Charles Haughey, thrice Taoiseach, and his lover girl Terry Keane were well known patrons of the arts in the closing years of the 20th century. Rather more obscurely, Charlie was once shipwrecked in heavy fog off Mizen Head. “We were sailing our former boat Taurima back to Howth at the end of September 1985 after she had spent most of the summer around the Blaskets. As night fell, a thick dense fog came down reducing visibility to zero. Due to a malfunction of our radar system, Taurima went on to the rocks at Mizen Head… She went down very quickly – in about five minutes – but we had time to send out a May Day and launch the life raft and small dinghy which was kept aboard.”
Things went from the their worst to not so bad. “Our May Day was picked up by the Shannon Marine Rescue and Coordination Centre, Valentia Radio and the lightkeepers in the Mizen Lighthouse. The rescue services went into operation immediately and both the Valentia and Baltimore Lifeboats were launched… I shall always remember the warm friendly atmosphere aboard the lifeboat; her crew were just marvellous. Listening to their good natured banter, repartee and wit, it was difficult to remember that they all have their services voluntarily and had been dragged from their homes or their socialising in the early hours of Sunday morning and put to sea.”
This story is recorded in a 1994 framed copy of the Sunday Independent on the wall of the meteorological lodge at Mizen Head. On the edge of the world, followers of the Shipping Forecast will know Mizen Head falls under Fastnet. The other sea areas around Ireland in an anticlockwise fashion are Shannon, Rockall, Malin and Irish Sea. Frank Keohane opens his 2020 epic book The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County, “Cork is the southernmost and largest county in Ireland…” This is the Very Wild Atlantic Way. Marine mammal spotting – for those strong enough to hold onto binoculars in the ever prevailing winds – includes Risso’s Dolphins (March to May), Minke Whales (March to November), Basking Sharks (April to June), Common Dolphins (April to December), Humpback Whales (May to December), Atlantic Sunfish (June to August) and Fin Whales (June to December). Stormzy. Stormby. Stormy.
Sharon Townshend, châtelaine of The Castle at Castletownshend, a few kilometres west of Mizen Head, describes it well, “At Ireland’s most southwesterly point, cross the iconic Mizen Bridge to the signal station and enjoy the spectacular sea views out to the Fastnet Lighthouse. The Mizen Head visitor centre with a café and gift shop is positioned hight on a cliff and exhibits all sorts of maritime paraphernalia, the station keeper’s living quarters as well as an amazing photographic collage of the wildlife and underwater life.”