Ireland's islands

Eagle Island (Oileán san Tuaidh)

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Eagle Island is a small island lying off the Mullet Peninsual on the north west coast of Mayo. The island is uninhabited and is best known for its two lighthouses. There is no ferry access to the island.

In 1830 two lighthouses were commissioned following requests from the coastguards who were concerned at the sea conditions at Blackrock. The new lighthouses were located on Eagle Island - Eagle Island East and Eagle Island West. The base of the West tower was 196 feet above high water mark yet still during the construction a great sea swept the partly built tower and much of the building materials into the sea. The lighthouses were completed and a massive storm wall built on the sea side of the towers. The towers, 64 feet and 87 feet high were 132 yards apart with their lanterns at the same level, 220 feet above high water mark, and were built of cut stone quarried on Eagle Island. When the lights at night, or towers in daytime, were in line they guided vessels past all dangers from Blacksod Bay to Broadhaven including The Stags.

Eagle Island is located close to the edge of the Continental Shelf and so is constantly pounded by powerful Atlantic. When the towers were built there was seven dwelling houses on Eagle Island (1841 Census) but the results of the 1911 census shows there was only one dwelling house remining. Although the lighthouses were sited almost 200 feet above the high water mark, during a severe storm on January 17 1836, a rock was thrown up the cliffs and smashed the glass in a window 26 m (87 feet) high up in the tower building. On March 11 1861 at midday the light room of the East tower was struck by the sea smashing 23 panes, washing some of the lamps down the stairs, and damaging the reflectors with broken glass beyond repair. The light was restored the following night with a reduced number of lamps and reflectors. So much water cascaded down the tower in the incident that the Keepers had to drill holes in the tower door to let the seawater out.

The storm which struck Eagle Island and many other west and north coast stations on December 29 1894 damaged the East station dwellings beyond repair, broke the lantern glass, put out the light and damaged the protecting wall. The families were forced to take shelter in the tower. Following this incident women and children were brought ashore and housed in Belmullet. It was gradually accepted that Eagle Island was not well suited to human habitation. Shore dwellings for the keepers and their families were built at Corclough enabling the keepers to semaphore to the island. The families moved into the dwellings at the end of 1900 although lighthouse keepers remained resident on the Eagle Island.

The shore dwellings were abandoned in 1955 and sold in 1956. The light was converted to electric in July 1968 and replaced by a solar powered light in October 2001. Substantial storm damage was sustained in January 1987 and again in February 1988. In March 1988 the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation and the Keepers withdrawn from the station. The station is now in the care of an Attendant and the aids to navigation are monitored from the Lighthouse Depot in Dun Laoghaire.