Great Western weathers the storm

A few weeks back I published a story of the Great Western and what it meant in the Waterford area.  Each story that I publish generally gets a response, an email or two, comments on the blog, facebook comments and messages.  But the story of the Great Western really hit a nerve and this weeks guest blog is prompted by one email in particular which I will come to momentarily. 

It’s difficult to pick a few remarks out of the many that I received, but if I must then fellow villager, Helen Barry, sent me a lovely photo and clipping of her uncle Michael Heffernan which I think might make another blog.  Michael, of course, went on to be the last captain of the dredger Portlairge.  My cousin, Captain Jim Murphy, from Crooke originally but now living in Liverpool, sent me on a lovely piece about going to sea on the Great Western.  Eiblis Howlett sent on a memory of coming to Ireland on her summer holidays and how her dad on seeing the harbour as she sailed up to the city in the morning time would recite the John Locke poem “The Exiles Return, or Morning on the Irish coast” O, Ireland! isn’t grand you look— Like a bride in her rich adornin ! With all the pent-up love of my heart I bid you the top of the morning !

The Great Western shortly after coming on the Fishguard – Waterford run in 1934
Photo courtesy of Frank Cheevers. Waterford Maritime History group

But of all the replies I got one stood out as it was a childhood memory of an incident of 1954 from Owen Paddy O Grady. Paddy, who lives in Germany, is one of those long term (heading to year five would you believe) blog followers who occasionally sends me an email. (It keeps me encouraged and reminds me that people from all over the world are now part of the tidesandtales community). I suppose what captured my imagination about Paddy’s piece is that I could almost see myself in his shoes as a young lad in the city, knocking around the quays, gazing at the comings and goings of the many dozens of ships that would have then populated the city on a weekly basis. Part of me believes many of those who read the blog will identify with that too, so here’s Paddy’s account of a terrible storm of November 1954.

Your latest Blog on the Great Western reminded me of an episode of the past which, at the time made me shiver. Here´s the story in my best old Waterford english: Waterford was, in my youth, frequently visited in the Autumn, at Christmas-time, and in further Winter times by hard storms. But one that I will always remember was the storm in November 1954 which traversed over the south and south east of Ireland and further eastwards towards Wales and of course, the port of Fishguard.

On the 27.11.1954 we heard, on the radio, of problems of the tanker World Concord in “the channel” which eventually broke in two. What we further heard was (via radio and my fathers “connections”) that the Rosslare lifeboat had been launched. It later transpired that the Rosslare boat had already taken crew members off  another troubled freight ship and then went on to the assistance of the sailors on one of the tanker sections. As the life boat, at this time, was on duty for a very long period (30 hours), it actually ran very low on fuel – or out of fuel –  and had to be refuelled or towed back by a fishing boat

WORLD CONCORD, the Liberian Tanker, which broke in two during heavy gales in the Irish Sea on 27 November 1954. The ship was only ten miles off the Pembrokeshire Coast when she broke in two. In little more than half an hour the two halves drifted a considerable distance apart. Copyright: © IWM (A 33078) . Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163741

The actuall run of things were never reported in Waterford by the papers or our “connections”. The Storm prevailed, if I can recollect correctly, for at least 3 days and 3 nights and word came round that there was no radio contact to OUR Great Western, which was under way to Waterford,  and that she was long overdue.

We were all very worried but she eventually appeared on the Suir several hours behind schedule and docked successfully. My father gave me the good news at dinner time (13.00 hours) and I immediately cycled to the Adelphi quay to satisfy myself that she WAS “in”.

What I saw was a battered Great Western tied up, no crew members; no passengers or any stevedores were to be seen on deck or on the jetty. It was a complete silent situation in and around the ship. But the Western was there and the crew had obviously been left to sleep off their ordeal. I can very well remember the damage I saw:  the gunnel on the starboard side, forward of the bridge, was Flat WITH THE DECK !! What the port side was like I could not see. Also a number, if not all, of the ventilation cowls were missing and there was almost no rigging in place, which was probably the reason for the loss of radio contact.

Community Notice. I’m happy to promote any event that is heritage focused, subject to space, that fits with the page mission to promote the maritime heritage of the three sister rivers and the harbour area.

We later heard that the captain had decided to ride out the storm as opposed to taking the risk of navigating safely into the harbour mouth with heavy southerly seas up his stern. That`s just one of my Great Western recollections which may be of some interest to you.

My Grandparents and parents had a hairdressers shop at 133 the quay which was beside Reginald’s Tower where the Viking remade boat stands. Our father was very friendly with the crews and captains of Western and the Clyde boats and was consequently  “well informed” Our family had past connections with Waterford shipping in that our grandparents sailed their “freighters of the time” to and from various English ports and the south coast harbours of Ireland.

To give a sense of the storm the Great Western had just endured a report from the Liverpool Echo on the 27th reported on the ferocity of the Irish Sea that night of the 26th and into the 27th.  The World Concord is reported as having broke apart and her crew in great peril.  (It would later emerge that her two sections had remained afloat and had drifted apart, the 35 crew on the aft section were rescued by the St Davids lifeboat and later that day the crew of the Rosslare lifeboat found the bow section.  She stood by the hull and the seven men aboard all through the night affecting a rescue the following morning and after a hair raising transfer from the jacobs ladder to the deck of the heaving lifeboat, they dropped the survivors to Holyhead It would be Wednesday of the following week before the Douglas Hyde returned, where a brass band played the “Boys of Wexford” on the quayside in salute to their heroics.[1]).  An unidentified ship was reported as lost off the Lizard and although crew members were spotted in the water and in a lifeboat, none were believed to have survived in the report.  A Dutch tug Humber and the Newhaven lifeboat was standing by an auxiliary sailing ship the Vega which had jettisoned her cargo in an effort to stay afloat.  Meanwhile the crew of the South Goodwin lightship was missing, the lightship had broke her anchors and drifted ashore.[2]   

The  crew of Rosslare Harbour lifeboat Douglas Hyde.
Back row left to right – Dick Duggan, Jim Walsh, Jack Duggan and Paddy Owens.
Front row left to right – Richard Duggan, Coxswain Dick Walsh, Dick Hickey and Jack Wickham.
This photo appears in the Nicholas Leach book, The Lifeboats of Rosslare Harbour and Wexford courtesy of Rosslare Harbour RNLI and via Brian Boyce Rosslare Maritime Heritage Centre.

Although I have tried unsuccessfully to find an account of the journey of the Great Western from the local papers (and thanks to Maurice Power for his assistance too) the only mention I have is that she was overdue by several hours but unharmed by the trip[3].  I hope to source further information soon.  I’d like to thank Barry at Holyhead Maritime Museum and Brian Boyce at Rosslare Maritime Heritage Museum for helping me with sourcing photos. In our guest blog feature next month we travel up the Barrow river in the company of Brian Forristal and meet his forbearers on the banks of the mighty river. Next week I go in search of the Great Lewis.


[1] For a stirring account of the Douglas Hyde rescue see John Power’s book A Maritime History of County Wexford Vo II pp 458-462.  Copies still available from the Rosslare Maritime Heritage Centre

[2] Liverpool Echo – Saturday 27 November 1954; page 8

[3] Waterford News & Star – Friday 3rd December 1954; page 6




[1] Liverpool Echo – Saturday 27 November 1954 page 8

HMS Juno and Stormcock at Waterford 1902

A recent maritime related photo from my cousin James Doherty led me on a rambling search for the ship and her purpose.  We identified her early on as the Stormcock, we knew it was in Waterford , but with precious little other detail as to the purpose of the visit or a date.

tug Stormcock at Waterford 1902 (I think!)

Normally I start searches such as these with a shout out to an intrepid band of online maritime enthusiasts or local history nuts who I can’t even begin to name now that the list is getting so long. But I’m so often embarrassed by the lengths such online friends go to, when I consider the time they put into such queries. So I decided to try go it alone this time with an odd interaction with James.

Google presented a myriad of entries for a Stormcock including several Liverpool based tugs, but nothing presented as clarifying what we had, except a few photos of a similar profiled ship.  The photo we had however, didn’t suggest tug.  The vessel looks too clean and the officers on deck suggested Royal Navy.  There are also a lot of very well dressed men hovering nearby, and aboard, including one lady.  It seems to be a social occasion, an important event rather than a visit by a workboat. 

a close up of a life buoy that yielded a name

The papers were a bit more helpful and the first mention of a tug of this name in Waterford went back to March 1889. What was described as one of the largest and finest sailing vessels that ever entered the port of Waterford had stranded on the Ford (the river where it separates Little Island from Kilkenny).  The ship was the St Charles, of Maine, United States of America. From the description she sounds like she may have been one of the famous Down Easter types, of which the Alfred D Snow would be most familiar to us here in Waterford. Her master was Captain Purington, and she carried a crew of 21.  When she grounded she was being towed by the tug Stormcock of Queenstown, Cork.

The St Charles had left San Francisco on the 16th October 1888 with a cargo of 11,600 quarters of wheat.  Having arrived to Queenstown her cargo was purchased by Messrs White Brothers and Co of Waterford, the brokers being Messrs Matthew Farrell and Son, the Quay, and the United States Consul, Mr William Farrell (a member that firm).  Brendan Grogan has guest blogged on two of the family that would later go on to be highly regarded Harbour Masters. The ship was quickly got off but found to be taking water.[1]  Her cargo was discharged and she later left, towed by the Stormcock for Liverpool.

The chances that this is the occasion which led to the photo being taken is not very plausible however, its doubtful the quality of Waterford would have been aboard for such a working trip.  

A later report however seems much more plausible and I now think this is most likey. The occasion was a Vice regal tour of the coast by the then Lord Lieutenant and the Countess of Dudley.  Along with other dignitaries they had toured the south coast aboard HMS Juno (1895) examining coastal defences, sights of interest and visiting and/or attending social engagements at Glengarriff, Cork City and finally dropping anchor at Dunmore East on Wednesday 29th October 1902.

HMS Juno, Wikipedia public domain

The plan for the day was that what was described as a Royal Navy Tender Stormcock would convey the party up the harbour to the city.   In the city they were to meet the town dignitaries.  The report goes on to say that “…Alderman W G Goff, Jr, Glenville… will place his two motor cars at the disposal of their Excellencies. After lunch with Alderman Goff they will take a drive in the neighbourhood. They will then return the Juno and sleep on board, the Juno meanwhile proceeding Kingstown, which will be reached on Thursday morning. Their Excellencies will then return by special train from Kingstown to Dublin.”[2]

I have to admit that this event tallies very nicely with the image I am looking at. 

The Stormcock as I said is a difficult enough ship to place as there are so many of that name.  The tugs named with cock in the title seem to all relate to the Liverpool Screw Towing and Lighterage Co and associated firms, and appear to have a strong link with the local shipyard of Cammell Laird. (I read online that the company gave a three for the price of two deal on their tug boats at some stage!)

Some of the dignitaries waiting on the quay or aboard. Presumably Mr Davis Goff is the man with the hat, scarf and gloves in the centre.

The most likely vessel I have found is the Stormcock (1877) which was launched by Lairds on 5th December 1877.  In 1882 she was chartered by the Admiralty for naval operations in Egypt, who later purchased the vessel outright.  I presume she was moved around as required and if my guess is right she became a feature in Cork harbour at some point after this. 

Stormcock circa 1885 via Clyde Maritime

The Stormcock played a significant part in the rescue of survivors from the Lusitania, although controversially in one account.  She was one of the first ships to arrive in Queenstown with survivors either onboard or being towed in a line of life boats with another tug Warrior.  However earlier she had intercepted two trawlers who had collected survivors and were on their way into nearby Kinsale.  Commander Shee of the Stormcock ordered the trawlers to stop and transfer the survivors aboard.  This irked the trawlermen no end as they were only a short trip away from Kinsale and the journey upriver to Queenstown would take much longer.  It also annoyed many of the survivors, possibly fearful of further U Boat attacks on a naval vessel.[3]

For anyone local, the annual Daffodil Day Coffee morning takes place this coming Sunday

Funnily enough we have met the ship only recently.  In 1922 she was sold to Samuel Palmer of Cork and was renamed the Morsecock, a ship which featured in the salvage of the SS Valdura off the rocks on Crossfarnoge Point aka the Forlorn at Kilmore Quay.

My thanks to my cousin James Doherty for his assistance with this piece. All errors and conclusions are my own however. James runs the very popular twitter page called Irish Smuggling.


[1] Waterford Standard – Saturday 02 March 1889; page 3

[2] Waterford Standard – Wednesday 29 October 1902; page 3

[3] Nolan.L & Nolan. J.E. Secret Victory. Ireland and the War at Sea 1914-1918.  2009. Mercier Press. Cork

St Patrick’s Day – my first parade

I wrote previously about growing up in Cheekpoint in the 1970’s and how the feast of St Patrick was primarily a religious occasion and a very welcome day off from school, if it fell in mid week.  As I recalled in that piece getting to the nearest St Patricks Day parade, along the quays of Waterford city, was a problem when you didn’t own a car.  We normally traveled by the Suirway bus service, but apart for a service to the church, this didn’t go to town except on a normal Friday and Saturday run.  So generally the day was spent wandering around with our mates, and just enjoying it as a day of rest and a break from our lenten sacrifice.

1969 parade, with a perspective which was close to my own
Photo via Waterford History Site, originally posted by the Munster Express facebook page

But despite all that, we actually did get to a parade one year, and I was so young the details are very hazy.  I was probably six and living in the old cottage in Coolbunnia that looked down on the harbour, a spot where my brother Robert now lives with his family.  My father Bob and brother Robert, (my sisters Kathleen & Eileen were possibly too young to be with us), had walked down to the village after mass.  It may have been to visit our grandfather and his daughter, aunt Ellen or maybe it was just to my fathers aunts shop Molly Doherty at the cross roads, but as we returned up the hill a care rare sight of the time, a car, drew up.

Matt “spoogy” Doherty and his wife Marie called to us through the window and asked if we wanted a lift.  They had their daughters aboard the car, and were heading to the parade.  My father thought he meant to the house, and said it was alright, we’d walk.  But Matt and Marie meant the parade, and after a short deliberation, we piled into the back with the girls.  I don’t remember who was there, but like ourselves the Doherty girls were steps of stairs; Eileen, Mary, Bernadette, Gladys and Jacinta. 

The statue of Luke Wadding in place, it was erected in 1947 and was since removed to Greyfriars and replaced by a statue to TF Meagher. Postcard from authors collection.

I have no recollection of the car trip, but I was probably disappointed with the view.  We always sat in the front seats of the bus going to town, and it afforded a great view of the countryside, a car just couldn’t compare.  But the excitement of heading to the parade probably made up for it. We parked at the Three Shippes Bar on the Park Road and strolled in Williams St to the Tower Hotel, where we clambered onto steps to get a good view.

From here we could see the curve on the quay where the parade would come down, rounding Reginald’s Tower as it did so.  In the middle of the road stood the statue of Luke Wadding, which was a fitting backdrop as this Waterford man was responsible for making the St Patricks day a feast day of the church and helping to make it a worldwide event. Of course two other events that are internationally recognised have a Waterford connection, we were the first city to have a parade in 1903 and the Waterford born ambassador to America, John Hearne, introduced the now annual event of presenting the American president with a bowl of shamrock.

That information would come in later years. Standing on the quay that cold damp afternoon, I waited in anticipation, not really knowing what to expect.  At this remove I can’t actually remember much of the parade, but I presume the marching bands, the floats on trucks and scouting troops would have all made up the event.  But two memories stand out; the wailing sound of the pipe bands as the bagpipes raised the hair on the back of my neck (as it still does to this day) and the sight of the army with their gleaming uniforms, guns on their shoulders and best of all the trucks, guns and a tank with a long menacing gun barrel that left me awestruck.

I remember being glad when it ended as I was starting to shiver in the thin March breeze coming down the quay and whistling through the buildings.  However on regaining the car we were disappointed to find that some careless motorist had abandoned their car across our own, and we were hemmed in.  Matt tried valiantly to squeeze through but it was impossible.  And the two men debated what to do. There were people milling about, but no one approached the car, we could be waiting all day for the owner to arrive.

The cold was starting to seep into me at this stage and I was beginning to think that we were stuck and would never get home.  There may have been tears, I don’t recall.  But the men were not to be beaten and in desperation they clutched the boot of the miscreant and started to bounce it out of the way. Some men raised their voices and approached, and I thought my heart would stop.  But instead of an altercation they lent a hand and moments later the way was clear and we headed home.

A 20 min video of the parade of 1996. A bit jumpy and hazy but fascinating nonetheless

To this day I can’t remember if my mother knew we had gone, or recall anything being said on our return.  She was probably relieved our father hadn’t taken us to the pub to wet the shamrock.  Although it would be many years before I went to another St Patricks Day parade, I can’t say I was in a hurry to go back after the incident with the car.  But there again, I wouldn’t have missed the adventure for all the world.

Loss of the sailing ship Lady Bagot

We have recently explored the exploits of a noble New Ross sea captain, John Williams. This week I wanted to look into some of the activities of one of his ships, the Lady Bagot.

The Lady Bagot was one of several vessels operated by the Graves family of New Ross and skippered for several years by Captain Williams.  We saw recently how she had been in the right place at the right time in the rescue of the crew of the brig Atlas.  In brief, arriving alongside the brig which had healed over on her side, Williams ordered his ships boat lowered and his crew row to the stricken vessel and attempt a rescue. In heavy seas and at great risk to themselves all the crew of the Atlas were eventually rescued. Little, I’m sure, did her crew know that that kind deed which they bestowed would be desperately needed by themselves within a few more months.

On the 21st October 1847 the Lady Bagot left go her moorings in her home port of New Ross and with the assistance of the Waterford Steamship River Services paddle steamer Shamrock was towed down the river Barrow to the harbour where she made her own way to sea.  Her master was Captain Anderson, who had replaced Captain Williams earlier that year.


Sailing ship heaving to in heavy weather. Drawing by Antoine Morel-Fatio.
Public domain access Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaving_to#/media/File:La_Marine-Pacini-121.png

For many years her regular passage was New Ross – Quebec.  Passengers fleeing poverty, starvation and seeking a new start were the outgoing manifest, timber (a backbone of the Graves family business) the return.  A measure of the numbers fleeing the country can be gauged by a report of her arrival into Quebec on the 1st June 1846 when she was just one of four ships from the Waterford area; President  of New Ross –Captain Grandy and Thistle – Captain Thomas and Lawrence Forrestal – Captain Toole both  from Waterford city.  Other ships recorded that week hailed from amongst dozens of European ports but included Liverpool, Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Derry and Galway.[1]

Although the trips were regular, not all were without incident.  The account from previously shows how dependent such sailing ships were on the elements and the Lady Bagot was no different.   For example in August 1845 she was reported off Cork with her bowsprit lost having being in a collision with a larger vessel off St Pauls on the 24th July[2].  She later put into Youghal for repair[3].  A few months later, December of 1845, she was again in the wars[4].  She put into Halifax NS having departed Quebec for Liverpool.  She had lost her anchors, chains, her mizzen mast was cut away and other damage was reported but not described.  She finally left Halifax on 5th February 1846.[5]

Williams last voyage that I could find was a round trip to New Orleans in December 1846 arriving back to Waterford (New Ross I’m sure) in May[6].   Her next outward bound trip was reported on 15th June 1847 but no details are given, however she is reported as arriving in St Johns NB in July under her new master; Captain Anderson.[7]

A great talk this coming Wednesday, hosted by the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society. Breda has guest blogged for us previously, hopefully she might reprise this talk for us at a later stage

 As we mentioned earlier, Anderson sailed for Savanah in October and thanks to the Duchas Schools collection we have access to some mentions from the ships log for detail.[8] Having arrived into port of 18th December 1847 it would appear the crew left their hair down.  One crew man, Martin Moran, was detained for fighting with a “coloured man” whilst two others “gave way to drunkenness” These may or may not have been Joseph Irvine and David Cooper who were elsewhere described as “getting into scrapes”.  On the 24th December a crew man William Simpson had an accident onboard, falling into the hold.  This required hospitalisation and he was not released until January 6th.  No other details are given of the 7 week overlay but eventually the Lady Bagot sailed on the 4th February 1848 with her hold filled with timber, apples, molasses, sugar and rice.

A few weeks later (possibly Tuesday 28th February) the Lady Bagot sailed into heavy weather.  The log records that at 2pm a squall split the foresail, while by 3pm a complete hurricane was blowing with the seas crashing over the ship and Anderson surviving being washed overboard after a crewman grabbed him by his hair (the ships dog was less lucky).  At 4pm the ship “hove to” and using a storm mizzen the crew were set to operating the pumps to remove water from her holds.

Another excellent talk this coming week delivered by a regular guest Blogger Joe Falvey

All that day and the next the crew stayed manning the pumps but by midnight up to four feet of water was reported in the hold.  By 8am of the following morning the water was still rising.  It was then that a passing American ship the Oregon under Captain Healy came upon them.   Anderson requested that she stand by until the next morning in the hopes that the crew could arrest the worsening situation, but they were out on their feet with exhaustion and the carpenter having found the waters rising at an alarming rate (8 ½ feet at that stage) the captain gave the order to abandon ship.

As they boarded the Oregon, the Lady Bagot was down to her chains and Healy later reported after he arrived at Le Harve that they left the Lady Bagot in a sinking state at latitude 47 longitude 14.   

Next week I’m unraveling a mystery of a ship photo that reveals another occasion in Waterford’s history with a connection with the river. Its titled, at least presently, as the “Visit of the Stormcock  I will also have a blog on Sunday morning to honour the national holiday; St Patricks Day. Have a lovely weekend wherever you be.


[1] Lloyds List; Monday 29th June 1846; page 3

[2] Ibid; Saturday 30th August 1845; page 3

[3] Ibid; Tuesday 2nd September 1845; page 1

[4] Ibid; Friday 16th January 1846; page 2

[5] Ibid; Monday 9th March 1846; page 1

[6] Ibid; Monday 17th May 1847; page 2

[7] Ibid; Monday 16th August 1847; page 1

[8] Duchas School collection at https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/5009220/4999216 accessed on Sunday 10th March 2019

A noble ships master – Captain John W Williams

Many will be aware of the reputation of the famine era ship the Dunbrody of New Ross for kindness and consideration shown to her passengers fleeing starvation and poverty.  The ship came to mind recently when I read a post on the New Ross Street Focus Facebook page which described a doctor on the Canadian side of the Atlantic who expressed relief that so many of the sick had already died on the crossing meaning a light workload in his capacity as medical superintendent at Quebec.  To be kind to the man, maybe it just highlights how overworked he was.

The current replica ship which was built in New Ross is based on the original Dunbrody (1845) built in Quebec under the watchful eye of her first master Captain John Baldwin, who captained her from 1845 to 1847.  Due to a lack of regulation famine era cargo boats were quickly converted to carrying passengers, and unscrupulous ship owners could squeeze hundreds onto vessels that could only comfortably hold a fraction of it.  A common expression used to describe these vessels was coffin ships. The Dunbrody however had a good reputation, and this appears to have had as much to do with her owners as the masters of the ship, initially Baldwin and latterly John W Williams.

The replica Dunbrody. Author collection

Williams was born in Wales and went to sea at an early age.  He settled down and married the daughter of a seaman, Captain Tide of New Ross and lived at Quay St., in the town.  A sense of the qualities of the man are typified in an account of him a few years before he took the helm of the ship.

On the 18th September 1845 Williams was master of another Graves ship the Lady Bagot[1].  When under sail in the Atlantic his ship spotted a distress signal from another sailing ship the Brig Atlas of Quebec sailing under Captain Thomas Hobson.  Arriving on scene Williams and his crew discovered the Atlas on her side and her ten man crew clinging to the hull for their lives.

The Atlas had had a torrid month of sailing.  On the 20th August she had sailed with a cargo of timber for Sunderland, England.  On the 28th she ran into a storm and she started to ship water.  By the 30th her crew were full time at the pumps, trying to keep the vessel afloat.  On the 17th of September she was again in trouble with the weather in the Atlantic, lost part of her bulwark and again started to take water.  By 6pm that evening the topsails carried away, but as all hands were needed on the pumps, these were left to flap away from the masts.  By 4am on the 18th the ship was so deep in the water, that she was losing her helm.   At 10am the pumps were left and the crew made ready to abandon ship.  It was then that the Lady Bagot was sited.

Dates for your diary this coming week in Waterford

By the time she arrived alongside the Atlas was on her beam and the crew were clinging on for dear life.  The ships boat was launched from the Lady Bagot and with the second mate in charge came as close as they dared in the breaking seas.  A line of rope was cast and missed but eventually it reached the shipwrecked sailors grasp and was tied onto the wreck.  Eventually four of the crew, one at a time managed to drag themselves across and into the boat.  As four was the limit, they returned to the Lady Bagot, but the conditions being so bad, some of the crew refused to go back.  Williams called for volunteers to replace them, and he joined them too.  Eventually the remaining six shipwrecked sailors were rescued.

Captain Hobson went on to say that Williams treated the crew more like brothers than shipwrecked sailors and for the next seven days of voyage he acted as a real Samaritan to those that were sick or injured. 

Cramped and crowded steerage conditions via Mayo Co Libraries

Williams leadership and seafaring capabilities were obviously rewarded and he received command of the Dunbrody from Captain Baldwin in the spring or early summer of 1847.[2]  He went on to serve aboard her with distinction and from what I have read it would appear that he made at least two trips per year to Quebec mostly and return[3] and when he finally retired[4] he set up a coal importation business Quay Street, New Ross.

In 1872 Mr Graves proposed Williams as a replacement for the then sick Harbour Master of the town.  This offer was accepted and he earned the title of Deputy Harbour Master.[5]

He died on Thursday 8th October 1899 in New Ross aged 88.[6]  His obituary which appeared in the New Ross Standard had this to say “…In those dark ages of travelling on the high seas, long periods elapsed in the passage across the Atlantic, and very often the captains of the old timber ships of those days, acted very tyrannically and cruelly towards their passengers. But there were exceptions, and in the case of every such exception, the passengers as a rule made up a subscription at the end of the voyage, and presented their kind-hearted skipper with some suitable article as a token of their affection and regard…and the writer of this notice was shown some of the numerous souvenirs he received from his passengers in affection for the kindness he ever displayed in making their trying voyages in the old wooden ship as endurable as possible. Long ago Captain Williams retired from the sea, and started business in Quay-street. Old age had been severely telling on him for the past two years, and on Thursday night he breathed his last, having received the last rites of the church from Father Prandy. On Saturday his remains were interred in St Stephen’s cemetery, a large and respectable funeral having attended…”[7]

I would like to thank Myles Courtney for his assistance with this piece.  I’m sorry to say that I could neither find an image of Captain Williams or of the ship Lady Bagot.  If anyone could help me in locating same I’d really appreciate it as it would certainly add to the blog.  I will have a follow up on the trials and tribulations of the Lady Bagot in a few weeks time. I’m also hoping to put some more focus on emigration and the Newfoundland fishery in coming months.


[1] This extract is taken from a letter of thanks published the Cork Constitution Saturday 18th December 1845.  You can view the letter here: Schools folklore link

[2] The Lady Bagot was lost the following year in the Atlantic en route from Savanah under Captain Anderson under the very same conditions as the Atlas.  All crew were rescued. I plan a blog on this in coming weeks

[3] For more on emigration from Waterford and New Ross in this era see a Tommy Deegan article published in Decies #51; 1995; page 54

[4] The last sailing he commanded that I have found was Dunbrody, arrival at Quebec on Sept 10th 1869 (she departed New Ross in July).  Lloyds List Wed 29th Sept 1869; page 8

[5] Weford People; 24th February 1872; page 7

[6] New Ross Standard; 14th October 1899; page 4

[7] Ibid