George Halpin Senior 1779 - 1854
Founding father of the Irish Lighthouse Service
This description understates Halpin's actual attainments and responsibilities-the design, construction, and maintenance of all civil and mechanical works within Dublin port, from Sutton to Bullock Harbour, including the management and containment of the River Liffey from Islandbridge, and the lower reaches of the rivers Tolka and Dodder. A number of Dublin's bridges was built by Halpin and port works for which he was responsible resulted in the creation of Bull Island.
In 1810 responsibility for Irish lighthouses was transferred from the Revenue Commissioners to the Ballast Board. The Board extended Halpin's responsibilities by appointing him Inspector of Lighthouses in addition to Inspector of Works. His extra responsibilities encompassed identifying the requirements for aids to navigation; the design, construction, and maintenance of lighthouses; and the appointment and management of construction and quarry personnel, lighthouse keepers, tenders, tender crews, and stores personnel. During the following 44 years Halpin oversaw the construction and establishment of 53 new lighthouses and the modernisation or rebuilding of 15 others, in addition to the establishment of numerous minor aids to navigation-buoys, beacons, and perches. Most of the construction was by direct labour. He also set in place the management and administrative procedures for the Lighthouse Service.
During Halpin's period the Corporation's statutory functions were financially controlled and managed as three separate departments: the Port Department: the Anna Liffey Department, and the Lighthouse Department. Halpin's input into the management of all three departments was such that he received a salary from each. Halpin was the public face of the Lighthouse Department, and its chief liaison officer with Trinity House and other bodies. In around 1830 his son George Halpin, a qualified civil engineer, was appointed as his assistant.
George Halpin senior died suddenly in July 1854 while carrying out lighthouse inspections. His date of birth is unknown; however, his headstone in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, gives his age as 75 years. He was succeeded by his son George Halpin (junior).
With the increased administration resulting from the enactment of the Mercantile Law Amendment Act, 1853 and the continuing expansion of the Lighthouse Service the work load of the Port and Lighthouse Departments became too much for one person. During the 1860s both remits were gradually separated.
The Dublin Port Act, 1867 finally separated the control and management of the Port and Lighthouse Departments into two independent organisations-Dublin Port & Docks Board, and the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
Frank Pelly is Civil Engineering Operations Manager in the Commissioners of Irish Lights.