How Blacksod lighthouse changed the course of the World War II4 min read
Blacksod Lighthouse, Fód Dubh in Gaelic, is a lighthouse at the southern end of the Mullet Peninsula, Erris, County Mayo, at the entrance to Blacksod Bay, Ireland, where the catch of the day will always include wild Atlantic lobster.
The area also boasts jaw dropping scenery and offers sanctuary for Irish whales & dolphins under supervision of the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group.
The 150-year-old structure is made of local granite blocks, which are believed to have come from Termon Hill, a nearby isolated outcrop of high quality granite in the heart of an Irish speaking region.
The lighthouse has been crucial to the survival of the area through its sea safety design and alternative uses as Blacksod’s resident post office and weather station.
Blacksod is of unusual design for a lighthouse, being a square block of a building with only a small conical lantern section on top of it which is painted white, while keeper’s house is a two-storey square building, which has always been unpainted.
It was built in 1864 by one of the leading merchants in Belmullet at that time, Bryan Carey, to complement its neighbouring Black Rock Lighthouse.
Building a lighthouse at Blacksod Bay was already discussed in 1841, but it was only in the early 1860s that proposals were sent for its approval and thus, on the 30th June 1866, at nighttime, a fixed light showing red and white would be operative to ensure vessels pass safely into Blacksod Bay from the north.
This historical lighthouse played also an essential role at the end of World War II as a weather-station supplying Britain with meteorological reports under an agreement dating back to the 1921 Treaty.
While remaining neutral during World War II, Ireland continued to supply weather reports to Britain under an agreement in place since independence.
Irish weather reports, however, were not passed on to Germany.
In the history of mankind, few weather forecasts have carried such import.
As he cranked the telephone and delivered his news over a crackly line from Co Mayo’s most westerly point, Irish Coast Guardsman and lighthouse keeper at the time, Ted Sweeney, had no idea the lives of more than 150,000 Allied troops would hang on his words.
It was the 3rd June 1944 when Ted Sweeney delivered a weather forecast which unwittingly changed the course of the war.
He was at that time providing hourly weather reports phoned into London , but he didn’t realise he was sending them to General Dwight Eisenhower and informing one of the biggest military operations in world history.
On that day, he phoned that there was a warning: a Force 6 wind and a rapidly falling barometer at his weather station.
D-Day was scheduled to take place on the 5th of June, but when Eisenhower knew about the weather forecast from Blacksod lighthouse, he decided to delay the landing by one day and potentially saved it from disaster.
On June 4th, a new report delivered by Ted Sweeney from Blacksod lighthouse indicated the weather was clearing which decided the eventual go-ahead for the landing on June 6th in Normandy, and that is the date we all remember, the D-Day date.
Moreover, in 1969 a man named Tom McClean rowed from Newfoundland to Blacksod Bay. He used the telephone in Blacksod Lighthouse to phone his sponsors, Gilette Razor Company. As part of his sponsorship deal he was to appear cleanly shaven when meeting the press at Blacksod Pier!
The house at Blacksod was badly damaged in 1989 by a rogue wave. It was repaired and is still occupied.
Today Blacksod Lighthouse is an active helicopter refuelling station as well as being a world class visitor attraction. The Irish coastguard and Irish Lights helicopters refuel here regularly.
Blacksod Lighthouse is one of four lighthouses on the Erris Peninsula.
As the Peninsula is only 25km in length, this is a lot of lighthouses in one place, and the rocky shoreline of North West Mayo makes these essential.
Images from web – Google Research