Saturday, November 11, 2023

A poem by William Redmond (aged 190)

Haulbowline light, Carlingfored Lough c.1906

I came across the following poem in an old Beam magazine and, of course, I had to follow it through to its logical conclusion. 

Okay, just to get the housekeeping out of the way, a 'penion' is a large marine whelk. It is unlikely that the keeper is envying the birds their large marine whelks, so it is probably a typo for pinion -  a wing or feather.
Jestic on the other hand has me stumped. It may be another word for 'majesty' - majestic, jestic - but then, for all I know, it could be a slang, lightkeeper term for ringworm powder and the barque is bring a supply of this over the bar.
So, who was William Redmond and did he ever serve at Haulbowline?
Well, William was the son of Hugh Redmond, who became a keeper as far back as 1818. Hugh served on the Skelligs and lost a son over the cliffs there. In 1839, he was serving on the South Maidens when his daughter, Mary Anne eloped with the son of a keeper on the North Maidens.
Hugh had two sons who became lightkeepers. One was William, the poet. He was born in Wicklow in 1834 and joined the Ballast Board in 1852. He served at Howth Pier lighthouse for many years until, sure enough, in 1870, his wife Ellen (nee Cheastey) gave birth to a baby girl, Mary Josephine, at Cranfield, co. Down, when her husband was serving at Haulbowline. The following year he was transferred up the coast to St John's Point, county Down. He may have served at Youghal for a time too, for his daughter Ellen was living there when she married in 1890. 
On the 1901 and 1911 censuses, William is retired in Dungarvan and living with Mary from Kilkeel. He died in 1921 aged 86 years.
To affirm the assertion that William Redmond was F.J. Ryan's great-grandfather's brother, Hugh's other son, Henry (William's brother), was the first keeper at Little Samphire Island, off Fenit, in county Kerry, when it was built in 1854. His daughter, Mary Redmond, married Francis J. Ryan.

Francis J. Ryan and Mary Redmond, very possibly on their wedding day (or maybe it was simply normal gardening attire)

Francis and Mary had three sons who became lightkeepers - Tom, Henry and F.J. Two of their daughters, Lizzie and Polly, were with Tom on Eagle Island in December 1894 (when the East Tower and dwellings got absolutely battered) and were the authors of the famous letters to their father about that event. Polly married Neil Loughrey and another dynasty was started.
The third son, FJ, also had two sons who became keepers, one of whom, I am assuming, was the Francis J. Ryan who wrote the letter to Beam. As far as I am aware, their interest in the jestic trade did not go further than great-uncle William.


  1. This is great stuff (as usual) Pete.

  2. This is great stuff (as usual) from Pete.