Dunmore East Signalling Tower
Dunmore East Signalling Tower and the Metalman's Blue Coat...
Heritage Week ended last Sunday and one of the events, organised from the County Council's heritage office, was to promote the county's coastal built heritage with a talk by archaeologist Mary Sleeman, at Tramore Coastguard Station, preceded by a parade around the town of three re-enactors dressed in uniforms of the Metalman's time.
The fourteen foot tall Metalman was designed by Thomas Kirk of Cork in 1817and some copies were cast by a John Clarke for the Commissioners' of Irish Lights predecessors and set up at Tramore and Sligo in 1824 while another, now lost, may have been sent elsewhere. At Tramore and Sligo they stand near dangerous seas to warn seafarers off. Both seem to be wearing the uniforms of Royal Navy Able Seamen of the time which consisted of a very short navy blue coat, a pair of white "duck" trousers and perhaps a waistcoat, sometimes red.
The recent repainting of Tramore Metalman by four local and national companies has restored glorious colour to his uniform with rich blue and red for the coat and waistcoat and dazzling white for the trousers. Imagine the surprise then, when the Heritage Week re-enactors appeared in navy blue, almost black coats. But it seems that they were quite right and that the coats, dyed with vegetable dyes, started off dark and faded like blue jeans to the metal man's near-royal blue. A colour print on the website of the National Library website shows what seem to be two able seamen of about 1809, set in a fanciful representation of Dunmore East. One's coat is dark and the other's is light.
The print is interesting too as it shows a tower at or near Dunmore displaying a pair of black signalling balls. Among many other things, this "telegraph" technology was described in Mary Sleeman's very well-attended talk. It might have been part of a Donegal to Dublin chain of signalling towers built to transmit warnings of French invasion and to issue military orders.The print is shown at the National Library of Ireland website at http://kildarest.nli.ie/pd/et/1/1751td.htm