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Galley Head art exhibition will recall unique lifestyle of lighthouse families

September 15th, 2018 4:02 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Lifescape based on the late Mrs Pauline Butler, lighthouse attendant at Galley Head lighthouse near Ardfield.

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An exhibition of lighthouse paintings by West Cork-based artist Geraldine O’Sullivan will include a catalogue that tells the stories of some of the families who lived in these majestic, historic buildings

Fans of lighthouses, painting and stunning seascapes will all be catered for in a very special day to be held at Galley Head near Clonakilty this weekend.

Ardfield-based artist Geraldine O’Sullivan will be exhibiting her magnificent collection of lighthouse art and local seascapes for one day.

The West Cork showing is in association with A Taste of West Cork Food Festival and in aid of the Galley Flash Rowing Club.

It will be moving to the coastal Lexicon library in Dun Laoghaire on November 1st, but before that, the paintings and related texts will be on display at the iconic lighthouse near Clonakilty.

As the show is entitled ‘Light Keepers’ it’s fitting that Galley Head’s own lightkeeper Gerald Butler will be hosting tours of the tower tomorrow Sunday, September 16th.

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful catalogue which features the stories of many people associated with our lighthouses over the years.

‘This collection of 25 paintings is based on the lives lived by lighthouse keepers and their families. Every story in the book is documented by – mostly – women,’ Geraldine told The Southern Star. ‘These are the stories of the wives and daughters of the light keepers.’

It has taken artist Geraldine O’Sullivan three years to research and create this unique body of work.

One of the stories relates to Gerald Butler’s late mother, and Geraldine says that without Gerald’s help and encouragement, the exhibition would not have happened.

‘Today, there are no longer any full-time lighthouse keepers in Ireland. Attendant keepers are employed in a caretaker capacity,’ Geraldine said in a recent interview. ‘Families no longer live in keepers’ cottages; their histories are confined to archives, anecdote and a diminishing number of firsthand narratives.’ 

Alongside this change is the modernisation of the lighthouses themselves. This July, the existing light at the Fastnet was replaced with an LED light, on the roof of the old lantern. 

‘The range of the new light will be 18 nautical miles compared to 27 of the old light … time is bringing change to lighthouses – and the keepers, and their families will soon be gone, confined to the world of memoir,’ noted Geraldine.

A guided tour of the lighthouse will take place on Sunday September 16th from 12 noon to 6pm, by attendant Lighthouse Keeper Gerald Butler, costing €5, (the tour is not suitable for children under 10). Signage to the show will be in place from Owenhincha Cross in Rosscarbery. 

After Dun Laoghaire, the exhibition will travel on an Irish tour before returning to West Cork in late summer 2019.

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