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Fearless Fastnet four towered over waves nearly 30-foot high

December 11th, 2021 8:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Members of the maintenance team who weathered Storm Barra on the Fastnet Lighthouse (from left to right): Malcom Giles, Ronnie O’Driscoll, Dave Purdy and Paul Barron.

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FOUR maintenance workers weathered Storm Barra at the Fastnet Lighthouse where they witnessed waves nearly 30-foot high.

Paul Barron, filmed amazing footage of the storm at its height on Tuesday afternoon and said he’d never been in a storm as strong as that in his life.

Paul, as well as former lighthouse keeper Ronnie O’Driscoll, who is from Bantry, Dave Purdy and Malcolm Gilles, were on the rock for maintenance work but their Tuesday departure had to be postponed until Thursday.

Paul said the storm gusts reached 95 knots from a westerly direction with a wave height of approximately nine metres (almost 30 foot).

‘We were – still are – confined to the tower until the sea has moderated,’ Paul told The Southern Star  on Wednesday.

He said the crew were ‘fine’ with the experience because the Fastnet, as a former manned lighthouse, comes equipped with a kitchen and bedrooms enough to accommodate six.

‘We are all used to it,’ he said, ‘we have all been working in this environment.’ But he said it was sensible to be a little bit wary, especially on the glass balcony.

Ronnie O’Driscoll, who joined Irish Lights in 1974, said he was stationed as a lighthouse keeper around the coast, including a stint as the assistant attendant on the Fastnet Lighthouse.

‘With the Fastnet,’ Ronnie said, ‘it all depends on how the sea hits it. Sometimes waves can go over the top at 54m, but on this occasion the waves went over the Blacktower, which was the old facility, and the helipad, which is about 20m.

‘The benefit of having a Met service that can predict storms and issue weather advisory notices,’ he said, ‘is that when you get a warning you are able to lock the door and brace yourself.’

Paul said they continued with their maintenance work while the storm raged and throughout it all he was ‘struck by how spectacular and how powerful it was.’

Describing it as ‘violent still’ on Wednesday, they were due to depart on Thursday.

Paul said he had no idea of the sensation his video has caused on social media. ‘I only sent it to friends of mine,’ he said, surprised that at last count it had achieved more that 250,000 views.

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