Great Lighthouses of Ireland - Witnesses to History

Great Lighthouses of Ireland - Witnesses to History

In the third episode of this four part series we discover the surprising roles that lighthouse keepers played in both World Wars. As the First World War raged around Ireland’s coast, our lighthouse keepers acted as unofficial coastguards, keeping detailed logs of their observations. From sightings of German submarines, to the horror of ships being torpedoed and attacked by other vessels, and even saving shipwrecked sailors, our lighthouse keepers were on the spot witnesses.

In the Second World War an Irish lighthouse keeper played a decisive role in the outcome.  We travel to Blacksod Bay, Co. Mayo where in 1944  lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney took a weather reading which was to determine the entire timing of the allied invasion on D Day. Ted Sweeney’s weather observations persuaded General Eisenhower to delay the Normandy landings by 24 hours which proved to be crucial to their success. Ted’s son Gerry, also a former lighthouse keeper, tells us the story, and Evelyn Cusack from Met Eireann shows us the original handwritten weather observations collected by Ted Sweeney.

RTÉ’s Sea Area Forecast is broadcast three times a day and offers potentially life saving information to mariners. Evelyn Cusack explains how lighthouses and buoys are central to the gathering of this information.

One of the most dangerous jobs on the sea was that of the lightship man. Anchored in position in exposed locations, there was no escape from tempestuous seas for the lightship crews.

In 1936 the Daunt Rock lightship was struck by a hurricane and broke free, prompting the Ballycotton lifeboat, the Mary Stanford, to launch a terrifying rescue operation, which involved being at sea for 49 hours. Against all odds and due to the sheer bravery of the Mary Stanford Crew, the Daunt lightship men were all rescued.

A dramatic moment in lighthouse history occurred with the introduction of the helicopter.  Eliminating the need for lighthouse keepers  to be winched precariously on and off rocks, and ensuring they could return home without getting stuck in bad weather, the helicopter revolutionised life for the keepers.

Duration :

52 min

Available :

From 16/06/2022 to 30/11/2022

Genre :

Documentaries and Reportage

Versions :