The hugely popular Great Lighthouses of Ireland is back for a second series with more stories about the lighthouses around Ireland’s coast and the extraordinary men and women who lived and worked in them, including the lightship keepers whose working conditions were even tougher than those on the remotest of Ireland’s rock stations.
The series covers a wide range of topics designed to appeal, as the first series did, to all ages. Shipwrecks, the power of waves, the disastrous 1979 Fastnet Race, lighthouses in art, storms, engineers, lightships, Marconi, Admiral Beaufort, bird surveys, the Dingle lighthouse keeper who first spotted Fungie the dolphin, the importance of food and the tactics employed by lighthouse keepers to get on with the men they shared a very small space with, are just some of the topics explored. Cinematic photography, dramatic aerial footage and remarkable characters create another compelling and memorable series.
Programme two: Ireland’s coastline is notoriously rugged and treacherous, and over 18,000 shipwrecks have been recorded in Irish waters. Many of these wrecks occurred during the 19th century when ships became larger and faster: the sinking of the Queen Victoria on the rocks below the Baily Lighthouse, Co. Dublin is an infamous example.
Admiral Francis Beaufort, originally from Navan, Co Meath, dedicated his life to making vital improvements to navigational charts mapping. As Chief Hydrographer to the Royal Navy he created maritime maps and charts that were still in use until the 1970s.
Ireland’s marine territory is roughly ten times the area of the island of Ireland, making Ireland one of the largest territorial countries in Europe. This dramatic increase of territory was made official by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and how it is illustrated in the ‘Real Map of Ireland’.
Over on the east coast, the seabed, largely comprising sand and mud, is constantly changing. This is very evident at the notorious Kish Bank off the coast of Dublin, a shallow and dangerous sandbank. Since 1810, a series of lightships, and eventually a lighthouse, have helped mariners passing Kish Bank (the lighthouse itself is an astounding feat of 20th century engineering).
Storms are one of the most lethal threats to mariners around the Irish coast. Admiral Beaufort devised the universally recognised method to describe wind strength, the Beaufort Wind Scale. Deadly Atlantic storms can erupt in a matter of hours.
In 2017 Storm Ophelia seriously damaged the lighthouse keepers’ cottages at Old Head Kinsale.
Although the lighthouse and cottages are perched 30 metres above sea level, waves smashed through windows destroying bedrooms, the sitting room and most of the downstairs, as we see in home videos made by Attendant Alan Boyers wife Cathy Lennon. Despite being an experienced lighthouse keeper and attendant, Alan admits to being frightened as he and his family huddled at the top of the stairs. Since the 19th century, Irish Lights has owned and run its own ships. The latest in a historic line of Irish Lights vessels is the Granuaile which plays a vital role in deploying and recovering buoys, hydrographic surveys, seabed sampling and mapping, search and rescue operations and helicopter support. Past and present crew members offer insights into life onboard Irish Lights’ ships which have served anyone who has sailed around the Irish coast for the past 200 years. Great Lighthouses of Ireland is produced and directed by David Hare of InProductionTV for RTÉ in association with Irish Lights
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