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Lloyd's Tower (Donegal)

"Lloyd's Tower (Donegal)" is copyright © 2011 by Kate Kern Mundie. All rights reserved.  Reproduction prohibited.

oil on masonite, 20 x 40 inches, 2011
Private collection

Artists are intrigued by ruins, from 17th-century genre painters depicting Roman ruins in a Flemish landscape, 18th-century paintings done on the “Grand European Tour”, or even current realists depicting the dilapidation of industrial landscapes and urban blight. The artist might choose for their composition to include ruins as a curiosity, to symbolize an allegory, or as documentation. I painted Lloyds Tower partly because of its curious nature — an isolated tower with an interesting history, but I also used the tower to give a sense of scale to the painting. It is a manmade structure in a rugged and austere landscape. The landscape is very abrupt: land… sea. The tower helps tie the painting together.

History of the tower:

Banba's Crown or Malin Head sits at the northern tip of Ireland. This area on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal has been a look out station for the last few centuries.

During the Napolenonic wars, the British built the tower as part of the 100-plus Martello lookout towers constructed to resist a potential invasion by Napoleon along the coast of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the Channel Islands. The tower later served as a weather station and then a signal tower for the famous insurance company Lloyds of London. Employees stationed at the tower used semaphore and telescope to communicate with ships and the island of Inishtrahull's lighthouse six miles away.

In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi set a radio signal station in the Lloyds Tower and in 1902 succeeded in sending the first commercial radio message from Malin Head to the ship S.S. Lake Ontario. Later the station was taken over by the Post Office for communications.

During World War 2, Malin Head was once again used a lookout station. Other buildings were constructed nearby to house the Irish Defence Forces to keep a lookout and protect Irish neutrality. From the tower you can still see the word “ÉIRE” spelled out in white stones to enable planes flying overhead to identify their position and to recognize Ireland's neutrality in WWII. Since then, others have added their names along side Éire.

This spot may have been a look out long before the Martello Tower was built. It was originally named for the goddess Banba, the first person to set foot in Ireland.

[detail enlargement]

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All Images and Text © Kate Kern Mundie 2011