#[email protected] - One of Ireland’s most famous and unique lighthouses, the Kish Bank Lighthouse off Dublin Bay, celebrates its 50th anniversary today having been commissioned into service on 9th November 1965, writes Jehan Ashmore.
At 31m high, the lighthouse which is an iconic symbol on the Dublin Bay horizon replaced a lightship understood to have been the Gannet. On that same day five decades ago the lightship was withdrawn and the first flashes were exhibited by the new lighthouse.
A light to ward off seafarers from the dangerous sands of the Kish Bank can be first traced back to more than 200 years ago. This earliest light was exhibited on 16 November 1811 which involved several small vessels of just over 100 tonnes each to share duties. Crews were tasked in using a floating light.
For the last half-century, the Kish Lighthouse located some 7 nautical miles offshore of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, from where the structure was built, has continued to provide the role as an important aids to navigation to seafarers.
In addition the Kish Lighthouse, albeit of Swedish design represents a significant moment in Ireland’s marine engineering heritage given the majority of the work was carried out by an Irish labour force.
The design origins of the Kish Lighthouse began in the early 1960’s as the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) considered using a platform similar to those used as oil rigs for lighthouses purposes. Stemming from this nine engineering firms were asked to submit design tenders for such a lighthouse. The Swedish firm of Messrs Christiani & Nielsen Ltd was selected.
Their design was not for a steel platform like an oil rig but a concrete structure designed to last for at least 75 years and based on the lines of similar yet smaller models from Sweden. The reason for a larger version for the Kish Bank was so to cope with the rougher sea conditions of the Irish Sea.
Construction took place near St. Michaels Wharf (site of the former Stena HSS ferry terminal). Built of reinforced concrete in the form of a circular caisson, from within a concentric design included from a tower that together was floated out by tugs from Dun Laoghaire Harbour on 29 June 1965 (see footage above).
The lighthouse structure was sunk onto the Kish Bank from where a level platform of stones had previously been prepared by divers and buoyed by the Commissioners of Irish Lights tenders. The operation to raise the tower which was telescoped to its fullest extended height took almost a month to complete on 27 July.
For just over a quarter century, the white tower with its distinctive red band and topped off with a helicopter pad, was manned with a crew of three. The tower is a self-contained unit of 12 floors for keepers' quarters, storage, a generator, radio equipment and of course the lantern.
Crew were transferred in rough weather to the lighthouse by winching in a cradle pod from the lighthouse tender ship. Such practices were discontinued as the lighthouse notably was automated in 1992, ending another chapter in the history of Irish lighthouse-keepers.
Over the years the character of the light has varied. Currently the character is: Fl (2) 20s. 24 hour light which gives a range of 22 nautical miles. The actual height of the light at MHWS is of 29 metres.
Occasionally, the CIL’s aids to navigation tender, ILV Granuaile can be seen departing her homeport of Dun Laoghaire Harbour to carry out maintenance duties on the Kish Lighthouse.