• Gerard Horgan/GH

Image of the Week: The Dursey Signal Tower

Dursey Island, located off the Beara peninsula, is a historical treasure trove. From its early Celtic origins to settlements through the centuries, Dursey is a rugged island that witnessed the arrival of Oliver Cromwell's forces and later, the construction of this Napoleonic era Signal Tower (click on the image to enlarge).

The 1805 Signal Tower was built because of British fears of a French invasion of Ireland. Such fears were not out of place as in 1798 Wolfe Tone had come very close to landing a large military force from France in Bantry Bay. Signal Towers and Martello Towers were built, at huge expense, all around the Irish coastline in the early 1800s as both a deterrent to French invasion and also as an early warning signal to the authorities in Dublin.


The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage states of the Signal Tower:

"A notable example of a early nineteenth century fortified signal tower, which were built along Ireland's coastline in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion. The defensive nature of the building is articulated by the finely crafted and largely intact corbelled bartizans. An integral part of the history of the island, this imposing structure retains its original character and forms a distinctive feature in the landscape."


The Signal Tower is located on the highest point on the island, at Tilickafinna. This narrow rectangular tower had two storeys over a basement, with each storey supported by vaulted stonework. The Signal Tower has been in ruin since the mid-19th century. The views from Tilickafinna are simply spectacular and on a clear day you can see for miles around and is definitely on the must visit list!



Alongside the beauty of the island, lies a tragic episode in island history. After the Irish defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, Dursey's 300 inhabitants, all members of the O’Sullivan clan, were massacred by Cromwellian forces who landed on the island in 1602 led by George Care who put the population to the sword. Today, thankfully the island is at peace again and is the seasonal home to the descendents of islanders, who continue to farm (mostly cattle & sheep) and fish the surrounding waters with some of Dursey's catch once ending up in the finest Parisian restaurants especially the islands famous lobster!


For more on Dursey Island, see the following links:

  • Ireland's only cable car celebrates 50 years, click here

  • Exploring the Beara Peninsula: The Dursey Island Walk, click here

  • Dursey Island: A special place because of its remoteness, click here

  • Dursey Island (video), click here


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