Tuskar Rock Lighthouse


Tuskar Rock Lighthouse off the Wexford coast on Ireland’s southeast.

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

Tuskar Rock lighthouse stands 37 meters tall and is constructed from granite blocks. In October 1812, a ferocious storm struck the Wexford coast, and the swell swept away the temporary wooden barracks which had been erected on the island, drowning ten of the 24 workmen. The survivors were forced to cling to the rocks for 48 hours before being discovered and rescued. Two years later, a stonecutter fell to his death from the as yet incomplete tower. In June 1815 the lighthouse was finally completed and came into operation.

The name Tuskar comes from old Norse and simply means large (tu) rock (skar). While the Vikings, with their shallow-draft longboats might have regarded the rock as a mere obstacle to be avoided, these shoals are believed to have caused more shipwrecks than any other site along the Irish shoreline.

In may of 1859 the clipper Pomona while en route from Liverpool to New York floundered during high winds not far from Tuskar. By the time the Rosslare lifeboat arrived on the scene, only the mizen mast was showing above the waves. The captain along with almost four hundred of his passengers had perished. A scandal was to ensue when it was found that some of the bodies that had washed up on Ballyconigar beach had been looted.

During wartime, isolated rocks like Tuskar were very vulnerable to mines set adrift from their moorings. One of these mines exploded when it collided with the rock in December of 1941 seriously injuring two assistant keepers, W. J. Cahill and Patrick Scanlan. They were both were brought ashore by the Rosslare lifeboat but unfortunately Mr. Scanlan did not survive his injuries.

While the isolation of a lighthouse can be restrictive, it can also open up unusual opportunities. In 1821 the two keepers on the rock were found guilty by the Board of aiding and abetting the smuggling of brandy, tea and silks from France. Their downfall had been partaking too liberally of the smuggled goods. It just so happened that in the middle of their reverie, the King of England, George IV  happened to be sailing past and remarked that the lights weren’t displayed. As a result of the subsequent investigation principal keeper M. Wisheart was reduced to an assistant keeper and assistant keeper C. Hunter was returned to his previous employment as a blacksmith in the Ballast Office’s workshop.

Wisheart although not found to be directly involved in the misdemeanour, was deemed to have abetted the operation. Some years later he fell to his death whilst cutting grass for his cow on Skellig Rock.

On 31st March 1993 the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation and the keepers were withdrawn from the station.

Location:    52°12.175′ North, 06°12.445′ West.

Elevation:   33 m

Character:  Q (2) W 7.5s. Exhibited by day and by night

Range:        45 km

A Note from the Artist

Tuskar will be familiar to anyone who has taken the Rosslare ferry to Wales or France. I was at odds as to whether to do a distant image of the lighthouse perched on the shimmering sea or this close-up. That weekend, I was down on the Hook peninsula when a sea fog rolled in, reducing Hook Head’s beam to a pulsing wisp of light clawing its way through the mist. It was an arresting image that epitomised what lighthouses are all about. By the time I got to illustrating Tuskar there was little doubt in my mind but that the close up was the way to go.



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