When it comes to the history of lighthouses in Ireland, one man stands out. His name was George Halpin.
In 1800 George was Inspector of Works in the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (usually called the Ballast Board). He was responsible for supervising the construction of new docks, bridges and other projects for Dublin Port. When the Ballast Board became responsible for lighthouses in 1810, George was appointed Inspector of Lighthouses as well as Inspector of Works.
At that time there were only 14 lighthouses around the coast of Ireland. By the time the Ballast Board handed over responsibility for lighthouses to the Commissioners of Irish Lights in 1867 there were 72 lighthouses. A builder by trade, with no formal engineering qualifications, George designed and supervised the construction of over 50 lighthouses around the coast of Ireland in 57 years. He also oversaw the modernisation of those original 14 lighthouses.
Many of the great lighthouses of Ireland were designed by George including St. John’s Point in County Down with its dizzyingly tall tower, Rathlin West Light, the upside down lighthouse cut into the cliff face in Rathlin island, the centuries old fort turned lighthouse in Valentia Island and Fanad Head, voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.
If you visit one of these lighthouses you’ll appreciate what a remarkable feat of engineering and construction it is. You’ll see for yourself the superior workmanship and the immaculate attention to detail in the likes of the brasses and mosaics in the lantern room.
George Halpin died suddenly in July 1854 at the age of 75, while carrying out an inspection of a lighthouse. A man of exceptional ability, he set the highest standards and, like so many men before and after him, he dedicated his life to fulfilling the remit of the Commissioners of Irish Lights: safety at sea.