Malin Head

Lookout Buildings

Lookout Building No. 80

1939 plans for the prefabricated Lookout Post buildings



Eighty-two LOPs (Lookout Posts) were built or reconditioned between 1939 and 1942 and each was built in situ to an identical design shown above using 137 pre-cast concrete blocks. 


This design was done by Howard Cooke RIBA in 1939. Cooke was an English-born architect with the Irish Office of Public Works.


Their construction was one of the most widely spread engineering exercises undertaken by the Irish Defence Forces during the Second World War and, located at intervals of five to fifteen miles, the network stretched the entire coastline from Ballagan Point in County Louth to Malin Head.


The lookout post at Malin Head overlooking the sea with its many lookout windows was carted in prefabricated sections from the bottom of the Tower road by Tom Houton of Ballyhillion.

Lookout Building No. 80 with a commanding view out to sea


After the outbreak of war Ireland was determined to keep its neutral status therefore the “coast watching service” was set up comprising of army personnel and local militia. The Department of Defence designated 83 Look-Out Post Stations mostly on former Napoleonic signal tower sites. Many of the smaller buildings (mostly soldier’s quarters, storage and animal shelter areas) at the tower date from this era. The 83 lookout posts were positioned around the coast beginning at Ballaghan Point in Co Louth (No. 1) and ending up with Inishowen Head. No. 82. and 83 was in Kerry.  Malin Head was No.80.


Coast watchers worked around the clock in pairs on eight or twelve hour shifts.  One man operated the telephone inside the LOP, the other patrolled outside.  They had to report every activity they observed at sea or in the air in the vicinity of their LOP.


Each LOP was assigned a unique identifying number starting with "LOP 1" in County Louth and finishing with "LOP 82" in County Donegal.

Coast watcher Thomas Mc Laughlin (Tam the pet) standing at Lookout Post 80.


The personnel at Malin Head Look Out Post 80 were “Corporal C. Houstan, with volunteers Tom and Eddie Doherty (Jack), Arty O’ Connor, D.G.Glackin, Thomas Glackin, H.Mc Laughlin and P.Mc Laughlin.

During World War 1 1914 to 1918 the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were billeted at the Tower. With the onset of Irish Independence, the Naval authorities vacated the site removing all the paperwork and documentation which is now stored in the British Archives London. The tower site was then abandoned until the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 when it was used by the Defence Forces as a look out post.

The line of signal stations along the west coast continued around the Donegal coast up to Malin Head. The first station was at St. John’s Point; ten miles westwards from here was the signal tower at Carrigan Head, the next at Malin Beg five miles north-west. Some four miles north was the tower at Glen Head, the next signal station being Dawros Head ten miles to the north-east. Crohy Head tower, seven miles north, linked to the next station at Mullaghderg Hill near Kincasslagh. Nine miles further north is the signal tower on Bloody Foreland, with the next tower on Horn Head some thirteen miles north-east. The tower on Melmore Head eight miles to the east links to the following signal station at Fanad Head, at the west side of the entrance to Lough Swill