A Time to Celebrate 1810-2010
15 June 2010
marks the bi-centenary of the establishment of the Irish
Lighthouse Service. The legal basis for the operations of the
Commissioners of Irish Lights actually dates back to 1786 when
Grattan's Parliament, sitting in Dublin, passed an Act that created
The Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of
Dublin. The functions of this body were solely related to the
provision of aids to navigation in Dublin Port and had no
jurisdiction over lighthouses elsewhere around the coast of
Ireland. These lighthouses, while in public ownership, were built
and managed by private operators and consequently suffered due to
inadequate finance and little standardisation in the level of
service provided. This situation remained unchanged until June 1810
when the passing of the Lighthouses (Ireland) Act transferred
responsibility for the operation of all lighthouses around the
coast of Ireland to the Corporation.
The next significant legislative milestone was the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act 1854 which created the Port of Dublin Corporation and set up the Mercantile Marine Fund which was a forerunner to the General Lighthouse Fund from which Irish Lights and our sister Lighthouse Authorities, the Northern Lighthouse Board and Trinity House were funded. The original Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin continued to look after the Port of Dublin while the new Port of Dublin Corporation looked after lighthouses around the coast. The Dublin Port Act in 1867 formally separated the two Corporations and the Port of Dublin Corporation was renamed Commissioners of Irish Lights and the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin was renamed Dublin Port and Docks Board.
Today's Service has changed significantly from 1810. At the time of the establishment of the Service there were no Admiralty charts or scientific weather forecasts. Irish Light's marine staff and ships' crews navigated under these unknown conditions to identify and mark dangers with appropriate aids to navigation.
Lighthouse Keepers and Lightshipmen, traditionally the public face of Irish Lights, sadly no longer play a part. They lived an isolated and self reliant life, maintaining the aids to navigation, until technology made them redundant. The 'unseen' lighthouse builders left the comforts of family and home to live in almost uninhabitable locations with the barest of basic facilities. They worked under all weather and tidal conditions to build solid comfortable structures for others to occupy. That these structures are still operationally intact is testimony to their skill, tenacity and endurance.
We look back over the last two centuries with pride and an appreciation of the dedication and skill of the past generations of Irish Lights. Against a backdrop of political transition, they were always at the forefront of technological advancement and steered the Service through two centuries of change.
At the same time we look forward to the challenges that the future will bring safe in the knowledge that Irish Lights, together with our colleagues in our sister authorities, will continue to serve the mariner and deliver a fully integrated and first class aids to navigation service.
The guiding influence behind the Service's success is the business model and objectives set by the founding Fathers and passed on by successive generations of the Board's membership. Today's Board remain the trustees of that legacy and operational ethos.