“In a way, I feel I have come home here to Loop Head.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday reflected on his first visit to Loop Head lighthouse in west Clare where his grandfather, James McGinley served as light-keeper in the 1930s.
Mr Kenny’s uncle Joe McGinley — son of James and who was born in the lighthouse — was also making his first visit back to Loop Head lighthouse in 78 years.
There to open the Loop Head lighthouse for the 2012 tourist season, Mr Kenny said: “I feel a very strong spirit connection here because my grandfather served here as a light-keeper but my late mother ran around this patch of grass and my uncle was born here so there is a very strong family connection in that sense.”
Mr Kenny said: “It does mean a lot to me,” adding that “it is a special day for me and my family”.
Last year, the doors of Loop Head lighthouse were opened to the public for the first time over 340 years after the first lighthouse was built at Loop Head.
The last light-keeper at Loophead lighthouse, Brendan Garvey closed the door at the lighthouse on Mar 28, 1991, before the light system became automated.
The Taoiseach’s grandfather took up duties at the lighthouse on Jan 16, 1933, and remained working there as principal keeper for a year and 10 months.
Mr Kenny said that he knew James McGinley as a young child. He said: “I remember him very well.”
He said he hoped that opening the lighthouse as a tourist attraction will give people an appreciation of the work light-keepers did where they endured long days and nights and had only the Atlantic for company.
Mr Kenny said yesterday: “Light-keepers were meticulous people. They had to be — if that light wasn’t shining properly, well then sailors and mariners in distress could have suffered fatal consequences.”
He added: “This was the last light that people saw when leaving Ireland and the first they saw when they returned.”
Mr Kenny said that the light-keepers like his grandfather “kept the light on at the western edge of Europe”.
He said: “They endured gales, storms, long weeks, the cold, loneliness, isolation, but these were men were sanguine, resilient, adaptable, resourceful, self possessed and who knew their job.”
* Loop Head Lighthouse officially opens to the public from today up to Sept 3.
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