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Valentia Island

Valentia Island is famous for its Cable Station, Weather Observatory, Slate Quarry, Life Boat Service and its Beauty.

The Cable Station:

The first transatlantic cable was laid between Valentia Island to Hearts Content, Newfoundland on the 14th July 1865. The cable was laid by the largest ship of that time 'The Great Eastern'. The first commercial message sent read: "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will to men"(sent by Queen Victoria to the American President). The cable station closed in 1965 but the buildings are still in use, the main building as a factory and the remainder is residential, situated on the lower road from Knightstown to Chapeltown.

Transatlantic Cable Map

Above: An early map showing the routes of the first Trans-Atlantic cables

The Observatory:

Valentia Island's association with meteorology began in 1860, when Admiral FitzRoy, who was head of the Meteorological Committee of the (British) Board of Trade, made arrangements for regular communication, by telegraph, of meteorological observations from 15 land stations in Britain and Ireland. Valentia was chosen as one of those stations because it had a telegraphic link to London to service the trans-Atlantic cable.

The importance of Valentia as a location for meteorological observations was recognised immediately, it being in the path of most of the weather systems from the Atlantic. In 1865 the British government decided to set up observatories with self recording instruments, at seven locations including Valentia. Six of them were in established scientific institutions, Kew Observatory, Falmouth Polytechnic Institution, Stonyhurst College, Armagh Observatory, the Observatory at Glasgow University and at Aberdeen University. The Observatory at Valentia was set up by the Meteorological Committee and was funded by them and manned by their own staff.

The Observatory was set up in a house leased from the Knight of Kerry at the Revenue on Valentia Island, in August 1868.The British Meteorological Office ran the Observatory on an agency basis for the Irish Meteorological Service until the end of September 1937, when staffs were trained for the new Service. Many of the staff employed by the British Meteorological Office at the Observatory transferred to the Irish Meteorological Service. Since the setting up of the Irish Meteorological Service, the work programme of the Observatory has greatly expanded and it has always been equipped with the most technologically advanced equipment and instrumentation. The Observatory is well known and very highly regarded by the scientific community. As well as fulfilling its national and international role within Met Éireann it is involved in many projects with other scientific bodies both in Ireland and abroad.

The Slate Quarry:

The Slate Quarry was first opened in 1816 by the Knight of Kerry. The slates were used to make benches, tables, sundials and various other items. Some of the prominent places that used Valentia slate were, the British House of Commons in Westminster (used in the roof), the Public Record Office in London is said to have 25 miles of slate used for shelves. The slate was also used for paving at Nottingham, Derby, Rugby, and Leicester Railway stations. One of the most remote places the slate was exported to was Bahia in South America on the San Salvador Railway station in 1860.

A rock-fall closed the mine in 1910. However in recent years a new lease of life when the quarry was re-opened by three local business men in 1998 under the title of Valentia Slate Ltd. The company has gone from strength to strength since, employing 10 people and supplying a number of local high-profile developments such as the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney and FEXCO in Killorglin. In 2004 the announcement that Valentia slate would again be gracing the corridors of power in Westminster as part of a €10,000 contract to Valentia Slate Ltd to supply slate for the floors of the British Houses of Parliament.

Footnote: As part of a trip around the Ring of Kerry a visit to Valentia Island is a 'must'.

Images of Cromane, Co. Kerry