End of an era – Kish Lightship withdrawn from service 9th November 1965

Since 1811 a lightship has dutifully stood watch at the sandy shallows but over half a century ago, 9th November 1965, the last Lightship at the Kish Bank was withdrawn from service. The ship was replaced by a new floating lighthouse that was towed out from Dun Laoghaire harbour earlier that year and continues service to this day.


The Kish Bank is a shallow sandy area 11km off the east coast of Dublin and a notorious spot for shipwrecks with more than 50 boats resting around it’s waters. It was a place desperately in need of a light to aid mariners sailing into Dublin. Since 1811 a lightship was served this purpose. 

In 1842 there was an attempt made to erect a permanent light at the bank in the form of a screw-pile lighthouse. These types of lighthouse were designed by the blind engineer Alexander Mitchell enabled lighthouses to be built in difficult soil conditions like the shifting sands at Kish. The Belfast man’s designed had proved effective elsewhere but a severe gale interrupted construction and the project was abandoned.

Lighships would continue to serve the bank until a more innovative plan could be put in place. In 1954 the first Irish electric lightvessel Gannet was installed at the Kish Bank.


Kish Lightship As depicted on the large compass on Dun Laoghaire’s East Pier

In 1960 the Commissioners of Irish Lights decided to build a new permanent lighthouse to be installed on the Kish bank. The lighthouse was designed by Messrs Christiani & Nielsen Ltd and it was based on models previously used in Sweden. It would stand 110ft tall and weigh 6,500 tonnes, it contained six bedrooms and had TV and radio facilities with a helicopter pad on the very top. Construction began in 1963 and by June 1965 it was ready to travel out to its new home.


Kish Lighthouse photo by JGFitzgerald

On 29th June 1965, it was towed out of Dun Laoghaire harbour 11km to the Kish bank. A unique floating lighthouse, a truly amazing feat of engineering for a particularly difficult set of conditions. The lightship was finally withdrawn 9th November 1965 and the Kish Lighthouse has served there ever since.


About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me ann@coastmonkey.ie or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22