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Safer horizons.

Byline: Stephen Guy

COASTS were invisible in the pitch dark nights of long ago when ships would wait for dawn rather than risk being wrecked on rocks or beaches.

The River Mersey was particularly hazardous with its strong, racing tides and prevailing westerly winds.

On moonless nights, mariners could hardly see their hands in front of them. These were the days of sail when sight, sound and instinct were used with compass and sextant to find safe passages.

As Liverpool grew, lighthouses were built at key points on or near the coast to guide ships safely to port.

The first lighthouses were constructed in ancient times before the collapse of civilisations literally resulted in the Dark Ages. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was built in 280 BC on the island of Pharos, in Egypt.

DONKEYS' DAY OUT: Families the shadow of the lighthouse, Some rudimentary lighthouses were built in the Middle Ages until their development accelerated in the 17th century. This coincided with the growth of European shipping fleets.

The first Eddystone Lighthouse, off Plymouth, was built in 1698. Over the years, lighthouse technology resulted in greater efficiency with lights magnified by mirrors and lenses.

Frenchman Augustin Fresnel invented a system in 1822, pictured, which revolutionised lighthouses - it allowed a light of equal intensity to be cast equally around the horizon.

A card posted in 1920 shows the lighthouse that once stood at Hoylake next to the lifeboat station. Known as the lower light, it was last used in 1908 - the upper light, near The King's Gap, still stands. Both were built in 1865 and replaced earlier lights.

The donkeys in the picture belonged to G Tebbs who, according to the sign, also took people to Hilbre Island by carriage. The boy in the foreground is collecting driftwood in a handcart.

Hoylake was once a place where ships picked up and disembarked passengers, although it was not strictly a port as there was no harbour, or travellers' facilities.

LIGHT RELIEF: The Fresnel light transformed lighthouses after 1822 Among the famous people who passed through was William of Orange, who sailed for Ireland - the King's Gap was the road he took to his ship.

After landing, William defeated James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Other lighthouses to be seen around the Mersey include Leasowe, New Brighton, Bidston and Hale.

TOWER POWER: The striking New Brighton lighthouse - one of a number introduced around the Mersey and Dee estuaries to guide ships safely into port


DONKEYS' DAY OUT: Families enjoying themselves on Hoylake beach, in the shadow of the lighthouse, in 1920. The donkeys are far right
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 25, 2012
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