Anyone who has sailed to or from the port of Larne in Northern Ireland will be familiar with the rather striking landmark that is The Chaine Memorial Tower near the entrance to the harbour. It is a replica of a traditional Irish round tower, and is visible from the harbour and the surrounding area. It sits on Chaine Memorial Road, and as you can probably tell, James Chaine, after whom the road and the tower are named, was an important figure in local history.
James Chaine was a local businessman and politician, and key to not just the building of the modern port of Larne, but also helped in the promotion and financing of local railway lines. He was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1874 for the constituency of Antrim, which he held for the next eleven years until his death from pneumonia, at the age of just 44. He is buried standing upright, overlooking Larne Lough.
His contribution to the town was substantial, and the port and harbour continued to be major employers, and a major attraction of other businesses to the area.
The tower was built through public subscription in 1888, and in 1899 an oil based navigational light was added to it, and it came under the control of the Commissioners of Irish Lights. It was eventually converted to electric in 1935.
There is a plaque on the tower that explains that the tower was funded through “….contributions of every class in this mixed community irrespective of creed or party, all cordially united in esteem and affection for the Memory of JAMES CHAINE of Ballycraigy and Cairncastle Co. Antrim who represented this County in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland from February 1874 till 4th May 1885 when his early and lamented death in his 44th year of his age deprived his native County of one who had worked indefatigably for its interests especially in developing and improving the natural capabilities of the harbour of Larne and establishing its connection with Great Britain, the United States of America and with the inland parts of this County”.
The tower is visible along the local promenade given its prominent position at the entrance to the harbour.
Ferris Point Lighthouse sits at the other side of the harbour.
There are at least two other distinctive constructions nearby, one much easier to spot than the other. The huge industrial edifice that is Ballylumford Power Station is just opposite Larne Harbour, and is visible from the Port of Larne.
Just along Sandy Bay, the stretch of beach that is home to the Chaine Memorial Tower, is the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Fountain, an impressive drinking fountain complete with the inscription “Erected by Orangemen & others sympathizing friends to the memory of Alexr Hamilton of Larne who died 9th April 1891 aged 67 years, James N McCalmont MP DL, A Boyd Secretary, J Fullerton Treasurer”.
I remember playing on the beach and drinking from the fountain as a child. Sometimes, though, you only realise some of the most impressive things close to home when you travel away from them.