Captain’s Grandy of Waterford

There is a fine rectangular headstone in Faithlegg Graveyard that is very distinctive both in design and definition.  On the face is etched the names of two sea captains, Edward and Samuel Grandy.  The grave hints at their commercial success, but their story is a remarkable insight into the life and times of 19th century sailors, men who sailed before the mast in what some have described at the “days of wooden ships and iron men”

On a glorious sunny morning a few weeks back I chanced upon the headstone of the Captains Grandy.  Whatever way the early morning light caught the carving; I spotted the word captain, and was drawn towards it.  Some water poured over the limestone allowed the sun to illuminate it further and a month of research was born. 

The information although brief was interesting and a bit sad.  Edward Grandy died 18th April 1844 aged 40.  His older brother Samuel died just over two years later on August 28th 1846 aged 54. On the side Samuels wife is inscribed and other family.

So what have I found out so far about the sailors. Well Edward Grandy married a Ms Eliza Walsh in 1830.  Edward was then 26 years old and master of the Frances Mary, a New Brunswick registered Bark of 372 ton. The ships was owned by a P Morris.  I am speculating that he was involved in the normal runs including emigration and timber freight on his return.  On one such trip 19th Dec 1830 the Frances (and) Mary was recorded at Passage East following arrival from Quebec with timber, deals and staves.

This image of the Waterford schooners Alexander, Rapid and Martha (1833) off Hook Head always evokes a sense of the commercial dymanism of the city at the time. It’s a coloured engraving from the painting by noted marine artist John Lynn. National Maritime Museum, London

In 1838, he was master and ¼ owner of the Juverna.  The Juverna was barque of 311 ton, built in Whites shipyard of Waterford. The White family held the majority shares in the vessel.  In 1839 there is a mention of the vessel plying the South East Asia trade bringing coal to India. (I found mentions of the ship at Bombay, Kedgeree and Singapore) The New Commercial Directory for the Cities Of Waterford and Kilkenny, Towns Of Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir, New Ross and Carlow 1839 stated that at that point his shore address was 4 Sion Row, Ferrybank, Waterford. Tragically, his wife Eliza died in Bombay I understand, presumably having sailed with him on this ship. However, I have no further details. Their son and daughter were taken in by Eliza’s sister Mary Power of New Ross.

In 1843, on a return trip with a cargo of sugar from Mauritius the Juverna was badly damaged after sailing into a hurricane. Although her destination was Liverpool, the Juverna returned to her home port of Waterford. Most probably to have repairs made and was described in the papers as without rudder or sails.  (Contemporary newspaper reports tell of a storm of such violence that 18 vessels were lost).  Bill Irish stated that the repairs cost over £2000. When the Juverna put to sea again in August 1843, Edward Grandy was not at the helm. I am speculating that he was badly hurt on what to have proven to be his final journey.

A hand drawn sketch by William Musgrave of Ferrybank 1825 showing Whites shipyard and beside it Pope’s yard. With thanks to Brendan Grogan.

The local papers reported on his death in April. “On Thursday Morning last, at the residence of his brother, Captain Samuel Grandy, Captain Edward Grandy, aged 41 – a sincere and edifying convert to the Catholic faith.  He had been a protestant until his illness, during which he was attended by that esteemed clergyman, the Rev T Dowley, St John’s College, and was by him brought into the fold of the one Shepard” 

Samuel was the older brother and he married Margaret White in Waterford in 1821.  The first ship I can find that he captained was the Three Sisters, a schooner of 144 tons, Quebec registered and owned by the Waterford merchant family of Pope & Co. 

The Three Sisters arrived at Waterford city on Sunday 12th August 1832 from St John’s Newfoundland.   John Smithers the local Comptroller of Customs, Lieutenant Shaw and the officers of the coast guard proceeded to board the vessel and conducted a search for contraband. The following was found in a variety of parts of the ship:

“13lbs. of tea and a jar of Cognac brandy, containing 3 quarts, covered over with empty bottles—two loaves of sugar, 28 lbs. of raw ditto, and 31 bottles of wine—a cask of rum, measuring 17 gallons, covered over with a large quantity of old sails, etc., keg containing about 3 quarts of rum—a firkin of foreign butter, and 2 barrels foreign pork…the officers then proceeded to Captain Grandy’s house, Hanover-street, which is very short distance from where the vessel lay in the river, and they found on searching the house, 5 gallons of brandy, 24lbs. of manufactured tobacco, 32lbs. of black tea, 3lbs. of green ditto, and 3lbs, of sugar, all of which were brought to, and lodged in the Custom House Stores.”

Waterford Mail – Wednesday 22 August 1832; page 4

The mate and two ships boys, the only persons on board the schooner were arrested and thrown into jail.  On Monday Samuel turned himself in and joined his crew in a jail cell.  He posted bail of £100 which was lodged with the mayor. At a subsequent trial he was fined the same, which if he agreed to pay, further charges would be dropped.  The crew didn’t get a mention. But a chap named Mackey, a passenger of Grandy’s returning home to Clonmel, Co Tipperary, was also in court. He had been captured on the quay with pockets stuffed with undeclared tobacco!

A later period, but a sense of Waterford and the busy quays during the era of sail. With thanks to Michael Butch Power

In April of 1833, The Waterford Mail reported that two Grandy’s were masters of two vessels leaving the port with emigrants.  On the 12th of April Three Sisters departed for Newfoundland, while on the 15th the City of Waterford sailed for Quebec.  Samuel was most probably the skipper of the first vessel but more on skipper of the City of Waterford later.

In 1841 we learn from another newspaper account of the loss of the Irish Lass which was launched from the “Waterford Dockyard” in March 1835.  The account tells us that at 11pm pm on the night of the 31st March (1841) the Irish Lass grounded on a sand bank off the coast of Uruguay.  By 3am the ship was being savagely pounded and the decision was taken to abandon ship.  The ships long boat was launched and rowing through mountainous seas the crew made it ashore.  They had nothing but the clothes on their back, and then trekked over 100 miles of desert to Riogrande.  They subsequently took a ship to Monte Video and from there to England by the first departing ship.

Samuel was now without a ship and the next time I encountered him, he was attending a meeting in Waterford in February of 1842, the intention being to set up a rival to the Waterford New Ross steamer, Shamrock.  Samuel is elected to the organising committee, and when the Paddle Steamer (PS) Maid of Erin starts plying the waters, none other than Samuel is aboard as captain.  In the narrow confines of the rivers and the stress and strain of landing passengers and freight in competition with another vessel, tempers flared and bust ups were common.  Samuel didn’t shirk from the fray!  Here’s an example from a recent story from Kathleen Moore Walsh.

As we have seen his brother Edward died at Samuel’s home in 1844.  The next mention I have is of him being back on the high seas in 1845.  The strange thing is that the ship is listed on Lloyds register as being owned by an E Grandy and skippered by same. On June 20th 1846, the Bark(sic) President, under Captain Samuel Grandy was cleared for New Ross from Quebec.  It was his last journey.  He died at home on August 28th

In December of 1846 the President was put up for sale at Waterford.  Her next listing at Lloyds (1847) show her as still owned by E Grandy but under a Captain Melhuish.  In 1851, the same master is aboard, but ownership has transferred to H Eaton.  Not a name I have come across as associated with Waterford as yet. Margaret Grandy, opened a ships provisioning store in King St (The town side of what is now O’Connell St) in December after Samuel’s death. Presumably because she needed an income to sustain her family.

Waterford Chronicle – Saturday 05 December 1846; page 3

The connection with Faithlegg I have yet to establish, but a number of Whites are buried in the adjoining area.  And one other mystery that I have yet to unravel is that there was another Captain Grandy – Thomas.  He was master of the previously mentioned City of Waterford.  He was heavily involved in the Waterford to Quebec trade between 1826-1837 when it appears he retired ashore at Quebec and became a successful merchant.  Could it be a third Grandy brother? 

The finding of the grave on June 1st has opened a whole new chapter on my understanding of Waterfords dynamic trade and traders of the early 19th Century. The sheer breath of trade and the conditions these seafarers endured makes for grim reading. For these were men who endured with stoicism the vagaries of wind and weather, shipwreck and personal tragedy as they sailed the ocean waves. They certainly were Iron men.

I’m conscious that even after a month of research in all my spare time, many questions remain and significant gaps in my understanding of the family remains. I’d like to thank Joe Falvey, Brendan Grogan, Michael Farrell, Kathleen Moore Walsh and in particular Jim Doherty for assistance with the piece. Thanks also to Ivan Fitzgerald for some follow up on Margaret Grandy which I had not space to include. As ever, all the errors and inaccuracies are my own. If you have any further info on the brothers, their family origins or their ships I’d be delighted to hear it in the comments or by email to

Moran’s Poles – a placename, a refuge

I’ve a long association with Moran’s Poles, its provided me with some of my happiest times, and to date, the scene of the worst tragedy in my life. As a child it was a working space, an area where the fishermen hauled out their punts and prongs to dry them out over winter and make repairs and paint them up. It was also a safe anchorage except in easterly wind, and the strongest of SW winds. And there they gathered, the fishermen to work, to smoke, to yarn the short winter days away, and there I sat absorbing all that they said and done and felt part of them.

A summer capture of the sunrise – I have to admit I am surprised at the positive reaction I continue to get to these photos, surprised but very grateful

Now that the fishing has all but gone, and those old fishermen are enjoying their eternal reward, I still cling to the place and still use it to keep the punt safe and overwinter. But there is hardly a day that passes that I don’t walk down and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place and it was this that started me out on the social media posts, and which on twitter are now found on the hashtag #MoransPolesSunrise. But whether it is dawn or dusk, ships passing, birds flying, swans foraging or young people rowing, I probably take more photos of Moran’s Poles than anywhere else.

Perhaps part of the draw is that it was here that my 8 year old brother Joseph drowned on Sunday 10th August 1980. He set out with an older boy to show him a raft we had made to enter a race in the village regatta. Joesph got onto it, pushed it away from the shore and fell. His lifeless body was retrieved the following Thursday. The people at the time said it was important to have the body back and he was laid to rest in Faithlegg graveyard. But I never feel closer to him then when I am at the Poles. And although I have thankfully passed those years of yearning, of wondering what might have been done different, of wishing I could have been there, of never having made the bloody raft, of, of of… there are still moments.

Nanny sorrounded by her brothers – the boys went to fish from as early as they had the strength to pull the oars. Richard, the eldest is missing from the photo, he emigrated age 16 to New York

The Poles are just below the house where my mother, Mary Moran was born. The name derives from her family and when my grandmother (nanny) was asked she said simply that her father and brothers built the poles as a breakwater. The Moran family, Michael, Catherine (nee Malone – Bill Malone had come in the famine times from Whitechurch on the River Barrow and married a woman named Anne Lynch from the village my grandmother said) Richard, Paddy, Christy, Mickey, Johnny, Willie and the last to be born Maura (aka nanny). I don’t know exactly how many boats the family operated, but I do know there was a punt, a prong and a half decker in the family possession – and there may have been more.

Launching the punt after overwintering and repairs photo includes a pre grey me at the bow, my brother Chris, our father Bob, Gavin and Anthony Doherty and Dermot Kavanagh

The Basic design of the Poles was that it afforded a breakwater to the prevailing westerly winds, but it also did two other things. It maintained a soft mud bank above the poles, where the boats could safely lie when the tide went out and it also acted as a barrier to the carrying of rocks up river when the gales blew and the tides roared and worked their combined attrition on the strand.

Some of the damage that needed to be replaced
Our recent repairs
The crew busy picking up the rocks on the upper side and placing them below the poles

Although some have claimed that the poles are the remenants of an old Scotch weir, I don’t hold with that at all. Not just because I never heard the old lads say it, but because design wise they are not compatible. The scoth weirs poles were futher apart as nets were hung from them, and stretched as far as low water – Moran’s Poles have never gone futher than half way out the strand.

Over the years we have tried to maintain the poles to prevent them disappearing, the most notable work was done with our family, Pat Moran and Maurice Doherty in the 1990’s when we employed a digger to help. In recent weeks we did another patch up job, replacing a number of poles near the shore, and subsquently picked the rocks that had strayed upriver and were a risk to grounding the punts. Its an ongoing job.

The appeal of the Poles on social media has given them a renewed focus. Just as well, as with the loss of the fishery such features and placenames risk being lost to history, and yet such places are rich with it. In recent times I have had several artists share work that has been inspired by the Poles, and most recently Tomás Sullivan used it as a fundraiser for the Darkness into Light appeal. Such attention is welcome and will go some way to maintaing the placename. I also use it as a backdrop for heritage walks and talks. I had hoped to do something similar for this years Heritage Week. However due to the Covid 19 restrictions this is no longer possible. But the Poles will feature, as we have a new idea for this year, an online concept to record the old fishing placenames. More at a later stage.

If you have any thoughts on what you have read, I would love to hear from you at or place a comment on the blog

Passing on the tradtions to the younger crew – no longer able to fish, they can at least learn something of the old ways and keep some of our traditions alive