Valentia Island’s role in laying trans-Atlantic cable could make it a world heritage site

31 May 2013

An international heritage project to explore the historical contribution Valentia Island in Kerry made in linking Europe and North America via trans-Atlantic cables will kick off this weekend.

The project, which is supported by trans-Atlantic fibre carrier Hibernia Networks seeks to recognise Valentia as a premier wonder of the industrial world in the 21st century.

Valentia was the eastern terminus of the first commercially viable transatlantic telegraph cable. The first attempt in 1857 to land a cable from Ballycarbery Strand on the mainland just east of Valentia Island ended in disappointment.

After subsequent failures of cables landed at Knightstown in 1858 and Foilhommerum Bay in 1865, the vast endeavor finally resulted in commercially viable transatlantic telegraph communications from Foilhommerum Bay to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland in 1866.

Transatlantic telegraph cables operated from Valentia Island for one hundred years, ending with Western Union International terminating its cable operations in 1966.

Among the guests visiting the island this weekend will be Professor Alexander Gillespie, Rapporteur for the World Heritage Convention, who will be giving a special lecture on Valentia’s international heritage potential.

Also present wil be Minister for Arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan TD and Cyrus Field IV, great-great grandson of the leader of the first Atlantic cable-laying.

As well as the opening of the Cromwell Point Lighthouse, all three communications elements of the island, including the radio station, the lighthouse and of course the cable will be explored through a series of insightful lectures.

Valentia image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years