Crookhaven Lighthouse

Crookhaven Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Crookhaven Lighthouse is located at the entrance to Crookhaven Harbour at Rock Island. 

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The sheltered harbour was once a thriving port used by fishing fleets and sailing vessels for hundreds of years.  Although a haven for shipping, Crookhaven was also a centre for smuggling. As a result, a watch tower was built around the 1800s on Rock Island following an attempted landing by the French at Bantry in 1796.

Because of the port’s importance, local fishermen and boatmen petitioned for a light to be displayed. 

Over 20 vessels had been lost in the area. These included the Newfoundland vessel Darthula, Brig Mary from the West Indies and the Thomas Worthington.  The latter was lost in the harbour in 1836.

Crookhaven
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Lighthouse Engineer George Halpin surveyed the area and chose the location at Rock Island. Halpin designed the tower and accommodation, and the light was first exhibited on 4th August 1843. 

A lighthouse keeper for Crookhaven Lighthouse lived in the adjacent cottage until 1904.  An additional row of cottages was built at Crookhaven in the 1860s. These were for use as the shore station for the off-duty keepers and their families for Fastnet Lighthouse and Mizen Head fog signal station.

In 1867 the light was improved, and the optic changed to dioptric.  In 1903, a six-wick burner was installed, reducing the workload for the keepers. As a result, the off-duty keepers from the Fastnet Lighthouse became responsible for its operation.  Crookhaven Lighthouse then came under the supervision of the Fastnet Principal Keeper. 

In February 1911, an acetylene burner was installed.  However, on the first night, 17th February, the gas exploded.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

Lighthouse cottages at Crookhaven
Some of the former keepers cottages and landing stage
Photo: Patrick Tubby

In 1938, one of the Mizen Head keepers occupied the cottage, and repairs were carried out on the dwelling.  From January 1953, an Attendant was appointed to the station.  By 1959, the keepers were not using the row of cottages, as they were returning to their own homes when on leave.  So in 1961, the cottages were abandoned by Irish Lights and sold in 1963.  One cottage was retained and later sold to the current owners in 1998.

In December 1964, the character of the light was altered to a long flash every eight seconds, showing either red or white.  The station was converted to electricity in 1976. 

The Long House
Photo: Patrick Tubby

After the original cottage was purchased, it was renovated in 1999, and the Long House was added in 2008.

At the western end of Rock Island is a row of former coastguard cottages, built in 1907, replacing earlier buildings.

Around six miles away is the excellent Mizen Head Visitor Centre, situated at the old fog signal station.  The centre tells the story of Irish Lights and, in particular, that of Fastnet Lighthouse, which is visible to the south.

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Established: 1843
Engineer: George Halpin
Tower Height: 14 metres
Light Character: L Fl W R 8 s
Light Range: White 13 miles, Red 11 miles
Elevation: 20 metres