Slyne Head is one of two stations on the west coast (the other being Eagle Island) where George Halpin recommended two towers rather than one. In the case of Slyne Head there would be two revolving lights. On Eagle Island they would be stationary. This design was considered in order that the station wouldn’t be confused with Clare Island to the north or with Inishmore to the south. Once the complicated procedure of obtaining possession of the rock was done, work began in earnest.
The actual island upon which Slyne head lighthouse is positioned is called Illaunamid or Illaunimmul. It is the largest and most westerly of the islands forming Slyne Head. It’s difficult to get to and certainly difficult to transport materials to. Consequently the island provided all the stone for the structures and dwellings apart from some granite and sandstone.
The towers were initially painted white and each 24 metres tall. The North revolving light gave one red and two white flashes every two minutes, while the south never had a revolving mechanism fitted and instead was a fixed first order catoptric.
In times gone by, getting relieving keepers to such a remote station was an adventure in itself.
When conditions were favourable, the contracted boatman hoisted a bat or signal pole against his cottage wall as a sign to the keepers that the relief was on. He then traveled 4 kilometres across to Bunowen to alert the cart driver, who in turn proceeded to the shore dwellings at Clifden, thirteen kilometres away, picked up the relief keeper, perishable foodstuffs and any other items. The horse and cart then went as far as the boat contractor’s cottage where the relief was transferred to donkeys with creels or panniers across their backs.
The donkeys then set off across the rocks and heather for a kilometer and a half to the boat slip at Slackport where the relief was finally transferred into a currach and rowed out 5 kilometres through the islands and rocks which form Slyne Head to the lighthouse.
After 1969 when the helicopter was introduced, the journey took just seven minutes!
In 1895 improvements to the north tower were undertaken and a temporary framework was erected to bring its lantern above the level of the existing dome. This was deems satisfactory and work began replacing the 1836 lantern with a new cylindrical one sporting diamond panes. At the same time, the southern tower was discontinued and its lantern removed so as not to obstruct the new light to the south. In 1907 it was decided to paint the two towers black as in silhouette, this would increase their visibility to passing shipping.
The lighthouse was converted to electric in October 1977 and was automated in 1990. The Keepers were then withdrawn in the spring of that year and since then the station has been in the care of a part-time Attendant.
Location: 53°23.997′ North, 10°14.051′ West.
Elevation: 35 m
Character: Fl (2)W 15s
Range: 36 km
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