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Community news: The Islandman


The iconic Valentia Cable Station

The iconic Valentia Cable Station

The iconic Valentia Cable Station


Valentia turned back the clock last week - a full century and a half - by linking up with the aptly named Heart's Content in Newfoundland to comemorate the first ever trans-Atlantic cable message.

The message was sent via the telegraph set-up using a telegraph key producing the electrical pulses and using morse code as the original message protocol.

And it was sent on Thursday, July 27, to coincide with the first message relayed on July 27, 1866 between Valentia and Heart's Content, .

The time was 3pm - 11.30am in Heart's Content - when the Newfoundland team sent over the following morse message, replicating the original of all those years ago.

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'Our shore end has just been laid, and a most perfect cable under God's blessing has completed telegraphic communication between Ireland and the continent of America'.

Valentia replied with the following message: 'It is a great day that we are now in direct communication between the old and new world across this new telegraph cable, congratulations to all and best wishes"

It was a poignant moment and one that highlights the significance of the moment back in 1866. That's when Valentia Island came to the forefront of world communications when, after much previous effort, the first successful transatlantic cable connection was achieved between the island and Newfoundland in Canada.

The world's largest ship at the time, the Great Eastern, laid the cable across thousands of miles of deep sea to connect Europe and the continent of America by morse message.

It, for the first time, instantly connected the old world with the new and was a huge and significant world communications innovation , very much the forerunner of today's worldwide web communications. In communication terms, it was as significant as landing on the moon.

Thus, in recognition of the importance of this to Valentia and the wider area, a campaign is also underway to have the island designated as a UNESCO World Industrial Heritage site.

Only three other such heritage sites exist on the island of Ireland - nearby Skelligs Rock, Brú Na Bóinne in Newgrange and The Giant's Causeway in County Antrim.

The Valentia Island Transatlantic Cable Foundation Board was set up for the purpose of fulfilling this ambition. Its activities are gathering pace and momentum in pursuance of such.

The Foundation Board, in association with the Valentia Island Development Company (VIDC), aims to raise in the region of €4.5m in pursuance of UNESCO status. It hopes to restore and convert the existing cable station building at Knightstown - original base of the first and subsequent telegraphers and base of Valentia Industries LTD - into a museum and interpretative library

The cable building will soon be gifted to the Valentia Island Development Company LTD by its owner Mrs Polimer, with the completion of the restoration costing approximately €1m.

Phase one for both VIDC and the foundation board is to finalise the takeover of the cable building and to fully restore it to UNESCO standard. It is intended also to convert the second floor to an innovation centre with outstanding broadband and make the ground floor available as a museum.

UNESCO status would enhance tourism in a very significant way as it is estimated it would attract about 20,000 visitors to the area annually, while creating very significant job opportunities.Valentia Industries will continue to operate there.

As a means of raising awareness of the UNESCO objectives, a Valentia Telegraph Cable lecture and Commemorative Dinner took place last month in the Royal Hotel. Guest speakers included Professor Jeffrey Garten of Yale University who specialises in Global Economy and Crisis Management, Mark Redmond (CEO, American Chamber, Ireland) and Ken Spratt (Assistant-Secretary with responsibility for tourism in the Irish Government) was a guest at the lecture and dinner.

Almost 200 people attended the dinner and guest speakers included Minister Brendan Griffin and IDA CEO Martin Shanahan.

The 12 members of the Valentia Island Transatlantic Cable Foundation Board who attended were Board Chairman and Director of Resrearch and Innovation at Trinity College Leonard Hobbs; Anthony O'Connell and Micheál Lyne of Valentia Island Development Company, KCC CEO Moira Murrell; Martin Shanahan (CEO of the IDA); IT Tralee Head of the School of Business, Computing and Humanities Mary Rose Stafford; Bob Joyce (Joyce Consulting and Chairman of the Joyce Foundation); KCC Tourism Officer John Griffin; Cork based solicitor John Cuddigan; Shay Walsh (MD of BT), Denis Jennings (MD Knous, Ireland) and Mark Redmond (CEO, American Chamber, Ireland).

Condolences on the recent deaths of Valentia Islanders

The Late Oliver Crowley

On Sunday, July 23, the peaceful death at the age of 82 in St Vincent' Private Hospital occurred of Oliver Crowley of 53 Merville Road, Stillorgan, Dublin, and formerly of Knightstown, Valentia, who was an employee of the Irish Lights. Following Requiem Mass at the church of St Lawrence O'Toole, Kilmacud, his remains were removed to Glasnevin Crematorium.

Oliver Crowley had strong family connections in the Iveragh area and was always very proud of this genealogy. He loved to visit Valentia, Portmagee and the general Iveragh area to catch up and chat with old and longtime friends as well as young. He also had strong connections in Cork and lived in many coastal environs throughout Ireland as a result of his father's employment with the Irish Lights.

Sincere condolences are offered to his sister Marie (Good Shepherd sisters), brothers Fr Christopher (Carmelite Order) and John Noel, sister-in-law Margaret, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces and all concerned.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.

The Late Marie Orpen

On Thursday, July 27, the death occurred of Marie Orpen (nee Murphy) of Bere Island and formerly of Knightstown, Valentia Island, who was pre-deceased by her husband Alfie, son Gerard and brother Mike (Sikey).

She was the daughter of Patrick 'Sikey' Murphy of Knightstown and Mary O'Shea of Cooil.

She had the unusual disinction of having been born and reared on one Island and subsequently living in and finishing her days in another.

She always liked to keep in touch with her native Valentia Island and the scribe is reliably informed that she was an avid reader of Valentia news in The Kerryman.

Sincere sympathy to her sons Dominic, John, Alfie and James, daughters Carmel and Colleen, grandchildren, great grandchildren, brother Johnny(Blackie),sister Patricia and her many relatives and cousins in Valentia and Beara.

Solás and elsewhere. siorai di.

The Late Mary Curran

On Monday, July 31, the death at the age of 91 occurred in St Anne's Hospital, Cahirsiveen, of Mary Curran (nee O'Connell) of Reenglass and originally of Corobeg.

Reared in the family farm in Corobeg, she was no stranger to hard work and subsequently reared a large family in Reenglass. She was a hospitable and welcoming homemaker in a truly Irish and Valentia way and she will be sadly missed in the environs of Valentia and outside as she regularly accompanied her husband John Francis in his trusty red Fiesta car .

Sincere condolences are offered to her husband John Francis, sons Johnnie, Jimmy, Patrick, Christy and Michael, daughters Marion, Ann and Veronica, 17 grandchildren, great grandchildren, sisters Catherine and Nora, nieces and nephews, in-laws and many friends and neighbours. Solás na bhFlaitheas di.

Footnote:Her eulogy was read at Mass by her grandson Des Curran and Pat Stewart sang the Valenia song Geokaun at the graveside.

Congratulations to the former Valentia Young Islanders footballer Mark O'Sullivan who has recently been appointed to head international Irish law firm Matheson's new office in San Francisco.

Toomevara visitor at The Ring Lyne Bar

Greetings are extended to Tom O'Rourke and his wife Teresa from Toomevara in Tipperary whom we met in the company of Kathleen and Jimmy O'Donoghue of Portmagee in the Ring Lyne on a recent Sunday morning. The Tipperary Inn of Toomevara holds fond memories for us Valentia Islanders as we stopped there for the relished full Irish breakfast on our way to All-Ireland finals. The custom has stopped as the village is now bypassed.