Rewind - Three Rock Mountain

By Sean Heffernan 

BACK in the day when I was younger, whilst walking back from the shops with my teeth rotting haul of a winters evening, I would look up, see the two flashing lights in the distance, and once more be entranced by the sight before me.

Was it two lights of an alien spaceship I wondered, so vivid were they upon the skyline.

Three Rock Mountain near Ballyedmonduff 1905

Three Rock Mountain near Balleymonduff 1905

Then one day whilst travelling back home in my parents car, I asked my late father if he knew what they were.

“That’s the RTE transmitters up in Three Rock” was his reply, as he told me how they help us receive voices on our radio and pictures on our television.

Around a year ago I took another walk with two friends of mine up the mountains, our driver parked the car, and told us we were in the car park at the foot of Three Rock Mountain, and would be walking up past the transmitter.

When we arrived at the transmitters, I was surprised at how giddy and in awe I was to finally see them in the flesh, despite my mature age.

Back in the day as a child looking up towards the mountains in the distance, I thought they were four or five times bigger than they actually were.

They are located at a height of 448 metres, and the highest of the masts stands at 140 metres.

They are operated by 2RN, a subsidiary of Radio Telefís Eireann.

The walk up is not too steep, and well worth it, as the view from the top of the mountain on a sunny day is spectacular.

The mountain is around 500 metres or almost 1,500 feet in height, and forms part of a group of hills, the others being Two Rock, Tibradden and Kilmashogue Mountains.

Blue Light

The Blue Light 

It forms part of the Dublin Mountains Way walking trail that links Tallaght to Shankhill, and there are ring and hill forts dotted around the mountain, but they were not easy to find, as they are surrounded by dense forest.

On one side of the mountain is Barnacullia, which people will know due to it being the site of the lovely Blue Light public house.

Countess Markevicz, the first woman MP to ever be elected to the House of Commons, had a cottage here, and during the Easter Rising, James Connolly’s children stayed there, as their father was present in the GPO.

The Blue Light Pub was opened around 1870, and the legend has it, that the boozer got its name from the actions of smugglers.

When the customs officials would clock off for the day, a light would flash towards the mountain by nefarious persons to let them know the coast was clear.

Those up in the hills, would then flash a blue ships lantern they had got their hands on seawards, and the smuggler ships then knew it was OK to land their illegal cargo.

The area is well known as a mecca for mountain bikers, and has hosted races in the Red Bull World Enduro Racing series, which pits the best mountain bikers in the world against each other.

Two cousins, Greg and Killian Callaghan, who hail from Firhouse and Walkinstown respectively, as two of the best in the world at that sport.

Another infamous story concerned a man who was nicknamed “Captain Cooke”, and ran what was at one stage quite successful pirate radio station.

Back in the 1980’s, one of the most listened to station in the capital was “Radio Dublin”, which was ran by Eamon Cooke from his house in Inchicore.

The signal was transmitted by a transmission device illegally connected to the RTE transmitter on Three Rock.

In 2007, he ended up in court and was jailed for ten years for numerous sexual assaults on minors.

Around the time Cooke was first hauled before the Gardaí in relation to the offences, a few of the people who had worked for him at the station over the years (and genuinely knew nothing of his crimes until he was first arrested, and the story came out in the papers) went up to the mountain and took the station off the air by damaging the transmission device.

The ‘Captain’ managed to get it fixed, and then went back on air to lambast those who caused the damage, and launched a tirade against the Gardaí and others, and denied the ‘rumours’ as he called them.

How do I know this?  I accidentally stumbled upon his rant as it was happening live on air.

I was a regular listener to the excellent Shay Eustace Ballad Show, Sundays from 2-4pm on Radio Dublin.

This particular Sunday, I turned the dial on the radio and was expecting to hear Diarmuid O’ Leary and The Bards, or The Fureys, but instead heard the delusional ramblings of station owner Eamon Cooke.

He passed away from illness two years ago, and many people online spoke of their memories of having listened to Big Tom, Philomena Begley and others, via his pirate station, which had thousands of listeners in its heyday. 

The Three Rock trail is only ten or so minutes drive from either Sandyford or Ballinteer-Rathfarnham, and is not too steep, so easily navigable, even for people with bad legs like me.

So why not transmit yourself to the summit, and take in the breathtaking views of the city, as I and many other have in the past?

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