Saturday, October 28, 2023

The case of the invisible lighthouse

(Lee Maginnis, lighthouse enthusiast (providing they are built of certain materials and are of a certain size)  from county Down, sea-swimmer, athlete, journalist and goatherd, writes this post on one of the Irish lighthouses that never gets a look in - Ardglass)

It all began with an advert asking for volunteers to work at Spurn Lighthouse.  I thought immediately of the Goulding family in Ireland.  Mrs. Goulding might fancy a break.  Spurn being in Yorkshire, she could send her lighthouse historian husband Peter away for his treat, while enjoying a fortnight's respite at home herself.
Peter, in turn, after the suggestion, had an idea of his own.  I should take over care of Ardglass Lighthouse as it was in need of attention.
Now Peter knows very well that I am a fan of big lighthouses that are made of granite.  I googled the lighthouse and was rewarded with a fantastic view taken from a helicopter, or more likely, a drone.  It looked white, and big, painted stone?  With the benefit of hindsight, I realise there was no sense of scale in the photo.
I had a nagging doubt in the back of my head.  I had been mackerel fishing at Ardglass a number of years ago.  How come I had never seen any lighthouse?
Maybe it was round the coast a bit from the harbour.  Ardglass being a village synonymous with the fishing industry.
Anyway, rained off at work, my chance came and I headed off with my pal Cane.  Arriving in Ardglass in the afternoon, I was a little puzzled.  Number one, there seemed to be two harbours.  Number two, I could see no sign of any lighthouse, although there were many other old buildings to keep me well occupied.

Probably the oldest clubhouse in the world.  Ardglass Golf Club claims the clubhouse was founded in 1405!!  Maybe the clubhouse was founded and the golf followed a few hundred years later?

I stopped at a local business and found a man behind his kiosk who looked like he has just stepped off a pirate ship!  Heavily bearded and with long hair, he bemoaned how Ardglass was lagging behind Newcastle as a tourist destination.  I asked him where the lighthouse was and he very obligingly pointed down the coast and said that I barely had to leave the village before I would see it on the right hand side.
He would have been more helpful if he had told me the lighthouse was visible from behind his establishment and that I didn't have to leave the village at all...  maybe he was not so keen on tourists after all.
After a quick and fruitless search up the coast, I asked another local, she more accurately pointed to the marina (apparently one harbour was a marina, I am not sure what the difference was supposed to be).  She also rather cheekily remarked that she had no idea how I missed it.
When I round it, I could easily see how I missed it.  It was not that big after all.  It was not granite either.  It was dwarfed by surrounding buildings, blocked from view by a couple of parked lorries and also partially obscured by the adjoining building, surely not a dwelling house, but maybe so as there was not enough room to swing a cat in the actual tower.  Judging from the rust, the only thing Peter had been accurate about was the fact it could do with some attention.  The glass in the lamp room had also been broken and looked like perspex had been stuck across it as a repair job.

Cane inspects the view and enjoys the smell of fish.

The lighthouse.  With terribly positioned CCTV cameras.

The light would need to be a lot more visible from sea, than it is from land!  It is perched at the end of a harbour wall.

One of Peter's friends arrives and enquires why he never appeared on the Copeland Islands in August.

Cane takes shelter from the rain, in a little tower surrounded by the sea, only to find there was no roof.

Another example of the incredible architecture on display in Ardglass.  I have no idea what it is, possibly a private dwelling!

Many thanks to Peter for a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours in a pretty amazing maritime village.  I must apologise for having a brief suspicion that he had sent me on a wild goose chase.  Or actually, regarding granite stone lighthouses, he really did!


  1. Brilliant piece, Lee. Could Cane (9?) do a follow up please?

  2. Great story Lee. Keep up the good work 🐓 Ian