In 1810, there were only three lights on the southwest coast of Ireland at Loop Head (at the mouth of the River Shannon), on Clear Island and on The Old Head of Kinsale. There was also an old light at Charlesfort in Kinsale Harbour. In 1826, two lighthouses were erected on the Great Skelligs and in 1848, after a tragedy in 1847 when 100 lives were lost off Cape Clear when the US ship the Steve Whitney sank, it was decided to build a lighthouse on the Fastnet or Fastness Rock as the Clear Island lighthouse was too high and prone to fog. The original Fastnet Lighthouse was built in 1854. It was a cast iron structure which proved to be too weak to withstand the power of the sea. A lighthouse at the Calf Rock of the same design collapsed into the sea. It was decided to build a new lighthouse designed by Sir William Douglass, the Engineer for the Irish Lights Board. A new tower was built from 2074 interlocking blocks (4,300 tons) of Cornish granite between 1899-1903 at a cost of £84,000. This was a magnificent engineering feat topped by a powerful biform oil light which can be seen for 28 miles. It is in a unique position as it is the first landfall after America. For many decades it was the most important light-house in the world.
The Fastnet Rock was called the Tear Drop of Ireland. It was the last land seen by emigrants. The Fog Horn sounds 4 times very 60 seconds and the light can be seen for 28 miles. (The Bull Rock fog horn sounds twice very 60 seconds and the light can be seen for 31 miles). This has all changed since 2019 when the Irish Lights installed LED lights instead of the Fresnel lens lights. Details of the present lights are on www.irishlights.ie
In 2003, the centenary year of the completion of the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse which is 9 miles Offshore, the CIL devised a scale model of one of the floors of the Fastnet. Granite interlocking stones show how the Fastnet was constructed to withstand the power of the Atlantic Ocean waves for more than 100 years. The original stones were brought from Penrith, Cornwall. They were brought out to the site at the Fastnet Rock on the ILV Ierne from the quay at Rock Island The stones for this sculpture were brought from China. There was a celebration at Mizen Head when the CIL unveiled the memorial. The Commissioners of Irish Lights and many former light keepers attended. These are photos taken on the day. If you would like to add names to any of the photos please send us a photo of it and the names you would like to add to email@example.com
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