Clare Island Lighthouse

Clare Island Lighthouse is located on an island at the western entrance to Clew Bay.

Clare Island Lighthouse
Photo © Colin Park (cc-by-sa/2.0)

During the late 16th century, the island was the stronghold of the O’Malley clan. The clan were notorious for causing havoc to the English and Spanish merchant vessels. Grainne O’Malley, or “Granuaile”, as she became known, was the pirate princess leading these forays. Eventually, she reconciled with Queen Elizabeth and lived out her life on Clare Island in peace. Here, she also found a monastery where she is said to be buried.

Clare Island Lighthouse was established in 1806. The Marquis of Sligo built it, and the Dublin Ballast Board took over control in 1810. The tower had a small house attached to it.

On 29th September 1816, a fire caused by the used lamp wicks destroyed the lantern and a tower section. At the time, the used wick snuffings were thrown into a tub to be disposed of, and some of the smouldering wicks fell from the disposal tub, setting fire to the lantern.

A temporary light was established whilst a new tower and cottage were built. The new light was first exhibited in 1818. The ruins of the old tower and keeper’s cottage are still visible.

Clare Island
Photo © Colin Park (cc-by-sa/2.0)

In 1837, the principal keeper was accused of impropriety by trying to convert the island Catholics and abusing the stores. Fortunately for the keeper, no legal action was taken.

In September 1863, Blackrock Lighthouse was due to come into service 20 miles to the west. The Board proposed decommissioning Clare Island Lighthouse, causing opposition from many locals. So, a smaller light was proposed, and discussions continued.

In November 1913, a new incandescent light was delivered via SS Tearaght and came into operation at the lighthouse on 10th March 1914.

Clare Island Lighthouse became a relieving station in 1953, with the families moving to the mainland. It was finally discontinued on 29th September 1965 following 159 years of service. A new electric-operated lighthouse at Achillbeg replaced it.

Established: 1806 (1), 1818 (2)
Discontinued: 29 September 1965