Submission to the Marine Protected Areas Network consultation

In an effort to have my say into the recent consultation on the expansion of Marine Protected Areas I drew on my own bitter experience of how the political system can treat those communities that lack political power. My fear about the expansion (although I welcome and would largely embrace the concept) is that fishermen and fishing communities will be swept aside with little more than a passing concern for a token payment for the inconvenience. So in a brief submission, I tried to argue that fishermen and fishing communities deserve to be respected and acknowledged in any process. Financial packages will not replace a way of life, the skills of fishermen are not easily transferable into shore work and whole communities are impacted. Here is what I submitted:

I wanted to write to offer my personal support to the notion of expanding Marine Protected Areas.  I don’t think anyone with an interest in our environment, our rivers and waterways or our fisheries would not embrace a sustainable and more environmentally secure future.  However, I would also like to offer some thoughts from my own personal experience as a traditional small-scale fisherman and some fears that come to mind.

My own experience is based on what happened to the salmon driftnet fishery in Cheekpoint, Co Waterford.  No one, myself included, could not say that there was an issue with commercial salmon fishing that needed to be addressed.  I grew up in an era of large scale driftnetting on the coast where miles of illegal nets were employed and the wholesale capture of salmon was in evidence.  However, in my view, the authorities at the time chose to clamp down on small scale, traditional fishermen as we were an easier target.  It gave the sense of doing something but didn’t really address the issue.  Worse, both the print and digital media excoriated all driftnet fishermen and campaigned that we would be banned.

The ban eventually came in 2006 and with the stroke of a pen, we had no fishery…and little by way of an option.  Fishermen in Cheekpoint who employed a traditional 18ft wooden punt were faced with a choice.  Stop fishing, or either use the punt that was not suitable for fishing at Dunmore East, or buy a bigger boat. 

This experience hit many in my village very hard.  In 2008 I word a dissertation on the impact of the closure which I am linking here.  But specifically what I found was a village torn asunder by the removal of a way of life.  Trying to highlight this has been an uphill battle.  I guess from the perspective of an economic or even environmental viewpoint, a village is a small price to pay, but Cheekpoint was typical of so many other villages, coastlines and islands around the country.

An example of the loss – placenames associated with the salmon fishery have no use if we are not fishing – except for historical purposes. The fishing keeps these names alive.

In brief, what I found to be the issues for my village in 2008 was as follows:

The community has been impacted by the loss of commercial activity and the coming and going of boats and crews.  Money was earned and predominantly spent in the community in the past.  There was vibrancy about.  As one man said “a trip to the post office could have taken from a half hour to a half day in the past.  You’d be stopped chatting to people, now it takes five minutes”. 

 This lack of people is blamed on factory shift work and people being employed in Waterford. As one man pointed out they are either working or in bed.  Shift work patterns really impact on people and the area.  Although fishermen often worked through the night, it wasn’t like the factory shifts.  “You were working for yourself and could stop when you wanted.  In factories there is no such freedom.  It gets you into a rut” 

 The men I interviewed believe that the lack of people about has a negative effect on the community.  It impacts on how people feel about their security.   Previously, if you were sick
or incapacitated there were people to call. They might drop you in a dinner or a feed of fish.  Messages would be run, There was someone to talk to.  Fishermen in the past were
around because the village was their place of work, landing fish, mending nets, repairing boats. 

A village of nets and netsmen – Cheekpoint Green. L-R Ned Power RIP, Walter Whitty RIP, I’m Doherty RIP, Brian Buddy McDermott RIP, Tom Sullivan & Dick Mason

 Other concerns are that young men don’t have the same opportunities to come of age in the ways they did in the past.  Although many have jobs through local restaurants which are well paid, clean, safe and “wouldn’t tax you”, it is considered a far cry from the training, challenge and satisfaction young men had in the past through fishing. 

 Fishing was a method of schooling in itself.  Young men were taught valuable lessons, they needed to learn the capabilities of boat and themselves.  For example catching a river marker buoy and how to extract yourself, nets and boat. This required common sense skills, which have to be passed on – boat handling, fishing skills and psychologically – its not the end of the world to make a mistake.  Other skills around salmon fishing were more unique and as it was explained would never be found in a book, including the role played by wind, tide, moon, and season.  These will all be lost in the future it was felt as there will be no means of passing them on.

A traditional punt which was restored with assistance from Waterford Area Partnership. Punts like these are slowly disappearing from the communities in the river, replaced by pleasure boats, Where once children learned the skills of rowing and boat handling whilst fishing, it is now a more unnatural process – but pleasurable nonetheless

 Perhaps the greatest loss is the contact with other fishermen on a daily or hourly basis.  As a fisherman you were in contact on the quayside, as boats passed each other, or waited for particular drifts.  A key factor of this was the swapping of pieces of information vital for knowing how and where the fish were “running”.  Men also cooperated around the seasonal activities such as hauling out boats for overwintering or repair and the making and repairing of nets. These were not so many tasks as occasions.  The loss of such opportunities ultimately engenders isolation as men are more inclined to stay inside if they know there will be no one to see or talk to.

 All in all, participants felt that previously the river had a deeper significance for the community.  It derived an income, was a source of food, pleasure, challenge.  It was a place for regatta’s where communities competed against each other and was a mode of transport to and from the city, but also to dances and social occasions in other communities around the estuary.  The village, it is felt has embraced the car and the city and turned its back almost completely on the river.  Though the salmon closure came on the heels of these wider changes, it cemented them.

Although I wrote this in 2008, little has changed for the better.  The Post office is now closed, one of the two pubs in the village closed, the other opens at the weekends (or did when Covid restrictions permit).  A Men’s Shed is now up and running which is an outlet.  There is no sign of a return to salmon driftnetting although it’s still open to angling.  The scientists now seem to be looking to global warming and deep sea trawling in traditional salmon feeding grounds to explain the reduction in salmon stocks.   

The real issue for Cheekpoint fishermen, and I believe it carries over to so many other villages, is that the skills, knowledge and personal attributes associated with the fisheries do not easily translate into another job.  A factory worker might find another factory job as many of the skills are transferable, likewise a shopworker, an administrator a butcher.  But the skillset associated with fishing is unique.  The knowledge, primarily learned on the job, has little currency outside the role.  Fishing is not just a job.  It’s a way of life.

In an effort to try to capture what we lost, I wrote Before the Tide Went Out in 2017. I was supported in the printing costs of this by FLAG funding. Now out of print. An ebook is available on Amazon

While I accept that we have to cherish, protect, and more carefully manage our environment, our fish, our mammals, and sea birds that coexist in the habitats, I would argue that we also need to cherish those who have made an income from the rivers and seas.  My point in relating this in the context of the MPA’s is to underline the importance of fisheries to coastal communities.  This way of life has real value and meaning for those involved and the communities they come from.   Financial packages to set aside such work is not the answer, there is a need for such communities to be allowed to fish.  A fishing community is not a fishing community if it cannot fish.  It’s where our dignity comes from, our self-respect. Cheekpoint knows that only too well.

Halfway House and Jack Meades Pub

Halfway House

For this year’s Heritage Week event, and specifically Water Heritage Day I wanted to showcase a unique water-related site at the popular bar and restaurant known now as Jack Meades, but previously it was more commonly called Halfway House.  Over the next few Fridays, I will focus on some of the aspects of the site in the context of the historic role of the stream, Ballycanvan Pill, and the River Suir.  In this post I want to look at the location and the pub. 

Introduction

Water plays a crucial role in all our lives.  However, in previous generations, it had an added importance related to transport. Ships plied the ocean waves carrying freight and passengers around the globe, the rivers were a vital infrastructure allowing goods to be carried from and to inland locations that could take many days and significant expense to journey by poor and limited roadway.  I believe it was in this era that the placename “Halfway House” was born and the location originated; a halfway point from Waterford City to the busy shipping stop-off point that was Passage East and later Cheekpoint. 

Geography of the site

Halfway House is situated at a crossing point of Ballycanvan stream and Pill.  A Pill is a common enough word locally, originating in Norman times I understand and generally referring to a tidal stream.  The Pill is tidal (ie the river rises and falls to that point) up to the bridge, a fresh water stream lies above this and it must have been an ancient fording point of the stream. 

A sense of the location – OSI Historic Maps

The main road between Cheekpoint and Waterford comes through the site, but in the past it was also a roadway from Passage and Crooke to the city, joining the main road at Carraiglea and what we locally call Strongbows Bridge.  The current Passage and Crooke Road crosses over the bridge now at the site but that’s a more recent development,

Boundary sign from 1980 on the city side of the bridge. Authors Photo.

The site also marks three distinctive administrative boundaries.    As you cross the stream towards the city you leave the county boundary and enter the city.  It also marks the meeting of three District Electoral Divisions (DED’s) Faithlegg, Ballymaclode and Woodstown.  Within this it is also subdivided into six townlands, all of which converge at the crossing; Ballycanvan, Ballynaboola, Ballyvoreen, Ballymaclode, Ballygunnertemple, and Cross.  It was/is also surrounded by several large houses including Ballycanvan, Woodlands, Brooke Lodge, Mount Druid, and Blenheim.

Interestingly, the area was once commonly referred to as Alwyardstown, Baile an Adhlar Taigh – a historic reference to the first Norman-era landlord who ruled from Faithlegg an area of about 6000 acres that stretched from Cheekpoint and Passage to Ballytruckle in the city. Authors Photo

Irelands only Flyover Pub!

Before we leave the geographic description, it is worth explaining the bridge that currently stands as a means of travelling towards Passage East. You see the bridge is a relatively new construct (circa 1860) and it was built at a time when a local business family, the Malcomsons (of Portlaw milling and Waterford ship owning and shipbuilding fame), were trying to gather investors to build a railway line to Passage East to take time off the journey from the city to Milford Haven. The plan failed, although the bridge was built, although the use of rail was later successfully implemented when in 1906 the SW Wexford rail line was built to connect the city with Rosslare and via ferry to Fishguard.

Passage East – Days of Sail and Cheekpoint and the Mail Packet

The place name of Halfway House is a common enough one.  According to my Oxford Dictionary, the term Halfway House has four meanings in the modern sense but perhaps the oldest and more historical based is a midpoint between two towns.  In this case, it’s a mid-point between Waterford city and initially the busy stop off point for shipping at Passage East and later Cheekpoint. 

A busy scene at Passage East in the late 18th century via BGHS http://gaultierhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2014/

Passage East was historically and administratively part of Waterford city, primarily in my opinion, because it was central to shipping.  Passage was the point where ships could relatively easily sail to; beyond Passage the river narrows, sailing was more difficult and so before the coming of steam power Passage was a much more accessible spot to anchor. 

Ships entering port could anchor relatively safely between Passage and Ballyhack.  There the customs could check on cargo and ensure the appropriate rates were applied.  Ships could be emptied by the Lighters and a myriad number of trades could be employed in looking after the ship’s needs.  Horse-drawn traffic would have abounded including carriages, carts, joulters, jarveys and so many other horse-driven transports. Passengers and goods would have been transported both to and from the area.  At a later point when the official Mail Packet Service was established at Cheekpoint in 1787, trade would have flourished to the village. 

As a consequence, these horse-drawn transports would have required a stop-off point.  The freshwater stream would have looked after the horses needs.  The pub would have catered for the men! On Redmond’s Hill, a forge operated by a family of the same name operated within living memory and it must have had a good market given the level of trade that would have passed the door. The site also had a shop, a post office and there were a great number of homes for those employed either in the big houses, the farms or in the businesses around the area.

Jack Meades Pub/ Halfway House

Over the door, on the way into the old bar at Jack Meades it states that the pub was founded in 1705.  It was recorded in November 1710, that one Jenkin Richards leased the Inn from William Harrison who lived at the time at Ballycanvan House. Richards was said to lease “the house commonly called or known by the name of “Halfway House”

The door to the old pub. Authors Photo.
Jack Meades Pub or Halfway House. Andrew Doherty

James Guest, (how’s that for a landlords name) and his son John were running the pub in 1721 and the family lived on the premises. The last of the family recorded were the brothers Robert and James Guest who dropped their lease in the 1770’s.  In the mid 19th Century,  1857 to be exact, the landlord of the pub was John Curtain.  When Curtain died, his daughter Elizabeth Meade took over.  Her son Thomas Meade was next to inherit, passing it on in turn to his son John, commonly called Jack. Jack ran it up to the 1970s at which point it passed to his own daughter Carmel. Carmel and her husband Willie Hartley run it still, although it has grown in size in the intervening period, and their son Liam runs the busy food part of the business.

It’s had a difficult time over the last two years as they have tried to survive financially during the Covid 19 pandemic, but it’s interesting to think that it survived the earlier Cholera outbreaks, the famine, and the Spanish flu. 

The site of course has many other water related features, and these I will explore over the new few weeks in the run into National Heritage Week 2021 and specifically Water Heritage Day on Sunday 22nd August 2021.  My original plan was to do a booklet of these pieces of information to be available for a guided walk on the site. However, due to my Covid concerns, this is still not a certainty. I might opt for an online presentation instead. This work will be supported by the Local Authority Waters Programme.

Next week – the two agricultural water-powered corn mills on the site, their design, operation, and the relevance of the stream and the tidal Pill in their operation.

An American millionaire sails into Waterford Harbour

Although in this day and age, multi millionaires look to the sky for their thrills, there was a time when they looked to the sea. One such example was an American millionaire named Howard Gould, who dropped anchor aboard his magnificent yacht Niagra at Passage East in Waterford Harbour on Sunday July 21st 1901. Here for a tour of Ireland, he was also on the hunt for a castle to create his new home. Cian Manning has the story for us.

  The eccentric American millionaire Howard Gould was described by the Evening Herald (Dublin) as ‘…not born famous. [But] He has [had] fame thrust upon him…’ Howard was the son of American railroad magnate Jay Gould who was described as a ‘Robber baron’, amassing his fortune through unprincipled business practices making him one of the wealthiest individuals in the late-19th century. The controversial New Yorker was unpopular for his unscrupulous ways which led to a famous cartoon depicting Wall Street as his ‘Private Bowling Alley’. Howard (born 8th June 1871) was the fourth child of 6 born to Jay Gould and his wife Helen Day Miller. He attended Columbia College and matriculated with the class of 1894 but records of the undergraduate college of Columbia University show that he did not graduate. Four years later, Howard Gould purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange with his offices located at 195 Broadway. It was a seat he maintained till his death in 1959.

Howard Gould. Unknown photographer – Notable New Yorkers (1899) Public Domain

     TWO YACHTS NAMED NIAGARA

     The younger Gould’s real passion however (aside from money) was competitive yachting. A year after entering the New York Stock Exchange, Howard Gould acquired the 65-foot (20m) sloop yacht named Niagara built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Rhode Island in 1895. It was in this vessel that Gould won Lord Dunraven’s Castle Yacht Club Challenge Cup. Skippered by John Barr, in her first racing season she won 29 first prizes, nine second prizes and one third prize. In the twenty-rating class, Niagara sailed at the Thames Yacht Club Regatta and at the end of the ’95 season was left at Fay’s yards in Southampton for the winter.

Unknown Photographer. The Niagara as found in The Old And The New by Frank L. Blanchard. 1899. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Niagara_(1895_sloop).jpg Public Domain

     In addition to his sloop, Gould owned a large (282 ft) steam yacht also known as the Niagara, which was built in 1898 by Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington, Delaware. Coincidentally the acquiring of both vessels coincided with romantic entanglements. Prior to buying the sloop yacht, Gould was engaged to actress Odette Tyler who performed a number of Shakespearian roles such as Desdemona, Juliet and Portia. However, both families objected to the engagement which was subsequently broken off. One wonders was the purchase of the sloop a way to cheer-up a broken heart and to get away from the United States by competing at regattas in the United Kingdom.

     The same year that the steam yacht was built, Gould married the actress (he certainly had a type) Katherine Clemmons on the 12th October 1898. One review described Clemmons as having ‘a beautiful profile and a lissom figure but was devoid of any acting ability.’ While married to Gould it is believed that Clemmons was having an affair with ‘Buffalo Bill’ aka William F. Cody who subsidized a huge portion of her acting career.

     GOULD & NIAGARA AT WATERFORD HARBOUR

     On Sunday 21st July 1901, Gould put into Waterford Harbour aboard his magnificent yacht for the purpose of visiting various castles and country residences to form an understanding of ‘what a nobleman’s house is like’. As the Nationalist (Tipperary) put it ‘His ostensible object is to see some of our [Ireland’s] famous castles to find a model for the grand new mansion he is about to build in New York suburbs.’ The plan was for Gould to sail from Waterford to Queenstown (Cobh) with a coaching tour through Kerry in mind. Though like all things in Ireland this was subject to change and, with the riches Gould could spend to cover such excursions, why wouldn’t it?

Gould at his desk on the 1898 Niagara. Photo by Frank L. Blanchard, Gill Eng, Co, N.Y. – Niagara; the old and the new (1899), by Frank L. Blanchard The trophy is the Lord Dunraven Castle Yacht Club Challenge Cup, or possibly the Maitland Kersey Cup, both won in 1895 by the Niagara (yacht, 1895) Public Domain

     The Evening Herald surmised:

As Howard Gould’s magnificently appointed yacht, bought out of the millions that he never earned, lay anchored between the Waterford and Wexford shores, he might have visited many a place whose memories would broaden his mind, and give him knowledge which, in the long run, might be of no more use to him than suggestions for building a palatial residence of marble, stucco, and gliding that is to lick creation.

Photo by Frank L. Blanchard, Gill Eng, Co, N.Y. – Niagara; the old and the new (1899), by Frank L. Blanchard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82004045

Anchored at Passage East, the Waterford News noted that the Niagara was ‘much admired by those who had the opportunity of seeing the graceful outlines of this splendid vessel even at a distance, for no visitors were allowed aboard.’ Tuesday 23rd July saw Gould and his party travel to Waterford in one of the steam launches and lunched at the Imperial Hotel on the Mall. The local paper described it as follows:

The luncheon was served in the splendid drawing-room of the Imperial Hotel, the spacious proportions of which were much admired by the visitors, and the beautiful ceiling of the apartment which is an exquisite work of art attracted very special and most appreciative attention

After lunch the party made up of Mr and Mrs Gould, Mr. W.A. Perry, Mrs. Perry and Mr H. Perry Jr of New York and A.H. Lery (London) took the 1.30 train from Waterford to Kilkenny. Before leaving the Imperial Hotel, Gould was presented by William Murray (proprietor of the hotel) with a copy of the Waterford News’ publication Beauty Spots.

     From the Marble County, the American’s party travelled to Limerick and took a coach from the Treaty County to Listowel en-route to Killarney. While travelling Munster, the Niagara was making it’s way for Bantry Bay. Stops in Kerry included Tralee, Dingle, Valentia to visit the Knight of Kerry, Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Waterville, Parknasilla, Kenmare, Glengariff, Bantry and Cork before departing aboard their yacht for Le Havre.

Accessed from http://www.norwayheritage.com/p_ship.asp?sh=maje1

    While at Queenstown, Gould’s yacht was not the only American millionaire’s vessel to arrive that week. The morning after docking there, those aboard the Niagara would have witnessed the White Star steamer Majestic (1899) arrive from New York. Aboard was W.A. Vanderbilt whose fortune was made through steamboats and railroads. A few years previously, Vanderbilt had built the largest privately owned home in the United States in the form of the 250-room mansion named Biltmore Estate. The Staten Island native, with his party, boarded his yacht Valiant and made their way for Southampton.

     Six months after Gould’s visit to the south of Ireland, it was reported by Mr. J.J. Comerford in the Royal Magazine that Gould planned to build a replica of Kilkenny Castle in Long Island. He was able to obtain photographs of the castle while engineers and architects planned to build a larger version of Kilkenny Castle with modern comforts and improvements across the Atlantic. This was known as Castle Gould though it was not to the couples liking, they decided to build another larger house in a Tudor style and called it Hempstead House. After the completion of the estate in 1912, Gould sold it to Daniel Guggenheim.

Hempstead House, Sands Point Preserve, Sands Point, New York September 1995. Photo by Gyrofrog Public Domain

    DEBTS, DIVORCE & THE DEISE 

     Although everything seems to have been cordial between the Goulds and their connections with Ireland it would not always be the case. In 1906, the Cork painter Henry Jones (Thaddeus Walsh) brought an action against Mrs. Gould who would not pay the contracted price on a portrait she was dissatisfied with. The court found in favour of Jones with Katherine Gould having to pay $5,675. A year later saw the beginning of the process of judicial separation between the couple as Katherine accused her husband of bribing detectives in the public service to shadow her movements and gather evidence against her for court proceedings. The matter was finally settled two years later when the Court granted the separation exonerating Clemmons of Howard’s charges of impropriety and habitual intoxication. She was granted an allowance of £7,200 a year.  

     Gould married one final time in 1937 to German actress Grete Mosheim (whose most notable credit was her role in the 1930 film Dreyfus based on the events of the Dreyfus affair). However, the couple divorced ten years later. Howard was the last surviving son of Jay Gould and Helen Day Miller , he died in 1959 aged 88 at Doctors Hospital in Manhattan. Of the two vessels named Niagara that he was most associated with, the sloop was broken up in England in 1960 while the steamer was bought by the US Navy on 10th August 1917. She was converted into an armed patrol yacht and commissioned in Tebo’s Yacht Basin, Brooklyn under the command of Commander E.B. Larimer. After the First World War she cruised off the coast of Mexico and on 17th July 1920 Niagara was reclassified as PY-9 patrolling the Caribbean. Finally the steam yacht was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 21st April 1922. Recommissioned as Niagara, the vessel was used to survey in the Caribbean and from 1924 charted the Gulf of Venezuela and the coast of Central America. She was decommissioned a second time in 1931 and sold for scrapping two years later.

At anchor, circa 1920, probably in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Collection of Gustave Maurer, ex-Chief Photographer, 1921. U.S. Navy photo NH 2232. Accessed from http://www.navsource.org/archives/12/1309.htm

     Howard’s visit to the south-east was not the last connection between the Gould family and Waterford. In 1911, nearly ten years after Howard’s tour of the castles in the south of Ireland, his niece Helen Vivien Gould married John Beresford, 5th Baron Decies. Sadly Helen died tragically of jaundice and a heart attack in London in February 1931.

     One would imagine today that if an American millionaire docked in Passage East there would be a frenzy on Twitter and Instagram as a wealthy celebrity party toured Ireland, a grand tour in search of grand designs. You could say it was by Hook or by Crooke that Gould ended up building Kilkenny Castle on Long Island, New York. An unusual story concerning the auld sod and the New World. Though the tale has largely been forgotten you could say silence was Gould’s end.

Many thanks to Cian for this fascinating account. Cian is the author of Waterford City A History which is available through all good bookshops or online here. Cian also has a passion for sport, check out some of his blog stories at Póg Mo Goal

The Italian Salvage Job – Dunmore East 1935-37

A recent email from Donie Brazil with an image from Dunmore of a steamship caused a fair amount of research on my part.  Donie had an image from his aunt’s collection of a ship tied up at the East Pier in Dunmore, which could have easily been dismissed as a large fishing boat, but the date gave me a smile of delight.  For it was from 1936, a time when an Italian salvage company was busy in the village and it was more probably the Artiglio of the Società Ricuperi Marittim, founded in 1926 in Genoa Italy, and at the time one of the leading underwater salvage operations worldwide.

Artiglio and her crew was world-renowned at the time following the successful salvage of gold coin and bullion from the sunken SS Egypt, a P&O ocean liner that sank after a collision in 1922.  The Artiglio, or more accurately the Artiglio II, had successfully retrieved the treasure (after the original Artiglio had discovered the ship in 1930 but was blown up after being moved to deal with another salvage operation) but the work had taken from 1930 to 1935.  The wreck of the Egypt lay in 170metres of water after all!

Società Ricuperi Marittim, or  SO.RI.MA. (Society for Maritime Recovery) of Genoa was founded in 1926 by Commendatore Giovanni Quaglia.  The ships of the company were all named based on their propensity to snatch objects from the bottom of the sea and included: Artiglio, Rostro and Raffio were the first of the company, followed by Rampino, Rastrello, and Arpione. These were all bought second-hand and modified as needed which included winches, electromagnets, and support equipment for divers.

Artiglio 1932. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Domini públic,

The first mention of the company I could find in Ireland was off the Cork coast in 1934, where the Arpione was salvaging copper from the SS Spectator off Galley Head.  It would appear the company was also looking for the Lusitania at the time.[i]  In September 1935 both the Artiglio and Rampino were reported as being exempted from pilot dues by Waterford port until such time as they were successful in finding and retrieving salvage from the wreck of the SS Lincolnshire off Hook Head.[ii]

SS Lincolnshire was reported at the time as a “freighter of 3,695 tons…commanded by Captain Harte, and had onboard crew of thirty-one and the Captain’s wife, when, in March 1917, she encountered a German submarine…she was torpedoed, and sank almost immediately, those on board just managing to take to the boats before she went. No lives were lost. They were shortly afterward picked up by a patrol vessel and brought to Dunmore, whence they were sent to their homes through the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Agency, of which Mr. W. E. Jacob is the local agent”[iii] 

Lincolnshire was one of two ships attacked and sunk that same day and by the same U-Boat U57 a sub which was one of those rarities, a sub that survived the war.  The other was the SS Crispin, 2483 tons, carrying freight, passengers and almost 700 horses for the war effort.  Those aboard the Crispin were not as fortunate, out of a complement of crew and passengers of 112, 8 died and of course, all the horses perished too.  SS Lincolnshire was the prize the Italians were seeking however, as she was carrying copper ingots, brass bar/rod/sheet, zinc and other metals, which had a huge value at the time.

In October it was reported that they had “…located the SS Antony, a cargo vessel of Liverpool origin, which was also sunk by a submarine. A large number of automobile spares were found in the holds, while four motor cars, almost intact, were also discovered, as well as a large quantity of bones…”[iv]  I couldn’t locate any details on the Antony up to the time of writing but I;m speculating the bones were of animals, and probably horses. Either way , it wasn’t the exact prize the Italians were after, but does highlight how littered the area is with wrecks.

Finally in November news broke that the “Copper Ship” had been found.  Although from the report it sounds like the discovery was made a few weeks earlier.  “…after many months of patient search, [Lincolnshire has] been at last located by the Italian salvage vessel, Arliglio (Capt. Bruno). The Lincolnshire, which was torpedoed by a German submarine, carried a valuable cargo of copper. The divers of the Artiglio who discovered her, estimate her cargo at eighteen hundred tons of copper and about 1,000 tons of zinc. She was found lying on a bed of mud on the ocean floor about 12 miles south-west of Dunmore Harbour. Already about 50 tons of copper has been salvaged and put aboard the Artiglio’s sister ship Rampino. The crews and divers are awaiting favourable weather to make a further trip to the Lincolnshire. It stated that when the Rampino has her full cargo she will proceed immediately to France. The Lincolnshire was found in thirty fathoms of water, and owing to obscurity, caused by the disturbed mud, the work of salvage was considerably impeded by poor visibility…”[v]

The work of the crew of these ships was incredibly dangerous and it must surely have taken nerves of steel to go down beneath the surface in what could only be described as iron coffins.  From what I have read I can only try describe the activities, and these are largely based on what happened with the salvage of the Egypt, so I may be inaccurate in this. Once a likely wreck was identified, a diver was suited up and hoisted up and over the side, to go down and identify the wreck.  The company used what was called atmospheric diving suits built by German firm Neufeldt and Kuhnke and later modified and enhanced this. They also used what was called a butoscopic turret as an observation chamber. Communcation with the surface was via wireless and once a wreck was identified, salvage could begin.  It would appear that if needed, the divers would set explosives to create a hole to allow access to the ships hold.  They would then direct operations observing the mechanical and magnetic grabs which were lowered from the surface ship.  As the grabs descended, the diver operated like a conductor, issuing instructions to the surface which had to be acted on by the men operating the winches far above. 

Testing of a P-7 Neufeldt and Kuhnk metal diving suit, in France (1926). (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)
For more images of the dive technique and description see here
A sense of the work

As you might well imagine, when these lads came ashore they must have wanted to enjoy themselves, and I’m sure the pubs and hotels must have done well from them.  The Gossip of the Week column in the Standard of June 1936 describes the Italians as frequently in harbour where they have made many friends ashore.  The previous weekend an imposing figure of one of the company’s directors Count Boraiggi was seen in the village.  All was not plain sailing, however.  A large French steamer the SS Sussien 848 tons was in harbour and her crew had given the harbour a “distinctive polyglot tinge”.  The French are loading the salvage and returning to their home country where the material is being smelted down for use in the armaments industry.   A major controversy was averted in the harbour during the week, thanks to the harbour master Major Lloyd when apparently his use of French managed to resolve a major logjam.  At issue was the harbour blocked up when a new steel grab arrived by truck for the Artiglio which was at sea.  Major Lloyd swung into action as it were, got the French steamer to hoist the grab onto her deck and get the truck on her way, although “the language, all French, was searing”![vi]

A postcard of a large coaster at Dunmore. It may be the SS Sussien, but I am not positive. However it is the only steamer I could find reported in the papers at Dunmore between the 1935-37.
Photo via Michael O’Sullivan Waterford History Group Facebook page

 In August the Artiglio was ashore to enjoy the festivities associated with the annual Dunmore East regatta.  A wonderful days weather ensured a great turnout, and it was remarked that a large number of cars were in evidence, parked along the pier.  “The environs of the harbour were gaily bedecked with flags and bunting. The Italian salvage vessel, which has made its base at Dunmore East, was decorated with the ship’s flags, and the Captain and members of the crew were equally decorated with medals and ribbons.”[vii]

The Gods seem to have been looking kindly on the Italians it seems.  For later that August four of the crew had a lucky escape in a traffic accident.   Captain Ernesto Bruno, Cesari Albavera (chief engineer), Bonucelli Catena (diver), and Giovanni Titinini (wireless operator), were proceeding to Waterford in a taxi, driven Mr. Joe (Bunny) Murphy, when the accident occurred. The car had just passed the shop of Messrs. Harney, at the junction of the roads leading to upper and lower Dunmore, when the steering rod broke, leaving the driver without control. Swerving to the right along the upper Dunmore Road, the car dashed against the parapet, the wall gave way with the force of the impact and the car did a somersault before landing back on its wheels on the lower village road.  To the astonishment of onlookers, who presumed they must all be dead, all five walked freely from the wrecked car, although Captain Bruno sustained a broken nose and required some stitches! [viii]   A later report stated that the men were all improving, so perhaps they were not as unscathed as the first report suggests. [Following publication Kathleen O’Driscoll contacted me to state that her family had owned the Strand Hotel at the time. Her American relatives have a letter written by her mother from this time. In it she explained that both she and her two sisters were nursing the Artiglio’s Captain and Engineer who remained in the hotel for several weeks after the crash]

Harneys corner from the account
Where Joe Murphy’s taxi took off I imagine

The work of the salvors was weather dependant and it would appear that they could be called away for other jobs, or return home for leave ( I found one report from April of 1937 stating that two ships were returning to complete the salvage after the winter storms). The work continued on the Lincolnshire until July 1937.  The Waterford Standard of Saturday 10th July describes their departure.  “The Italian salvage vessel, Artiglio, left Dunmore East on Thursday night, having completed the work of salvaging the wreck of the SS Lincolnshire. Crowds gathered on the pier to give the crew a truly Irish send-off. There is no doubt that the Italians made themselves very popular with the villagers, and from an economic point of view, too, their departure will be a loss, for nearly all the traders derived some benefit… There was much hand-shaking and leave taking before the hawsers were cast off and the Artiglio steamed out into the murky night, she sounded her siren in farewell and flashed morse signals to the waving crowd on the shore bidding them good-bye.”[ix]

The crew of the Artiglio, brave and hardworking souls. A David Scott photo originally via https://www.nauticareport.it/dettnews/report/lartiglio_e_loro_dellegypt-6-6328/
I would recommend this link for more information, I think its the best I have read on the subject
Artiglio was at Monaco in 1938

War had created much of the wealth that the SO.RI.MA had salvaged, and it’s ironic to think that the metals salvaged went to creating more weapons for another war to come.   But for the men of the Artiglio the work was their job, a difficult, hazardous and dangerous job for which it seems they were not very well rewarded.  They did however brighten the scene at Dunmore East for the time that they stayed and their work was truly innovative.  My thanks to David Carroll for assistance with this mornings piece and to Donie Brazil who asked the question that got me started.


[i] Aberdeen Press and Journal.  Tuesday 1st May 1934

[ii] Waterford Standard – Saturday 14 September 1935; page 7

[iii] Waterford Standard – Saturday 14 September 1935; page 8

[iv] New Ross Standard – Friday 04 October 1935; page 5

[v] Waterford Standard – Saturday 02 November 1935; page 6

[vi] Waterford Standard – Saturday 20 June 1936, page 3

[vii] Waterford Standard – Saturday 22 August 1936; page 6

[viii] New Ross Standard – Friday 04 September 1936, page 11

[ix] Waterford Standard – Saturday 10 July 1937; page 3

Mail Packet Milepost at Cheekpoint

Anyone walking or driving in Cheekpoint village, or indeed anyone entering the village park via the main gates will pass a very plain and unassuming piece of limestone.  Plain as it is, it is a remarkable piece of Irish maritime history, for it is one of the last remaining milestones which marked the route to southern Irelands official Mail Packet Station that commenced in Cheekpoint in the spring of 1787.

Got the idea for this post as I was helping the local Development Group do a tidy up last night for Tidy Towns 2021 and as the sun set after 9.30pm the lettering really stood out.
The village of Cheekpoint was renamed Bolton after the local Landlord Cornelius Bolton. The main quay was/is 1/4 mile below in the village
A lump of Limestone to many who pass by. I took this at 6.30am this morning.
From Waterford 6 Miles…I think this used to read 6 1/2 Miles

The milestone at Cheekpoint is rather unique, as the lettering is still visible when the sun is low.  The side marking the village shows up better at sunset, the marking for Waterford city best at sunrise. 

At one time a series of milestones marked this route, a story I have told before and if you would like the story of the Mailpacket its in chapter 3 of my book.

The new book cover which includes the blending of two images, the building of Dunmore East pier and the city dredger, Portlairge from an original image by Jonathan Allen.

But if you want the sketchy outline – The Mail Packet opened at Cheekpoint on April 5th 1787 with one vessel making one trip a week.  However the success of the route was underscored by the fact that by August of the same year, five vessels were running and the service was provided six days a week.

The service carried mail, obvious from the name, but also freight and passengers.  As a consequence of the bustling trade the road was improved and realigned and road markings or milestones ran the length of it.  When the Packet station was moved to Passage East in 1813 I’m sure markers must have lined that route too…It moved to Dunmore in 1818 and there is at least one similar marker from that route extant – at the entrance to Fr Brian Powers residence in Killea. 

Anyway, it pays to be curious, as Moslih Eddin Saadi says “A traveller without observation, is a bird without wings”