Maidens Lighthouse is located in the North Channel and is one of a pair of lighthouses on two separate rocks.
As far back as 1819, Shipowners and merchants from Larne petitioned for a lighthouse to be erected on the Maidens Rocks.
Two lighthouses were built; the West Tower was erected on the northern rock 84 feet above sea level. The East Tower was built on the southern rock 94 feet above sea level. The rocks are around half a mile apart.
Both were designed by George Halpin and were first lit on 5th January 1829.
The keepers and their families originally lived at the rock for a year at a time. The rocks could be inaccessible for weeks due to their treacherous position and conditions.
In the 1830s, Thomas McKenna, Assistant Keeper at the West Tower, fell in love with Mary Redmond, the Principal Keeper’s daughter at the East Tower. However, McKenna’s father banned the two from their liaison. Thomas secretly built a boat to row over to meet his sweetheart, but his father discovered the boat and destroyed it. Undeterred, the couple continued to signal by semaphore signals. Thomas eventually built another boat, in which he picked up Mary before eloping to Carrickfergus. The couple were married in Larne in 1839, and Thomas and Mary were posted to other lighthouses, including Wicklow Head, Hook Head and Tuskar Rock.
Further details of their postings and the family tree can be found in Peter Goulding’s blog post.
The two lighthouses operated for 60 years before it was decided to add an additional light to mark the Highland Rocks. From 1889 the East Tower displayed a subsidiary light down the tower to mark the rocks.
In 1898 William Douglass recommended a lightvessel to be placed north of the Highland Rocks, complete with a fog siren. In 1899 it was suggested that an explosive fog signal should be established on the Highland Rocks with accommodation for a keeper. Neither of these plans came to fruition.
The East Tower was modernised, and a new, improved light was exhibited on 12th March 1903. Following this improvement, the West Tower was discontinued. The East Lighthouse is now referred to as Maidens Lighthouse.
The main tower of the West Tower is still in situ, but its lantern has been removed.
In 1906 Maidens Lighthouse became a combined station. The lighthouse came under the supervision of the Ferris Point Principal Lighthouse Keeper. Additional accommodation was built at Ferris Point to house four keepers. Three keepers worked at the lighthouse for a month, followed by ten days ashore at Ferris Point. Whilst ashore, the keeper would assist at the nearby Barr Point Fog Signal station and carry out repair work at the Ferris Point buoy depot.
In 1951 Maidens Lighthouse was appointed its own Principal Keeper. The lighthouse no longer had shared responsibility with Ferris Point Lighthouse, and the keeper ashore was no longer required to help with the buoy depot, and an Assistant Keeper was added to Ferris Point’s complement.
On 12th October 1977, Maidens Lighthouse was converted to electric operation. Later the same month, the keepers were withdrawn on 31st October. Monitoring and control of the lighthouse reverted to Ferris Point Lighthouse. The keepers’ accommodation at Ferris Point was then demolished.
The character of Maidens Lighthouse was altered in September 2010 to 3 white flashes every 15 seconds, and its range was reduced to 23 miles.
Chartering a boat trip out to the Maidens Lighthouses is possible, though landing is not possible. Abhainn Cruises are recommended.