Bicentenary Of Roche’s Point Lighthouse Marked

By Seamus Whelehan

Roche's point Lighthouse at the mouth of Cork Harbour

Don’t mention loneliness to Lighthouse keeper Jim Power, keeping the light shining for three decades was the best job around.
Jim the last lighthouse keeper at Roche’s Point returned last Sunday 4 June to help celebrate its 200 birthday, where he worked for 6 years until it became automated in 1995.
“I didn’t find it lonely personally, Loneliness was never a word used” Mr Power said.
“It was a job that didn’t suit everyone. Six men were attached to each station, working one month on and one month off. There was a minimum of three at the station at any particular time. It was a 24/7 operation so you were kept busy.”
After starting his career as a supernumerary on the Bailey Lighthouse in Howth Co. Dublin in the mid-1960s, he worked relief, covering staff who were sick or on holidays throughout the 32 counties, until being based in Roche’s point in 1989.
His daily routine consisted of maintaining the light and fog system, checking weather readings and general maintenance.
When the lighthouse was automated he was made up to assistant lighthouse keeper where he regularly keeps an eye on the operation.
Last Sunday as Mr Power welcomed 1,500 guests to the station for the first and only public open day, he met with Noel Casey one of 14 men employed to maintain the exterior of the country’s 70 lighthouses.
Mr Casey remembered his time employed painting lighthouses fondly.
“You had to have an adventurous streak. I saw the whole countryside. I loved it” he told the East Cork Journal.
Lighthouses are painted differently to help identification of them by the mariner during the day.
Some may be painted bright colours if the sentinel’s surroundings/background were dark, such as fields or woodland. This will help it stand out from its background.
Mr Casey said Irish Lighthouses are generally painted a combination of white and black because of environmental reasons.
“Someone up the country was painting the lighthouse black and yellow and they noticed the yellow faded to white”, which resulted in the colour being used throughout the country.
Sunday’s birthday celebrations were marked by the unveiling of a brass plaque by Minister of State at the department of Justice Deputy David Stanton and Willie Cunningham of the Cork Harbour Heritage Alliance.
Deputy Stanton commended the Heritage group for their ongoing commitment to shining a light on our past.
“There is huge potential in the harbour particularly the forgotten eastern side.” He said he looked forward to seeing the group highlighting our heritage and past.
Karl Birrell of the Commisioners of Irish Lights (CIL) who helped facilitated the open day along with the Port of Cork and Cork County Council’s heritage department said from this November the light at Roche’s Point will shine brighter.
CIL are currently updating their 70 lighthouses dotted around the country by upgrading the Frensel Lens 1500 watt bulbs with light emitting diodes as part of a regeneration programme.
The company also plan to replace its diesel powered generators with solar charged batteries.
It’s expected these batteries will kick in, in the unlikely event of a mains power cut.