Mattie Lennon Irish Author- THE JACK-LAMP


by Mattie Lennon
Lamps of one sort or another have been with us for tens of thousands of years, almost since man discovered fire. In 70,000 BC a hollow rock, shell or other such object would be filled with moss or dry vegetation soaked in animal fat and lit to provide illumination. About 4,000 BC fish oil and vegetable oils began to be used and lighting apparatuses have been evolving ever since. We have indeed come a long way in our efforts to banish darkness. The oil lamp pre-dates the candle by thousands of years. Oil lamps were the most widespread method of illumination until the end of the 17 hundreds. Archaeologists and historians can inform us about the different types of lamp used since the dawn of time.******
Archaeological digs in Egypt, Greece and Rome unearthed the first mass produced objects in history. They were made from terracotta, bronze, stone and alabaster. They were dish-shaped that would hold oil and a place for a wick which would prolong burning and prevent the complete surface of the oil reservoir from catching fire. The next design was a closed container with a spout for a wick. That design was used until the 18th century when Aime Argand, Swiss chemist, invented and patented the “Argand Lamp”. His lamp was much the same as previous designs but had cylindrical wick to give larger surface for a larger flame had a glass globe. Many readers will remember the traditional oil-lamp. In the nineteenth hundreds your lamp type could be somewhat of a status symbol. The home of the strong-farmer would have an Aladdin or a Tilly lamp while those further down the social scale would hand the “double-burner” oil lamp and the less well-off would opt for the more economical “single burner.”
But I have a little test for people who claim that they grew up in abject poverty in the rural Ireland of the twentieth century; I ask them, “Do you know how to make a Jack-lamp.?” If the answer is no then they weren’t poor. To construct the humble Jack-lamp all that was required was a container such as a Bovril bottle with a metal cap. The lid was pierced and a bit of rag inserted which acted as a wick. The jar was filled with “Lamp-oil” (The word paraffin was seldom used much less Kerosene.) Capillary action (which I still don’t understand) did the rest. Once ignited it gave off a reasonable plus a robust “smoke and smell.” Lamps now come in all shapes and sizes. Some Lighthouse lamps weighted as much as six ton. In 2009 a team of eminent scientists from the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy created the world’s smallest incandescent lamp but what would their reply be if I had asked, “Do you know how to make a Jack-lamp?” It’s a question that I won’t put to Tunisian designer Tom Dixon because he has created an electric floor- lamp which he calls the “Jack Lamp” (without the hyphen.)

Mattie Lennon Mattie Lennon ;

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