"The Maidens" is a chilling story and film concept in development, based on two uninhabited lighthouses located approximately 15 nautical miles off the East Antrim coast in the formidable Irish sea. The Lighthouses, which are half a mile apart, were commissioned in 1829 and beacon towers were erected on each rock. The West Maiden was abandoned in 1903 and the East Maiden was automated in 1977.
THE BACK STORY
The opening scene of this film begins with coast guard John Maguire travelling out to the Maidens on a small inflatable RIB. He needs to complete an inspection of the waters around the rocks after a stream of emergency calls had been received the night before, reporting that a single ships bell could be heard out at sea from the mainland. An RNLI helicopter had already completed an immediate response recognisance but, found no signs of anyone or any craft in distress.
To comply with maritime law, the Coast Guard decided to deploy a day time surveillance by boat, just as a precautionary measure for the logbook. It was late Autumn and even though the sea was remarkably calm, the currents are strong and the weather in these waters can be very unpredictable. The journey would take him about forty minutes to reach the rocks from Islandmagee lifeboat station and, experience has taught Maguire to come well prepared. He planned to land on the East Maiden first, do a visual inspection from the top of the lighthouse and then do a quick reconnaissance around the abandoned West Maiden.
As the inflatable drew nearer to the East Maiden, it pitched and rolled in the choppy waters and wallowing swell. After several attempts, Maguire managed to secure a holding using a grappling pole and skilfully manoeuvred the RIB close to the solid concrete mooring. With it securely tied up, he grabbed his rucksack and made his way up the ramp towards the enormous white and black tower. A strong breeze sweeps along his skin in an invisible ocean of exultation, as he watches a happy seagull flying in the sky!
After a quick inspection of the one-acre area surrounding the lighthouse, he made his way towards the enormous watchtower. The handle felt icy cold on his fingers, as he turned the large rusty key opening the huge oak door. Despite the slightly stale smell of damp, the oval-shaped ground floor room felt warm and welcoming, offering shelter from the heavy rain clouds coming in from the north. He fired up the old diesel generator, got the kettle on, before making his way up the cast-iron staircase to the beacon where he could scan the foreboding ocean landscape.
At a height of 94 feet, the wind was howling like a Banshee but, with the use of high visibility binoculars, it is possible to observe for miles between Ireland and Scotland on a clear day. After half an hour scrutinising the deep turquoise waters and surveying the West Maiden, Maguire was satisfied nothing was foreboding to report, all seemed to look fine. He decided to stay for an hour to do a quick recce of the lighthouse and check the backup emergency generators were ok, before returning to the mainland.
There was still enough prevailing daylight, even though the clouds admitted only a greyish lustre upon the waves. 'Time to head back' thought Maguire before that torrential storm coming in, traps me in for the night. But as he locked everything down and made his way back down to the mooring, that was when he heard the toll of a bell? Instinct made him drop everything and evaluated the situation, he then sprinted up onto the helipad to try and get a bearing of where the sound was coming from? Through the light hazy rain misting up his glasses, he could see nothing despite clearly hearing the bell toll again.
“Where the fuck is that coming from” muttered Maguire, as he grabbed his things and made his way back up to the tower. With binoculars in hand, he hurtled back up the cast iron stairs to the top of the lighthouse. The wind had intensified and the rain was now starting to lash against the glass dome. He stepped out on to the windswept observation platform and scanned the immediate area looking for a vessel near the rocks but, could still see nothing. It was only when he focused into vision the West Maiden half a mile away, did he catch a glimpse of something that took his breath away!
A young girl bare foot, in tattered, ragged clothing was holding what looked like a baby in her arms, wrapped in a white crocheted shawl. But, despite the bitterly cold harsh wind blowing her long dark hair wildly across her pale sullen face, she remained motionless. This left Maguire uneasy, standing paralysed to the spot, as there was no distress or dismay in her composure yet, the most unsettling thing of all was? she was staring right at him!
“It only takes time... before the sea relinquishes its secrets?”
TO BE CONTINUED!