The Lighthouse > History
For several centuries after its construction, the Tower of Hook remained under the control of the town of New Ross. The mayor and corporation of New Ross demonstrated their authority by travelling to the point of Hook where they would shoot an arrow into the sea and climbed the tower. It is not known how long the monks continued to act as custodians: it is possible that the work may have been taken over by lay people.
In 1671, a new, but still coal burning lantern was installed on top of the tower to replace the old beacon light. Further improvements were carried out in 1704. In the late seventeenth century the ownership of the tower passed to Henry Loftus who had acquired the lands of the Hook after Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland. In 1728, Nicholas Loftus, known as “the extinguisher”, threatened to close the lighthouse unless he was given an increase of rent by the authorities.
The coal fire was finally abandoned in 1791 when a whale oil lantern 12ft. in diameter with 12 lamps was installed. Further improvements followed when the tower was handed over to The Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (Ballast Office) in 1810 with the expenditure of £4,280 on new apparatus. Further improvements were carried out in1863 during which the lighthouse assumed its present shape. New gas lights were installed in 1871, lit by gas manufactured in the enclosure still known as the gas-yard. During the 1800’s, three dwellings were built for light-keepers and their families. Paraffin oil became the source of power in 1911 and a clockwork mechanism was installed to change the beacon from a fixed to a flashing light. The mechanism, which had to be wound up every 25 minutes, turned on a platform on which three huge lenses were mounted. Finally, in 1972, electricity became the power source and light sensitive switches were installed to control the lantern. In March 1996, the Hook Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation and the last of the light-keepers who had climbed the stairs and tended the light for almost eight hundred years were permanently withdrawn from the station. The lighthouse is now remotely controlled and monitored at the Lighthouse Depot in Dun Laoghaire.
Fog signals are operated from the lighthouse as a warning to sea-farers during dense fog which can suddenly descend on the peninsula. The signal was essential in the days before radar and radio. Fog guns which stood on the edge of the cliff, and fired every 10 minutes during fog, were later replaced by a hooter. This in turn was replaced by detonators or rockets which were exploded on metal arms extending from the top of the lighthouse. In 1972 a fog-horn worked by compressed air was installed and during foggy weather its melancholy sound reverberates over land and sea.
In 1867 the body in charge of lighthouse services became known as the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The Commissioners are responsible for the provision and maintenance of lighthouses and other aids to navigation for the island of Ireland. They are funded from light dues charged on commercial shipping in Irish and British ports, supplemented by an annual contribution from the Irish government. Around the coast of Ireland the principal services provided by the Commissioners include 82 lighthouses, 2 automatic lightfloats, 2 large automatic navigational buoys (LANBY’s), 3 differential GPS stations, and buoys. Offshore lighthouses are serviced by 7 helicopter shore bases, three of which are also used for search and rescue activities.