Fanad Lighthouse Facts
The tower is 22 metres high from foundation to the top of the tower (not including the lantern). The light is 39 metres above sea level and there are 76 steps in the tower – 59 spiral granite steps and 17 ladder steps .
Fanad is one of 11 lighthouses in County Donegal (the others are Saint John’s Point, Rotten Island, Rathlin O’Birne Island, Arranmore Island, Ballagh Rocks, Tory Island, Buncrana, Stroove, Dunree and Inishtrahull – the most northerly lighthouse in Ireland).
The light is classified as a sea light as distinct from a harbour light although it does mark the entrance to Lough Swilly which is a natural harbour of refuge.
Fanad Lighthouse survived a lightning strike on the night of 20/21 December 1916.
The Lighthouse staff consisted of a Principal Keeper and an Assistant Keeper who lived in the lighthouse with their families.
Children who lived at the lighthouse attended Ballymichael School, a 1.5 mile walk (uphill most of the way). Being a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) school, this would have given them an opportunity to experience the Irish language, if they were not native speakers. While it may have been an upheaval being moved from lighthouse to lighthouse as part of their father’s job, they most likely made friends with the local children and perhaps became part of the community more readily than their parents.
The staff was supplemented in wintertime by a third light-keeper, known as a Supernumerary, who used temporary accommodation at the back of the lighthouse.
By 1978 only a Principal Keeper was retained in Fanad, and when he retired in 1983 the lighthouse was reclassified as an Attendant station and the retired Principal Keeper remained on as part-time Attendant.
Photograph courtsey of Brian Cannon. His grandmother Mary Agnes Cannon of Ballymichael took this photo circa 1950s.