Kinsale, Old Head Lighthouse


Old Head of Kinsale on the County Cork coastline.

A4 (210 x 297mm) : 250g/m² archival art paper

A3 (297 x 420mm) : 250g/m² archival art paper

Artist: Roger O’Reilly

The artist signs each poster.

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A Bit of History

The Old head of Kinsale Lighthouse has a long and proud history reaching back into the pre-Christian era when there are references to a lighted beacon maintained on the tip of the headland.

The first proper lighthouse as we would recognise it was one of six cottage-style lighthouses erected around the Irish coast by Sir Robert Reading under letters patent granted to him by Charles II. Across the road from the ruins, another lighthouse was built in 1814. It stood almost 13 metres tall with a circular accommodation block at the base. Unfortunately, this tower was frequently obscured by fog and low cloud and it was decided that a new lighthouse would be better positioned at the point of the headland.

In 1845 word was given to proceed with a new structure and within three years the new lighthouse was complete at a cost of just over ten thousand pounds. Once the new light was established, the old tower was partially demolished so it wouldn’t be mistaken as an operational lighthouse during daylight hours.

In 1893 three cannons were installed as a fog signal and a signal man joined the two keepers on duty. In 1972 the light was converted to electric and the explosive fog signal was changed to a siren and then terminated altogether thirteen years later.  The Old Head was finally automated in 1987, the keepers withdrawn and the lighthouse placed in the care of a part time attendant.

Originally the tower was plastered white with the addition of two red bands. This remained until the summer of 1930 when it was changed to black with two white bands.

To stand at the Old Head looking out to sea is also of course to be tragically reminded of one of the most notorious shipwrecks of the 20th Century. The RMS Lusitania sank just over 17 kilometres due south of the Old Head after being hit by a single torpedo fired by the German submarine U-20 on the 7th May 1915. The ship listed so badly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck and dumped their cargo into the water. The majority of the passengers never had a chance as the giant ship slipped beneath the waves in less than twenty minutes. One thousand one hundred and nineteen of the 1,924 aboard perished.

Location:   51°36.287′ North, 08°32.018′ West.

Elevation:  72 m

Character: Fl (2) W 10s.

Range:        37 km

A Note from the Artist

This was another of those tough decisions. Do I illustrate it from land or sea? As it happened, I got a chance to look around the lighthouse thanks to a friend and the decision was made for me. This was one of my early ones, and I decided to keep it simple and play with shapes—I loved the red railings, so I exaggerated them a little.



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