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Displaying items by tag: Ballycotton Island

A few weeks ago I rounded Ballycotton Island on the East Cork coastline, sailing beneath the iconic, dramatic black lighthouse which towers 195 feet above sea level. It was erected in 1851, the construction led by the renowned engineer George Halpin who, as Inspector of Lighthouses, established 53 of them and modernised another 15.

As the wind died away our Sigma 33, SCRIBBLER, needed the reaching spinnaker hoisted to get across Ballycotton Bay to the finish line off the small harbour’s pier wall. It was the re-establishment of the annual race from the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven to Ballycotton.

That distance is about a nautical mile and, relaxing afterwards over refreshment in the village, I heard the tales of how Lightkeepers on the island, in the days before modern communications, kept in touch with their wives living ashore…. by semaphore, the signalling system invented by Frenchman, Claude Chape, in 1792 as a “visual telegraph,” using crossbars with pivoting arms on top of towers. Napoleon used it to communicate strategy to his armies. The British Royal Navy developed naval flag semaphore which they used to defeat the French at the Battle of Trafalgar.

But it is unlikely that either Chape, Napoleon or the British, envisaged semaphore helping a Lightkeeper to elope with another Lightkeeper’s daughter…This story I narrated, subsequent to the race, on a documentary about Ballycotton Lighthouse and its Keepers produced by Community Radio Youghal Programme Director, Justin Maher, in which Ballycotton Historian, Derry Keogh, a guide with the community project, Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours, revealed another use for semaphore:

Listen to the PODCAST below.

• Tom MacSweeney presents THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme

Published in Tom MacSweeney

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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