Sunday, July 2, 2023

In advance of the bi-centenary of Haulbowline lighthouse

Carlingford Lough aka Haulbowline lighthouse. I believe the Paddle Steamer is the Waverley

This post first appeared in the wonderful Afloat magazine last year regarding the approaching bi-centenary of the Carlingford Lough lighthouse next year. It was written by fellow ALK member, sea swimmer and goatherd (the "fellow" bit only applies to the ALK) Lee Maginnis, whom I met in Belfast last year, and I am delighted to reproduce it here as he is also a much better writer than what I am.

Lee Maginnis notes the 200th anniversary of the great granite Haulbowline Lighthouse on the County Louth coast will be in 2024

Haulbowline Lighthouse, that feat of granite engineering sitting on a wave-washed rock in the mouth of Carlingford Lough. Northern Ireland on one side, the Republic of Ireland on the other. Not that the nesting Cormorants on the window ledges know or care.
There was another lighthouse on Cranfield Point; it became a victim of the erosion going on a lot longer than many care to admit. But the old light had already been replaced by the time it fell into the sea.

It had been in the wrong place. Invisible to ships in the West and not marking the dangerous rocks at the mouth of the lough. George Haplin designed and built Haulbowline in 1824.
That makes the remarkable Haulbowline nearly 200 years old. Remarkable. Sitting out there on a rock that can rarely be seen. Battered by the waves. Strong currents racing past the base.
The tower was white until 1946. Now it is back to its natural stone.

Many other features have long gone. It seems a pity to many that they were not retained. The metal ball hoisted and lowered to indicate the tide level. The half-tide lantern displayed on the seaward side, halfway up. The red turning light. Explosive fog signals...
On 17 March 1965, Haulbowline had the dubious honour of becoming the first Irish major offshore light to be fully automated and remotely monitored and controlled from shore. The dataphonic system installed sent pre-recorded voice messages ashore by telephone about the status of the light and equipment. This was the beginning of the end of the lighthouse keeper.
The fog signal sounded, and the light flashed if visibility was poor, day or night, back then.
The light still flashes three times every ten seconds. Still from a height of 32 metres in a tower 34 metres tall. But it is an LED now, range down to 10 nautical miles.
The fog signal is gone. It is missed by many.
Generators are no longer heard humming; now, a solar panel charges the batteries that provide power during the night.
Thankfully Haulbowline is still there and is listed. It is active. A monument to the past, but still capable of stirring up a strong sense of adventure and mystery today as it guides ships and guards the mouth of Carlingford Lough.

1 comment:

  1. My father must have been one of the last few men working on it