Historic lighthouse optic adds to Titanic experience

An artist's impression of the Mew Island Optic which will be restored at Titanic Walkway
An artist's impression of the Mew Island Optic which will be restored at Titanic Walkway

A lighthouse optic, which has journeyed all the way across Ulster, is about to come back into the limelight at a major NI tourist hotspot.

The Mew Island Optic, which is to be installed on the new Titanic Walkway this summer, was originally a beacon on Tory Island in Donegal before it was moved to Mew Island in 1924.

The Mew Island Optic is being restored before being installed at Titanic Walkway

The Mew Island Optic is being restored before being installed at Titanic Walkway

The optic, which dates back to 1887, is one of the last surviving lighthouse optics of its kind left in the world, and one of the largest ever constructed.

It was removed from Mew Island, the outermost of the Copeland Islands at the mouth of Belfast Lough, when the lighthouse, one of Ireland’s tallest, was updated and automated.

The island was an important aid to navigation at the southern entrance to Belfast Lough, built at a time when Belfast was the world centre of linen, ship-building and rope-making, and one of the most important ports in the world.

As work continues to restore the seven-metre tall, 10-tonne optic to former glories, planning permission has been granted by Belfast City Council to install the optic in the Titanic Quarter.

The optic, one of only 29 optics with a hyper-radical lenses, will be housed in a new interpretive structure, designed to last for 100 years and made to resemble a lighthouse lantern room.

The optic’s new location will be on the Titanic Walkway, being developed as a pedestrian walkway located at the bottom of the Titanic and Olympic Slipways and connecting them to the Alexandra Dock, home to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock.

Titanic Foundation’s chief executive, Kerrie Sweeney, said: “We are delighted to announce that planning permission for Mew Optic’s new home on Titanic Quarter’s waterfront has been officially granted by Belfast City Council’s planning service.

“We are now one step closer to helping save and restore one of the largest optics of its kind ever constructed, an artefact of national and international significance. This will certainly create a legacy Belfast landmark which will inspire our future generations.”

The chair of the planning committee, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “Belfast City Council was pleased to be able to support the restoration of this important piece of maritime history, and we are equally delighted that now the next step has been taken to ensure that it will continue to play a prominent role, as one of the centrepiece attractions of the Titanic Quarter.”

It is estimated at least 100,000 visitors a year will view the optic. With free public access it will tell the story of lighthouses, their development, their keepers, and their role in Ulster’s proud maritime and industrial heritage.