On the night of Sunday the 18th October 1812, an unusually high tide occurred and a violent tempest swept the sea over the rock, carrying away the temporary wooden houses which were erected there for the shelter of the workmen, and of 24 men upon the rock, 14 were washed away.
Archive & Heritage Officer
An Act Passed by the British Parliament (1810) transferred control of lighthouses around Ireland’s Coastline to the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Post of Dublin. In the years that followed an ambitious programme of lighthouse construction began. One of these early lighthouses was Tuskar Rock. During construction workers lived on the Rock in temporary wooden shelters. It was in this context that on the night of the 18th October 1812, tragedy took place. What occurred that night was vividly described by Robert Callwell, who was a Commissioner in the mid-19th century: “On the night of Sunday the 18th October 1812, an unusually high tide occurred and a violent tempest swept the sea over the rock, carrying away the temporary wooden houses which were erected there for the shelter of the workmen, and of 24 men upon the rock, 14 were washed away. 10 clung to the rock, and were exposed to the violence of the gale from that time until 21st, without food or shelter, it was found impossible to afford any assistance on account of the violence of the sea. They were then brought up to Wexford in a state of extreme exhaustion, and much injured by being chafed against the rock by the action of the water. Two of these men had their limbs broken. They were taken direct to the infirmary. All were kindly attended to.” This story has become the stuff of legend over the years in Irish Lightwith gruesome tales of rescuers arriving to find the disembodied hands of someof the dead still clinging to the rocks.To returnto the facts. The Board appointed a committee to consider what pensionshould be granted to the families of men drowned in storm and the Board Minutes of the 26th November 1812 record that pensions were granted of:
“£6 per annum to each widow, and £6 to each mother whose son was lost; £3 to each child until they have attained the age of16 years; and £10 per annum to Edward Byrne, whose leg was amputated besides which the survivors were allowed 1 months’ wages. £40 being placed in the hands of Mr Halpin to provide clothes for the survivors in place of those were washed off the rock.” This was a nearly formative event in the history of the organization. The Boards response to it is important as it shows an early commitment by the organisation to the welfare not just of its staff but of their dependents.