When it comes to the illustrious history of lighthouses in Ireland, one name stands out – 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 that number soared to 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 almost as many (44) years. He also oversaw the modernisation of those original 14 lighthouses.
Hand of Halpin
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 Northern Ireland’s Rathlin Island, the centuries old fort turned lighthouse in Valentia Island and Fanad Head (both along the Wild Atlantic Way), voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.
A visit to one of these lighthouses quickly reveals what a remarkable feat of engineering and construction it is. You’ll see for yourself the superior workmanship and immaculate attention to detail showcased in the lantern rooms’ brasses and mosaics. From Ballycotton’s island perch to Hook’s monastic history, Wicklow Head’s astonishing 109 steps and Loop Head’s edge of the world atmosphere, discover more about each of these characterful lighthouses here.
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.