Saturday, 24 January 2015


Well my trip to Dublin did not start well. As the weather had been so cold, I decided to start up the Morris Minor well in advance. Well that was the plan, but it did not start – nomatter what I tried. I will not go into detail as this is not an old car blog. Suffice to say I left it a bit late before calling a taxi.  £75 later I arrived at Liverpool Airport with 10 minutes or so to spare, but had not reckoned on security (shoes off, trouser belt off, coat off, shaving foam examined and bagged, cough mixture examined and confiscated etc etc) plus 3 miles of retail area to get through (I exaggerate only slightly). I was about 2 minutes too late. My pre-booked return fare was £58, but I had to pay a further £110 to transfer to the next flight. Now is that an administrative fee or a fine?  And I forfeited my pre-booked airport parking fee and I left my gloves in the taxi and I had another 6 hours to kill! So far, so bad. Anyway, My Dublin friend David Ryan met me at the airport, in spite of the late hour and things began to go right.

The next morning we were ensconced in the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, poring through photo albums donated by the Commissioners for Irish Lights. What a treasure trove! There were over 40 photographs of lightships. It seems that the Commissioners, as part of their duties, would tour around Ireland visiting lighthouses and lightships to make sure all was in order. They did this in reasonable style aboard the good ship Princess Alexandria (Photo 1), 

although occasionally the transfer by cutter to a lightship or a lighthouse must have been exciting in rough seas! (Photo 2)

Well I now have a collection of photographs of Irish lightships dating from the 1890s, when they all seem to have the hoistable lanterns; through the early 1900s, when some were hoistable and some fixed. Most of the ‘collection, were acquired during my Dublin trip and many of them are courtesy of the very eminent photographer who accompanied the Commissioners on their inspection tour, taking photographs with his Kodak Panoramic Camera and his No3 Folding Pocket Kodak. He was Sir Robert Ball, the Astronomer Royal of Ireland. I have to say that he took a very large number of ‘seascapes’ – acres of sea with nothing to see (except sea!).
The Commissioners obviously took their task seriously and I found a lovely record of who was on the 1905 tour (Photo 3).

On an earlier tour, again headed by Sir William Watson, Mr W Douglass was one of the inspectors presumably in his capacity as Chief Engineer of CIL (Photo 4).

He was the engineer who produced the 1880 specification for the steel lantern masts – like the one which was judged to have collapsed and sunk the Puffin with all hands in 1896 (Photo 5).

All these photographs are © Commissioners for Irish Lights and courtesy of The National Library of Ireland.

Next time I will be showing you some more of the fascinating photos we found.