Gerald Butler, a third-generation lighthouse keeper on both sides of his family, joined the Commissioners of Irish Lights in 1969. He spent most of his light-keeping career as an assistant keeper on Bull Rock, Fastnet Rock, the Old Head of Kinsale, and Mizen Head lighthouses. During his 21 years of service he also served on 17 other lighthouses.
Gerald was born in 1950 in southwestern Ireland. He was an identical twin and one of 15 siblings. When he was two years old, Gerald’s family moved to the Galley Head Lighthouse, where his mother’s father was the principal keeper and his father was an assistant keeper. Later, his mother was for a time the only female lighthouse keeper in Ireland.
Gerald was co-author, with Patricia Ahern, of the book The Lightkeeper: A Memoir, which was published in 2012. John Gore Grimes of the Commissioners of Irish Lights called the book “extraordinary… a fascinating history of a lightkeeper and his family… a wonderful record of a unique piece of social history.”
This is part one of a three-part interview. Part two will be posted on October 26, and part three will be posted on October 28. In part one we hear about Gerald’s childhood experiences at the lighthouses and about his training as a keeper, and also about the lighthouses where he began his career.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org