THE FASTNET ROCK, CARRAIG AONAIR is an isolated island or rock, lying four miles off Cape Clear Island, County Cork, Ireland. It has found mention in documentation from as early as 1384. For centuries the O Driscoll's of Baltimore and Cape Clear controlled the rich fishing grounds around the Rock. It has seen great ships under sail pass by and stately liners and steamships of a later era. The Fastnet was the last view of land for the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic, sailing past on her maiden voyage to New York in 1912. The other great Cunard liner, Lusitania (1915), had sailed past the Rock but a brief few hours before coming to grief with the loss of 1,200 lives some miles away off Kinsale. The waters around the Fastnet have been the scene of submarine warfare, shipwrecks and dramatic sea rescues in the era of two World Wars.
It is perhaps for its Lighthouse that the Fastnet is most widely known. There has been a light on the Rock since 1854 when it replaced an earlier one on Cape Clear. The Fastnet has also played no small part in Ireland's telecommunication story. The biennial Rolex Fastnet Race brings colour and excitement to Cape Clear, Baltimore and Schull as the yachts of many nations sail past the now unmanned Fastnet Lighthouse. The International yachting fraternity have, since 1925, risked their lives to be first around the Fastnet in one of the world’s most competitive yachting events. The Fastnet storm of 1979 turned the race of that year into an international disaster when the greatest tragedy in yachting history took fifteen lives. Tribute is paid to all those who kept watch on the Fastnet since 1854 and to these who lost their lives in the 1979 Race in a memorial piece in Cape Clear Museum, in an inscribed plaque at Trá Ciaráin and in a hillside monument on the island.
AUTHOR: Dr. Éamon Lankford is founder / director of Cape Clear Island Museum and Archove. Under his direction the minor placenames of Counties Cork and Kerry are being collected and mapped. He is author of Cape Clear Island :Its People and Landscape (1999); Naomh Ciarán : Pilgrim Islander (2000); Bealach Oidhreachta Oileán chléire / Cape Clear Heritage Trail (2003).