Friday, May 5, 2023

The Lighthouse Keepers of Old

Edward McCarron, author of 'Life in Donegal' was a keeper at Dundalk, Arranmore, Inishtrahull, Tearaght, and others from the 1870s

I came across this poem by somebody called A.M.C.(a strange name with very few letters in it?) in the Cork Examiner of 5th November 1892. Imaginatively called 'The Lighthouse Keepers,' its message is basically to appreciate the lightkeeper while he is around, for there would be carnage if he ever stopped lighting his lamps.

Francis James Ryan and Mary nee Redmond,  married in 1867, and then circumnavigated the country.

Far away on a rocky coast where great waves dash and roar,
And vessels passing to and fro keep off the dreaded shore:
The lighthouse stands, silent and cold, in solemn loneliness:
Towering far above the sea, and the ocean's wild caress.

William Landers, a devout Methodist, served at Clare Island and Inishgort for many years in the mid-1800s

Ever and ever the breakers crash; ever the seabirds fly,
Mingling the noise of the angry waves with their weird and piercing cry;
Ever the billows rush and leap, covered with creative foam,
Running their maddening ceaseless race 'neath the lighthouse keeper's home.

William Glanville, who served at Slyne Head, Eagle Island and many more from the 1880s had at least sixteen children

When the storm-fiend comes with desperate rage and destruction in his train;
And the hurricane blows with awful force 'mid the furious driving rain;
The lighthouse warns the tossing ships of the dangers looming near
And guides them to a spot beyond - the harbour of refuge is there.

Rickard (not Richard!) Hamilton served at many stations from 1865 to 1905 and spawned a dynasty of keepers

When in the darkness of the night, the mariner sees the light
From the lighthouse shining steadily, gleaming serenely bright,
He keeps away from the rocky coast and silently sailing by,
He thinks of the lonely lighthouse-men in their hermitage so high.

Lightkeeper, probably Joseph Corish, surveying the damage caused by the December 1894 storm at Eagle Island

Fathers and mothers with anxious hearts, when you pray for your sons at sea,
Do you ever think of the lighthouse-men - how they watch unweariedly?
Do you ever thin, were it not for them, many lives would soon be lost,
And your boy - yes, your bonny sailor boy - on the treach'rous rocks be tossed.

The brilliantly-named Watson Pepper Armstrong was a keeper at Beeves Rock, Roches Point and Clare Island in the 1860s and 1870s

So when you pray for your sons at sea, you must not fail to bless
The lighthouse-keepers who watch and guide 'mid the wild sea's loneliness.
Think what your own sad plight would be, if the Lighthouse-Keeper of old
Were to watch no more and to quench his light in the ages yet untold.

Thomas Francis Fortune and daughters. Thomas was the PK when the Calf Rock came crashing down in 1881(Copyright estate of Eileen Kates, used by permission.)


  1. Lovely one Pete

  2. Thanks , just see a photo I never came across before. Joseph Corish, my Great Gradmoters ,brother.