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The Lightkeeper: A Memoir, by Gerald Butler with Patricia Ahern

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Recollections of one of Ireland's last lightkeepers.

The Lightkeeper: A Memoir, by Gerald Butler with Patricia Ahern

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Gerald Butler was one of Ireland’s last lightkeepers. Until they were fully automated in the 1990s, Gerald spent over 21 years tending to many lighthouses around the coast of Ireland. In The Lightkeeper he recalls with passion the thrills, trials, tragedies, triumphs and dangers of serving on lighthouses such as Bull Rock, Mizen Head, the Old Head of Kinsale and the infamous Fastnet Rock.

Throughout his captivating story, he recollects the terrible traumas of crews battling for their lives on mountainous seas, in horrendous, stormy conditions. He describes in detail the tragic 1979 Fastnet yacht race, which involved 3,000 competitors and more than 4,000 rescuers, and in which he played a vital role as a lighthouse keeper on the forbidding Fastnet Rock, towering over the storm-struck vessels as they struggled for survival.

An affectionate portrayal of a different era, The Lightkeeper gives a unique insight into the lives and characters of lighthouse keepers, their families and the wider sea-faring community

"...lovely read...you'll find it very enjoyable." -- Gay Byrne, Lyric FM, 'Sunday with Gay Byrne', 27 January 2013.

"It's just frightening. The description in the book is just amazing."  -- Gay Byrne, Lyric FM, 'Sunday with Gay Byrne', 27 January 2013
(referring to chapter on 1979 Fastnet race tragedy).

 "Comprehensive and engaging, this timely account touches nostalgic nerves ..." -- Alan Murdoch, Sunday Times, 3 February 2013.

 "In his book, The Lightkeeper, he reflects on the long hours, days and weeks spent on lighthouse stations and the time they gave to think and reflect on life." -- Tom MacSweeney, Marine Times, January 2013.

 "Ferocious storms and waves up to 163 feet in height were all part of daily life for former lighthouse keeper Gerald Butler." -- Áilín Quinlan, The Southern Star, 22 December 2012.

"If you are looking for a most enjoyable, easy to read book...then go no further than The Lightkeeper." Bandon Opinion, January 2013..

“… extraordinary … a fascinating history of a lightkeeper and his family … a wonderful record of a unique piece of social history.” -- John Gore Grimes, Commissioner of Irish Lights

About the Authors

A third-generation lighthouse keeper on both sides, Gerald Butler joined the Commissioners of Irish Lights in 1969. He spent most of his career as an assistant keeper on Bull Rock, Fastnet Rock, the Old Head of Kinsale and Mizen Head lighthouses. During his twenty-one years of service, he also served on Dún Laoghaoire East Pier, Roche’s Point, Power Head, Wicklow Head, Tuskar Rock, Hook Point, Ballycotton Island, Skellig Michael, Inishtearaght, Eeragh, Eagle Island, Blackrock Mayo, Arranmore, Fanad Head, Rockabill, Roancarrig and the Baily lighthouses.

Born in Castletownbere, today he lives in Rathbarry, near Clonakilty in west Cork. He is the attendant keeper at Galley Head Lighthouse, is a member of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers, and lectures schools and societies on the history of lighthouses.

Patricia Ahern is the author of Picture Poetry Mallow and the co-author of In Search of the Missing. She has an MA in Women’s Studies, a H Dip in Journalism and Media Communications, and a BA in English and Sociology. Born in Mallow, she now lives in Ballinhassig, County Cork and is currently co-writing a biography, The Loneliest Boy in the World, with Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin, who was the last native child of the Great Blasket and is the only survivor of those evacuated from the island in 1953.

Additional Information

Author Butler, Gerald
Editor No
Print Format Paperback
ISBN-10 No
ISBN-13 978-1-908308-25-2
Illustrations Illustrated
Date of Publication October 2012
Number of Pages 200