Have you ever wondered what it feels like to stay at a Lighthouse?
This excerpt from Pete Goulding at irishlighthouses.blogspot.com gives a lovely first-hand account of his recent visit to Galley Head Lighthouse.
Two years ago, I sailed past the 60-year-old mark and as happens at landmark birthdays, the family clubbed together and bought me a three-night stay at Galley Head Lighthouse. In mid-September, we decamped down to Galley Head for three nights in West Cork. To my shame, I had never found Galley Head particularly interesting. It seemed a nice-looking light perched on the edge of the cliff but nothing ever seemed to have happened there. By the time we left, I had fallen in love with the station and, as my wife will tell you, I’m not a romantic person.
It’s difficult to put a finger on the reason why. I had stayed in Fanad a few years ago and found it a brilliant experience but it hadn’t affected me in the same way. Maybe it was because of the isolation. Basically, you are on your own, day in, day out, behind the two locked gates that stretch down nearly the whole headland. No nearby lights are visible, except across water and the feeling of splendid isolation was tangible.
Maybe because we were absolutely blessed with the weather. Brilliant blue skies during the day and a canopy of stars at night. The five revolving beams of light fascinated us.
Maybe it’s because I had a copy of Gerald Butler’s “The Lightkeeper,” a brilliant autobiography in which Galley Head looms large both in Gerald’s childhood and in his later years. Maybe too we got the mother of all tours from the great man himself during which he pointed out all the interesting facts and stories about Galley Head, firmly dispelling all my preconceptions.
He pointed out the nearby Doolic Rock and all the shipwrecks on it that led to the establishment of the light. He gave chapter and verse on the light itself and why it was considered the best in the world at the time. He described in detail the great scientific argument between Wigham and the Douglasses on the establishment of the light.
He described the vagaries of living in the house as a child and the clifftop descents; how Pa Crowley took up all the white stones of the Eire 27 sign after the war and used them in his garden; the little landing spot with the steps that was used by Irish Lights to land stores; the vertical tiles on the gable wall of the house. And on and on it went!
Maybe it’s because you could wake up in the early morning and see the great light flashing through your bedroom window and then go outside and make sure that all was well at the Old Head of Kinsale and the Fastnet beneath the large crescent moon.
Maybe simply staying at a lighthouse gives you an affinity to it, a feeling that this was how it was like 150 years ago, and that somehow you are touching base with the past. Or maybe it’s because of all the above. All I know is, it was as close as I’ll ever come to a religious experience. I’m a Galley Head convert.