A strange thing happened today and nobody knew. We have had fog for a couple of days, the fog horn had been our constant backing sound track, and I was quite worried that I might not actually be able to see the island before we leave on Friday. The view from our kitchen door was often restricted to just the front yard.
Out to sea a boat had appeared just off Pen Cristin and we heard on the grapevine that it was a Trinity House lighthouse ship, probably delivering water and fuel to the lighthouse. Then mid morning today both the lighthouse and the ship blew their foghorns in rotation, then both fell in to an eerie silence in the white out conditions.
It was only later that someone, surfing the net, discovered that the Bardsey Light foghorn had been decommissioned permanently. Modern shipping, apparently, no longer needs a foghorn signal. Well, maybe ships don’t, but what about the rest of us?
Mel Stacey has penned a poem to mark the passing.
A notice came through in April
And I received it two days late, too late.
The sound once intermittent, then persistent
Had been silenced.
No reason given, no consultation, or explanation.
Merely stark information.
No further notice will be given.
That evening, when news reached me,
I had strained my eyes
Through milky sea-merged Ceredigion skies
For a one-fifth flicker of the beam.
And in searching for the light
No sound came;
And now to mourn
Not being there for its passing.
On south end, west side, beyond the stack and horn
We dodged the thistles and thrust
The spectral birds out into evening’s veil.
As fog drenched down a cabin-fever day,
What option, but time trial races,
Around the tower and cottage compound
To beat the horn?
Has what we say and how we say it
No meaning anymore?
Must spoken word and soft inflexion give way?
Must we alone rely on looking, seeing, but not hearing?
You cannot tell by sight alone
So close your eyes and listen, listen, listen.
Chiffchaff and Blackbird’s announcing song
And solitary Redshank pipe.
As east wind brings the rumbling trundles
From Great Western trains
Holiday children clamour for steam and whistle cries.
And under night’s thick felted blanket mist
Tucked in around the cliffs
Through island sleeping
The foghorn cores its note and rhythm
Deep into my soul.
22nd May 2010
On the silencing of the Bardsey Fog Horn 19th May 2010.