Sunday, March 19, 2023

Letter to Granny Part 1 - Fanad lighthouse

Fanad lighthouse c. 1903 (National Library of Ireland)

Towards the end of the 1800s, the Weekly Irish Times used to run a half page by a very suspicious individual called Kincora, or maybe its simply the name that conjures up dark connotations. Basically, it was a Children's club called The League of Kindness; kids wrote in and got a thrill in seeing their letters published. They used to sign their letters, "Your little friend" and ask things like "How do you like my handwriting?" which didn't always get the response they were expecting. 
I reproduced some letters from the Corish girls, Agnes and Josie, two years ago in regard to their letters from Eagle Island and Blacksod in 1894 and 1895.
Anyhow, seems that Kincora morphed into someone called 'Granny' in the early years of the new century who would offer hampers as prizes for the best letter of the week. Kids writing in would, rather worryingly, sign off with, Your loving Grandson (or Granddaughter, as the case may have been)
It appears that lighthouse kids were actually quite good at winning the hampers, mainly because their life experiences were different from most of their peers. I give you this prize-winning letter published on 24th January 1903: -

William John Harris Lyons (its very striking but when you're looking up birth records, most kids only have one name but lightkeepers' offspring invariably had two or even three. Maybe they had notions?) was 13 years old at the time of writing. His Dad was Principal Keeper Richard Lyons who probably arrived up in Fanad after the previous PK, Frank Maguire tragically slipped or was blown over the cliffs in 1900.
William had been born at Rock Island, Crookhaven, his father probably serving on the old Fastnet at the time. His mother was the daughter of the Chief Officer of the Coastguard at Crookhaven (William Wright)
I must admit I don't really understand the bit about the cones on the flagstaff. How do you put a cone upside down on the southern part of a flagstaff? What if the storm is coming from the west?
And I certainly wouldn't agree with his comment about the "only time Fanad is nice." Fanad is always nice.

The Coastguard station, eagerly anticipated by William Lyons in 1903 was gutted in the War of Independence in August 1920


  1. Fanad is always nice.
    Great article Pete.

  2. Different times Pete 😆 A

    1. Not so different, Andrew? "13 year old boy finds rural backwater dull"?