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.
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.
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. 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.
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.”
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!)
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.
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.
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.
 Waterford Standard – Saturday 02 March 1889; page 3
 Waterford Standard – Wednesday 29 October 1902; page 3
 Nolan.L & Nolan. J.E. Secret Victory. Ireland and the War at Sea 1914-1918. 2009. Mercier Press. Cork