In pictures: Wicklow lighthouse shines once again after almost 50 years

The original 19th century dome blew off in the 1970s, lay in a shed, was flattened and thought lost until its recent restoration

A small group of people gathered on the east pier in Wicklow harbour shortly after first light on Monday, to watch as the original copper dome of the pier’s lighthouse was restored after almost half a century.

The dome, in place since 1884, was blown away in a storm which locals remember taking place in 1976. They said local fishing crews had rescued the dome and taken it to a boatyard across the harbour, but after the boatyard closed about 30 years ago, the whereabouts of the dome became uncertain.

Instead of the copper dome, a flatter, lighter roof had been put on the light in the 1970s and this survived until March this year when a particularly violent gust lifted it clean off the top of the lighthouse.

Fortunately, by this time the remains of original dome had been rediscovered, flattened out in a shed, and the port authority contacted Arklow Marine Services to see if it could be restored to its position. “We were doubtful at first if it was feasible,” said John Tyrrell of Arklow Marine Services but another member of staff in the boatbuilding company “said he would give it a go”.


In April this year, the upper part of the lighthouse, which includes the windows surrounding the light itself, was removed and taken to Arklow to be reunited with the original roof.

So, on Monday morning, as locals Caroline O’Neill and Amelia Ronan finished up their daybreak swim, a mobile crane reversed down the pier to lift the windows with their original copper dome attached back into position.

“It is great to see it. The lighthouse is incredibly picturesque and it is lovely it is back where it belongs,” said Ms O’Neill.

There, too, was Pat Davis, a postman in Wicklow town for 39 years who retired last year and has spent his spare time painting and restoring 57 murals on the pier wall. The murals are of many of the ships which have visited the harbour over the last half century and celebrate the town’s maritime tradition.

“It took about 30 hours for each one, but two bigger ones at the end took about 57 hours each, he said as he watched the dome being craned into position. Mr Davis said the lighthouse was synonymous with Wicklow and featured in many paintings of the area.

Local man Donagh McGowan said the restoration was all the more significant as the dome was part of a working light. “It is not a novelty,” he said.

According to the book Wicklow Harbour: A History, by Jimmy Cleary and Andrew O’Brien (2001), a “new” harbour was officially opened in Wicklow in 1884, featuring “a concrete lighthouse, about 35 feet above high water with a dioptric fixed light”. It was an oil light with a range of around 10 miles and shone red to seaward and white in the harbour.

Port supervisor Colm Dempsey said it was great to see the port owners Wicklow County Council putting the investment into restoring the lighthouse. Today, the lighthouse is powered by solar panels and a windmill. A new addition is the weather vane which has now been attached to the dome.