Appreciation - A.D.H. Martin
Desmond was born in Belfast on 1 April 1915-April Fool's Day, a fact that gave his children the opportunity to play many practical jokes when they were young; but Desmond was no fool. When in Trinity College, Dublin reading engineering and maths, which he just happened to do as an optional extra, he was the first Trinity student ever to get 100% in his maths exams.
Desmond had an active childhood. Curiosity and a desire to understand how things worked were strong characteristics in him. He studied civil engineering at Trinity College and graduated in 1936. He then worked in Ireland for a short time before moving to England in 1938 where he worked for Arup and Arup, among others. Most of his work was on war related contracts including construction of oil jetties, offshore dolphins, underground command centres, and work related to the Mulberry Harbour project. This work was so important that he was not allowed to join the Army Engineers until late in the war.
His work on marine projects led to an interest in joining Irish Lights. He was selected for the post of Assistant Engineer in 1946, but as he was then serving in West Africa he had to wait a considerable time before being allowed to take up his post in Irish Lights in 1947.
Desmond was hugely influential in the development of Irish Lights between 1947 and 1979. He was respected and admired by all who worked with him. He had a quick and decisive mind. He was very concerned to improve the living and working conditions of the Lighthouse Keepers after the war, particularly for those who often spent many months captive offshore at rock lighthouses.
He was not impressed by the telephone system in Irish Lights when he joined. He told me he had had a far superior system in West Africa. He set about changing all of that.
His quick and inquisitive style got him into a few difficult situations from time to time. He once was inspecting an engineering project on the Skelligs Lighthouse and suddenly pointed to a problem he had spotted. His outstretched finger was almost removed by the massive rotating lens. He had to be sedated by the Lightkeepers and, due to weather problems, was not evacuated to hospital by lifeboat for several days.
On another occasion he was marooned on Fastnet for three weeks without food or spare clothing. The Keepers taught him to bake bread and other survival techniques.
In 1956 Desmond was appointed Engineer-in Chief to the Commissioners. He oversaw the design and construction of new lighthouses at Inishtrahull, Achillbeg, Skellig Michael, and at Sheeps Head for the oil terminal at Bantry Bay. He was involved in the introduction of helicopter transport, the electrification of offshore lighthouses, and major automation projects. He had many friends world-wide in the marine aids to navigation business and did much to make Ireland a leading authority in this field.
Undoubtedly his most notable achievement in Irish Lights was the vision and execution of the project to replace the Kish lightvessel with a telescopic reinforced concrete lighthouse constructed in Dun Laoghaire harbour and towed to the Kish sandbank off Dublin Bay.
Desmond had many other interests. He was Chairman of Monkstown Hospital and a board member for many years prior to the closure of the hospital. He was very involved with the work of St Brigid's Church, Stillorgan, and looked after the construction of a new church hall in 1994. Family and friends were very important to him.
To Desmond's family, his wife Penny, brother Arthur, sons Patrick and Nigel, and daughter Heather, his daughters in law, grandchildren and great-grandson we offer our sincere sympathy and we give thanks for his life and friendship. Desmond was a joy to work with and a warm and friendly person to know. I look back on our time working together with great pleasure.
Albert Desmond Hutchinson Martin: born 1 April 1915; died 27 March 2004