Naming the new Dunmore East Lifeboat

Although Sunday 26th June dawned wet and breezy, as the morning wore on the cloud started to lift and by early afternoon it was a beautiful sunny summer day, but with a strong SW breeze. As Deena and I drove towards Dunmore East Geoff Harris broadcast from the quayside on WLR FM, whetting the appetite for what was going to be a wonderful, and historic afternoon. You see, at least for me anyway, this will almost certainly be the last naming ceremony I will ever witness. The new lifeboat has a 50 year lifespan, so the likelihood of me being around for the next event is highly doubtful. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the day so much.

Dunmore East RNLI officially named their all-weather Shannon class lifeboat, William and Agnes Wray. The Shannon replaced the station’s Trent class lifeboat last September (the new boat arrived on Sunday 26th September and quickly settled in) which was on service in Dunmore East since 1996. During those 25 years, Elizabeth and Ronald launched 412 times, bringing 821 people to safety, 20 of whom were lives saved.

The Shannon class lifeboat is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet. The naming of the class of lifeboat follows a tradition of naming lifeboats after rivers. When the Shannon was introduced to the RNLI fleet, it became the first time an Irish river was chosen, and it was done so to reflect the commitment and dedication of Irish lifeboat crew for generations. And as you probably already know, the lifeboats have operated from Dunmore since the Henry Dodd arrived in 1884.

What follows is a recap of our day with photos and video. Hopefully those who could not be there will get a sense of the occasion, including our good pals Andrew Lloyd and Leoni Baldwin who were unable to attend on the day.

Hooks and Crookes getting the afternoon off to a rousing start
Karen Harris Deputy Launching Authority accepted the lifeboat on behalf of the station in a very good address – she mentioned how it was her job to page the crew and what a relief it was to her to know that they have such a fine safe boat to go out it. Seated on the right is Eddy Stewart-Liberty, Chair of the Lifeboat Management Group who did a terrifc job MC-ing the afternoon
The Lifeboat was blessed in a service of dedication led by Father Brian Power (rt) and the Reverend Bruce Hayes.
A poem by the late John Bulligan Power was read followed by the students of Realt an Mara and the sea scouts accompanied by Hooks and Crookes singing the Lifeboat song – Home from the Sea with the permission of Phil Coulter who wrote to say he was sorry he could not attend in person
The lifeboat was then officially named the William and Anges Wray by Brendan Dunne. Brendan is a long term supporter of the blog, but an even longer term volunteer with the lifeboat. In over 37 years of service this is the third all-weather lifeboat that Brendan has served on. He was also crew on the Waveney class, St Patrick and the Trent class Elizabeth and Ronald. Photo courtesy of Liam Ryan
Our regular guest blogger and author of Dauntless Courage, David Carroll delivered a vote of thanks
William and Anges Wray on display following the ceremony with two bulk carriers at anchor, LMZ Vega to the left and Interlink Quality further off.
R117 joins the party!
A real sense of the maneuverability and sea quality of the vessel
It was a day for all, including some lifeboat legends such as Fergus Wickham of Rosslare and John Walsh. Photo courtesy of Liam Ryan
 Nadia Blanchfield and Walter Foley of Fethard RNLI with Patrick Browne. Photo courtesy of Liam Ryan. Had a great chat with Walter back at the station house, I’d get several blogs out of it if he’s let me print it…at least I have Nadia as a witness
Deena lines up patiently – we were utterly thrilled to get aboard
Myself and Michael Farrell with Brendan Dunne, proudly show us aboard the lifeboat. Thanks to Deena for the photo
Peter generously gives us a lot of his valuable time for a run-through of the controls that are available at each seat aboard. Incredible technology but with so much back up including manual controls. And then kindly shows us the rest of the vessel. Thanks to Deena for this photo too
Over to the station house then, where the history of the station is on show on every wall, for example, this service record board. Photo courtesy of Michael Farrell
Later we have a visit to the lifeboat station for more chats including some of the visiting stations of Union Hall and Fethard On Sea. As part of the afternoon, Brendan Dunne gave a presentation to Stephanie Currie in recognition of 32 years of service to the fundraising committee. He also acknowledged Margaret, Kathleen, Shirley, Anne and Susan from the fundraising committee who received their Long Service Awards at an event held in the Radisson Blu Hotel St.Helens, Dublin on Saturday.
David and Brendan phot courtesy of Michael Farrell
From the official booklet on the day – thanks to my cousin Christine for the copy

A wonderful day. Here’s wishing the vessel and crew fair winds and following seas.

White Horse

As you pass under Barrow Bridge entering the River Barrow or (Ross River as we call it in Cheekpoint) there is an outcrop of rock that rises almost vertically from the river. Located on the left hand side, or port if we want to be suitably nautical, this Kilkenny based feature is known as the White Horse. It certainly catches the eye and imagination.

In recent years it has been a location over which buzzards soar. Their calls add to the magic of the spot. I have also seen a number of goats on it occasionally which must help to keep the furze and briars in check.

White Horse

It’s unavoidable to think that the placename has some association with the colour of the stone. But there are other local origin stories that are intriguing. In the Duchas collection, there were two accounts related to the site. One went as follows. “… a man, who was very fond of hounds, jumped from the rock in pursuit of a fox and was killed. The burrow of the fox is to be seen there”. How that connects to a white horse I am not very sure, however – maybe the chap was on a horse at the time? That detail is not included however. Source

A goat keeping an eye from above
A much clearer photo of a goat on the White Horse via Brendan Grogan
A video I shot of the location on Friday 8th September 2023

The other story in the collection is that of Crotty the Robber.  “It is said that Crotty, the robber, while he was in the district jumped from the rock on his white steed, and on account of he being a robber there is supposed to be money hidden in the rock. It is from this white steed the rock derived its name. When he was trying to decoy his pursuers, he turned his horse’s shoes backward.” Source Maybe the goats I sometimes see have an ulterior motive?

White Horse Rock on the Richards & Scales map in 1764. This is looking downriver with the site on the right of the map. Courtesy of Seán Ó Briain

Now another story comes from Cheekpoint via a wonderful collection of stories by the late Jim Doherty.  Jim’s account tallies with Crotty above, but for Jim, the highwayman was Freeny (phonetically spelled Franey).  In Jim’s account, Freeny was on the run after a hold-up.  As he only robbed the rich and was generous to the less well off, he was well regarded amongst the ordinary folk.  Being pursued, he turned the shoes backward on his white horse.  He then rode off the cliff.  I heard it said elsewhere that the horse managed to land on Great Island. I suppose if it was the winged Pegasus that might have been possible.  Jim’s account is more sobering.  They managed to hit the water and the horse swam to the Island and made good their escape.  The pursuers on reaching the cliff saw the hoof marks moving away from the cliff and went back the way they came!

Locating the White Horse on a map

Having climbed up there recently from the river, I have to say both horse and man are to be commended if they actually did jump.  It’s a heck of a drop. 

Great Island, Co Wexford, as seen from the top of the White Horse

Sean Malone writing in Sliabh Rua, A History of its People and Places, mentioned that the name in Irish is Garinbawn. I saw this also in a recent discovery I made, spelled Garrinbawn (see image below). The bawn I presume is Irish for white – but what is Garin or Garrin… indeed is it spelled correctly at all? I suppose the most logical assumption is that it connects with horse in some fashion that my limited knowledge of the own language hinders. Another thought however is a connection with Cheekpoint. Here we have the Gorryauls which is thought to combine Garden with height or high. Could it possibly be the White Garden? Pure speculation on my part. Anyway, the name was part of the instructions given to sea captains negotiating their way upriver to New Ross. It’s from the Sailing Directions for the Coast of Ireland, 1877, Part 1, by Staff commander Richard Hoskyn RN. Needless to say, the Barrow Bridge did not warrant a mention, as it would not be started until 1902.

Excerpt from Sailing Directions for the Coast of Ireland, 1877, Part 1. Staff Commander Richard Hoskyn RN
Pete Goulding kindly sent this along, from the OSI historic series – Garraunbaun Rock which Pete thought had some thoughts on thinking white trees might be close to the original. Seán also sent on a link to the name on the logainm site showing the name in three different counties but not ours alas – Seáns comment below.

I’m sure older names existed, and perhaps someone can shed some further light on the origins of the name. But for anyone who still passes on the River Barrow, the rock is a formidable feature, and easy to imagine its significance from a navigation point of view to previous river users.

Mark Power made this video with me two years back looking at some local river placenames which we hoped might lead to a few commissions from the tourism sector. Hopefully, it might still. But to see the White Horse check out from about 2 minutes in

I later found this description of the area from O’Kelly’sThe Place Names of the County of Kilkenny Ireland (1969, p. 112)

Ballinlaw , Baile an lagha, place of the hill. Area 613 acres.
Part of the townland is listed in Rathpatrick Civil Parish on Index of Townlands. Ballinlaw castle, in ruins, forfeited under Cromwell in 1653 was Ormonde property, Ringville national
school is here, a good distance from Ringville townland. The old ferry across the Barrow river is here and the local public house quaintly situated is called “the Ferry”. A high bluff overlooking the Barrow Bridge over which the Waterford/Rosslare train passes is called the White Rock. Fields are Ban an gheata; Leicean, and Leacht, a sepulchral mount, still in evidence.

My experience of the June 2022 Meteotsunami

 On Saturday 18th June 2022 I went for an evening boating trip. As Deena was entertaining some friends at home I was on my own, but we had already had two good trips out together – to Jack Meades and Campile earlier that week.

Our first trip out, made it to Jack Meades with the spring high tides, via Ballycanvan Pill

I decided to have a quick jaunt across to Buttermilk and along up the Larch Ditch to Nuke and up as far as the Holly Bush. When I was approaching Nuke it was coming close to HW and I noticed a distinctive line of wet suggesting the tide had risen more than two foot above the tideline. This sometimes happens if a ship has passed and there’s a high wave, but in this case there had been nothing passing in or out.  To be honest I didn’t think much about it, except that it was odd. 

Not long after I put ashore to check out some driftwood for the winter firing and as I walked away from the punt it floated off the shore. I was perplexed but managed to haul it back in as I had a rope out, something I almost never do. I hauled it up, tied it tightly and when I came back a few minutes later the punt was aground.  It was all I could do to get her back in the water.

I knew something was up at that stage but was blaming the fairies 🧚‍♀️ I promptly went home and opened a bottle of wine.

A lovely calm evening as the the sun sets over Great Island, Saturday June 18th 2022

Anyway, the night was a beauty, a light NE breeze, and I never heard any sound in the river of a rushing inward or outward tide. Whatever happened was incredibly gentle. It was only the next day I heard online of some very strange tidal conditions in other areas. It later made the papers.  And apparently, it happened along the south coast including Cork, Waterford and Wexford, as far as Wales, England and France.

Dr Gerard McCarthy, an oceanographer with the Irish Climate Research and Analysis Unit in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University said he believed the most likely cause of the phenomenon was probably a meteotsunami rather than an earthquake or landslide. Elsewhere I read that “identifying a meteotsunami is a challenge because its characteristics are almost indistinguishable from a seismic tsunami. It can also be confused with wind-driven storm surge or a seiche”. Gerald was later interviewed as part of a podcast with Sorcha Pollack on the Irish Times. Thanks to Seamus Fennessey for that link.

I often complain about social media being a drain on my time. But without it in this case I would have never mentioned these strange incidents on the Wexford shoreline in case people thought I was mad and would have probably thought the little people were playing tricks on me…but shur maybe they were!

Edit. There was another element to the Tsunami story that I didn’t mention when I first wrote this. TBH I thought people reading it would think I was mad. Anyway, it was prompted by listening to the podcast because they covered the most well know Tsunami event known to have happened in Ireland, in November 1755 after the Lisbon earthquake. Coincidentally Bill Sheppard had emailed to ask me recently if there were any local stories connected to this, as he was investigating the event in the context of exploring the Creaden Head project.

I mentioned in my reply that I had read in Roy Stokes most recent book (Adventures of the Famine Diver, William Campbell) that there is a folk memory of the event at Kilmore Quay in Wexford. But I also had a story from growing up in Cheekpoint that I was told. Now I was frank…I can’t remember who told me, and I never really believed it when I was told it…but this is what I was told.

The story as I recall it was that the tide ebbed well away from the shore and stayed away for several minutes.  Locals were aware of this kind of event and immediately fled to higher ground.  On looking back some were in two minds of returning and going back into the river to retrieve stranded fish and anchors and other materials that were of value.  But those who thought they might chance it were held back by wiser heads.  Eventually, the tide rushed back in and came up along the shoreline. 

Helen Keller visits Waterford

Recently Cian Manning featured a story in Irelands Own about the visit of disability rights campaigner Helen Keller to Ireland. Her entry point to the country was via Waterford City by ship and here Cian reprises the article with a specific focus on the local element. Helen’s visit occurred this week in 1930. Take it away Cian.

American author and disability rights advocate Helen Keller toured Britain and Ireland for 6 months during the year 1930. The Alabama-native made the trip with her mentor Anne Sullivan (whose parents were from Limerick) and Polly Thompson. After staying in a bungalow in the coastal town of Looe in Cornwall, they decided that their next port of call was to Ireland with their destination being the city of Waterford.

Photograph of Helen Keller at age 8 with her tutor Anne Sullivan on vacation in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  New England Historic Genealogical Society. Public Domain

     On 13th June 1930, they left Plymouth aboard the SS Ballycotton making their way along the coast of Cornwall, with Keller writing that passengers got ‘a good view of its rugged cliffs and bold headlands’, the vessel traversed the Celtic Sea making its way towards the mouth of Waterford Harbour. The ancient name of the natural harbour at the mouth of the Three Sisters (the River Nore, the River Suir and the River Barrow) was known as Loch Dá Chaoch meaning ‘the lake of the two blind people’. As you can imagine it is one of several interpretations of the name with many utilizing folklore and mythology.


     Often places are named with allusions to geographical traits or after deities or heroic warriors but one interpretation of Loch Dá Chaoch is derived from the name of a woman who endured among much suffering. She’s a heroic figure but not in the traditional masculine portrayal of violence and virtue in Celtic or Norse mythology. From Prof. Gwynn’s translation of the Metrical Dinniseanchus we know from a poem about the place name as:

Loch Da Caoch – Hither came strangers from afar with a mighty warrior band. With the king went his gentle mother…Loth Luaimneach, swift as a lion. He brought with him his wife to the feast, on the night of the host, Fuata Ba Fail. She advanced into the conflict, into the encounter of vengeance. Thus went she over the sea – (pregnant) – to the noble harbour of famous Da Chaoch. One daughter she bore. Blemished her offspring, the blind, misshapen daughter, feeble of health Da Caoch was her name at all times and places, designation of suffering. [Caoch is the Irish for blind.] Hence is given from the woman’s name this title unto Loch Da Caoch; an ill occasion had this noble nomenclature.

There’s a poignancy to the harbour being named after a woman with a disability and the area being the location of where Keller first set foot in Ireland. One imagines that Keller and her companions could relate to the legend and strength of Da Caoch to overcome adversity. Keller was just 19 months old when she contracted what doctors described as ‘an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain’. Today we believe that the illness might have been meningitis or Haemophilus influenzae. The effects of which left Keller both blind and deaf which she described as living ‘at sea in a dense fog’.

     Whereas Da Caoch suffered, Keller with the help and guidance of Anne Sullivan would thrive by using finger spelling. Those who have read Keller’s autobiography or remember the film The Miracle Worker starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke will recall the remarkable sequence when Keller realizes the motions that Sullivan is making on her hand symbolizes water. Keller described this moment as ‘The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, set it free!’ It illustrates the famous refrain of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.’ It gave her a code from which she could explore and express beliefs from her innermost thoughts to the world around her.

SS Ballycotton, departing Waterford from a postcard image. Courtesy of Michael O’Sullivan Waterford Maritime History Facebook page.


     From their journey aboard the freight boat, Keller ‘pleasantly’ recalled her talks with the crew and ‘especially one who bestowed such tender care on the animals aboard.’ The Ballycotton was built in Dundee at the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd and was operated by the Clyde Shipping Company from 1911 till 1936. It then came into the ownership of the Saorstát & Continental Co. in Dublin and later renamed the SS City of Limerick. The vessel carried general cargo from London, Plymouth, Southampton and Waterford. We know that she also serviced the Glasgow to Waterford line in the early ‘20s. From the Munster Express (dated 15th November) in 1924 we learn that the SS Ballycotton towed the Ulster Steamship Company’s Orlock Head to Passage East after the vessel ‘had her rudder carried away at sea’. From Passage, she was brought to Waterford by the dredger and discharged her general cargo. The Waterford Harbour Board decided to charge the Orlock Head £60 for the tow and for attendance at Waterford.

     Over Christmas 1925, the Ballycotton which was serving Glasgow to Waterford via Belfast, was caught in a storm, though no damage was reported, it did arrive to anchor at the city by the River Suir four hours later than scheduled. We know that on the vessel’s voyage from Plymouth to Waterford on Friday 13th June 1930 that she carried 34 tourists as it stopped in Waterford before voyaging to Glasgow. Hardly a figure that would get the Tourism Board’s heart a flutter in the 21st century.  Bearing her new name, the City of Limerick first reached Waterford the weekend of 20-22 November 1936 carrying general cargo from Antwerp in Belgium. She was bombed and sunk in the Bay of Biscay just a few years later on 15th July 1940 with the loss of two crew members.

     …the Cavaliers called it “Urbs Intacta”: KELLER ON WATERFORD’S QUAY

     Landing in Waterford that early morning in June 1930, Keller with her companions had to wait for their car to arrive meaning they stayed on the ship till late in the afternoon. Keller recorded in her letter to Nella Braddy Henney that:

…I sat on deck “listening” to the great derricks as they lifted barrels of Devonshire cider on to the pier and replaced them with barrels of Guinness’s stout and Irish bacon. O, how good they both smelt.

Waterford city and quays some years before Helen’s visit. AH Poole

Anchored in the River Suir, adjacent to Waterford’s main thoroughfare the Quay, the group noted that the traffic was primarily made up of ‘jaunting-cars and little donkey-carts. The donkeys brought the bacon to the ship, and the stout came in great trucks.’

     Of Waterford city, Keller noted that:

It was the only place in all Ireland which successfully resisted Oliver Cromwell’s victorious forces, and for that reason the Cavaliers called it “Urbs Intacta.”

Now many local history connoisseurs will be raging and deploring the mix up in facts here surrounding the city’s Latin motto. However, this fails to recognise that Keller, a woman who was both deaf and blind was able to obtain such information in the first place. Even today on trips abroad our minds can get information jumbled and this is with the benefit of having all information available to us at the touch of a button. All the information of Ireland held be Keller was conveyed to her by Anne Sullivan and Polly Thompson through finger spelling. The city clearly made enough of an impression to warrant such notable mentions in her letters.

     ‘That is the King’s car…’: TRAVELLING FROM WATERFORD TO LISMORE

     Eventually, their rented chauffeur-driven Daimler did arrive, with Keller writing to Lenore Smith of the luxury, ‘That is the King’s car, I would have you know.’ Though not all among the travelling party were as comfortable such as Anne Sullivan who was not as at ease with travelling in such extravagance. From Waterford, they made their way towards Killarney, a journey that was described by Keller as ‘for the most part depressing, in spite of the fact that it was a glorious day.’ They were horrified by donkeys who were ‘nothing but skin, bones and misery’ as they passed drab and silent towns populated by women in black shawls which ‘made the scene still more gloomy.’ Though the poverty witnessed along the countryside in County Waterford was broken by the impressive structure of Lismore Castle. Keller recorded that:

The estate of the Duke of Devonshire was in vivid contrast with the poverty stricken country surrounding it. For miles we followed his high walls. The rhododendrons and the hawthorn were in full bloom. They are wonderful from bud to flower. Every hawthorn-tree is as white as snow, or as pink as a blushing bride. It is not only hedges, but whole groves and hill-sides of hawthorn. The Irish will not cut down a hawthorn-tree, lest they disturb the fairy folk who inhabit its covert. Beside the hawthorn and the rhododendrons there were stretches where the horsechestnut-tree, pink and white, dominated. Over the walls tumbled golden laburnums and ivy and cascades of a blue flower resembling the forget-me-not. Then again there were fuchsia hedges higher than my head, their pendant blossoms twinkling in the breeze. We got out of the car to have a better view of the castle, an immense castle, beautifully situated above the Blackwater which rushes and tumbles in flashing leaps and bounds.

The architecture and surrounds of Lismore Castle were a fairy tale compared to the reality that engulfed a huge part of rural Ireland in the 1930s. After reaching Killarney, they travelled to Limerick to learn more about the ancestors of Anne Sullivan but sadly little further information was shed on the life of her parents before they travelled to the United States. Sullivan commented of her time in Ireland that she felt as if she was ‘held fast as if in a nightmare’. They crossed the border to County Clare and visited Cratloemoyle Castle before making their way to Dublin and later spending a week in the seaside town of Bray, Co. Wicklow. It was there that Keller would mark her 50th birthday which she said was ‘solemnized in Ireland by drinking a bottle of liquid sunshine.’

Helen Keller sitting, holding a magnolia flower, circa 1920. Image from the Los Angeles Times. Public Domain

     An interesting story of a remarkable individual celebrating their 50th birthday in Ireland that displayed wonderful ruins and beautiful landscapes but was tainted by the poverty and gloom that was widespread at the time. Only if that ‘bottle of liquid sunshine’ was felt by everyone in that summer in 1930. Nevertheless, the story of Helen Keller’s tour of Ireland starts in Waterford and her story and visit to Ireland’s oldest city deserves further recognition in Urbs Intacta.

Cretefield – Waterford’s Concrete Ship

As a young fisherman I regularly passed a curious vessel at what we called CAP. The area also had a grander title – Bellevue – the French for a beautiful view, assigned to a then crumbling Georgian era mansion. The name was at odds with the reality of that time as it was then a run-down warehouse festooned with old ropes, chains, litter, and neglected rusting machinery. I was all the more fascinated about the vessel however because I was told it was made from concrete, and how such a craft was built and managed to float, filled me with curiosity. The ship was called Cretefield, and many times I promised to research the vessel. Thankfully Richard Lewis has done it for me, and for an “On This Day” slot Richard celebrates the arrival of this unique craft into Waterford in 1922.

On Tuesday, 13th June 1922, ‘Cretefield’, a 180’ long, 32’ wide ferro-concrete barge built at Warrenpoint and launched in April 1919, arrived at Grattan Quay, Waterford in the tow of ‘Creteblock’, a ferro-concrete steam tug built at Shoreham-by-Sea.

‘The Hopper’ as she became known locally, was used as a coal store and was to remain moored at Grattan Quay until 1973 when she was transferred to Belview to be utilised as a pontoon at the C.A.P. facility. In February 1990, she was offered for sale by the Port of Waterford by way of Sealed Tender and having been acquired by Carlingford Marine Enterprises, was towed to Carlingford, where she lies today, sunken but still visible in the outer breakwater of the Marina.

Cretefield on her fixed berth at Waterford. ©Paul O’Farrell collection

This is the story of Waterford’s Concrete Ship

In 1917, during World War I, an acute shortage of steel led the British Government to fund a construction programme for 209 ferro-concrete vessels to be built by largely newly formed shipyards around the UK. Armistice on 11th November 1918 brought an end to World War I and the need to construct ships in ‘alternative’ materials. Around two-thirds of the orders were cancelled but by the end of 1920, 12 ferro-concrete tugs and 52 ferro-concrete barges to a ‘British Standard Design’ had been launched and completed. Each was christened with the prefix ‘Crete’ followed by a noun, generally following a theme decided upon by the 17 shipyards that built the fleet.

‘Cretefield’ was one of four 712 Gross Registered Tonnage barges built at Warrenpoint, Co. Down by J & R Thompson and McLaughlin and Harvey of Belfast, the others being Cretefarm, Creteforge, and Creteforest. Each was capable of carrying 1,000 tons deadweight.

  ‘The Launch of Creteforge, sister to Cretefield’ ©Ulster Museum

‘Cretefield’ was first registered to ‘The Shipping Controller’ on 25th July 1919, Registration No. 143359. During her early life, she operated on the River Mersey at Liverpool. She was subsequently transferred to The Board of Trade in 1921 and then on to the Crete Shipping Co. Ltd. in March 1922.

She was then sold to Waterford-based coal merchant, Messrs Geoffrey Spencer, who had written to the Waterford Harbour Commissioners in May 1922 requesting permission to moor a large barge in a berth above Redmond Bridge. The Waterford News & Star Shipping News reported her in the tow of ‘Creteblock’ from Liverpool. By 1938, Messrs Spencer’s business was sold to Messrs Samuel Morris by which juncture, ‘Cretefield’ had become better known locally as ‘The Hopper’.

On 14th September 1946, Waterford Standard dedicated many column inches to reporting the complaints of the Waterford Coal Merchants’ Association that Messrs Samuel Morris enjoyed an unfair advantage over the other coal merchants, trading on the River Suir from a 1,000-ton barge. Whilst the matter reached the desk of the Irish Minister for the Department of Industry and Commerce, J. J. Cleere, it became clear that a 75-year license had been granted back in 1922, ‘Cretefield’ was staying moored exactly where she was.

Ironically, on 29th March 1940, the Waterford News and Star had written a column under the heading ‘Waterford Shipping Notes’ subtitled ‘Concrete Ships – a Waterford Example’. In the article, the shipping correspondent reported that shipping losses to enemy actions had already exceeded half a million tons and that perhaps it was time to build ferro-concrete ships again. Indeed, the correspondent was so bold as to suggest that ‘If concrete vessels become an established fact, perhaps we may see them yet built at Waterford. We have a model to choose from in the ‘Cretefield’.

In 1966, the Irish Examiner reported that Waterford Harbour Commissioners had approved a draft agreement whereby Samuel Morris would sell the ‘Cretefield’ to the Commissioners. It seems that Samuel Morris had ceased trading some years earlier. Whilst docked at Gratton Quay, the barges of Dowley’s Grain Merchants were apparently tied up alongside her. These barges were employed for various purposes including transporting dredged sand from the river at Carrick that was brought back for builders in Waterford and on the return journey, taking grain and animal feed from R. & H. Halls of Ferrybank, Waterford to Carrick.

Cretefield at Belview ©Mick Bryne 

In 1973, ‘Cretefield’ was moved downriver to act as a pontoon at the Co-operative Agricultural Purchase (C.A.P.) fertiliser facility at Belview, Co. Kilkenny and on 14th December 1973, the Munster Express reported that a list developed by ‘Cretefield’ had resulted in a discharge of a vessel being disrupted. It was suggested then that the possibility of a permanent structure should be considered although this was said to be a matter for C.A.P. On 1st March 1974, the Munster Express reported that ‘sooner or later the Belview operation will have to be upgraded with a formal jetty to replace the ferro-concrete barge ‘Cretefield’ based on the anticipated arrival of a 5000-ton ship ‘Brigit Ragne’ discharging imported fertiliser’. The Munster Express further reported on 9th March 1979, that the C.A.P. berth at Belview was lying idle having been purchased two years prior by Irish Sugar Co.

On 6th February 1990, ‘Cretefield’ was offered for sale by way of sealed tender by the Port of Waterford and advertised in the Irish Independent. The tender had to be delivered to the Harbour Office Waterford by 12 noon, 16th February 1990, marked ‘Tender for Plant’. The winning bidder was Carlingford Marina Enterprises in what was their second purchase of a ‘Crete Ship’, having acquired the hulk of ‘Cretegaff’, then lying on the River Boyne at Drogheda, in 1988.

Having been towed to Carlingford, ‘Cretefield’ was sunk in the Carlingford Marina breakwater wall. A scuttled ferro-concrete ship provides the ideal foundations for a breakwater as it settles and nestles into the mud. Today, her bow and name are clearly visible at low tide from the land side and the entire length of her hull and deck are visible from the Lough.

It is a sad fact that the fate of many of ‘The Crete Fleet’ was to end their days as breakwater foundations, but in the grander scheme of things, if you have to end your days somewhere, it might as well be in Carlingford Lough.

Arriving to Carlingford Marina. ©Carlingford Marina Enterprises 

‘Cretefield’ can be seen on Google Earth at 54°03’06″N 6°11’24″W, just a few kilometers from where she was built at Warrenpoint and now having spent a century in Ireland or which two-thirds was on the River Suir!

Two other ‘Crete’ ships exist in Ireland today. ‘Creteboom’, a steam tug built at Shoreham-by-Sea, lies on the River Moy at Ballina where she has been since 1937. ‘Cretegaff’, sister to ‘Creteboom’ and the last surviving floating example of a World War I British ferro-concrete ship, floats in Carlingford Marina, a few metres away from ‘Cretefield’.

Final resting place. © Richard Lewis

Carlingford Marina breakwater is also notable for being the location of another historic concrete caisson, this time of World War II vintage, a ‘Mulberry’ pierhead prototype called ‘Hippo 1’ that was built in Conwy, Wales in 1942, was towed to Garlieston, Scotland for testing in 1943 and was then abandoned until acquired by Larne Harbour for use at Curran Quay in 1952. In 1993, when Curran Quay was extended, ‘Hippo 1’ was, amazingly, re-floated and towed to Carlingford Marina where she lies today.

© Richard Lewis

About the Author

Richard Lewis, a native of Manchester, resides in Carlingford and operates a bike hire business in Carlingford. Intrigued by the history of ‘Cretegaff’, he set about researching the entire fleet of ferro-concrete ships that were conceived during World War I and has completed a 360-page manuscript for a book to be entitled ‘The Life & Times of The Crete Fleet’. Further information can be found on the website and on Social Media of the same name.


This article relies on research made possible via,,, and numerous other internet resources.

A number of contributors, too numerous to name, have provided information about ‘Cretefield’ via the Waterford Maritime History group on Facebook and I should like to thank in particular  – Des Griffin for his help and also Paul O’Farrell, Mick Bryne, Ulster Museum and Carlingford Marina Enterprises for displaying their photographs for which they hold the copyright.