Two lights were established on Oyster island in 1837 but the one you see now dates from 1893. It became a rear leading light with the metal man in 1932 and was eventually converted from acetylene to propane in 1979 and then to solar in 2003.
In 2007 at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom, the island (in part) came up for sale at a whopping €750,000. For that you got a deserted cottage and about 35 acres.
The Island was famous for its oyster fishery, with beds covering an area of seventy acres. The Island was at the centre of a major story in 1864 when the beds were raided by eight boatloads of men and twenty-five thousand oysters were taken. In 1841, the population of Oyster Island was 28, mostly lighthouse employees and their families, but this figure had dropped to 19 in 1861. The population gradually decreased and on Census Day, 1986, the Island had one solitary inhabitant.
Life for the families of the lightkeepers was tough, but on a station such as Oyster Island, probably no more so than for others of the era. Michael Hawkins, who grew up on the island in the 1930’s related how, with his father spending six weeks on Blackrock Sligo and two weeks on Oyster Island, the chores of maintaining the house – and sometimes the lights – fell to the wife and children of the family. School as always was reached by rowing to the mainland, but aside from Sunday mass, the family rarely left the island. They maintained a vegetable garden and some animals, while for entertainment, card games would be played under kerosene lamps with neighbours from nearby Coney Island and Rosses Point.
Location: 54°18.122′ North, 08°34.273′ West.
Elevation: 13 m
Character: Fl (3) W 6.1s
Range: 13 km
Oyster Island is one of those human-sized lighthouses that just seem to appeal to so many people. Perhaps it’s that you can easily imagine converting it into a cosy home with the lantern room at the top of the stairs serving as a panoramic viewing gallery.
It’s certainly an appealing prospect.
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