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Irish Lighthouse Guardians - Fading Fortunes As They Face the End of An Era

20th July 2020
Lighthouse Technicians Malcom Gillies and Gay Mulvey at the Baily Lighthouse on Howth (Peninsula), Co Dublin. Lighthouse Technicians Malcom Gillies and Gay Mulvey at the Baily Lighthouse on Howth (Peninsula), Co Dublin. Photo: Independent.ie-facebook

Numbering a handful of men that still tend Ireland's lighthouses, but a move, writes Independent.ie, to renewable energy is bringing their unique way of life to an close.

'I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse," George Bernard Shaw once said. "They were built only to serve."

Even after the leap in navigational technology represented by GPS, they maintain that historical function: shining a light for miles around, warning sailors and ships of dangers lurking beneath the surface.

The way they are powered is changing, though, and with it the work of the people who tend them.

The tradition of constantly manned lighthouses ended on March 24, 1997, but the lightkeepers' cottages are still inhabited for weeks at a time by maintenance staff who service the lights' diesel-powered motors.

Today, Irish Lights workers travel to sites including Fastnet Rock off Co Cork, Tuskar Rock off Co Wexford, Inishtrahull Island off Co Donegal, Slyne Head off Clifden in Co Galway and Kish Tower in Dublin Bay.

By 2025, however, all lighthouses, beacons and buoys dotted around the coast and in Irish waters will be powered by renewables. The amount of work for technicians who stay at remote lighthouses will fall.

To read more here including from Yvonne Shields O'Connor, chief executive of Irish Lights which is withdrawing from lighthouses' accommodation quarters.

Published in Lighthouses
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Irish Lighthouses

Irish Lights is a maritime organisation delivering essential 24/7 safety and navigation services around the coast of Ireland 365 days. Its focus is reliable and cost-effective services which protect people, property and the marine environment, and support marine industry and coastal communities.

Irish Lights is responsible for providing marine aids to navigation under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. This remit includes: providing and maintaining over 300 general aids to navigation, managing about 4,000 local aids to navigation and marking or removing dangerous wrecks outside harbour areas around Ireland. Irish Lights also provides contract commercial services for ship charter, buoy and marine data services and supports tourism and heritage activities.

Emergency Response: If you notice any aid to navigation is not functioning correctly please contact our 24-hour emergency number 01 280 1996

Great Lighthouses of Ireland

St John's Point, Co Donegal 
Fanad Head, Co Donegal
Rathlin West Light, Co Antrim
Blackhead, Co Antrim
St John’s Point, Co Down
Wicklow Head, Co Wicklow
The Great Light and Titanic Walkway, Belfast
Hook, Co Wexford
Ballycotton, Co Cork
Galley Head, Co Cork
Valentia Island, Co Kerry
Loop Head, Co Clare
Clare Island, Co Mayo
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