A lighthouse that stood watch over the Shannon Estuary since 1869 and was swept away by the destructive force of Storm Darwin is unlikely to ever be replaced.
The Old Horse Rock Lighthouse, situated between Ringmoylan Pier in Pallaskenry and Shannon Airport, was destroyed in the violent storms that struck the region last Wednesday. Having withstood a battering for almost a century and a half, Storm Darwin proved too strong for the wooden structure.
Built around 1869, the Horse Rock was later abandoned as a navigation aid in the 1950s when shipping was switched from the south channel of the Shannon to the north channel. But for the first half century, lighthouse-keeping duties were shared by the Fitzgerald brothers, Bill and Patrick, natives of Pallaskenry.
The two men rowed a gandalow out to the lighthouse every day in all weather conditions between their work as fishermen on the Shannon.
Bill’s grandson Paul Fitzgerald told the Limerick Post that he was saddened to discover the lighthouse had been swept away when he visited Ringmoylan Pier.
In a story posted last month in the Limerick Post, Paul told the newspaper it’s history.
“The lighthouse was in bad repair for many years but looked like it would last a long time yet until Darwin arrived and finished it off. It was a big shock,” said Paul.
“There’s lots of sad reflections from our family and the family of Bill’s brother Patrick for the passing of a bit of history for our family and an important bit of maritime history for the Shannon estuary,” he added.
Bestselling author Darren Shan, a great grandson of lighthouse keeper Bill Fitzgerald, posted on his facebook page, “I just learnt about the most personally significant devastation of the storm — a lighthouse which members of my family used to maintain in the past was swept away and destroyed this week.”
“A little bit of history passing, never to return. Of course that’s the case every day that we live — every minute that passes sees the loss of something in our life that we can never regain — but some days it’s driven home more forcefully than on others. We’re only passing through this world, folks. We’ll be all be swept away by the tides of time in the end. So enjoy it while you can. Be a lighthouse that shines in the dark, even if only for an impossibly brief moment in the long, long lifespan of the universe,” Mr Shan concluded.