Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to lighthouse keeper Henry Henvey 'who lived 87 years beneath beam of St John's'

By Allan Preston

A Co Down lighthouse keeper who spent 87 years under "the sweeping beam" of St John's Lighthouse has been laid to rest.

Henry Henvey, known to some as Harry, was born in 1930 at the 19th century lighthouse at St John's Point in Killough.

Described as the dearly-beloved husband of Mary and dear brother of Bridie, more than 300 mourners attended his funeral yesterday at St Joseph's Church in the village.

Fr Peter O'Hare told mourners: "He was born under the sweeping beam of St John's lighthouse, and died under the sweeping beam of St John's lighthouse.

"He lived there his whole life, about a 100 yards from the lighthouse building itself. He went to sea first of all before becoming the lighthouse keeper," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"As a fisherman, he also had a great pair of hands when it came to working with wood and was a master boat builder."

"In 1950, the famous Irish writer Brendan Behan stayed at the lighthouse at a time when he was something of a failed painter."

Behan's father had been employed to paint a number of lighthouses across Ireland, but his son's efforts to paint St John's failed to impress his employers.

Despite this, he befriended a teenage Henry and kept in touch with him by postcard for many years.

"Even as a schoolboy I was very impressed by Behan, who was already writing plays at that time," Mr Henvey later told the Down Recorder.

"Behan kept in touch while living in Paris but when he moved on to New York I never heard from him again. Like many a good man, he succumbed to beer."

Fr O'Hare continued: "In the Forties, there was a German prisoner of war camp at St John's Point. Henry became very friendly with them and learned some of their skills of working with wood.

"He was an affable and humble man who very much wanted that sweeping beam to continue at St John's point."

Photographer John Eagle often conducted lighthouse tours at St John's.

"He would always start up the fog signal for visitors and show us the boats he'd been making," he said.

A video of Mr Henvey starting the vintage signal shows a large steam engine-like device with multiple cogs whirring before a deafening horn sounds out to sea.

"At the end of the tours I'd always say, 'See you next year,' and his parting shot every time was, 'If I'm still here,'" recalled John.

"He was a gentleman and I'll really miss him."

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