Liam shines a spotlight on lightship servicemen

By Esther Hayden

Published 11/03/2016 | 00:00

Brian Matthews, MC; Liam Clarke; and Liam Gaul, who launched the book.
Brian Matthews, MC; Liam Clarke; and Liam Gaul, who launched the book.
Liam Clarke with daughters Catherine Spencer and Sinead Clarke.

There was a great turnout at a recent book launch at Wexford Book Centre.

The book by author and historian Dr Liam Clarke, a native of Wexford town, details the history of the lightship service and is called Light in the Darkness.

The speakers on the night were introduced by the president of Wexford Historical Society, Brian Matthews and included author and historian, Liam Gaul, who officially launched the book.

Liam outlined the lifestyle of the lightship men as they served their on board stay of six weeks with two weeks on shore. During his time on-board ship the lightship man had to do his own cooking, washing, mending and take his turn on watch, which was the main part of his duty.

Many Wexford men, most of them former 'deep sea' sailors, were employed in the service and were affectionately referred to as the 'Wexford Navy'. The numbers in each crew varied from five to seven men on each ship. Alas, this lightship service is no more with such vessels as the 'Barrels'; Lucifer; 'Blackwater' and the 'Coningbeg' long gone to be replaced by un-manned buoys and lighthouses.

Liam Gaul listed some family names of Wexford men who served such as -Higginbotham; Morris; Cullen; McCleane; Lawlor; O'Leary; O'Brien; Delaney; Roche; Butler; Gaddren and so many other brave sea men.

The author, Dr. Liam Clarke, spoke of his years of research collecting stories, memorabilia, photographs and interviews with former lightship men including his father, Arthur Clarke, who served over 30 years in the service. He said he was delighted to have his book launch in Wexford, a maritime port where so many sailors set out 'under sail' for far flung foreign destinations around the globe.

Dr. Clarke hoped his readers would gain great satisfaction from his book and that it would preserve for posterity the lives and service of so many heroic lightship men who were the keepers of the shining light that guided ships through dangerous hidden reefs and sand bars ensuring a safe passage from the fury of the unpredictable sea.

He thanked all those who made his trip to Wexford for such a memorable occasion.

All of Dr. Clarke's massive research work has culminated in his 160 page book copiously illustrated with wonderful black and white photographs throughout the book's 15 chapters. This book is a first in recording the history of a service whose motto was - In Salutem Omnium translating as - For the Safety of All.

The launch was attended by a capacity audience with many lifeboat men and women present. Two eminent sea captains, Michael Murphy and Michael Doyle were among the attendance. The official part of the evening was brought to a conclusion by Master of Ceremonies, Brian Matthews. Many maritime tales were recounted during the rest of a most enjoyable evening. Dr. Liam Clarke is donating all royalties from Light in the Darkness to the RNLI.

Wexford People

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