L I G H T K E E P E R S
For the last three years I have been immersed in the unique world of Irish lighthouses. Being fortunate to live under the sweep of the Galley Head lighthouse beam, I have painted the lighthouse and headland many times and my curiosity as to what it must have been like to live and rear a family in these remote structures led to this exhibition. So began three years of research and practice, that brought me around the coast of Ireland to some of the most desolate and beautiful headlands and offshore lighthouse stations.
I wanted my paintings not only to show the physical structures and the scapes but also to capture the echo of the lives lived by the keepers and their families. I have tried to do this in my Lifescapes using old family photographs and memorabilia given to me by the families. With the photographs came the stories and where possible the stories are retold here by the keepers and their families. It was the stories, that governed my choice of locations to paint.
Today, there are no longer any full-time lighthouse keepers in Ireland, attendant keepers are employed in a caretaker capacity. Families no longer live in keeper’s cottages; their histories are confined to archives, anecdote and a diminishing number of first-hand narratives. Alongside this change is the modernisation of the lighthouses themselves. This July 2018, the existing light at the Fastnet will be replaced with a LED light, placed on the roof of the old lantern. The range of the new light will be 18 nautical miles compared to 27 of the old light.
Nevertheless, the sweeping beams of light will still be visible at night from the balcony of the Galley Head lighthouse, as has been the case for the past 125 years. Time is bringing change to lighthouses but the keepers and their families, will soon be gone, confined to the world of memory.
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