Lighthouses of Ireland: Sentinels of the Sea Documentary

by DerdriuMarriner

Lighthouses of Ireland has the stories of ten of the Emerald Isle’s sentinels of the sea before the replacement of keepers by computer automation by 1997.

Lighthouses of Ireland beautify coastlines and save lives

The actual and legendary beauty of the Emerald Isle attracts visitors traditionally by sea and -- since the twentieth century -- by air. Various-sized freight, government, passenger, and private vessels still brave Ireland’s rough coastal waters despite the varying currents and temperatures of:

• the Atlantic Ocean on the west;
• the Celtic Sea on the south;
• the Irish Sea on the east;
• Saint George’s Channel on the southeast.

Arrival by sea historically and presently can be a choppy, wild ride whose successful transit is made less stressfully and more purposefully by Éire’s vigilant chain of:

• coastal bonfires during prehistoric times;
• coastal towers during the Roman occupation;
• iron cauldrons during the Dark Ages;
• lighthouses from the twelfth century onward.


Fax: +353 – 1 – 271 – 5566
Physical address: Commissioners of Irish Lights, Harbour Road, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland Telephone: +353 – 1 – 271 – 5400


1936 rescue of Daunt Rock Lightship by RNLB Mary Stanford is one of most famous rescues in history of Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), largest charity for saving lives at sea around coasts of UK, Ireland, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man:

Oil painting by Bernard Finnigan Gribble (1872-1962) depicts rescue of last 2 of 6-men crew on February 11: RNLB crew, away from station for 79 hours and at sea for 49, only had 3 hours' sleep during their daring, successful rescue!
Ballycotton Lifeboat and Daunt Rock Lightship: 1936 oil painting selected as 1974 commemorative stamp for RNLI's 150th anniversary
Ballycotton Lifeboat and Daunt Rock Lightship: 1936 oil painting selected as 1974 commemorative stamp for RNLI's 150th anniversary

Lighthouses of Ireland coordinate with harbor-guarding, light-tower-topped light-vessels


The 100+-minute documentary describes the nine lighthouses of:

  • Baily, County Dublin;
  • Ballycotton, County Cork;
  • Bull & Calf Rocks, County Cork;
  • Fastnet, County Cork;
  • Hook Tower, County Wexford;
  • Maidens, County Antrim;
  • Roche’s Point, County Cork;
  • Skelligs, County Kerry;
  • Tory Island, County Donegal.

It elaborates the Daunt Rock Lightship’s role in County Cork’s documentary sequences. The Daunt finds a place in history through events of 1936 regarding the crew’s experiences in:

  • avoiding shipwreck on Robert’s rock-riddled Cove;
  • ensuring light-tower coverage of Cork Harbour;
  • going without food and sleep seven days during the light-vessel’s accidental unmooring;
  • transferring to the Ballycotton lighthouse’s lifeboat after five unsuccessful attempts.

All stories get told through:

  • contemporary filming;
  • event narration by Michael McCarthy;
  • historical photographs. 


Skellig Michael beehive cells built ca. 6th-8th centuries CE as monastic endeavor lasting until 12th or 13th century; abandoned due to climate and Irish church changes; community relocated to nearby mainland abbey on Iveragh Peninsula at Ballinskelligs:

Skellig Michael served as a filming location, with scenes shot July 28-30, 2014, for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (release date: December 18, 2015).
Skellig Michael (Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl), also known as Great Skellig (Irish: Sceilig Mhór), off southwest Ireland coast
Skellig Michael (Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl), also known as Great Skellig (Irish: Sceilig Mhór), off southwest Ireland coast

Lighthouses of Ireland defend coasts as sea sentinels


Light-keeping experiences highlight eyewitness accounts by:

  • Anthony Burke, Pauline Butler;
  • Brendan Carty, John Noel Crowley;
  • Dick O’ Driscoll, Ronnie O’Driscoll;
  • Bill Scanlan, Donal O’Sullivan;
  • Michael Taylor, Tucks Tweedy.

They involve reminiscences of:

  • busy times at Baily;
  • dangerous isolation at Fastnet;
  • hidden room at Hook Tower;
  • plentiful food at Ballycotton and Roche’s Point;
  • reticent neighbors on Tory Island;
  • two towers of Bull & Calf, Maidens, and Skelligs.

They juxtapose traditions of:

  • fifth- and sixth-century monks building and haunting respectively on Hook and Skelligs;
  • keeper casualties on treacherous Bull Rock and Skelligs;
  • keeper and tradesmen survivals for two exposed weeks after the cracking of Calf Rock’s lighthouse;
  • Lady Nelson and relief vessels sinking respectively off Skelligs and Tory Island. 


Hook Lighthouse, Ireland's oldest operating lighthouse, seems to have a hidden room which extrudes from exterior but for which no access, external or internal, has been discovered.

Hook Head headland, County Wexford, South East Ireland
Hook Head headland, County Wexford, South East Ireland

Lighthouses of Ireland end up computer-animated by 1997


Lighthouses of Ireland keeps alive seafarer-friendly multi-tasking by Emerald Isle lightkeepers before computer animation in 1997. It leads to super-appreciative kudos for:

  • Marvin Ayres, Garry Griffiths, George Hinchcliff, Leon Thompson, music/recording;
  • Amanda Colpoys, assistant/researcher;
  • Simon Hinshelwood, director/editor/writer;
  • Irish Lights Commissioners;
  • Ben Jones, Mark Kingsford, Cyndina York, assistants;
  • Ari Kopmar, Seth Peyser, executive producers;
  • Helen Lothian, assistant editor/writer;
  • Dennis McCardle, researcher;
  • National Recording Studios Australia director Graham Patrick, editor/graphic designer Craig Dingwall;
  • Hamish Niven, camera assistant;
  • John O’Sullivan, Irish Helicopters pilot;
  • Frank Pelly, advisor;
  • Jack Phelan;
  • Miks Sampey, sound;
  • Ashley Sidaway, editor/writer;
  • Jeremy Stavenhagen, photography director;
  • Sophie Tebbit, Steve Tebbit, accountants;
  • John Thompson, producer;
  • Clodah Tiemy, manager.

It makes for repeated culturally enriching, educationally entertaining, geo-historically enthralling viewings. 


Lighthouses of Ireland - Sentinels of the Sea: Available in DVD format ~ Available now via Amazon

Exceptional documentary with extraordinary images of some of Ireland's most beautiful, most challenging lighthouses in dazzling landscapes.
lighthouse products



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Roche's Point was last stop for RMS Titanic, as Olympic class ocean liner, built in Belfast, picked up passengers boated from Cobh (then Queenstown):

Rationing food between supply boat visits and isolation of offshore sites were not experienced by light keepers and their families on mainland sites such as Roche's Point Lighthouse.
Cobh and Youghal Area, County Cork, South West Ireland
Cobh and Youghal Area, County Cork, South West Ireland

Sources Consulted


American Home Treasures, Inc. 1997. Lighthouses of Ireland: Sentinels of the Sea. Produced by Western Skies Productions. Distributed by BFS Entertainment & Multimedia Limited, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. Englewood, NJ, U.S.A.: American Home Treasures, Inc. 


Baily Lighthouse's proximity to Dublin made it a popular assignment for light keepers:

With Ireland's General Lighthouse Authority, Commissioners of Irish Lights (Coimisinéirí Soilse na hÉireann ), based in Dublin County, the Baily was logical training assignment for Supernumerary Assistant Keepers (SAK), 1st step into lighthouse service.
helicopter approach for Baily Lighthouse, southeastern Howth Head peninsula, northeast of Dublin
helicopter approach for Baily Lighthouse, southeastern Howth Head peninsula, northeast of Dublin
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Photo Jigsaw Puzzle of Calf Rock Lighthouse, Bantry Bay, Ireland: 10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces ~ Available now via Amazon

image from engraving by Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897): Calf Rock Lighthouse was destroyed by severe storm of November 27, 1881.
Irish lighthouse products

Fastnet, Ireland by Carlo Borlenghi: Available as Framed Art Print ~ Available now via AllPosters

Fastnet, known as "Ireland's Teardrop": last part of Ireland seen by 19th century Irish emigrants voyaging to America
Fastnet, Ireland
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 02/15/2019, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 10/24/2015

CruiseReady, That hidden room to the Hook Lighthouse certainly is intriguing, particularly when you consider that the structure was built thanks to William the Marshal (1147 – May 14, 1219), whose conscientiousness, guilelessness, "transparency," and up-frontedness led him to hold onto his job despite the different personalities and styles of four kings -- Henry II (March 5, 1133 – July 6, 1189), Richard I (September 8, 1157 – April 6, 1199), John (December 24, 1166 – October 19, 1216), and Henry III (October 1, 1207 – November 16, 1272) -- during England's Plantagenet years.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/24/2015

blackspanielgallery, Count on the Emerald Isle to do something that's never been done and to do it well since the Irish historically are known for exquisite coastal buildings, horse-breeding, and textiles from their sites in ancient Asia, through continental Europe, to Ireland. All three activities require imagination and meticulousness, both of which can be seen in the story of The Daunt.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/24/2015

Veronica, Excellent choice although the Fastnet might need to be fit on anyone's lighthouse tour since its crack will lead it to self-destruct any time soon or late!

CruiseReady on 10/23/2015

Lighthouses, yes! Interesting tidbit about the secret room of the Hook Lighthouse... wonder what is in there, and why it's there, for that matter???

blackspanielgallery on 10/22/2015

This is the first time I heard of ships acting as lighthouses.

Veronica on 10/22/2015

Wonderful post and pictures,

I think to Skellig Michael is a must for my visit to Ireland.

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