Dublin Bay in the 17th Century was wild, open and exposed to every gale and wind. Ships frequently had to seek shelter at Clontarf to the north of the city or at Ringsend in the south. In stormy conditions, vessels often could not reach the city for several weeks at a time and shipwrecks were common. In 1716 the Ballast Office Committee started work on building a bank protecting the south side of the channel at the mouth of the harbour, running from Ringsend to Poolbeg.
The “piles” as the bank was known, could however, only provide limited protection from the worst of the weather and in 1753, after a particularly vicious winter, the bank was replaced with a wall – the South Bull Wall.
The Poolbeg Lighthouse at the end of the Bull Wall was lit for the first time on 29 September 1767. It replaced a floating light that was maintained at the end of the wall to warn ships
At the time it looked quite different to what appears today, being shorter and tapering in at the top. It was crowned of by an octagonal lamp reached from the inside by a spiral staircase.
Poolbeg constitutes one of a formation of three lights that guide shipping through the bay. The others are the North Bull on the opposite bank (Bull being another word for strand or bank) and the other is on a wooden platform mid-channel. The lighthouse is painted red to indicate “port side ‘ when entering the channel, (the North Bull is coloured green for “starboard”).
On a historical note, the low water mark of the spring tide on the 8th April 1837 at Poolbeg was used by Ordnance Survey Ireland as a standard height for all its maps, until that tradition was discontinued in 1958.
Poolbeg Lighthouse is now fully automated and is managed by Dublin Port Company.
Location: 53°20′31.8″North, 6°09′04.7″West.
Elevation: 20 m
Character: red light 8 s on, 4 s off, 4 s on, 4 s off
Range: 31 km
If a lighthouse were to represent Dublin, I guess Poolbeg would have to be it.
It was only when I went out to sketch it that I realised how many other lighthouses can be seen from the causeway. Behind it in the image, the Baily glistens in the sun at the shore of Howth head.
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