The present lighthouse on Mew island dates to the late 1800’s. Prior to that there had been a cottage style lighthouse on the nearby Lesser Copeland island. This had an open lit brazier on its roof and even before that, there had been another short lived light on Island Magee, near Carrickfergus, also of the cottage style and one of six erected around the Irish coast by Sir Robert Reading under letters patent granted to him by Charles II.
In 1796, Thomas Rogers added a two metre diameter lantern to a top corner of Copeland Island’s 12 metre tall square tower and changed the lighting from coal to oil using six Argand lamps. Two decades later in 1810, a new 16 metre tower and lantern were build alongside the old, but as commerce into the harbour increased and Belfast became a world-centre of linen, ship-building and rope-making and as sailing vessels were replaced by steam driven shipping, the merchants and ship owners began to demand a better positioned lighthouse to guaranteed the safety of their stock. The Belfast Harbour Commissioners suggested Mew Island as the best location and work commenced in 1882 on the new station. The new light and fog signal came into operation in November 1884 with a character of four four second flashes in 20 seconds repeated every minute. The 37 metre tower was constructed from stone quarried on the island and dressed with Newry granite. Until 1928, Mew island had its own gas making plant and remained the last of its type until 1928 when it was discontinued in favour of oil. Paraffin gave way to electricity in 1969 and the station was converted to automatic operation in March 1996.
Mew Island‘s Optic was one of the largest of its kind ever constructed, weighing 10 tonnes and measuring 7 metres tall. It’s a unique heritage object with significance to Belfast’s economic, maritime and industrial past and the restored light will be housed in a new interpretive structure resembling a lighthouse lantern in the city’s Titanic Quarter.
Location: 54°41.923′ North, 05°30.824′ West.
Elevation: 37 m
Character: Fl (4) W 30s.
Range: 44 km
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