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Double Take: The handmade stone sign in Donegal that helped WWII pilots find their way

Before GPS and sat-nav, there were white stones.

ph1 Source: Peter Homer

IF EVER YOU’VE visited (or flown over) Malin Head, Co Donegal, you may have spotted ‘Eire 80′ etched on the ground in white stone.

More than just a decoration or a patriotic landmark, the sign held an important role during World War II, telling pilots which country they were flying over.

In 1942, as the war raged on, a number of ‘Eire signs’, as they were called, were placed along the Irish coast to tell pilots where they were.

“Today we take technology navigational aids like GPS for granted, but in the early days the pilots relied on the navigator skills,” explains Peter Homer of MalinHead.net.

The signs meant pilots could “identify the land below the flying aircraft as Eire, and not, for example, Northern Ireland or Great Britain.”

image Source: Peter Homer

Malin Head was also one of 83 lookout points (LOPs) set up along the coast from Louth to Donegal following the commencement of the war in September 1939 – hence the number ’80′ on the stone sign.

A coastal watch had been set up at that time to guard against the invasion of Ireland, a neutral country, explains Homer:

A team of men carried out watch duties over the sea from these sites. Each site was numbered from one through 82, with number 1 being located in Ballagan Point, Co Louth and number 82 on Inishowen Head, Co Donegal. The only odd one was number 83, which was located at Foileye Head, Co Kerry and seemed to be out of sequence.

Source: Peter Homer/YouTube

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Shortly after the Eire signs were constructed, the identifying number of the lookout point was added, enhancing the sign’s value as a navigational aid:

A list of LOPs, their locations and numbers were given to Allied pilots thus allowing themselves to reduce the risk of landing in the Republic of Ireland and also giving them greater detail on where they were.

The letters and numbers were made using local rock and cemented into place before they were whitewashed. 

ph2 Source: Peter Homer

By 2015, the Eire 80 sign had begun to slowly fade away and the surrounding area was destroyed by visitors using stones to write their name on the land.

As a result, Malin Head Community Association organised for the landmark to be restored to its former glory.

Nowadays, eight of the Eire signs remain on headlands in Donegal. There are three on the Inishowen Peninsula, at Glengad Head, Inishowen Head and Malin Head, although the Eire 80 sign is the most well-known.

More Double Take: The 65ft-long whale skeleton on display in a West Cork park>

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