In the Spring of 1846 a request was made to the Ballast Board that lighthouses be established on Bull Rock, Galley Head and on the Foze Rocks off the Blasket Islands. Galley Head was approved but the Bull and Foze Rocks were postponed and ultimately the Calf rock off the tip of Dursey island was chosen instead as the site for the lighthouse – there are three bovine sounding rocks in the vicinity called the Bull, the Cow and Calf!
The tower was completed on the Calf by Autumn 1864 and the lantern, optic and revolving machinery were added the following year making the tower 37 metres high. By 1866 the lighthouse was projecting its beam out to sea. It was not to have a happy history!
When three years later a severe storm washed away a section of the balcony rail and a hut containing stores, the keeper ashore, thinking he saw distress flags on the rock, launched off with six boatmen to the rescue. After battling into the mountainous swell, they arrived only to find the keepers on the rock were safe and sound. When the boat made to return to the mainland it was caught by the waves and capsized. All hands were lost.
Later, in November 1881 the lighthouse was again caught in a prolonged and ferocious storm. The gales carried away the upper section of the tower complete with lantern as it snapped off and cascaded into the sea. By good fortune neither the three keepers nor the three other men were in the upper tower at the time and all six were finally rescued from the rock two weeks later when conditions eased and a boat skippered by Micheal O’Shea managed to get a line to the men and bring them to safety.
With Calf Rock damaged beyond repair, a temporary light was erected on Dursey island while consideration was being given to the Bull rock as a suitable location. In February 1882 the board finally gave the go ahead and having handed over the asking price of £21 to Queen Victoria for the deeds, the mammoth task of building on the rock began.
The most notable feature about Bull Rock is of course the natural tunnel that runs through it, giving it the air of a supervillain’s lair. The lighthouse sits perched up on the rocks 91 metres above sea level. Even at this height, waves are known to crash over the lantern during particularly stormy conditions.
The station was completed in 1888 and on 1 January 1889 Bull Rock’s light and fog signal were established.
The light was converted to electric power in August 1974 and in spring of 1991 the lighthouse was automated and the keepers withdrawn from the station.
Location: 51°35.521′ North, 10°18.073′ West.
Elevation: 91 m
Character: Fl W 15s
Range: 33 km
The Bull Rock looms over you like the lair of a James Bond villain. The lighthouse is perched precariously high on the rock, but it’s still pounded by waves during the worst of the winter storms. If the weather is good, paddling out on a sea kayak is one of the best ways of seeing the rock and its amazing tunnel up close.
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