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.


Email: [email protected]
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
Ad AllPosters

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: 10/16/2021, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
DerdriuMarriner on 03/09/2019

frankbeswick, Guido for any Italian and Paddy for anyone from Ireland can be used affectionately and -- unfortunately -- mildly ironically and outright condescendingly on this side of the pond.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/09/2019

frankbeswick, Thank you for the insights. Is there any interpretation as to why a form of Welsh was spoken in southwest Scotland? That makes me think, in a reverse way, of Fleance in the Shakespearean play Macbeth leaving Scotland to establish royal family lines after making it to Wales.

frankbeswick on 03/07/2019

The term paddy might be used in a racist sense or not. It can be used affectionately as a nickname or in belittling manner. I was unaware of the usage of the term Guido.

frankbeswick on 03/07/2019

Alfsigr could be Norse, but it could also be Lallands Scots. Lallands and is was a version of Scots closely related to Northern English. The term alfs could be Norse or Anglo-Saxon,although ending a word with r used as a vowel is characteristically Norse. We need to realise that not all Scotland spoke Gaelic, which was the language of the Highlands. Lallands was spoken in south of Scotland and Cumbric, a version of Welsh,in the south West. This means that we need to accept that non-Gaelic etymology is not necessarily an intrusive Norse element, but possibly a native element derived from local languages.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/07/2019

frankbeswick, Thank you for the information about Paddy's Milestone, nickname for Ailsa Craig. Encyclopedia Britannica online describes Ailsa as originating from Gaelic words for "Fairy Rock." Scottish Girls Names online gives Alfsigr ("elf victory") as the origins in the "language of the Vikings" (Old Norse?). What is the interpretation on your side of the pond?
In another direction, Is "Paddy's milestone" emotion-laden or not? It, just as Guido for an Italian, may be quite insulting on this side of the pond.

frankbeswick on 03/06/2019

Talking of Ireland's teardrop reminds me of its northern counterpart, Paddy's Milestone, Ailsa Craig, a mighty ocean stack not far from Scotland. The ships that took cargo and emigrants from Ireland to Glasgow used Ailsa Craig as the signpost that they were nearing Scotland. The ships that took the rough sea passage from the western Irish port of Ballina would go north past Donegal, through the often stormy waters north of Ireland with migrants sitting on the deck, whatever the weather. Ailsa Craig was a welcome sign that their uncomfortable journey was soon to conclude.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/05/2019

Veronica, Thank you for appreciating the DVD and my write-up. One of my favorite, most poignant episodes deals with the Fastnet Rock, Ireland's teardrop, as the last view that Irish emigrants had before they could see Ireland no more from the ship's rail.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/05/2019

frankbeswick, Thank you for the helpful, succinct information, on the precariousness of the approach, that somewhat was conveyed in the DVD. This is one of my favorites so it's on and off the shelf many times throughout the year.

Veronica on 03/02/2019

This is just a delight … perfect . I am thrilled to read it . Thank you .

frankbeswick on 03/02/2019

Getting to land on Skellig Michael is the difficult part. When the wind is blowing in a certain direction, I think from the east, no boat can land.

You might also like

Bacon’s Castle: 350th Arthur Allen House Anniversary, Surry, V...

Bacon’s Castle and oldest North American formal garden host the 350th Arthur ...

St. Nicholas Abbey: Jacobean Great House of St. Peter Parish, ...

St. Nicholas Abbey hosts archaeological digs, café menus, gift preserves and ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...