Rathlin O’Birne Lighthouse, County Donegal


Rathlin O’Birne Lighthouse off Slieve League on Donegals southwest 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

Rathlin O’Birne Lighthouse sits perched at the western edge of a small uninhabited low-lying island, indented on all sides by channels and bounded by cliffs. The island also has a sea arch in its northern part and is the westernmost point of County Donegal. The island is located at the tip of the sea entrance to the Slieve League cliffs and a mile west of Malin Beg Head and should not be confused with Rathlin Island off the coast of County Antrim.

The island’s position and its lack of cover leave it very exposed to western gales and the road from the landing stage to the lighthouse is protected by two unusually tall cut stone walls, 2 metres high and set three metres apart and designed to protect the lighthouse keepers against the worst of the Atlantic winds on their journey from the beach.

The lighthouse came about as a result of a submission from the shipowners of Sligo who emphasized the need for a light on Raughley Bourne as it was then known, on the western Donegal coast. The Ballast Board were in favour and plans were prepared. It took a decade however, before anything significant happened and it was 1856 before the light was eventually established. Until 1912, the families had lived on the island with the keepers – a situation only made possible by the existence of a freshwater spring near the dwellings – in what must have been an uncomfortable and claustrophobic existence, separated from the mainland by 2 kilometres of dangerous currents running through the sound. By Christmas of that year, much to their joy, they had moved into new dwellings in nearby Glencolmcille.

It is not clear how the island came by its name, but it appears to have been associated with a clan by the name of Birn. No official records exist however, to confirm whether they were locals or came from elsewhere in Ireland. We do know however that Saint Patrick’s coppersmith and the first Bishop of Elfin, Saint Asicus, came to Rathlin O’Birne Island where he lived as a hermit for seven years until some of his flock rowed out and brought him back to the mainland.

In 1974 a Radioisotope thermoelectric generator was installed, making it home to Ireland’s first nuclear powered lighthouse. However, by 1987 the nuclear battery has became worn down and the lighthouse was converted to wind power. This was replaced by solar energy in 1991, and that remains its fuel source to this day.

Location:     54°39.816’North, 08°49.951′ West.

Elevation:    35 m

Character:   Fl WR 15s.

Range:         W: 22km, R: 18 km



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