Friday, August 4, 2023

Oyster Island Lighthouse - when it was two

L'Île d'huile, I suppose they might call it in France. I don't really need an excuse to post a picture of Oyster Island. The white wall makes it look like its standing in a saucer.

A couple of newspaper reports from the relatively early years of the lighthouses on Oyster Island. Yes, once upon a time there were two lights, which formed leading lights to guide ships up the channel between Oyster Island and Rosses Point on the approach to Sligo. Established in 1837, they were knocked when the channel moved in the 1890s, to be replaced by the lighthouse above. 

Griffiths Valuation map showing the positions of the North and South lights on Oyster Island, as well as the unlit Metal Man

I'm having little success in finding Mr. Kelly's first name. A Richard Kelly had been AK on Inis Mor (Aran Islands) in 1921. Could have been him, I suppose. A James Kelly was on Tory and Poolbeg in the 1830s. John Kelly was on the Skelligs for many years from 1838 to at least 1856 so it couldn't have been him. Another John Kelly who got married in 1867 records his father, William, as being (or having had been) a lightkeeper.
At least I have a little more success in pinpointing our next keeper.

John Arthur Murray had been born in Atticonaun (various spellings) a couple of miles east of Belmullet in 1843, give or take. Son of a farmer, Felix Murray, he somehow managed to get into the lighthouse service in 1861. His gun accident doesn't seem to have hampered him greatly for he married Kate Ward the following year while still stationed at Oyster Island. Their first child Bridget was born there at the end of 1869 after which they transferred to Eagle Island, Rathlin Island and Rathlin O'Beirne Island. Quite the islander.
After travelling the country, John retired back to Atticonaun, where the two censuses list him as a farmer. His death certificate in 1930 lists him as an 89-year-old ex-light keeper.

Rare photograph from Robert French in the National Library showing the two lighthouses on Oyster Island

Some lightkeepers stationed on Oyster Island when there were two lights include (dates show when we know they were on the island. They could have been there longer):

Kelly (1850)
Peter Corish (1857-61)
Charles Page (1862 -65)
Charles Dillon (1863)
Henry Stocker (1866 - 69)
John Murray (1867-69)
William George Kennedy (1869-71)
John Walshe (1871)
John Kennedy (1876-80)
John Young (1881-83)
William Corish (1883-85)
Edward Rohu (1883)
Joseph Hill (1883)
Thomas Sweeney (1884)
James Friel (1890)
John Connell (1890)
Hugh Cunningham (1890)

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