Fascinating Fastnet’s fearless construction workers.

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Where: Munster, Cork, Ireland

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When: Unknown

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One of Ireland’s most challenging and successful engineering projects, carried out in extremely difficult and hazardous conditions. The Fastnet Lighthouse is iconic for mariners who pass through the waters off the south coast of Ireland, and the subject of many fine photographs. It gives Morning Mary the willies even looking at those men on the structure!

+++ UPDATE +++
A really striking photograph that would stop most of us from moaning about our working environments! Great to identify one of these men – master stonemason James Kavanagh is in the white coat with his back to the camera. According to many sources, Mr Kavanagh “placed every stone of the lighthouse with his bare hands”. Unfortunately, he died before the Fastnet light came into use.

Photographers: Robert S. Ball (Robert Stawell)

Collection: Commissioners of Irish Lights Photographic Collection

Date: Circa 1900


You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at catalogue.nli.ie


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 10081
thecommissionersofirishlightsphotographiccollection thefastnetrocklighthouse construction cranes workmen ropes stones masons commissionersofirishlights lighthouse fastnet fastnetlighthouse fastnetrocklighthouse atlanticocean cork munster ireland nationallibraryofireland ancharraigaonair jameskavanagh stonemason peopleidentified

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    • 11/Mar/2021 08:49:47

    Effing fabulous pharos photo!

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    • 11/Mar/2021 08:53:16

    It gives me the willies as well 😀😩!!

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    • 11/Mar/2021 08:56:06

    Previously ... https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/8262872235/

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    • 11/Mar/2021 08:58:19

    Mr Ball must have been on the old lighthouse (on the left above) to look down on the new one growing.

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 11/Mar/2021 09:19:41

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/beachcomberaustralia That makes sense! I had an image of him at the top of a mast trying to take the shot as the ship rocked back and forth!

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    • 11/Mar/2021 09:24:00

    this a wonderful image!

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    • 11/Mar/2021 10:03:15

    And thank God for them..... because if I was supposed to do THAT job.....the building wouldn't have been built.

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    • 11/Mar/2021 11:23:47

    Via Trove, this January 1908 description has some good contemporary details, including £84,000 cost and six years to erect - trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/229387310?searchTerm=f... ... "... It Is a spot that is most essential to light adequately, for the rock on which the tower stands lies in the direct route of Atlantic shipping passing the south of. Ireland. It Is from this spot that the ships are ''spoken," London receiving direct advice from the rock by means of wireless telegraphy as to what vessels are passing. The new tower, which is of stone, displaces the cast-iron structure erected on the rock so far back as 1848. It took over a year to lay the first twenty courses, the tower consisting of some eighty-nine courses. In all, 2074 stones, weighing from one and a half to three tons apiece, were used, representing a total weight of 4633 tons. The beacon boasts of a total height of 147 feet, with a graceful elliptical curve on its circular face, from the base to the lantern gallery. At the foundation it is fifty two feet in diameter, and is perfectly solid for a height of 48 feet. This solidity is obtained by a marvellous system of dovetailing, by which one stone is grafted Into Its fellows above us well, as Into those on each side of It. This makes tho lighthouse practically one solid mass, and if it were possible to lift the whole structure up and place it on a slant it would not fall to pieces. It is interesting here to note that the granite blocks, of which lighthouses are built are always erected in sections at the quarries to see that the stones accurately fit into one another. The lighthouse-keeper at the Fastnet Rock enters the new tower through a heavy teak door, situated some fifty-eight feet above high-water mark. Just below the entrance hall is a huge water-tank containing 3250 gallons of fresh water. On the first floor are the storerooms, and above this again another storeroom for the oil. The remaining floors— there being eight in all— are given over to the keepers, and are fitted up with every modern convenience for their comfort. On top of the tower comes the lantern, twenty-seven feet in height and seventeen foot In diameter. The light Itself is of the dioptric type, a series of incandescent burners giving a power of 1300 candles. By means of the mirrors this is Intensified, producing a flash of 750,000 candle-power, and capable of being seen twenty miles out at sea. The flash recurs every five seconds."

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    • 11/Mar/2021 11:43:00

    "[James] Cavanagh personally set every stone", via en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastnet_Lighthouse . Could that be him looking managerial in the pale jacket (and zero safety equipment)?

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    • 11/Mar/2021 11:58:26

    Fascinating video - vimeo.com/30996458 Edit - droneview by the same fellow - youtu.be/gFFyhdGeQ1A

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    mrrobertwade (wadey)

    • 11/Mar/2021 12:29:07

    Amazing, I've gone off heights so I won't be able to pop along and help

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    • 11/Mar/2021 14:10:19

    Animation of the construction techniques used irishlighthouseexperience.com/fastnet_construction.html I'll guess 1902/3 judging by the progress made

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    • 11/Mar/2021 23:30:43

    [https://www.flickr.com/photos/beachcomberaustralia] Yes, that's him in the white jacket, according to a Guardian article www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2018/oct/23/seashaken-h... which dates image as 1902. Note the way the blocks dovetail into each other, both at each end and top and bottom. Apparently they were tested for fit before shipping from Cornwall. Not sure if they even used mortar. Looks like a Health and Safety inspector's worst nightmare, as you could fall outwards into the sea or inwards within the structure. Only the cranemen are protected. Looks like the biggest sledge hammer lying there that I've ever seen. Imagine the effort involved for the photographer to carry his plate camera and tripod up all those hundreds of steps. Not your usual leisurely landscape shot.

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    Carol Maddock

    • 12/Mar/2021 16:11:07

    Lovely short film here from RTÉ Archives with reference to James Kavanagh, and showing other contemporary photos that are probably in our collections here at Library Towers, but not yet unleashed via our catalogue.

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    lively stamp

    • 16/Mar/2021 15:52:57

    What a fantastic feat of engineering in a place which can be so violent.

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    Dr. Ilia

    • 23/Mar/2021 09:00:05

    Very nice !