On the 8th December 1886 a violent storm swept across Ireland and Western Europe. Meteorological observations from the time report a Gale Force 12 (Hurricane Force) wind from the SW on the West Coast of Ireland. The damage around the coast was catastrophic.
Archive & Heritage Officer
On the 8thDecember 1886 a violent storm swept across Ireland and Western Europe. Meteorological observations from the time report a Gale Force 12 (Hurricane Force) wind from the SW on the West Coast of Ireland. The damage around the coast was catastrophic. The Irish Lights Minute papers from the time shed light on the havoc wreaked by the storm on Stations around the coast. Between 9th-16th December, reports came flooding in from Lightkeepers and Masters of Lightships on 19stations around the entire coast of Ireland. These ranged geographically from Eagle Island to the Codling Bank, and from Inishtrahull to Hook. Undoubtedly the West Coast was hit the hardest with dwellings receiving the most damage. Miraculously there were no reports of injuries to Irish Lights personnel or their families. A letter from Richard Hamilton the Principal Keeper at Hook vividly describes the force of the storm and the ensuing damage: “I have to report that during a hurricane of wind, the force of which lasted from 11 am to 5.30 pm on yesterday the 8th.The following damage was done at this station; a hole stripped in the back of the Assistant Keepers dwelling to the number of 36 slates…The gutter blown off front and broken… In all it would take about 4 dozen slates to repair and 4 lengths of gutter ” Daniel Hawkins, Principal Keeper at Eagle Island East reported that “during the gale on the night of the 8th instant the following damage was done by the sea to Derricks at East Landing – Gaff belonging to lower Derrick taken away out of the crutches; wheel of upper Winch broken as shown on sketch at back of this letter; and one of the crutches for large Gaff broken off. Cement platform at East Landing block torn away". Along with his report Hawkins submitted sketches of the equipment in need of repair or replacement. The Lightships fared no better. A report from Patrick Cullen, Master of the Coningbeg Lightship states that “on the 8th instant during a hurricane from West a heavy sea broke over the Ship smashing the shutters in four sides of the Engine House…washed overboard one of our Life Buoys and…also broke Gally Funnel. Ship is making [sic] a little water along iron plate underdeck. The ship acted very well during the hurricane” On the 16th December William Douglass, Chief Engineer, submitted a 5 page report detailing the storm damage reported by stations around the coast and repairs needed. The report is essentially an inventory of the damage caused to Irish Lights’ property by the storm. It gives an insight into the organisation’s response in the days following the Storm. Despite any proper transport infrastructure at the time, a response was quickly mobilized and the hard work of clean up and repair began in earnest.