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Willie Cunningham of the Cork Harbour Heritage Alliance with Minister of State at the Department Of Justice Deputy David Stanton, Jim Power last principal keeper at Roches Point, Al Hamilton, lighthouse keeper and Gerald Fitzgerald, lighthouse keeper, at Galley Head Lighthouse West Cork.
Willie Cunningham of the Cork Harbour Heritage Alliance with Minister of State at the Department Of Justice Deputy David Stanton, Jim Power last principal keeper at Roches Point, Al Hamilton, lighthouse keeper and Gerald Fitzgerald, lighthouse keeper, at Galley Head Lighthouse West Cork.
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Ceremony marks bicentenary of the Roches Point lighthouse

A CEREMONY has taken place marking the bicentenary of Roches Point Lighthouse.

The iconic torch has been guiding mariners safely through Cork Harbour since June 1817.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice David Stanton and Chairman of the Cork Heritage Alliance, Noel Condon, unveiled a plaque in commemoration.

The foghorn boomed and the crowd listened silently as waves calmly moved below the cliff while Deputy Stanton pulled the cord to unveil the inscription.

After the unveiling visitors queued to take a peek inside — the first and only time in its history the lighthouse has been opened to the public.

Jim Power, Roches Point’s last lighthouse keeper, was on hand to welcome the 1,500 guests.

Mr Power said: “It is a unique place to be. Anything that happened you would be the first and the last to see it. There’s a lot of history here.”

The light was automated in 1995 and is now visited and maintained locally on a regular basis. Later this year the Frensel lens, a 1500watt bulbs will be replaced by LEDs as it joins the 70 lighthouses across the country to become solarised.

The Commissioners of Irish Lights, who helped facilitate the celebrations in association with the Port of Cork and Cork County Council’s heritage department, say the project will represent a significant cost saving on annual maintenance while also reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

Willie Cunningham of the Cork Heritage Alliance said the response to the open day was “phenomenal.”

He said: “We could have had thousands of people but we chose not to.

“We wanted to give people an experience they could remember.”

During the course of its service, Roches Point Lighthouse has witnessed everything from famine coffin ships heading west to Canada and the United States to the docking of the Titanic on its fatal journey and the arrival of a US naval fleet of approximately 900 vessels in the harbour during the first world war.