Descendants of cable visionaries to meet at site

Direct descendants of the men whose vision helped bring the transatlantic cable to Valentia Island, Co Kerry, in 1866 will meet for the first time this weekend on the Co Kerry site of the historic achievement.

The launch of the International Transatlantic Cable Heritage project will welcome Cyrus Field IV, the great-great-grandson of American businessman Cyrus Field, who promoted the project, and Adrian Fitzgerald, whose great-great-grandfather was responsible for facilitating the connection to Valentia.

“The cable has been uniting north America and Europe since the 1866, and the designation of Valentia as a potential World Heritage site acknowledges one of the first wonders of modern-day communication,” said Mr Field.

“Preserving the transatlantic telegraph landing sites is an opportunity to celebrate one of humanities’ modern marvels of the 19th century.”

The first underwater cable was made operational between Britain and France in 1851. Ireland and Britain were joined in 1852. Five years later, the Mediterranean was linked at a depth of 3,000m and a distance of 900km.

The Atlantic was a much greater challenge, being three times wider and deeper than anything achieved previously, and created huge technological difficulties; Cyrus Field attempted, at considerable cost, to bridge the gap.

He achieved what many believed was impossible in 1866, and securely linked Europe, via Valentia, to the New World, via Newfoundland. Even though the cable had a speed of only five words per minute, it was considered one of the major achievements of the Industrial Revolution.

Mr Field and Mr Fitzgerald will meet on the island this weekend where, on Sunday, the Cromwell Point Lighthouse opens. It will allow access to the public for the first time.

The site was originally home to a Cromwell Fleetwood Fort believed to have been built in the 17th century, one of two built on Valentia Island around then. The lighthouse has been automated since 1947, and is maintained by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

A fundraising plan is being developed to establish a tourist attraction with the potential to attract an estimated 50,000 visitors a year to the island.

Brian Morgan from the Valentia Island Development Company said: “The site on Valentia has huge tourism potential and will provide a much needed boost to the local economy.”


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