Crookhaven Village  -   Crookhaven Lighthouse


Crookhaven Lighthouse

Crookhaven Lighthouse was established on the 1st of August 1843. It was built as a harbour light to guide shipping in and out of Crookhaven harbour, then a significant port.
The local coastguard station, on behalf of local boatmen and fishermen, had requested the Dublin Port Ballast Board (the Commissioners of Irish Lights' predecessor until 1867) to erect a light at Alderman Rocks. This advice was rejected by the Port of Dublin Corporation's senior engineer at the time, George Halpin Snr. Due to the condition of Alderman Rocks and its low level, particularly in spring tides he decided on the present location on Rock Island near Sheemon Point, some 800 metres northwest of Alderman Rocks.
John Cotter, the contractor, built the lighthouse, a house (although Callwell's Manuscript on Lighthouses of Ireland 1871 refers to "dwellings") and the road which is over 900 metres long for a cost of 9,151.7s. The lighthouse was built to George Halpin's design. Locals believe, however that the road was not completed until later and was part of famine relief work.
In November 1847, the Stephen Whitney, an American liner in heavy fog, apparently not being able to see the Cape Clear Light due to it's high elevation, mistook the recently built Crookhaven Light for the Old Head of Kinsale Light. It therefore steered a coarse which resulted in it being wrecked on Western Calf Island with the loss of 92 lives.
As a result of this disaster Cape Clear Light was decommissioned and the decision to build a light on Fastnet Rock was made.
Prior to the commissioning of the first Fastnet Light on 1st January 1854, three houses were built on the Ballast Board's property at Crookhaven Lighthouse in an area that was quarried possibly for support buildings on Fastnet Rock - the lighthouse itself was built out of cast-iron. The cost of these houses was approximately 2,600.
Extensive repairs to the shore dwellings in 1876 cost 700.
The original Fastnet Lighthouse proved unsatisfactory with a hurricane on 26th November 1881 smashing the lantern, and sweeping away a similarly constructed cast-iron tower on Calf Rock off the Beara Peninsula nearby. As a result the decision was taken to build a larger lighthouse higher up, constructed from granite.
Initially the commissioners looked for a site in Schull Harbour, the terminus of the Skibbereen-Schull tramline, to act as a base for the new lighthouse. Renting land proved too costly, so the decision was taken to use Crookhaven Lighthouse as the shore base.
Work on shore commenced in 1896. Within the next two years a 38 metre long pier formed by facing up the existing rock was built. The pier has a 3 fathom depth at spring low tide. Where the rock for facing up was quarried, an office, stores, a timber barracks for workers, carpenter's and blacksmith's shops were built. A steam wharf crane for loading and unloading the granite blocks, a tramway connecting the wharf with the stone-yard and a gantry with hand-powered overhead crane were also installed. The cost of this work amounted to 2,060.
In 1898 work commenced on a powder magazine on the southern extreme of the pier. In the same year, construction of the first of two additional houses required for the Fastnet keepers was commenced. One of these would become the principle keeper's home, while the other was a double house with two separate entrances for two single keepers.

All 2,074 granite bocks, totalling 4,370 tonnes were cut and numbered at Penryn, Cornwall. They were shipped from Cornwall to Rock Island over the course of construction and taken out to Fastnet Rock as required by the specially constructed 38 metre long steamer, Ierne which was capable of carrying over 90 tonnes of cargo.
So well was the stone cut that not one piece was rejected.

 

While the workers were unable to work on the Fastnet and during the winter to retain them, the two houses were completed, the first in 1901 and the second in 1904. Total cost of these and the magazine was 1,518.
The first stone was landed on June 9th 1899. Due to the vagaries of the weather, it was 1903 before all the stone had been landed. The following year on June 27th 1904, the new light was exhibited.
Whilst working at Rock Island, labourers earned 2s 6d (12.5p) a day. Two men lost eyes: one while building the tram line; another when quarrying.
Once operational Fastnet had a complement of 6 keepers with four on the rock on any one time, and two ashore. Two men were changed at each relief by steamer which came from Castletownbere. Due to the difficulty of landing and removing the keepers from the Rock many changeovers were delayed often for weeks.

As a result of a number of ship-wrecks at Mizen Head around the close of the twentieth century, a fog station was established in 1909. Around the same time, two dwellings for the fog station keepers were built at Crookhaven Lighthouse. These two flat-roofed dwellings were built from re-enforced concrete.

Crookhaven Lighthouse is now automated and powered by electricity with a back-up diesel engine.
In the late 1950s Irish Lights keepers were given assistance in building their own houses. As a result Crookhaven Lighthouse keepers homes were vacated in 1959. Eight of the nine dwellings were sold in the early 1960s to the Johnsons and Craig-Whites. They renovated the houses and rented them out as holiday homes with Mr's Craig-White assuming total ownership. In the mid-1990s the property was sold to Mr & Mr's Kirkland of California, USA.
The remaining dwelling retained by Irish Lights was sold in 1998 to Mr & Mr's McDonagh of Dublin and related families.


View from water, south of lighthouse with remaining pier buildings on left

Crookhaven Light Specifications:

Latitude: 51 28.6' N
Longitude: 09 42.2' W
Optic System: Fixed cylindrical lens 500mm diameter
Electric Light: 3 * 100W Argenta Lamps
Character: Flashing White/Red every 8 seconds
2.0 + 6.0 = 8.0 sec
Sectors: White: over Long Island bay to 281
Red: 281 - 340 (59) outside harbour
Red: 281 - 348 (67) inside harbour
White: 348 towards north shore
Intensity: White: 5800 cd.
Red: 1500 cd
Range: White: 21 kilometres
Red: 16 kilometres
Height above water: 20 metres
Tower: White, 14 metres high