Caught by the River

Lighthouses of the UK #4 & #5: The Maidens

Ben Langworthy | 29th May 2018

Illustrator Ben Langworthy continues his mission to draw each of the 300+ lighthouses which litter the UK coastline

Sitting just 800 yards apart off the coast of Antrim in Northern Ireland are the Hulin rocks, also known as the Maidens. Upon each rock sits a lighthouse – but the twin sisters’ fortunes were very different.

Built in 1829, they were originally inhabited year-round by the lighthouse keepers and their families. You’d be forgiven for thinking that there may be an element of camaraderie  between these mirrored lives, but, as is so often the case, it seems that familiarity bred contempt.

In the 1830s the assistant keeper of one lighthouse and the daughter of the keeper of the other fell madly in love. They would often row the short distance between the islands to meet one another. That is, of course, until the two families fell out. The keeper forbade his daughter from ever meeting her lover again. Unwilling to be separated, the young couple snuck out in secret and rowed to the mainland, where they eloped to Carrickfergus.

The East Tower

With the addition of another lighthouse nearby, it was decided that only one of the Maidens could be kept. Standing at 94ft high (10 feet taller than her sister) The East Tower was chosen and The West Tower was decommissioned 1906. After the keeper and his family left, the buildings remained empty. Many of them are still largely intact, with their roofs still in place to this day.

The West Tower

The West island now sits like a ghostly spectre, slowly decaying just a few hundred yards away from its more fortunate Eastern sister. You can watch ‘Maidens in Distress’, a wonderful 1976 film about the East Tower, here (via the BFI Player).