Three terrible days, Jan 1862

Over a three-day period of January 22nd, 23rd and 24th 1862, a large number of shipwrecks and loss of life took place in Waterford Harbour and along the County Waterford coastline, making it probably one of the most catastrophic events in the maritime history of Waterford.

The ferocity of the weather was best demonstrated from a report that the Coningbeg light-ship dragging her anchor for a distance of four and a half miles, when it had held firm in other recent storms*.

The Daily Express of Monday January 27th 1862 reported that “at Dunmore, the sea rolled clear over the Pier Head, and rushed with great violence up a considerable part of the town.”

Meanwhile the Waterford Mail on the same day reported: “We have had a succession of storms such as we have not had to record for many years. “Old Ocean” has been in one of his rough moods, and has strewn our coast with shipwrecks. The gale of Wednesday was sufficient to alarm the heart of every one who had a single relative or connection with the water. A lull took place on Thursday, but it was followed, on Friday morning, by one of the most terrific hurricanes we remember, and the casualties have been terrible to record….”

SS Royal Charter lost at Angelsea 1859. Wikipedia (Public Domain)
A sense of the scene. SS Royal Charter lost at Angelsea 1859. source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

What follows is a full account of the local losses over those three terrible days

1        ‘Active’

 “The storm of Wednesday caught the little schooner Active of Cork, supposed to have been laden with coals, off the coast of Annestown, and the captain evidently finding that he could not weather the gale, tried to beach the ship in Annestown bay, and in doing so a tremendous sea caught her, and dashed her to pieces against the rock. Five persons were seen on her deck, none of whom were saved, and it supposed that her crew consisted of nine persons – None of the bodies have been washed ashore. While the coastguards were engaged in watching the goods washed ashore from the Active, they were alarmed to hear of the loss of another, a large vessel, in the same locality.” (1)

2      ‘Indian Ocean’ was the large vessel, the story of which has an interesting twist.

“Supposed Loss of an Emigrant Ship and all on board, – At five o’clock on yesterday (Friday) morning a large emigrant ship was beat to pieces at Annestown. Her deck was crowded with crew and passengers. It is much to be apprehended every one of them perished. From a paper washed ashore the vessel is believed to be the ‘Indian Ocean’, which sailed from Liverpool for Sydney, New South Wales, last Monday.  She was laden with a valuable cargo, of general assortment, with which the coast is strewn. The paper is a printed form, signed for W.Nichol and Co., dated 2nd January 1861, at Bombay, directing the commanding officer of the ‘Indian Ocean’ to receive fifty bales of cotton, and give a bill of lading.” (2)

 “Wreck on the Coast of Ireland.- The large vessel lost off the coast of Ireland on Friday, is now fully ascertained, was the Indian Ocean of Liverpool. With the confirmation of the fact of her loss, comes the welcome intelligence that the captain and crew of twenty-five persons, supposed to have gone down with the wreck, were all saved by the timely arrival of the ‘Europa’, which took them off the vessel before she drifted ashore. The ‘Europa’ was on her voyage from St. John’s to Liverpool, and landed the whole of the rescued men at the latter port on Saturday. (3)

3       ‘Queen of Commerce’

“A little to the west of Dunmore lies a little bay called Ballymacaw, and into was driven a very fine vessel bound from Antwerp to Liverpool, where she was chartered as a passenger ship. The captain availed himself of the idea of which had been put out respecting wind kites. He tied a line to a hencoop, and flung it overboard; it was found to be too light and did not float ashore as could be wished, and was drawn on board, and the line attached to a lifebuoy, which was washed ashore and gladly secured by the coast-guard. A rope of sufficient strength was then sent ashore, and taken up from the beach to the cliff where it was made fast and thus the entire crew, 23 in number were rescued from the waves.” (4) 

The author David Carroll on rt, his wife Pauline and Michael Farrell chair Barony of Gaultier Historical Society on a recent trip to Brownstown
Brownstown head, in more settled weather.

4       ‘Nairne’

“The Nairne, Captain Ness, of Leith, and bound for Havannah with coals, was caught by the storm off Brownstown Head at the western shore of Tramore bay. The haze and rain prevented the captain or crew from thinking they were so near the coast; suddenly the mist cleared and they saw the ominous towers on Brownstown Head, just at the same moment a sea struck the vessel and washed the man at the wheel overboard, and almost instantaneously the vessel struck with such violence that the masts went by the board. Fortunately, they fell towards the land, and formed a bridge from the vessel to the cliff. The captain and crew immediately clambered up the perilous ascent, some of them almost without clothes, and just as the last man reached terra firma the ship was engulphed in the waves, and masts and spars were floating in the ocean.  The captain and crew were immediately taken charge of by Mr. Thomas Walsh, who acts as sub-agent for Mr. Barnes, the representative of the Shipwrecked Mariner’s Society, and they were provided with the necessaries which they required. Some of them have reached Waterford, but others have been unable to be removed from Brownstown. (5)

5       ‘Tiger’

The Tiger, of Bath, N.S., bound from Liverpool for Boston, with a general cargo, was on Wednesday, driven near Creden Head. Two of the sailors tried to get ashore with a line, but the boat swamped, and they were thrown into the foaming surge. The captain and those on board, tried to aid them, by flinging ropes, life bouys etc., to them, but they drifted away, and the men were both lost. The vessel held together until the weather moderated, when the rest of the crew- 23 in number-were brought by Mr. Boyse, sub-agent to Josiah Williams, Esq. Lloyd’s agent of this port. They reached this on Friday morning in the Tintern. The Tiger has since become a total wreck”.  (6)

Loss of the SS Central America National Maritime Museum London (Public Domain)
Loss of the SS Central America. source: National Maritime Museum London (Public Domain)
Although again not a local depiction I thought it gave an accurate if frightening sense of the scenes depicted by David

6      ‘Loss of a Schooner, and all hands’

“A very fine schooner was also seen running for this harbour. She made her way most gallantly until, when in the act of cutting a sea, she was struck with violence on her quarter; she was seen to stagger from the force of the blow, and before she could recover, another large wave struck her and capsized her. She went down with all hands. “ (7)

From my reading of the books written by Edward J. Bourke, this schooner was lost at Red Head, close to Dunmore.

7     ‘The Sarah Anne’

“This fine schooner, the property of Capt. Curran, was lost on Wednesday in Dungarvan bay. She was laden with coals, and bound from Cardiff for Waterford. She was blown past our harbour and lost near Ballynacourty on 22nd inst. Her master, John McCarthy, her mate, Thomas Connery, and also Thos. Dowse, seaman, and Maurice Connery, boy, were natives of this city.” (8)

8       ‘Loss of an Austrian Ship, and all hands.’

“A fine vessel supposed to have been an Austrian, which was seen from Dunmore on Friday, inside Hook Tower, was struck by an awful surge, and went down, and not a soul has been saved.”  (9)

9       ‘The Sophia’

 “The vessel, belonging to Mr. Bellord, of this city, laden with coals, from Cardiff, was while running into this harbour, struck by a sea, near Creden Head, with such violence that her wheel was broken and she became almost unmanageable. The captain (Barry) succeeded in getting her inside Creden Head, and beached her in comparatively still water. The crew was brought off by the pilot cutter Gannet.” (10)

10     ‘The Angelica’

During the gale on Monday, the Angelica, of Genoa, Domina master, from New York, with grain, which had called into Queenstown for orders and taken a Cork pilot on board was, while on her voyage to Newcastle, driven into our harbour. (The wind blowing strong from the south west.) She was unable to bear up for Passage, and struck on Creden Bay bank, close to the Sophia. The Duncannon and City of Paris steamers tried yesterday evening to tow her off, but failed in their attempt, though the vessel was lightened by throwing some of the wheat overboard. The crew are all safe.”  (11)

The inclusion of the Angelica, brings the list of vessels lost to ten, which is what the main headline in the Waterford Mail stated.  Disaster, was not confined to the County Waterford coastline. Other parts of the country were also witness to tragic losses and Waterford ships were casualties of the severe weather elsewhere. Further reading of newspapers of the time record that the stern portion of the Martha of Wexford was washed ashore near Waterford with no news of her crew.

The Waterford Mail also reported on January 27th as follows:

 “It is our melancholy duty to report the total loss of this fine schooner on the south-west coast. Her master (Thomas) and three of her crew have also been lost. The Prudence (148 tons register) was built of oak at Bedford, and owned by Messrs. White Brothers of this city. She was laden with oats and bound from Limerick to London. We are sorry to hear that was uninsured.”

The paper also reported that the S.S. Diana of Waterford from London for Rotterdam was reported on shore at Brielle. (South Holland.) Amongst all the sad and poignant reports of vessels and crews being lost, it was pleasing to see recorded that the steamer Vesta arrived safely to Waterford:

SAFE ARRIVAL OF THE VESTA

“The arrival of the Vesta steamer from Liverpool created quite a sensation in this city on Saturday. She had sailed on Wednesday, and faced both terrific storms of Wednesday night and Friday morning. She had a terrific conflict with the elements; but owing to the good seamanship of Captain Coffey and the crew, she made her voyage with less loss than might have been anticipated. During her passage the storm was so great that the man at the helm was lashed to the wheel to prevent him being washed over-board and the mate was with him to steer the vessel………..” (12) 

Both S.S. Diana and S.S. Vesta were part of the large fleet of ships owned by the Malcomson family.  Both vessels had been built in Govan, Glasgow and not in their own Neptune iron shipyard in Waterford.  

Well thats 2019 off to a great guest blogging start! I am indebted to David Carroll for this excellent report, giving as it does not just an historical record but a clear sense of the danger and difficulties posed to 19th Century sailors. It brings the value of the modern meteorological service into sharp focus. Perhaps those who would like to criticise forecasters for weather warnings and trying to keep people safe should dwell a moment or two on events such as these and how fortunate we now are

If you would like to submit a guest blog I would be delighted to receive it. Its an opportunity for anyone to contribute to telling the story of the area on the last Friday of the month. It needs to be something in relation to the maritime history of the three sister rivers, harbour or our coastline, about 1200 words, word doc format and submitted to tidesntales@gmail.com

In next months guest blog Roy Dooney brings us the story of the building of Dunmore Harbour. And its a beauty.

If you want further information/a different perspective on the events of the day, I published a story previously sourced from the News & Star

References:

(1)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(2)          Dublin Evening Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(3)          Derbyshire Courier, February 1, 1862

(4)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(5)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(6)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(7)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(8)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(9)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(10)       Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(11)       Waterford Mirror and Tramore Visiter, January 30, 1862

(12)       Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

See also ‘Shipwreck of the Irish Coast’ Vol. 3 by Edward J. Bourke

*According to John Power “A maritime history of Co Wexford” Vol I, (2011) p 66 what saved the Coningbeg lightship (Seagull) was the hard work of her master and crew, who deployed a standby anchor which fortunately held. A news report I read ststed she was back on her station by the Sunday.

The ancient Ballinlaw Ferry

Andy Kelly Image

Introduction

My blog this week is different to the norm.  Firstly it’s a long form article, almost three times the length of my usual stories.  I had toyed with the idea of breaking it up, but decided to let it run.  Secondly I have had a significant amount of help with the story and two men in particular have favored me with their time, resources and assistance; John Flynn and Paul Grant.

The Ballinlaw Ferry has an ancient history.  It ran in various forms, probably from the early Christian era to the early 1960’s and must have transported tens of thousands of people in that time from the most exalted to the most humble and I’m confident that we will never really know the true extent of it.  A ferry crossing was an important part of the transport infrastructure to our fore bearers allowing as it did for short cuts to be taken before the engineering ability existed to construct bridges to ford rivers.   As such they played a role in defense, commerce, social cohesion and wellbeing, a good example being the present Passage East Ferry further down the harbour.

The Ferry Point on Great Island and the stretch of water across to Ballinlaw, taken from Ballinlaw Castle
Photo by Paul Grant. For more great photos and information on the area check out slieverue.com

Earliest ownership

My own, and probably anyone else’s educated guess about the age of the Ballinlaw Ferry is that it surely dates at least to the foundation of a monastery on the road to the ferry on Great Island (Inis Teimle) at Kilmokea.  At least when the island was picked by Herve de Montmorency as his base of operations after the Norman conquest we are told that it was chosen because of its strategic position on the Wexford – Waterford road, suggesting, if not confirming the pre-existence of the ferry.  The Island was passed over to William Marshall on his death in 1205 and remained as an important trading centre until it was eclipsed in favour of New Ross.[1]  

The first official record of the ferry operating on the Wexford side is 1282 when the provost of the local burgh (village, which was probably close but not in the Kilmokea early Christian settlement, but actually associated with a tidal salt water mill and associated farm, buildings etc close to the islands causway) was paying rent on actually two ferries on the island, Colkery and Portilash[2]

Kilmokea graveyard, alongside the ferry road

The historian Hore speculates that the “vestiges of two intrenchments by some supposed to have been thrown up by the Danes to defend the pass to Ballinlaw ferry”[3]

Elsewhere he claims three ferrys are operating on or associated with the Great Island; Of these Hore speculates that Colkery is associated with a weir- after the Gaelic word Coraidh[4] and although not stated I understand from as careful a reading as I can manage, that it was close to Dollar Point, upriver from the Island,[5] 

The next has a number of variations in the spelling including Porsyllach, Portilash, Portillagh, Portculagh and finally Kylmuke – so this perhaps is what we comonly know as Ballinlaw Ferry, there being a very obvious relationship with the last name and with Kilmokea.[7]

The third crossing point is a bit of a mystery, but Hore is of the opinion that it crosses to Cheekpoint. For example he states that in one case it is located past Loughtown and Newtown[8] later a mention of a ferry at Le Crook, which he discounts as being the placename further out the harbour but rather a geographic description of Cheekpoint[9] and finally a mention of a ferry from Kennock (Kilmannock) worth 2s 6d per year [10]

Various amounts of rent are given for the ferrys, but the Kilmokea/Ballinlaw operation pays the most; consistently in the 13thC 5-6s.  Farms are associated with the operation, perhaps as a means of sustenance, or (and I think more likely) as a description of the operation, ie that revenue was farmed from the operation of the ferry.  Interestingly the income dropped from the Island after a terrific storm occurred on August 1st 1284[11].  The mill and much of the farm were destroyed by floods and strong tides and damage was caused to fishing weirs.  It would suggest that there was a vibrant trade on the island that was badly impacted by the weather.

Perhaps as a measure of the ferrys importance, the rent for Kilmokea ferry is on par with the rent to operate the ferry in New Ross (5s), which is equal to the rent paid by burgesses (villages).[12]

In later years the ferry’s are less prominent in the accounts, and it is hard to judge if they were operating at all.  For example in 1397 “Richard II granted to Roger Codde the custody of the towne of Ross together with the mills, meadows, fisheries and ferries and the town of Dubarresilaund and everything belonging to it”[13]  Dubarresilaund referes to Great Island, when it was leased by John Durbaro de Llond who exported herring from the area to England.  However, as you can see there is no direct mention to the ferry operation.*

Ballinlaw Co Kilkenny. Photo Paul Grant
Much reference is made to the Waterford side, this is just a common phrase connecting the ferry with its destination, Waterford

The operation

Looking more closely now at the Ferry of Ballinlaw as regards the operation I have been told that two boats operated on the route, one for foot passengers the other for animals and that this appears to have been the case until at least the start of the 20th Century.  From local sources the preferred passenger transport seems to have been the locally abundant and popular Prong.  However a larger craft was required for animals.  One description was of a boat propelled by two long oars that rowed the vessel across the water.  This brings to mind a lighter, but perhaps it was just a large punt or other vessel (Prongs of great size were also built).  I was also told that within living memory horses were guided across by a boat as they swam the river.  The operation, no doubt, conducted when the tidal conditions were favourable.

In all cases the departure point from Great Island seems to have been the end point of the present roadway which we always called when fishing, the Ferry Point.  Two opinions were offered locally on the landing point of the ferry on the Kilkenny side.  One, that it was close to the present road as it meets the water at Ballinlaw, the other that it was further downriver at a larger quay.  Evidence of the historic maps series tends to prove both in fact to be right.  The 6inch of 1837-42 has it close to the present road, the 25inch map of 1888-1913 positions the landing point further down closer to Hennerbrys/O’Briens, perhaps as a consequence of the ending of the official route.

I found no information on the cost to patrons for a trip. However as the rent was similar for New Ross and the Kilmokea ferry it’s plausible at least, that the rates were similar. The New Ross Corporation book stated that the prices were as follows; ½d for every man and woman, 1d for every horse, cow or bullock, ¼d for every sheep or goat, ¼d for every stone of wool and ½d for each barrel of corn. [14] 

A fascinating account of connecting with the river paddle steamer Ida is worth quoting.  “But the most exciting experience of all was at Ballinlaw, when the ponderous ferry-boat with passengers and farm produce from the Great Island made contact with the Ida as she lay to mid stream.  To get the passengers safely aboard by means of a companion ladder involved considerable risk in rough weather.  But the Ballinlaw boatmen knew their job, and no accident occurred in living memory” [15]

 Another perspective is dated from 1786; “This is a very good horse ferry, but not so for carriages.  It is by much the most convenient way for travellers coming from Waterford, as the boat is on that side of the river; and for this reason you are subject to great delays if you come this way from New Ross – The other road is then recommended” [16]

A lighter being rowed in New Ross…a bit too big perhaps for the Ballinlaw animal ferry?
Via Myles Courtney New Ross Street Focus
Thought to be the Little Island Ferry on the Suir and perhaps a more likely similarity to Ballinlaw. Photo via Andy Kelly

What the papers say

A Headline[17] of UNRESERVED AUCTION OF HIGHLY-BRED DAIRY COWS appeared in the papers of 1863, from the Executors of the late John G.Ussher, at LANDSCAPE (2 miles from New Ross, 15 from Wexford and nine miles from Waterford via Ballinlaw Ferry.  Which I think highlights the benefit as seen by using the ferry instead of the road to New Ross.  The piece goes on to mention of the Ferry Inn, Ballinlaw, Slieverue, on the old stagecoach route.  This notion of a stagecoach route seems to tally with local stories I have heard, but I have nothing concrete to draw on as yet.

Underlining its use as a horse ferry I found this piece.  “Saturday morning a melancholy accident happened near the ferry Ballinlaw.—As Mr. Lumsden, Fethard, was riding towards Waterford, for the purpose of meeting his daughters, who were going from that city on a visit him, he was thrown from his horse and killed on the spot.—He was so much disfigured by the fall, that, although perfectly known in the neighbourhood when living, persons could not discover whom, or where he belonged, until his daughters arrived to the fatal spot, who were the first that made the melancholy discovery.”[18]

And it wasn’t just horses! This from an election of 1830 “A fine bullock donated by James Esmonde Esq. for the support of the Freeholders belonging to the Independent interest  during the approaching contest brought in triumph into town (Waterford) decorated with green ribbons, green boughs, laurel, and orange ribbons being attached to the extremity of the tail and the feet, on which the animal trampled. Mr Esmonde had him landed at Ballinlaw Ferry.  Numbers went from town, met him, and marched him on in regular procession.”[19]  Meeting objectors on Timbertoes, they finally entered the city after the procession was forced through.

And of course it wasn’t just law abiding citizens who traversed the waters. A Waterford city man named Patrick Goggins, described as a tramp, who was on the run in Wexford having attacked General Napper, used the ferry to make his freedom.  He “…crossed into Sutton’s Parish, going towards the Great Island, where he knew there a regular ferry across the river at Ballinlaw. A short distance outside the village of Campile, he met a policeman, who was on the look-out for him… and deliberately walked up and asked for a match. Of course the constable never imagined that Goggins would be so cheeky, and leaving the policeman, he passed on into the village, got a drink and a bun in one of the shops, and then set out for the Great Island district. Here he lay in concealment for some hours…crossed over in the ferry-boat. They crossed too, but could get no trace of him. As to his course on reaching the Kilkenny shore there are many stories told. One is to the effect that he walked through Mooncoin to Carrick-on-Suir and … to county Waterford from which he passed on to his native city, where among the lanes and slums of Waterford be has been since able to evade the police of the city…”[20]

And there were women trying to evade capture too! In a piece titled “The Adventuress in New Ross” [21] we learn of a Kilkenny lady named Keating, well known to the local constabulary of that city as a con artist.  She had spent several days in the town of New Ross and the outlying area tricking people out of their money.  “…she is known to have driven in a covered car from Waterford on the following day out to the Kilkenny side of Ballinlaw Ferry, and crossed over to the county of Wexford from which place all trace of her is lost completely. Where she has gone to, or where she is at the present moment, is now a mystery, but if the police had any grounds to go upon—or if any of the victims cared to make an information there is not much doubt but that the adventuress would soon be in ‘durance vile’ awaiting the sentence of the court. As it is, however, those who have been victimised are not inclined to go before the public and prosecute.”

And of course the weather impacted the ferry too.  In 1838 a S.E. gale washed out the causeway linking Great Island to the Wexford mainland, and also the ferry.  The condition of the causeway was described as “…been intersected several deep and wide chasms, and rendered impassable…” causing problems enough for the island, but impacting travel between Waterford Kilkenny and Wexford via the ferry”.  The article demands a more secure and better engineered causeway for the future of transport security.[22]

20th Century and closure

In terms of later years I have heard that the Barden family ran two boats until at least 1906, or the building of the Barrow Bridge.  I suppose it would be no surprise to anyone that the railways had a significant impact on it.  However locally I was told a service, unofficial perhaps, but a service nonetheless ran until the 1960s.

A member of the Shalloe family did kindly correspond with me recently with some family memories which I think are valuable and deserve recording.  “My granny was a Shalloe from the ferry / Ballinlaw…We were told the Hannigans and Heneberrys ran the ferry from the Waterford side…and that a few of the Shalloes ran it from Wexford side in the early 1900’s anyway ( Ned/ Markie/Michael). They all used prongs as it was very muddy on the Wexford side and you could pull up on the mud with the prong. My greatgrandfather Michael Shalloe ran a prong across. He told stories of dropping lads in under Snowhill who were on the run from the black and tans…The Lannons may have been involved in the 1800’s and the Shalloe/ Lannon families did inter marry”

In some sense the work of Jim Walsh[24] tallies with the family memories above. In it we read that the Barden family (who lived in what I believe was a coaching Inn on the Ballinlaw side)ran a licenced[25] ferry using two boats, one for animals, another for passengers.  Mail was transported, but was collected by horse drawn mail coaches (this seems to confirm that there was no system to carry coaches already suggested).  The last two ferrymen who lived on the Wexford side were said to be Larry Lennon and Markie Shalloe; Larry retired in the 1920’s, Markie retired circa 1963.  The last ferrymen on the Kilkenny side were said to be Neddy and Pat Doyle.

While walking around Ballinlaw last week I met Joe Malone who was happy to share some memories of the Ferry.  His thoughts of course tallied with my own in terms of these area and how close the communities were.  Joe recalled taking a group of Dutch cyclists across not so many years back as a favour.  They had come to Ballinlaw from Waterford thinking the ferry still ran.  They intended cycling onto Arthurstown where a youth hostel was to be their bed for the night.  Rather than show them the road to New Ross, he piled them and their bikes into his boat and dropped them across.  

I’m sure he or others like him would think nothing of doing likewise today.  Or at least they would if boats such as prongs, and those skilled in handling them were are numerous as heretofore.  Those days are fading fast of course and I think I will leave the final say on the men and their qualities to T.F. O’Sullivan[26]: “The test of a good boatman…was to negociate…the river bend at Ballinlaw, on a moonless night. The river at Ballinlaw is known as Paul Gauls, after a pub that stood on the shore there.** I never saw the name written down before I wrote it down myself, because old boatmen are not all that good at writing; but I have spelled it as I think an old boatman would, if he could.  Writing is another skill, to be sure, and no harm to those who have some use for it; but if you were rash enough to challenge a Barrow boatman’s skill the least you might expect as a reply is the proud boast of the Barrow Boys: ‘I’d steer down Paul Gaul’s if the moon was tarred”

Acknowledgements

I have a regular crew of helpers who come to my aid with links, contacts, books, opinions and advice and on this trip Frank Murphy, Jim Doherty and Michael Farrell were to the fore. But as I could find little in my usual resources on this topic I did something unusual, I put it out on social media in the hope of other leads. I had an overwhelming response, and too many to thank individually. But John Flynn not alone gave freely of his time, he also trusted me with his books and other materials which I am deeply grateful for. Paul Grant, likewise, could not have done enough to help me both in terms of time and resources and I am indebted to him for many of the images that I have used. Joe Malone was also very generous with both his time and his knowledge. I also would like to expressly thank Brian Forristal and Martha Bolger for information which is contained within the piece. I also received some worthwhile links and information from the local research section of Kilkenny Co Library. My thanks there especially to Nuala.

Lastly can I just say that I hope I have neither offended or misrepresented anyone’s information in the article. Any errors, omissions or inaccuracies are mine and mine alone and are based on my mis-judgement or mishearing/reading of material supplied. Happy to correct or amend as required. Please leave me a comment below or contact me at tidesntales@gmail.com

A piece recently recorded by Waterford Youth Arts on the boats in the Barrow and a short piece on the actual ferry

[1] William Marshall and Ireland.  John Bradley, Cóilin Ó Drisceoil & Michael Potterton, editors.  2016 Four Courts Press, Dublin (From a chapter by Billy Colfer, William Marshalls Settlement Startegy in Wexford (pp 260-261) via John Flynn

[2] Hore.P.H History of the Town & County of Wexford. Dunbrody Abbey, The Great Island, Ballyhack etc. 1901 London.  (I’m indebted to John Flynn for the loan of his copy)

[3] Ibid p 198 & see also A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland Vol II), Samuel Lewis (1837):

[4] Irish for weir according to Hore p 205

[5] Ibid p 205

[6] I mention this here because in discussing the position of a ferry crossing to Cheekpoint the south side had three fishing weirs of note, one at Kents Point, the other at Culletons and a third at what we call the White Stone. This appears to be at variance with Hore’s later opinions on the Cheekpoint weir, but I mention it as i think there might be some merit in at least highlighting it.

[7] Hore.P.H History of the Town & County of Wexford. Dunbrody Abbey, The Great Island, Ballyhack etc. 1901 London pp 205-213

[8] Ibid p 205

[9] Ibid p 213

[10] Ibid p 219

[11] Ibid p 210

[12] New Ross Rosponte Ros Mhic Treoin An Anthology Celebrating 800 years.  Tom Dunne Ed., 2007. Wexford County Council Public Library Service p 216

[13] Hore.P.H History of the Town & County of Wexford. Dunbrody Abbey, The Great Island, Ballyhack etc. 1901 London pp 205-213p 223

[14] New Ross Rosponte Ros Mhic Treoin An Anthology Celebrating 800 years.  Tom Dunne Ed., 2007. Wexford County Council Public Library Service. p 216

[15] Quote from Jogging my Memory, The Monks School New Ross in the 1880’s.  Mark Canon O’Byrne.  From The Past: The organ of the Uí Cinsealaigh Historical Society. No 18 (1992) pp 55-74

[16] Quoted from “The Post-chaise Companion: Or, Travellers’ Directory Through Ireland”. William Wilson 1786 Dublin and accessed as a free ebook via Google Books

[17] Waterford News and Star Friday, July 03, 1863 Page: 1

[18]Hampshire Chronicle – Saturday 21 April 1798  page 2

[19] Waterford Chronicle – Saturday 20 February 1830 page 1

[20] Wexford People – Saturday 21 July 1894 page 4

[21] Wexford People – Saturday 07 October 1893 page 5

[22] Wexford Conservative – Wednesday 05 December 1838 page 3

[23] Email communication received over Christmas from Yvonne Uí Chuanacháin

[24] Sliabh Rua: a history of its people and places / compiled  by Jim Walsh.

[Publication- Ireland: The Jubilee and Bi-Centenary sub-committee  of Slieverue Parish Pastoral Council, 2011]

[25] As said earlier in the piece, I am unclear about the ownership/charter employing the ferry throughout much of its history.  From a conversation with my cousin James Doherty who is employed in Kilkenny Castle, it seems that the Butlers may have held this.  How they came to have it, or when requires further investigation.

[26] O’Sullivan TF.  Goodly Barrow, A Voyage on an Irish River.  2001.  Lilliput Press.  Dublin

*Paul Grant first mentioned the name of the ferry to me as Camnock, from the Irish suggesting the steep road of the knock, giving a very accurate geographic description of Ballinlaw even today. Jim Walsh records that in 1407 the ferry was leased for the sum total of 20 pence . In 1427 it is leased to a Richard Fitz John by the Earl of Ormond The Earl was reputed to have built Ballinlaw Castle as a defensive structure for the protection of the ferry Suggesting an important investment, and tallying with a similar investment at Grannagh.

**Poll Gaul was a lady, who ran the pub at Ballinlaw with her husband a man named Lyons. It was later taken over by the Halligan family, and later still (and to this day although no longer a pub) the Malones when Aggie Halligan married a Malone. Via Paul Grant

Passage East “invasion” of 1937

Passage East, Co Waterford

Throughout Wednesday 6th January 1937 and into the night, groups of men began arriving in the small village of Passage East in Waterford harbour.  Some arrived in buses, others by car and as the day went on into evening their numbers swelled to an estimated 500.  Teenagers to middle aged, from all class of Irish society, they clutched cases or bags containing their belongings.  They had one thing in common, they all were constantly looking to the river.  But who were they?, where had the come from? and what was their purpose?

Passage East, Co Waterford earlier in the 20th Century from the Wexford side of the river
Photo via Tommy Deegan Waterford History Site

The cause of the invasion was actually several hundred miles south of Passage East; Spain, and a civil war that waged at the time between a grouping of nationalist rebels which was led by a fascist dictator named Franco and the democratically elected government of Spain.  Now being very economically in terms of the background, and perhaps under simplifying it, the Irish newspapers, church and much of the population were on the side of Franco because the democratic government were seen as anti catholic.  Imagine a state where the church did not get to dictate your every moments thought and action! A broader analysis here from History Ireland

In late 1936, the once IRA leader, pro treaty fighter, friend of Michael Collins, one time leader of Fine Geal and founder of the Blueshirts, General Eoin O’Duffy, called for volunteers to fight on behalf of the nationalist side in the war.  The response was so positive that he went on to announced the formation of an Irish Brigade.  But there was a dilemma in this.  Ireland was a neutral country, and the government of the time, Fianna Fail under De Valera did not want to be seen as taking sides.  So volunteers had to be shipped out of the country in relative secrecy.  However, about 500 were said to have left from Galway in late 1936 aboard a German ship SS Urundi flying the swastika, and were seen off by crowds from the quays, causing embarrassment to the government. 

So in January, when the next shipment of volunteers were due to leave, they made their way secretly to Passage East, their goal was to embark another German vessel and sail to Spain.  That day and into the evening and night as the men arrived, the scene grew more problematic.  According to one report[1] it was “a cold and dreary night“ and “some remained in the public houses until closing time” however “the majority had to pace the cheerless streets hour after hour”

Another report[2] stated that at least some of the men found shelter in “the local hall where, where food was provided by the villagers”  

Their ship was due by midnight, apparently a night time boarding and sailing seen as the safest means of leaving their homeland.  The ship however never materialised and by the next afternoon plans were afoot to try secure busses to repatriate the volunteers.  Many had already fled said to be “disgusted with the whole affair, decided to go home and engaged motor cars”[3]  Their ship was rumoured to have been intercepted by the Royal Navy, but I have not found any evidence of that as yet.  Other sources seem to suggest that the Spanish were less than enamoured by the quality of fighting men that were coming from Ireland and may have actually asked the Germans not to sail!

A sense of the public support, a rally in support of Franco in Cork 1936.
Raised hands in sign of a cross Via History Ireland

The newspapers had a field day with the fiasco.  And the following week the Waterford Standard published a three column synopsis of the event and its aftermath, drawn mostly from the national papers.[4]  Recriminations start to fly and argument and counterargument are rife.

Mixed accounts feature in relation to their experience at Passage East, but nothing but praise is uttered towards the villagers.  Plenty of criticism is reserved for the organisation of the event however. Here’s an example

“Mr. Thomas Crimmins, Iveagh House, Bride Street. Dublin, who gave up his employment as a scaffolder … We left Beresford Place, Dublin, at 8.30 p.m, on Wednesday, and, without food or refreshments on the way, reached Passage East at 1.30 a.m. The only public house in the village that was open had been drunk dry, and the early arrivals had eaten whatever food there was. With hundreds of others, I walked the streets for hours on end in the darkness and cold. Some young lads —they could not have been more than 16 years—collapsed from hunger and exhaustion. A few of us were fortunate. We prevailed on a lorry driver from Kildare, who had pigs in the lorry, to let us share the lorry with them. We were so weary that, amidst the grunting and smelly pigs, we actually slept.”

A young man from Cork journeyed by bus, and they were ordered not to sing or make any noise, and the lights were put out as the bus passed through towns and villages. On alighting at Passage it immediately returned to Cork. They were left to sleep on the streets or wherever they could find a place to lie on. He went on to say “I slept on the open street. I had no supper, and I was hungry and cold. After some time we broke into an old, condemned schoolhouse but there was not accommodation for a quarter of us there and many of us still had to sleep in the street. From the schoolhouse we went to a club house in Passage East.”

The organisation itself was quick to defend itself, and rebutted much of the claims made. Another volunteer offered the following, and perhaps accurate, assessment:  “I knew I was not going on a picnic, and if men grumbled about the hardship they suffered for 24 hours on this occasion I am confident that their services would not be much of an acquisition to the Irish Brigade”

From what I have read on the topic it would appear that the Galway contingent was the last to enter the conflict from Ireland on the Nationalists side.  As it happens, the men in Passage could probably be said to have had a lucky escape.  The Irish Brigade did not cover itself with glory in the conflict and within a few months of 1937 they would be disarmed and asked to leave Spain due to a variety of embarrassing incidents.  In their defence they were poorly trained, poorly led and had effectively been sold a pup as to the reality of the conflict they were entering.

O’Duffy takes a salute from the Blueshirts.

Of course Irishmen also fought on the opposite side in Spain as members of the international brigade, and with much more distinction.  A book from their perspective that I could heartily recommend is by a Waterford man Peter O’Connor and called a Solider of Liberty; recollections of a socialist and anti-fascist fighter.  

Mark Power has a series of podcasts from a local perspective on the civil war that I would recommend

I’d like to thank Clifford Elliott and his son of Passage who first mentioned this event to me and got me interested

Long form article on the conflict

A book on the era recommended here by Frank Murphy


[1] Belfast News Letter Friday 8th January 1937 P 7

[2] Northern Whig Friday 8th January 1937 p 8

[3] Belfast News Letter Friday 8th January 1937 P 7

[4] Waterford Standard – Saturday 16 January 1937 page 8

Alfred D Snow – Prelude to a disaster

Alfred D Snow Andy Kelly image

The story of the loss of the American sailing ship Alfred D Snow is well known in Waterford harbour.  Following a ferocious storm overnight the American sailing ship was seen at 9am inside the Hook with much of her sail taken off and working upriver with a SSW Gale at her stern.  By 2pm that day nothing would remain of the ship or her 29 crew after she grounded on the Wexford side of the harbour, close to Broom Hill. But where had she come from and what had she already endured?

Alfred D Snow was a three masted fully rigged timber sailing ship, built in the Samuel Watts shipyard in Maine, USA. Sometimes her type was referred to as a ‘Down Easter’.  She was 232 feet long with a beam of 42 feet.

She sailed into San Francisco bay on what was described as a gloriously sunny day almost 6 months before, on the 20th July 1887.  She was one of 26 deep sea ships; both sail and steam in the Bay that late afternoon and as the sun set she found herself anchoring beside another ship from her home state of Main the Joseph B Thomas under the command of Captain William Learmond.  As was customary in such situations, the officers and crew made the most of the opportunity to visit each other’s craft and share yarns and news of home.

Alfred D Snow
Alfred D Snow. Image courtesy of Andy Kelly

The skipper of the Alfred D Snow was Captain William Willey and he was described by a contemporary as “handsome with his jet black hair, moustaches and side whiskers”, and was held in high regards by his crew and the business people he dealt with. 

She was 143 days out of New York having sailed around the Cape Horn.  Tragedy had followed them on the trip however, not uncommon in the days of sail, as first a 26 year old Swede named Charles Lindgren fell from the rigging on March 28th and was killed instantly when his head struck the rail.  On April 8th the main topsail staysail block gave way and struck a German sailor, 30 year old Chas. Brown.  He died two days later of his injuries.  Both men were buried at sea, as was custom at the time.

In the hold of the Alfred D Snow was a mixed manifest including 1000 tons of steel rails and once removed an outbound cargo was secured.  A local businessman William Dresbach, known as the wheat king of California, chartered her to carry a cargo of wheat (3150 tons, valued at $95,000) and 36,000 feet of dunnage lumber.  She loaded her cargo in Oakland and on the 31st August she sailed out through the Golden Gate Strait into the pacific and turned south for the Horn.  Her trip according to most accounts was described as uneventful, however as we already know, her arrival into Waterford harbour would be anything but.[1]

Approaching the Irish coast a south east gale started to blow. The crew battled bravely but in vain and as the storm grew in force they were forced to seek shelter in Waterford Harbour. She rounded the Hook on the morning of the 3rd January (a Tuesday) 1888.  Her sails were reduced, leaving her without much helm, the ship tried to either work its way up the harbour or under the Hook peninsula, in an effort to find shelter.

On land the people were helpless to give direct assistance; despite the turn out of the local coastguard on the Wexford side, the ship and her crew could not be reached from the shore. The Dunmore East lifeboat, Henry Dodd was called but didn’t respond until much later in the day with a makeshift crew, which was a matter of controversy at the time. The paddle tug Dauntless did try to respond. A telegram reached Captain Cotter who immediately departed from sheltering at Passage East.  It was a trip in vain however; manoeuvrability was hampered after a paddle wheel was damaged in the fury of the seas. 

An oil painting of the Lynmouth lifeboat Louisa, by artist Mark Myers.©RNLI
A contemporary craft to the Dunmore lifeboat of the time. The Henry Dodd was stationed at Dunmore from June 1884.

The crew of the Dauntless could clearly see the ship was grounded.  From a distance they witnessed the ship heeling on to her side, the waves crashing aboard, and the desperate efforts of the crew to launch a ships boat.  This they lowered into the sea with some difficulty and eventually got away with some of the crew.  The onlookers were helpless however as it was swamped and all aboard were drowned. Their remaining crewmates took to the rigging of the ship, hoping for salvation. As the gale continued to roar and the seas continued to pound, the ship started to break up and the exhausted crew were washed away, swallowed up in the surf[2].

Although the memory of the tragedy lives on, I can never help but ponder how unkind fate was to these sailors.  Having endured the roaring forties, the Cape, her surging greybeards and the might of the wintery Atlantic, had she made the Tuskar Rock that night she would surely have survived as she entered the relative shelter of the Irish Sea.  We will never know for sure of course. Several other questions are posed too of course, for example can we be certain the 29 man crew survived the trip to reach the Irish coast? These will have to wait for another time.

I would like to thank David Carroll, Brendan Dunne, Joe Falvey Mark Holoan and Captain Willeys gt gt granddaughter Betsey White for assistance with this piece


[1] The details of the preceding paragraphs, except the introduction, was taken from an article titled The Wreck of the Alfred D Snow. By Michael D White in the March 2018 edition of Sea Classics.  Vol. 51, Iss. 3 Pp 10-14

[2] Power. John. A Maritime History of County Wexford. Vol I 1859-1910. 2011. Olinda Publications. Kilmore Quay

New book 2019 – Stories from the Aft Oar

2019 is upon us, and whatever about new year resolutions, one promise I’ve made myself is to publish a second book.

I had planned to write a new book during this year but having had the good fortune of working on a rebrand of Faithlegg House combined with a wonderful sun filled summer and three week holiday in Canada…it all fell through. The intention was to write a maritime history of Waterford but the project was too vast and it will have to wait for a few more years, or another writer.

But I have scoped out a project for myself, one that’s achievable I think once my other commitments such as work, family and community don’t get in the way.

My working title is Stories from the Aft Oar. And here is an abridged introduction and chapter layout to give you a sense of the project.

Salmon fishing at Cheekpoint 2006
Andy Cunningham & Sonny Doherty
Photo Tomás Sullivan
A potential cover for the book
Andy Cunningham and my uncle Sonny Doherty hauling salmon driftnets at Cheekpoint 2006
Photo courtesy of Tomás Sullivan

The Irish have an old phrase for the passing along of local culture and lore.  Ó Ghlúin go Glúin, or from knee to knee.  In short, that stories told to children on the knee of their elders are in turn passed along to the next generation by the same process.  So strong was this connection that the Gaelic word for generation is the same as knee.  But in a fishing community such as mine, and particularly as the old ways were breaking down in my youth, these tales or yarns were told to me while drifting for salmon, in the company of fishermen.  Hence the working title, as we rowed the punts using oars, and the skipper always sat at the aft oar.

The greatest source of my stories has been my father, Bob Doherty; sailor, fisherman, factory worker, gardener and raconteur extraordinaire.  But my father’s ability to tell a story has sometimes caused me difficulties, specifically credibility because when I start with “According to my father…” I have to acknowledged that he was noted for his tall tales.  Pat Murphy, a friend of his who worked with him at the Paper Mills factory in Waterford in the 1970’s recalled to me recently one such tale.

Pat had a car and as they shared the same shift, he brought my father with him to work. One very frosty morning Pat stopped at the collection point but there was no sign of my father. A few weeks later Pat was in the canteen in work and thought he’d blackguard my father and so he mentioned to some of his colleagues about Bob sleeping it in some weeks previous.

My father came straight over and made answer “Well now mates, Pat Murphy don’t believe it, but I have since rectified the problem. I was out on the road one day not long after the incident and I met a man and we fell to talking. I mentioned how on frosty nights the clock don’t work so good. Well the man was an engineer and he was very interested and insisted on seeing it, and after carefully examining it, told me it was a tropical clock. Christ I said, I bought it when sailing overseas in Egypt, but the chap never mentioned that. A few days later a lagging jacket arrived by post from the engineer, and do ye know what? – it hasn’t lost a second since”

According to Pat each of the men looked from one to the other and then to him. But my father wasn’t done yet. “And I’ll tell ye now mates, I haven’t been late for Pat Murphy since”

And all Pat could do was agree, he hadn’t. He was regularly asked by his ex work colleagues for years after if Bob Doherty’s tropical clock was still keeping time.

My father Bob on the left, sailors tattoo proudly displayed

So my father had a bit of a reputation when it came to stories, but over the years I have found more than a grain of truth in many of them as indeed I have found similar in much that I was told as a child.  There’s no stories of tropical clocks here, but who knows maybe there will be in the future!

A prospective outline of the book and chapters

Introduction

Tides and Tales

Blurb

Biography

Chapter 1              Press Gangs – my father

Chapter 2              Buttermilk Castle – nanny (NLI Photo)

Chapter 2              Mail Packets – Cheekpoint quay and the village Andy joe and others

Chapter 3              Paddle Steamers – Early transport – Christy Doherty (NLI Photo)

Chapter 4              Captain Cook and the Lady that was buried twice (Church photo)

Chapter 5              Dollar bay pirates – walking on the strand

Chapter 6              Weir Wars (photo of Castle Weir – Johnny Moran as a child)

Johnny Moran, a gran uncle who emigrated and died in America. Photographed at the Castle Weir 1930
Photo by Fr Michael Doyle
I got the original from America recently from my cousin Brian Moran to help with my work

Chapter 7              Alfred D Snow – Big Patsy Doherty (painting – Brian for permission)

Chapter 8              Quarantine Station – Eamon Duffin

Chapter 9              Hobblers –

Chapter 10            Coast Guard – Jim

Chapter 11            Spider Light – John –

Chapter 12            Darkie Burns and the Schooner B I – Ellen – (Photo of BI Pat?)

Chapter 13            Banshee Attack at Coolbunnia – Halloween times

Chapter 14            Captain Tebbenjoahnnes lucky escape  (sketch of UC class?)

Chapter 15            Coningbeg & Formby – (Source a hi res image)

Chapter 16            Captain Udvardy – nanny (PM maybe for an image?)

Chapter 17            Escaping the cairngorm

Chapter 18            Pat Hanlon/Altmark my father

Chapter 19            The boys that lassoed the mine and saved the Barrow Bridge

Chapter 20            Campile Bombing -my father

Chapter 21            The Great Western – Tom Sullivan  – (NLI photo?)

Chapter 22            Minaun Hill Cross – my father  (via Brian Moran)

Chapter 23            MV Ocean Coast – Maurice Doherty yarn (Fathers award)

Chapter 24            Building Great Island Power station – Pat Murphy yarn

So my plan this year is to work on creating this book for self publication in the summer. However, I might also submit an outline with some sample chapters to publishers in the hope of securing a book deal. It never entered my head with my first book, Before the Tide Went Out, but my experience is that without publicity and the support of a publisher it is difficult to get the book seen at a national level. I’d certainly recommend self publishing to anyone, but I’m no businessman and a publisher might take the hassle out of stocking, publicity etc which takes so much time.

If you have any comments, feedback or encouragement I’d love to hear it. Here’s to a wonderful 2019 for us all, a year of good health, safety and wonderful stories of local maritime history. Thanks for all your support. Andrew