La Vieille

La Vieille: choice of the site and construction

This headlight, AR GROUAC' H into Breton, is on a rock prolonging the point of Raz. It marks out, with its neighbor the turret of Plate, the East of “Raz de Sein” (passage between the point of Raz and the island of Sein). The passage of this Raz (strong currents, often breaking sea, many rocks), dreaded of the sailors since Antiquity entered the legend. A proverb, inter alia, into Breton, illustrates this dangerous context perfectly and the need that there was to build a headlight in these places. “To be enez hag er beg, eman berred rear goazed” or “Between the island and the point it is the cemetery of the men”. It was built much more quickly than its counterpart of Armen because nearer to the dry land and especially because the rock on which it is built, Gorle Bella (the most distant rock, into Breton), is much larger and has an always discovered part, even with high tide.
La Vieille: choice of site and construction Feasibility studies

The engineers present in 1862 two preliminary drafts, one for the Vieille, the other for the rock of Tévennec more in north. In 1879, a first series of five unloadings is carried out on the rock. Fishermen of the island of Sein arrive, during these accostings, to carry out some drillings where the "organeaux" ones of mooring are sealed. But the company is announced very difficult: indeed, in this “Raz”, there is often a sea agitated and with each tide, current violent ones from 6 to 15 nodes.

On January 29th, 1881, the public Minister for Labor gives finally his final agreement to the construction of this headlight. It is on August 5th, 1882 that masonries of the base are started. The study and construction are directed from 1879 to 1885 by the civil engineer Fenoux succeeded by engineer Considere in 1886 and 1887. The fire of the Old woman ignites finally on September 15th, 1887.

Structure and installation
The headlight of Old quite visible since the point of the Raz has a remarkable architecture because spécific. It has a quadrangular and squat form, slightly crenelated. The crenellation of the tower supports a stone balustrade of size, the headlight itself is covered with a terrace. The original architecture of Old was wanted by esthetic concern but also by effectiveness to announce to the navigators the importance of the danger in these places.

La Vieille: choice of the site and constructionCurrent characteristics

  • Height of the tower: 26.90 m
  • Fire with sectors (white, green, red) and with 3 screenings every 12 seconds
  • Ranges: 18 nautical for the white, 13 for the red, 14 for the green

The headlight of the Vieille was automated on November 14th, 1995 and it is operated by remote control today from the island of Center.

Guards and raises

Before its automation, the headlight had permanently two guards, statements regularly and in shifted. For the changing, the boat was to approach more close possible headlight in spite of the state of the sea. In surging weather, the operation was particularly delicate and diffi blinks. By storm, it was generally impossible. This headlight has also a long story having been pilot many still frequent shipwrecks in the Raz de Sein.

“Designated employment” of the Vieille
In February 1923, a law was voted to hold, with the large war wounded, of the “designated employment” in the administration like employee, museum attendant, usher, employment of which painfulness was supposed to be less than the average. Paradoxically the trade of guard of headlight was classified like “designated employment”. Thus two war wounded 14-18, all the two Corsicans, Mr. Mandolini and Ferracci, was designated to hold the position as guard of the headlight of the Vieille. Both were seriously touched with the lungs and had difficulties of breathing, one had an invalid arm and the other a ball in the body which, not having been able to be extracted, represented a permanent danger to its survival. Without speaking of difficulties to unload our two guards by a rope, it is necessary to think of the true martyrdom accomplished the every day, by them two, to go to the bottom of the building and to go up the 120 steps with the cans filled with oil feeding for the night the fire of the headlight. In vain, They will write many letters with their administration. But winter 1925-1926 several successive storms created a sea dismounted during several weeks. The third week of December 1925, the storm raged. The visibility being quasi-worthless, the changing was impossible with the means of the time. The chief warden was on the ground, the two Corsicans alone “on board”. Two months later, owing to a break, the two men had been seen in sorry state. On February 19th, 1926, fire died out, and the siren did not function already any more. Direct consequence or not, a schooner of Paimpol, the Surprise, went, this day, to throw itself on the rocks of Plogoff. More than one week later, the boat of supply could approach sufficiently to launch the "cartahu". But both mutilated did not have any more the force to make use of this mode of passage. A team of young Breton sailors, swimming in the icy sea, fixed on ropes and thanks to a rope, succeeded in then putting foot on the small island and bringing back, by the same way, the two survivors. The business made great noise in the newspapers, the opinion was moved and finally the allowed administration that guard of headlight at sea did not agree like “designated employment”. They finished their career like factor or museum attendant. They told, one says, with which wanted to hear them well, of the stories of shipwrecks and of monstrous waves who made quiver bravest.

On November 18th, 1929
Still a terrible storm which prevented the changing of the guards Malgorn and Marzin and insulated them in the headlight 45 days during.
The list of the damage undergone by the headlight during these 45 days is evocative power devastator of the sea; here is an extract, very brief but evocative, report of this storm going back to December 1929:
The large beam of unloading to carriage, 20 meters length is twisted.
The railing placed all around the plate, at the bottom of headlight, is twisted or broken.
The roof of the reinforced concrete WC is demolished.
The window on the 1st stage, southern part, was torn off…
The stone dry stone walls placed on both sides of the main door disappeared.

Previous page: Armen: the construction  Next page: Tévennec 
Copyright Musée Maritime du Cap-Sizun-EN 2012-Création :