‘I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.’ George Bernard Shaw
Since ancient times, long before GPS, radio transmission or radar, lighthouses have served as beacons helping ships to navigate Ireland’s sometimes treacherous waters. The earliest lights were simply bonfires built on hillsides; in the fifth century, St Dúbhan established a brazier of burning wood or turf on the headland of Hy Kinsellagh (now known as Hook Head). Today, despite technological advances, these coastal icons continue to serve as crucial navigational aids for the maritime traffic of our island nation, from the smallest leisure crafts to cargo ships and trawlers. By day, they mark the way with their instantly recognisable appearances; at night, by the character of their signals. One flash every two seconds tells a sailor that they are near Valentia Island off the coast of Kerry. Four flashes every twenty seconds means that they are further north, approaching Loop Head in County Clare.
As well as representing a unique part of our maritime history and built heritage, lighthouses are a powerful symbol of strength and resilience in times of darkness. This evokes an irresistible fascination with them in many people. Artist Roger O’Reilly grew up near the Boyne Estuary lighthouse in County Meath and ever since has associated a sense of peace and reassurance with the warm glow of lighthouse beacons. He has spent two years criss-crossing the country to draw dramatic portraits of these sentinels of our shores. Gathered in this extraordinary collection, each beloved landmark is accompanied by a wealth of practical and insightful information: history, location, elevation, signal and range.
This spectacularly illustrated celebration of these architectural gems will be treasured by anyone who finds comfort, intrigue or excitement in the glimmer of a lighthouse through the darkness.