kept safe until the Disturbance would pass over.

'Owing to the disturbed state of the city, it was impossible for me to return to my employment at the time. So when the Disturbance passed, I applied for my position and I was told that there was a man in it. Permanent."

A Harbour Board memorandum however claims that his loss of a job wasn't all down to a breach of faith by them: -

And an RUC report says that he was offered a lighthouse position but he refused it.

The permanent lightkeeper appointed on 16th February 1922 was, in all probability, Samuel McKibbin, who, with his wife Ellen, lived at the lighthouse for the next forty years until it was dispensed with in the 1960s. Sam and Ellen are the couple in front of the house in the picture at the top of the page.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what became of poor Edward Doran. Hopefully, the Harbour Board found some suitable position for him and his family didn't starve.

Stop Press!!! I received an email from one Martin Doran at the end of May 2023 to inform me that the family didn't starve. Furthermore, after the trials and tribulations, Edward, his grandfather - or 'Pops' as he was known - went on to live a long and fulfilled life in Lurgan. Good man, Edward!

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