A Most Unusual Lighthouse


This is the Ballycurrin Lighthouse, an 18th Century structure that most people around here take for granted. But this summer, I took several tourists to this difficult-to-find landmark and, because they'd never seen it before, they found it fascinating.

For those who don't know, this old lighthouse is situated on the shore of Lough Corrib (the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland), on the Galway/Mayo border, and it has a fascinating collection of stories behind it. It is so hidden that when William Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s daddy, wrote his extensive account of this area (Wilde’s Lough Corrib), he sailed right past this lighthouse and didn’t even remark on it.

Said to be the only inshore lighthouse of its kind in Europe, with a roof made out of a mill wheel (now there’s an interesting architectural choice), the Ballycurrin Lighthouse was built during the Georgian era, in 1772, by a member of the Lynch tribe. Which Lynch, though, is a matter of debate.

First, there’s the claim that Liam Lynch, a local landlord, built the lighthouse. But, there's a boathouse beside the lighthouse with a stone on which is engraved, ‘Erected by Henry Lynch, Esq. A.D. 1772.’ So that supports another story that says Sir Henry had this structure built as a marker for the Galway to Cong ferry. Timber was burned in the uppermost portion of the lighthouse to create the light that would guide the ferry to Lynch to deliver his provisions. Sir Henry was a 7th ‘Baronet,’ an inherited title which meant that, technically, he was gentry, but literally, he had not been knighted or even received any kind of accolade. He was just a guy whose great-grandda owned a big house. This might be why he was more often referred to as ‘Harry.’ 
Another story involves Sir Henry’s wife. The polite version is that she had the lighthouse built so he could find his way home at night, since he was fond of visiting the pubs in Galway and Cong. In this version, Sir Henry’s wife has no name or identity of her own, poor creature.

However, in another version of the story, Sir Henry’s mistress is named. Sibella Cottle, the mother of seven of Henry’s illegitimate children, might have built the thing. She was reputed to use ‘witchcraft’ to spellbind Sir Henry to her for life. 

Oh, those wacky Georgians . . . 

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