Spent Night Marooned on Lighthouse

Sligo Champion, Saturday, September 17, 1960

Three men, Messrs John Whelan, commercial traveller, Union Pace, Sligo; Eddie McCarrick, boat owner, Riverside, Sligo, and Mr. F Hillary, Grove Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin, spent fourteen hours marooned on Blackrock Lighthouse in Sligo Bay last Monday night after the boat in which they had earlier spent the day fishing developed engine trouble.

They were rescued on Tuesday morning by the crew of the Raughley Pilot Boat, Messrs. Patrick Caraway and John Joe Herity, shortly before the Arranmore lifeboat arrived at Rosses Point, having made an all-night dash to the scene from its base off the coast of County Donegal.

After being taken off the lighthouse the three men were landed at Raughley and then taken to Sligo by Messrs. Austin Gillen, publican, Rosses Point, who is a Sligo River pilot, and Mr. Dan Gannon, Manager, Yeats Country Hotel, Rosses Point, who also accompanied the Raughley Pilot crew on the rescue trip to the lighthouse.

Messrs Whelan and McCarrick were left at their homes in Sligo, while Mr. Hillary was brought to Rosses Point where he is spending a holiday with his wife and children.


Shortly after his arrival at the Point on Tuesday morning, I had an exclusive interview with Mr. Hillary, who gave me a graphic description of the experience which he and his companions had undergone during the previous evening and night, writes a Sligo Champion Staff Representative.


We left early yesterday morning in Mr. McCarrick's boat and spent the morning and early evening fishing along the southbank, said Mr. Hillary. Everything went well until about 4pm - I am not too accurate about times - when the engine started to give trouble. We tried to carry out repairs but these were unsuccessful. We threw the anchor overboard, but one of the anchor ropes broke and the anchor began to drag.

We realised that we were in serious trouble, but we managed to keep the boat heading for the rocks at the base of the lighthouse. We arrived on the rocks at about 6pm and got ashore. The sea was rough and there was a strong wind blowing.

We lit a fire - using Mr. McCarrick's boots to start it off and thinking that they would blow up a good cloud of smoke as a distress signal. However, the wind was blowing so hard that the expected smoke never materialised.

However, we dried ourselves out and kept the fire going, using pieces of wood from the boat, which was at this time breaking up as it was pounded by the waves against the rocks.

As night fell we realised that our plight had been observed from the mainland here at the Point, as we could see the lights of a number of cars around the Deadman's Point area.

When informed that the Raughley Pilot boat crew put to sea during the night, Mr. Hillary said they could hear the crew of the boat shouting, but unfortunately their return shouts, which were made against the wind, could not be heard.


At about one o'clock this morning we climbed the steps of the lighthouse, went inside, and lay on the floor, where we snatched a few hours sleep.

It was desperately cold, and when we came down again this morning we had started to get a fire going again with the intention of cooking a few lobsters we had caught yesterday, when the Raughley Pilot boat arrived and took us off.

It was a tricky business for the crew to get sufficiently near to take us aboard, and I went out up to the waste in water and then went in over the side of the boat, while the other two jumped onboard.

Mr. Hillary added that none of them waited or bothered to take on board any of the fishing gear - they left it all at the lighthouse.

First intimation that the men were in difficulty was given by Mr. John McHale, Sligo, who was fishing in Sligo Bay on Monday. That night he failed to see the men return, and later at nightfall, as he was watching the sea at Rosses Point, he saw a light from the base of the lighthouse. After informing Mr. Austin Gillen of this fact, he returned to the shore with Mr. Edward Bruen, and they both confirmed that a light was to be seen at the base of the lighthouse.

Sergeant B. Grant, Rosses Point, was informed, and calls went out for the Raughley Pilot boat and the Arranmore lifeboat.

At about 12.30 am the lifeboat crew started on their journey of more than sixty miles to Rosses Point, but when they arrived, shortly before 10.00 am, the Raughley crew had already made the rescue.

Mr. McCarrick's boat was a craft of about twenty-eight feet in length, fitted with a diesel engine, and was used for lobster fishing. It is estimated that its value was in the region of 600 pounds.