A Napoleonic era signal tower at Blackball Head on the Beara Peninsula was lit up on New Year’s Eve to mark the 40th birthday of local man Padraig Dudley, and to mark the New Year, in what all hope will be a better year for West Cork.
Padraig, along with his friend Ross Murphy, said lighting up the tower had been something they had planned to do for a number of years.
‘We’d always talked about lighting up the tower. So, just before Christmas, we decided after the year that 2020 was, and that it would be my 40th birthday on January 1st, it was the time to do it – not just to mark my birthday but also to mark the New Year,’ said Padraig.
Padraig and Ross carried a generator up the tower, and ran a number of LED lights off it. On the night they also illuminated the area with some hand-held flares, giving prior notice to the Irish Coast Guard of their plans.
The illuminated tower was visible from a wide area, allowing locals to enjoy it while socially distancing.
Blackball Head signal tower is one of a number of similar signal towers constructed on headlands around the Irish coast in the early 1800s, in a bid to raise an early response to the threat of a French invasion by sea.
The towers also included accommodation for the signalling crew, usually of eight to twelve men. Following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the threat of a French invasion diminished and, together with high maintenance costs, many of the signal towers were abandoned.
Padraig said they kept the tower lit for a few days. ‘It created a lot of interest and chat in the local area, and gave people something other than the pandemic to talk about.’