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The Fastnet Lighthouse


On Channel 5 this evening was the last in the series of 'Lighthouses: Building the Impossible' featuring the Fastnet Lighthouse. The Fastnet, Carriage Aonair (the Lonely Rock in English) is ten miles off the coast of West Cork, Ireland. It is also known as Ireland's teardrop, being the final sight of land for many emigrants over the centuries. My great-aunts Kathleen and Mary experienced the sorrow of leaving in the early twentieth-century. Leaving from Goleen, within sight of the Fastnet, they travelled, aged 11 and 12, to Cobh (then Queenstown) where they boarded a transatlantic boat to the USA. My great-uncle Mike, after whom I'm named, climbed to the top of Castlemeighan. There, overlooking the Atlantic, he lit a beacon. From their westbound liner my great-aunts passed the Fastnet and were greeted by this beacon as they left their homeland. Kathleen later returned for visits; Mary, a nurse, died in her early twenties - one family story attributed this to pneumonia; a later one, arriving from America in the late 1980s with a distant American cousin suggested a tragic alternative in which her life was ended at the hand of a psychiatric patient. Carraig Aonair has been important to my family for over two-hundred years, more so since the lighthouses were build there. It is also the logo for the company I founded to publish my books, 'Bright Light'. The Channel 5 documentary is definitely worth a look.

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Growing up on the shores of the Solent in the south of England, Fastnet had a kind of mythic quality as the mid point of the ocean yacht race. We would usually go to the beach to watch the yachts depart and/or return, we knew they went to Fastnet but had no idea what or where it was. It was really exciting for me when I was at Mizen Head a few years ago and saw it and realised!

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I've often sat on the hill overlooking Crookhaven and out towards the Fastnet during the Fastnet race, counting the boats as they sail around the rock. Its a magical and wild place.

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