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Bicentenary of Carlingford's Haulbowline Lighthouse Approaches

5th January 2022
The almost 200-year-old Haulbowline lighthouse guarding the mouth of Carlingford Lough
The almost 200-year-old Haulbowline lighthouse guarding the mouth of Carlingford Lough Credit: Lee Maginnis

Lee Maginnis notes the 200th anniversary of the great granite Haulbowline Lighthouse on the County Louth coast will be in 2024

Haulbowline Lighthouse, that feat of granite engineering sitting on a wave-washed rock in the mouth of Carlingford Lough. Northern Ireland on one side, the Republic of Ireland on the other. Not that the nesting Cormorants on the window ledges know or care.

There was another lighthouse on Cranfield Point; it became a victim of the erosion going on a lot longer than many care to admit. But the old light had already been replaced by the time it fell into the sea.

It had been in the wrong place. Invisible to ships in the West and not marking the dangerous rocks at the mouth of the lough. George Haplin designed and built Haulbowline in 1824.

That makes the remarkable Haulbowline nearly 200 years old. Remarkable. Sitting out there on a rock that can rarely be seen. Battered by the waves. Strong currents racing past the base.

The tower was white until 1946. Now it is back to its natural stone.

Many other features have long gone. It seems a pity to many that they were not retained. The metal ball hoisted and lowered to indicate the tide level. The half-tide lantern displayed on the seaward side, halfway up. The red turning light. Explosive fog signals...

On 17 March 1965, Haulbowline had the dubious honour of becoming the first Irish major offshore light to be fully automated and remotely monitored and controlled from shore. The dataphonic system installed sent pre-recorded voice messages ashore by telephone about the status of the light and equipment. This was the beginning of the end of the lighthouse keeper.

Haulbowline in the past. Photographer unknownHaulbowline in the past. Photographer unknown

The fog signal sounded, and the light flashed if visibility was poor, day or night, back then.

The light still flashes three times every ten seconds. Still from a height of 32 metres in a tower 34 metres tall. But it is an LED now, range down to 10 nautical miles.

The fog signal is gone. It is missed by many.

Generators are no longer heard humming; now, a solar panel charges the batteries that provide power during the night.

Thankfully Haulbowline is still there and is listed. It is active. A monument to the past, but still capable of stirring up a strong sense of adventure and mystery today as it guides ships and guards the mouth of Carlingford Lough.

Kiwi Lee Maginnis lives in the countryside of Northern Ireland likes the outdoors, wildlife and sport. He has a keen interest in the sea and the environment. 

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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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