Today, I have a milestone birthday. I’ll spare you which one, but I’m still trying to accept my age. Birthdays are so looked forward to when we’re children, but as we get older, they’re not quite as exciting. Getting older is often associated with getting weaker, slower, forgetful, and losing one’s usefulness to society.

Unfortunately, some of our American lighthouses aren’t as useful anymore either. But in many parts of the world, lighthouses still provide a much-needed service to mariners.

One of those lighthouses is Ireland’s Hook Lighthouse, or Hook Head Lighthouse, the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the world. Situated on Hook Head at the tip of the Hook Peninsula, the black-banded lighthouse is in the southwestern part of County Wexford, on the southeast coast of Ireland.

The existing tower dates from the 12th century, though tradition states that Dubhán, a missionary to the Wexford area, established a form of beacon as early as the fifth century. The first custodians of the light were a small group of monks whose small monastery was situated on the peninsula. The monks who lived at this monastery lit warning fires and beacons all through the years to warn sailors of the dangerous rocks on the peninsula. Monks helped build the limestone lighthouse tower around the year 1200, and they served as the managed the light until they were replaced by the first lighthouse keepers in the mid-17th century.

The light was automated in 1996 and the last light keepers were removed. The old keepers’ houses were turned into a visitor center and the light station was opened to the public in 2001. The lighthouse is now remotely controlled from by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

Thankfully, I’m not too old to go see it and climb the 115 steps to the top, and I hope to do that someday. Hook Head Lighthouse is about 800 years old, which makes me really young by comparison!

They will still bear fruit in old age. Psalm 92:14a