Monday, September 25, 2023

Little Samphire Island


They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky

Okay, well I'm not as lucky as Bob and I've had my fair share of rainy day holidays in the past but sometimes the gods nod my way.
Five nights near Banna Strand in September. I knew Little Samphire lighthouse wasn't far away but I'd already seen it from Great Samphire seven years ago, so I'd only really be repeating myself. I made a few enquiries about old photographs or artefacts that might be still in the area and then Mary Browne - who had helped me greatly while I was writing the book - asked "We have a tour on Saturday at 2pm, if you're interested?" Hmm, let me see, I'll check my social calendar...

A nasty little rock in between Great and Little Samphire called the Wheel Rock. The light on it came down in the winter gales of 1946, 1965 and 1967 to name but three!

Mary and Alan Browne run (0852553331 / 0863048650) from Fenit marina. They do Eco-Scenic Tours, Sunrise and Sunset Tours, Sea Angling, Harbour Tours and, of course, lighthouse tours. Due to regulations, a member of Kerry County Council needs to accompany all landings on Little Samphire. John also acts as tour guide to the lighthouse and knows his stuff. They actually run all year round. I think you need four people to guarantee a tour but I was able to piggy-back on another group's tour, so happy days.

You arrive at the small stone pier and use the rusty handrail (which is about one yard short at the top!) to get to ground level. It is evident that Little Samphire, which was first established in 1854 to warn traffic entering Tralee Harbour from Tralee Bay of the nasty rocks around, needs a little TLC. Paint is peeling and wood is splintering, but, outside at least, both the tower and the keeper's two-storey dwelling house are intact. John said the Council are trying to secure funding to stop it deteriorating further.

The lighthouse was automated in 1956 and converted to electricity in 1976. In 2011, Irish Lights handed it over to the Tralee and Fenit Harbour Commissioners who, like a hot potato, quickly offloaded it to Kerry County Council.
Tommy O'Connor, writing in The Kerry Magazine 26, provided a very detailed list of the occupants of the lighthouse from 1854 onwards. And I leave you with a small portion of the thousands of photos I took on the trip.

(I also have a Michael O'Donnell on the station in 1882, the same year that James Williams was there. Perhaps the latter replaced the former. I can also place Robert Phelan there in 1886 and 1887; George Donleavy there from 1894 to 1896; Matthew Healy there 1897 to 1899; and Charles Meehan definitely there in 1900)

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