Thursday, 19 February 2015


   “The visitor of a lightship cannot fail to be struck with its admirable condition, and with the fine appearance of its crew (Photo 841).   

Sun-tanned and weather-beaten, they are models of sailors:   frank, self-reliant, unassuming, obedient, nimble, vigorous, and resolute.   (Photo 842 – Repairs aboard Osprey in 1905)

   They seem well-contented with their lot, and if they complain at all, it is of the quantity and quality of their provisions.  
    The ration of bread (seven pounds a week) is not quite sufficient for hearty men, and I confess, from my own experience, that the sharp air to which they are exposed is well adapted to whet ones appetite.  
    When they are at sea, their food is supplied; when on shore, they receive instead one shilling and three-pence  a day.   Their wages are fifty-five shillings per month; the master receives £80 per annum.
   Two men at a time are charged with the care of the lamps, the third being on shore; one of these two performs for a month the functions of a cook.   Formerly, if we may believe public rumour, the lightship crews, isolated by continental tempests which rendered the sea impracticable, have been reduced to the extremest necessities, have even perished of hunger.
    To prevent the recurrence of such calamities, a steamboat or a good stout sailing-vessel regularly visits the lightship once a month.   In the worst weather the communication is never interrupted for a longer period than six weeks, and the stock of provisions is always sufficient to last the crew for even a longer time”.
‘Lighthouses and Lightships’  by  W.H. Davenport Adams.

   Some of the ships in the CIL/NLI photographs are equipped with fog horns, but some still have the fog bell on the foredeck (Photo 843).   By 1905 some were also equipped with an underwater or submarine bell as sound carries further underwater than in air.  An example can be seen hanging over the side on a chain.

    I suppose many warning devices were invented and tried, including a submarine   ‘horn’ (Photo 844)  

  and a weird American device which looks as though it uses the hull as a sounding board (Photo 845). The effect on the ship’s crew must have been rather startling!
All these photographs are © Commissioners for Irish Lights and courtesy of The National Library of Ireland.