Sunday, April 16, 2023

David Hare's The Great Lighthouses of Ireland (the book)

The Great Lighthouses of Ireland published by Gill Books

(As a preface to this review of David Hare's book, I believe two points should be made.
Firstly, I am not a professional reviewer. Reviewing other people's work, that has taken months and years of their time, does not sit easy with me. Especially as it takes a mere hour of my life tapping away on a keyboard drinking coffee. I am not really qualified to write a review but seeing as this blog is about lighthouses and this book is a major addition to the library, I feel I should contribute a post about it.
Secondly, if a touch of malice is detected in the review, this is probably down to sheer jealousy. David Hare approached Irish Lights in 2013 and got access all areas to light stations and archives. I approached them in 2020 and again in 2022 and got a firm 'no.' And there appears to be little to suggest this will change any time soon.)

One of the many stunning and unusual photographs from David's book - the dwelling houses on Tearaght

The Great Lighthouses of Ireland is the third and probably the most commercially successful of the Irish lighthouse related books published towards the end of 2022. Like Chris Nicholson's Rock Lighthouses of Britain and Ireland and Dennis Horgan's Ireland's Guiding Lights, it is a chunky, good-looking book, well-presented and packed to the brim with incredible photographs. It is basically the book of the two television series that we all were glued to last year and a couple of years ago. It is a great read and encompasses many different facets of pharology, from the science of the lenses to the architecture of the towers and dwelling houses, from lightships to lightkeepers, detailing the history of many of our great lighthouses. While one might argue that it is difficult to take a bad photograph of a lighthouse in a stunning location, the application of light, exposure and a steady hand makes these photographs truly wonderful and, with the access given to David, the historical photographs add another dimension to the tales.

Plans for the Bull Rock dwelling houses. I had never seen these before. (Note William Douglass's signature bottom right) There is also  a painting with a good depiction of the Upper, disused Skellig Light before it was circumcised and many more pictures that are new to me.

One of the great skills of the book is that it can be read by anyone who has an interest in lighthouses and even by people who don't. It brings many unseen, unheard of lighthouses to the attention of the general public, which can't be a bad thing and it is written in an informative and interesting style that doesn't alienate those of us who wouldn't know a diaphone fog signal if it fell out of a tree and killed a sheep in front of us. And photographs, of which there are many, are very good.
I am a little confused by the title of the book (and the television series.) Is there a link to "The Great Lighthouses of Ireland" tourist initiative, which has earmarked various Irish Lights properties that have tourism potential? If there is a link, I would imagine that the likes of Clare Island, Black Head and St. John's Point Donegal would be fierce miffed that they don't appear in the book, whereas Poolbeg, Kish and the Old Head of Kinsale  - who aren't a part of the initiative - do.
If there is no link, fair enough. The author has therefore selected sixteen or seventeen of the most interesting lighthouses and focussed on them - a subjective judgement, which I can go along with, though not necessarily agree with his choices! But who am I?? It would be churlish of me not to admit that many of the unfeatured lighthouses do indeed crop up in the various chapters about keepers duties, accidents and wrecks and so on.
All in all, it is a great book and I have no problem recommending it. Shop around online as prices vary.

Another fantastic photograph of ILV Granuaile with the East and West Maidens lighthouses, against a backdrop of Kintyre or Jura

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Pete, some great images there which always helps. A