Let there be light ... Titanic Quarter gets new attraction

Bill Power and his son Pat view the optic from the lighthouse they once manned at its new location in Belfast's Titanic Quarter

A new tourist attraction in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter brought back happy memories for a man who was used to viewing it from a different perspective.

As he gazed for the first time at the huge optic from Mew Island lighthouse in its new situ, Pat Power, who manned the lighthouse off the coast of Donaghadee for five years, reminisced: “I can remember some of those wee cracks in the light.”

Mr Power, 56, who was in attendance at the official opening of the attraction on Thursday, said: “I’ve never seen it from this angle before.

“When I was up working on it there wasn’t much room to manoeuvre so I was seeing it very close up.

“Because of the height of the lighthouse, in order to view it from this far back (two or three metres) I’d have to be floating up in the air.”

The new attraction which was officially opened by Belfast Mayor Nuala McAllister is called The Great Light – its centrepiece being one of the largest optics of its kind ever built in the world.

The huge Fresnel Hyper-Radial lenses served two lighthouses over approximately 127 years – Tory Island Lighthouse, situated off Donegal and Mew Island lighthouse, part of the Copeland Islands.

It was used there to guide mariners at Belfast Lough until 2014 when it was replaced by a solar powered LED.

Mr Power served with the Lighthouse Service for 15 years, following in the footsteps of his father Bill who was also in attendance on Thursday.

Both manned Mew Island lighthouse for periods during their careers.

Bill, 88, who spent 16 years at Mew Island, said: “It was a very enjoyable time in the my life.

“It’s nice that the light is getting a home here at the Titanic and keeping the maritime heritage alive.”

Pat said: “There’s a perception that being a lighthouse keeper is a lonely existence but it’s only as lonely as you make it yourself.

“You’ve two other people with you and it’s up to you what you do to occupy yourself.

“When dad was doing it he would have been away from us for six weeks at a time. In the summer months we would have frequent trips by boat to see him and we also had the novelty of speaking to dad on the radio.

“It brings back great memories to see the old light restored and on display.”

Titanic Foundation worked along with the Commissioners of Irish Lights to restore the Mew Island optic and house it in a new interpretive structure, bringing to life the role of lighthouses and lighthouse keepers in the maritime and industrial history of Belfast and beyond.

Access to The Great Light is via a new 500-metre Titanic Walkway just beyond the Titanic slipways and beside Titanic Studios – a further improvement of the infrastructure for those travelling on foot in the Titanic Quarter.

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