The life of a Lighthouse Keeper on Tiaracht Island must have been tough. When the Lighthouse first became operational in 1870 two keepers and their families lived on the island. The accommodation was confined to the cluster of buildings on the steep SW slope. They lived here permanently, receiving supplies of food and coal a few times a year. They also grew vegetables in small gardens which were built on tiny pockets of flat ground round the island. We saw remains of some of these little plots, with their old walls stopping the whole lot sliding down the slopes into the sea. There was also a constant supply of fresh fish, and goats were kept for milk, and hens for eggs. Having such secure lodgings and food at a time of great poverty in Ireland must have helped balance the pain of isolation and fierce weather experienced on this rocky outpost of Europe. However the isolation proved too hard, and in 1896 the Keepers requested that An Tiaracht be made a ‘Relieving’ station. This was granted, meaning that the Keepers would no longer live there permanently, but would be relieved on a scheduled basis. Housing was provided on Valentia Island for their families, and from around 1900 only Keepers lived on the Island. Their number was boosted to three which was standard on remote Lighthouses.
In 1901 the Census of Ireland took place. The record names the three Keepers on the Island. They were Jas Connell, aged 35, who was Head Keeper. His Assistants were Peter Roddy, 44, and John Connolly, 21 years. Of interest is that the next Census 10 years later shows all three men were still Keepers, and that the two Assistants had become Head Keepers in their own right. By 1911 Jas Connell was married with children and was based at Rotton Lighthouse in Donegal. Peter Roddy had moved to the Point Lighthouse in Co. Louth, and John Connolly was now Head Keeper at Ballycotton in Cork.
So if these Keepers had all moved to other Lighthouses by 1911, who was minding An Tiaracht? The 1911 Census shows that it was now Daniel Twohig, 44, who was Head Keeper, assisted by Edward Kennedy, 24, from Cork and Francis Corish, 24, from Antrim. Where had they been 10 years previously in the 1901 Census? The Head Keeper Daniel Twohig had been based at Aranmore Lighthouse in Donegal. His Assistants were mere children in 1901 - young Edward Kennedy lived with his father, Head Keeper Hamilton Kennedy, at Howth Lighthouse, and young Francis Corish’s father was Head Keeper at Ballycotton Island in Cork.
This small piece of research seems to show that Lighthouse Keeping ran in the family, and that Keepers were moving around the various Lighthouses. I wonder if it was either of these two Assistants named in the 1911 Census who was the unnamed Assistant who fell to his death from An Tiaracht in 1913? This unfortunate person had been trying to catch goats for milking, and had fatally slipped down the ever present steep slopes. This was a tough life. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/1037/comment/6530/