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Watch: Whiteford Point lighthouse becomes unofficial beacon thanks to community volunteers

05 Jun 2022 4 minute read
Whiteford Lighthouse. Photo by Gareth Lovering Photography is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For the first time in decades this weekend, beams of light have shone from Whiteford Point lighthouse across the waters of the Loughor estuary in celebration of the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Spectators gathered  to watch a pair of  LED lights, powered by batteries charged by solar-panels, shine across the sea towards Llanelli and Penclawdd.

Triggered by a timer, the lights beamed out just after sunset from Thursday to Saturday of the jubilee holiday weekend, delighting hundreds of onlookers.

Photos and drone footage have been shared across social media, showing the lights enhancing the solemn beauty of the lighthouse that once guided ships through the treacherous tidal waters of the Burry Sound into the once bustling port at Llanelli.

But the project nearly didn’t happen, and even those involved in installing the lights were left waiting with bated breath as the sun went down on Thursday, wondering if their efforts had succeeded.

The brainchild of Llanelli businessman, Paul Brookfield, the plan came together in a matter of days with everyone involved offering their services and equipment for a free.

In April, Mr Brookfield, owner of Llanelli’s popular MetBar pledged £1000 for a team who could re-light the unique cast-iron Whiteford tower as the ultimate ‘jubilee beacon’ under the tagline “Shine a Light on Llanelli.”

Paul hoped that apprentices in local factories or students in the local colleges could build a suitable light, but despite a brief flurry of interest on Facebook, no-one came forward to take up the project.

However, an article about the idea was read in New Zealand by a relative of Dave Kieft, managing director of Swansea firm EFT Energy Consultants, who got in touch with Paul to say that they could supply the specialised lighting and electrical equipment, so the race was on to put everything in place in time for the jubilee.

Trial run

Gower based experts in rope-climbing, Fred Pinot and Andrew Butler,  were brought on board by Paul to install the lights, while James Mainwaring of EFT had an uncle in Selwyn’s Seafoods, who harvest cockles and seaweed in the estuary.

Brian and Ben Selwyn from the company provided the transport and local knowledge to ensure the lights could be installed safely between tides on what is Britain’s only wave-washed cast-iron lighthouse.

“We had a trial run on Tuesday but one light wasn’t angled correctly,” Paul told us. “We couldn’t reposition it until Thursday” —  the day the lights were due to shine at the same time beacons were lit on Gower and Llanelli’s Millennium Coastal Park —  “so we didn’t even know for certain it would work.”

“Nobody wanted any money for it, but there’s been a real buzz around the plan. We had two LED lights so we angled them so people could see them from Llanelli and Penclawdd.

“Tonia Antoniazzi, MP for the Gower, has been really supportive and got the word out, and looking on Facebook , I think people have been really excited to see the lighthouse lit up again after all this time.”

Rope climbing crew, Fred Pinot and Andrew Butler

Positive vision

Apart from a brief period when a solar light was installed in the 1980s, most people haven’t had chance to see the lighthouse in action since it was decommissioned by Trinity House in the 1920s, the decade of the Queen’s birth.

“I thought it would be really fitting to mark the jubilee year by lighting it again,” Paul continued, “and I think there’s a real appetite now if someone could get a proper flashing light installed. It would have to be protected against the birds and so on but we’ve shown it’s doable.

“We need to bring more positivity to the town with things that make people sit up and take notice, like when we had that giant ‘Croeso’ sign for the Eisteddfod — you could do giant letters like the Hollywood sign spelling out Llanelli.”

I’m sure plenty of people over the decades have wondered why Whiteford Point lighthouse no longer beams across the waves.

This weekend, a small team of committed locals made it happen, and perhaps they shine a way forward for a more positive vision, a beacon of hope, for a brighter future for this area that the lighthouse has watched over since its industrial heyday.

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