Lighthouses were once hailed as “saviors” and “heroes” of the sea. But the truth is that their glory was not entirely of their own. Before electricity and solar power, lighthouses could not function without the help of lighthouse keepers. These keepers were men, and sometimes women, who not only risked their lives in order to keep the lantern rooms operational and occasionally rescue those who were shipwrecked, but many of them continued serving these life-saving beacons in spite of their physical limitations. So is the story of the one-armed keeper.
Built in 1856, the Ratlin Island East Lighthouse stands 89 ft. and sits at the top of a cliff on the East side of Ratlin Island, Ireland. In 1910, at the age of 23, Dennis Duff a.k.a. Denny became the assistant lighthouse keeper of the Ratlin Island East Light.
Two years later, in the summer of 1912, Denny and two other men were notified that a famous steamer carrying tourists from Belfast would be passing close to the island. They thought it would be appropriate to sound off the lighthouse’s fog gun (canon) as a friendly salute.
After firing the first fog gun signal, the men decided that two more blasts would be more suitable for the occasion. On his second attempt, however, Denny was so excited that he forgot to clean the barrel before reloading. The new gunpowder came in contact with the still burning refuse from the initial blast and quickly ignited creating an explosion that nearly severed Denny’s right arm. The injury was so damaging that his arm had to be amputated above the elbow.
Needless to say, Denny’s lighthouse keeping days had come to an end. A few years after his recovery, Denny and his family moved to England where he applied for a job at the Chance Brothers Lighthouse Lens Company. After being recommended by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, one of the chief engineers at Chance Brothers hired Denny as the gatekeeper for the new entrance to the Engineering Department. He also hired Denny’s eldest son, Phillip, as an apprentice. Denny retired from Chance Brothers after serving almost twenty years. Because of his faithfulness as a lighthouse keeper and to the lighthouse lens company’s gate, Denny was referred to as “[the] one-armed man who looked after the lighthouse gate…”
Dennis Duff’s story reminds me of how we as Christians are “keepers” of God’s eternal light here on earth. As such, we should be committed to making sure the light of the Gospel is preached by word and by deeds. We should be faithful in keeping that light shining by actively sharing the message of salvation to the world, both locally and abroad. Some of us may even have to risk our very lives in order to reach those who are lost in the seas of sin and darkness. But the truth is that at some point, we too will need to rest (retire) and inspire and train others to live up to the task. Yet, even though we may no longer be able to perform all the duties of a spiritual lighthouse keeper (due to physical limitations), we can continue to be keepers of the Light, even if at the gates. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we can be watchmen keeping an eye out for “intruders” by shielding our churches and spiritual leaders with prayer and supplication and by living a life of faithfulness to God and His word.
No matter what limitations we may encounter in life we can be like the one-armed man who, in spite of his disability and inability to serve as a lighthouse keeper, continued to shine as keeper of the gate.
Prayer: Dear Lord, when the day comes that I can no longer stand and energetically serve as a keeper of your Light, let my soul remain strong that I may continue to shine for you, even as a keeper of the gate of other lighthouses (your church). Use me till the very end so that my life would reflect your faithfulness and glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.
“So we all agreed to choose men to send you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” -Acts 15:25,26
” And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” -2 Timothy 2:2
“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” -Psalm 71:18
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison– that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” -Colossians 4:2-4
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” -Ephesians 6:18