Northern Ireland

Larne's Craigyhill bonfire in Guinness Book of Records height bid despite man's death last year

The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne, Co Antrim last year. Picture Mal McCann
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne, Co Antrim last year. Picture Mal McCann

The organisers of a controversial Eleventh Night bonfire close to where a pyre builder fell to his death last year hope to raise £9,000 to have it recognised by the Guinness World Records.

The bonfire at Craigyhill in Larne, Co Antrim, reached a height of around 202ft last year - which organisers claim is an un-official world record.

Those behind the towering structure now want to break that 'record' and go even higher in their quest this year.

They say last year's height was not officially recognised as the cost of bringing a Guinness World Record adjudicator to the Co Antrim bonfire site was too high.

Larne's Craigyhill bonfire in Guinness Book of Records height bid despite man's death last year

The Craigyhill bonfire last July. Picture by Mal McCann

A GoFundMe page has now been set up to raise £9,000 to help with the cost.

The current official world record for a bonfire stands at more than 198ft for a pyre built in Austria.

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The Craigyhill pyre is just a short distance from where 36-year-old John Steele fell to his death while helping to build a bonfire in the Antiville area of  Larne last year.

John Steele
John Steele

The land on which the bonfire was being built is owned by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The council later said contractors helped to remove the bonfire material following a request from the community and confirmed "no health and safety inspections were carried out at that site by council officers" prior to the accident.

It was reported earlier this year that the council was facing legal action from relatives of the dead man.

Thousands of pallets have already been stacked at Craigyhill with organisers claiming the tower has already reached a height of 120 pallets.

There was controversy in 2021 when the massive bonfire collapsed after being set alight.

Fresh safety concerns have now been raised about this year's bonfire.


2022: Bonfires lit on Eleventh Night

Alliance assembly member Stewart Dickson said his party "supports safe and respectful expressions of culture".

"However, what we're seeing at the Craigyhill bonfire is not representative of this given its height," he said.

"This poses increasing safety risks and is less than a mile from where someone lost their life, just last year."

Mr Dickson appealed to those behind the bonfire.

“I call on those building it to exercise responsibility and recognise the impact this may cause," he said.

"The bonfire must be reduced dramatically or removed entirely and questions must be asked about permission from the landowner."

The MLA also addressed environmental concerns.

"In addition, we have serious environmental concerns about the burning of pallets which could be recycled or re-purposed," he said.

"Alliance supports the use of beacons such as those used to mark national events like the recent coronation, and make for a much safer alternative."

The land on which Craigyhill bonfire is being built is held on a long term lease by Mid and East Antrim council.

A spokesman for the council said it "works closely with relevant statutory partners and the community in relation to bonfires throughout the area.

"Council has developed a Cultural Celebrations Working Group with the aim of strengthening partnerships between local community leaders and statutory partners to encourage safe and responsible cultural celebrations," he said.

Last year's tragedy at Antiville was the latest in a series of accidents linked to loyalist bonfires.

In 2021 a teenager suffered serious injuries after being engulfed in a fireball at an Eleventh Night bonfire in the Silverstream Crescent area of north Belfast.

The 17-year-old was later treated in hospital for burns to his face and body.

A teenage boy was also airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital after falling off the bonfire in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.