Not to be confused with Blackrock Light in Sligo, Black Rock, county Mayo is situated about 15 kilometres west of Blacksod out in the wild Atlantic. The idea of a lighthouse on the island was first put forward by the coastguard as far back as 1830, but it wasn’t until almost thirty years later that sanction by Trinity House was given to proceed with the project. By 1861, the lighthouse was almost ready, but due to stormy weather neither the revolving apparatus nor the lantern could be safely landed and it was the following summer before they were on the island and the final phase of the operation got under way. The light debuted on 1st June 1864 and stands 86 metres above high water with its light flashing white to sea and red to land once every 30 seconds. It is visible from the ocean for 35 kilometres.
On the 20th August 1940 the Second World War came to this isolated outpost when the lantern panes and the roofs were shot up by a German bomber, probably a Focke-Wulf Condor, attacking the merchant ship SS Macville which was sailing close to the rock. Fortunately none of the keepers were hurt. Being so isolated could bring other dangers to the keepers too. In the winter of 1943-43, a prolonged winter storm trapped the keepers on the island for a record 117 days. In usual circumstances, fresh provisions would be delivered to the lighthouse every ten days, but during this unprecedented spell, the keepers had to survive on wartime rations for over 65 days before John Padden, the contract boatman on his second attempt in three days made the 15 kilometres trip into the teeth of the storm and managed to haul a basket of provisions onto the rock before having to hurriedly retreat across the waves. Spotting a brief lull in the weather the following February, made his way back out and finally the keepers were relieved, aside that is, from the principal, Jack Scott, who stoically remained to direct operations until service was back to normal.
Eventually, in 1969, helicopters replaced the boat relief, but just five short years later the lighthouse was automated and the keepers were withdrawn.
In March 2017, while providing top cover support on a medical evacuation, the coastguard helicopter Rescue 116 tragically crashed into Black Rock. All four crew members perished in the collision.
Location: 54°04.055′ North, 010°19.230′ West.
Elevation: 86 metres
Character: Fl WR 12s
Range: W 37 km, R 30 km
In the hard glittering light of mid morning, Blackrock sits shimmering in the calm Atlantic. Sometimes you want to illustrate the structure up close. Sometimes as here, it’s how the lighthouse dominates its environment that appeals artistically.
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