Fate of the sailing barque Etta

On a wild windy winter night in December 1888, the Belfast Barque Etta, rounded Hook Head in search of shelter, the lifeboat was signaled, but the ship was driven onto the rocks of Creaden Bay before the lifeboat could reach the vessel. Miraculously all but one were rescued from the vessel, thanks, in no small part, to the knowledge and seamanship of the ship’s captain James Arthurs. This is the tale of the Etta, which grounded in a gale on Friday 21st December 1888 sometime between 11 and 12 midnight.

According to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping 1890[i] the Etta was built in Quebec in 1863.  She was registered under the company name of the Etta Ship Company, JS Wright, Belfast and was part owned by her master, Captain James Arthurs.  She arrived in St John NB via Montevideo on November 5th 1888[ii]and after loading timber, sailed for the port of Fleetwood on Nov 29th.[iii]  The ship encountered a succession of gales crossing the Atlantic and as they approached the Irish coast, a decision was made to run for shelter.

David Philip Jones, First mate of the barque Etta, later gave the following first person account of their situation. 

As it transpired, fate played a hand.  It was close to low water and rather than crash into a vertical cliff if the tide was in, the Etta grounded on the somewhat level, if jagged, rocks on the old red sandstone shore. 

Creaden Head and the bay, I can’t with any certainty say where it grounded but I would think somewhere from the ripened field of corn inwards is most likely. Author

The Dunmore East lifeboat had spotted the distress signals and the crew of the Henry Dodd, rowed with all their might to the rescue.  Although they could not get near the wreck in the conditions, they managed to rescue five of the sailors who had set off from the Etta in the ship’s boat, apparently before she struck.  The timing of their leaving or what their crew mates thought is not described. 

Meanwhile, locals ran along the cliffs, fields and roadways to lend what assistance they could.  RIC Sargent Thomas Sutcliff was guided down to the wreck scene by a local labourer named James Redmond.  They managed to get a line aboard the stranded vessel which was grinding and thumping into the jagged shoreline.  Although news reports differ it seems that there were likely 12 remaining crew, Captain James Arthurs and his wife.   

Sutcliff seems to have played a leading role in the proceedings, there is no mention of the Coastguard in the reports, even though they most certainly brought the rocket apparatus and equipment, that would eventually bring the crew and Mrs Arthurs ashore.  Redmond again proved his worth, when he plunged into the surf to assist the captain’s wife who seems to have become overcome in the chair.[v]

Some accounts state that despite the pleas of those ashore, Captain Arthurs refused to leave his vessel, perhaps determining that his ship would survive the merciless pounding on the shore.  Captain Arthurs from Islandmagee, on the east coast of County Antrim, was 2/3rds owner of the vessel and perhaps he gambled that if he stayed with the vessel he would not lose his profits on the trip to any salvage claim.  The news report claimed that the cargo was not insured.  It also stated that he was familiar with Waterford, so perhaps there was an element of calculated risk in where the ship came ashore? Alas, in full view of his rescuers, his crew and his wife, a breaking sea washed him off his feet and over the side never to be seen again.[vi]   

An illustration of the Breeches Buoy in operation sourced from The County Record. [volume 1], October 21, 1897, University of South Carolina

The local police as well as many from the surrounding locality “…rendered valuable assistance in attending to the shipwrecked crew and Mrs Arthurs. They were all subsequently taken charge of by Mr Edward Jacob, local secretary of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society, and forwarded to their homes at the expense of that benevolent institution…”[vii]

The ship, however, survived.  The wind seems to have moderated on the flood tide, and the next morning the Etta was seen hard aground but upright.  Later the local tug Dauntless put a crew aboard which stripped down the masts and rigging and tried to hold the vessel together.[viii]

An effort to sell the wreck fell through, as most bidders felt the ship and cargo were doomed.  Several attempts were made to refloat the vessel, in a desperate scramble to salvage the ship and the cargo before the weather turned again.  Eventually, on Monday 31st December 1888, it was reported locally that the tug Dauntless and the PS Rosa managed to haul the wreck off the shoreline.  I’m presuming that the weather had stayed calm, and with spring tides and some patchwork and bailing, the vessel floated clear. [ix]

The Etta was brought to the relative safety above Creaden Head where she was anchored.  Soon afterwards, the vessel, lying on her beam end, was towed up to Cheekpoint by the Liverpool based tug Pathfinder. [x] It would appear she was grounded at the village, perhaps along the Strand Road.  Some of the cargo was removed and presumably, an assessment of the hull took place.

SS Pembroke February 1899 grounded at Cheekpoint following a similar incident where the vessel was inspected and made ready for towing to Liverpool. AH Poole photo

In early February two tugs were in position at Cheekpoint, but had tried unsuccessfully to get the Etta off the shore.  The owners of the Etta, J S Wright & Co, Corporation St., Belfast had decided that the vessel could be towed back to her home port following some repairs to the hull.[xi]  The floating nature of the cargo may have also played a role – earlier plans to remove the timber cargo and sell it in Waterford had been changed. Perhaps the cargo was employed as an aid to buoyancy?  I am only speculating here of course. 

Eventually, the ship was towed clear and was taken by the steam tug Rescuer out the harbour to bring her home.[xii]  But that wasn’t the final drama because the tug ran into stormy weather in the Irish Sea and later it was reported that the waterlogged Etta was labouring badly in Belfast Lough and the tug was having a difficult time getting to her home port.[xiii]  The Etta was made of strong timbers however, and in March the cargo that had taken so long to reach its destination was finally advertised for sale, although the advert did caution that the timber was a little darker, as the vessel that carried them had been ashore. An understatement for sure, given all that had transpired[xiv].

An image that might give some sense on the towing of the Etta to Liverpool, Steam Tug Rescue, Capt. Robert Lumley Cook, Towing the dismasted Brig. Rapid of Shoreham, into the South Entrance Sunderland Oct. 29th 1880 by artist John Hudson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The only victim of the Etta was her master, Captain James Arthurs.  There were hopes that when the vessel came clear of the rocks at Creaden his corpse might float clear too.  Indeed it was widely reported that his body was retrieved from near the wrecksite that same day.  A follow-up report however confirmed that no body had been retrieved and an appeal was made for people to keep an eye out.  Perhaps as an inducement, it was reported that the “hardy old sailor” had £200 in gold on his person when he was lost over the side.[xv]  I could find no record of his body ever being retrieved, however.

Not the Etta, but the barque Gunvor wrecked on the Cornish coast in 1912 in a very similar circumstance, image sourced from google – Photo: E. A. Bragg, photographer of Illogan.

The only mention I could find of Captain Arthurs in the local papers of Antrim gave the following, scant detail.  “…The members of Islandmagee Masonic Lodge, No. 162, heard with sincere regret of the sad loss at sea of their worthy brother, Captain James Arthurs, who for many years was a faithful and honoured member of their lodge, and at their first meeting since his death desire to express their sympathy with his bereaved widow and sorrowing friends, and pray that the Great Architect of the Universe may comfort and sustain them under their sad bereavement.”[i] 

As is so often the case, the fate of the Etta and her crew gets lost in the mist of time. One aspect of the story however is the role that Captain Arthurs played. He decided to run for shelter, he, it seems, knew Waterford harbour well. Did he also know the lay of the land at Creaden Bay and that he was sailing to the ship’s doom, but that there was a fighting chance of survival? Had he weighed up the odds, and thought there’s a fighting chance given the wind, tide, and the geography of the shoreline in the specific part of the Bay he grounded. It seems to me that he did, but perhaps that is the romantic in me looking for a nice hook to the story. If any reader could add anything to the man’s career which might corroborate or dismiss such a conclusion I would be delighted to have it.

Below is a new initiative to try pinpoint each wreck using google maps which I will update as new blogs are completed and which I hope will cover the entire coast of Waterford in years to come

For a different account and in particular, the award for bravery given to Sargent Sutcliff see David Carroll’s book on the Dunmore East RNLI – Dauntless Courage.

[i] https://archive.org/details/HECROS1890/page/n87/mode/1up   Accessed 22/12/2023

How Two Brave Brownstown Fishermen Changed the Course of Lifesaving in Tramore Bay

To conclude our Mayday Mile coverage on the blog this year David Carroll shares a fascinating insight into the ultimate sacrifice of two fishermen and how it provoked the community to campaign for a lifeboat station. Remember the Mayday mile runs until the end of the month, and there are numerous events happening countrywide to sustain the voluntary efforts of the RNLI. Our own Dunmore East team can still be supported too. Over to David Carroll now.

Tramore Bay lies about eight miles west of the entrance to Waterford Harbour and the famous Hook Head Lighthouse and is embraced by two headlands, Brownstown, 110 feet high, to the east and Great Newtown, 150 feet high, to the west. The Bay is about eight square miles and is divided by a spit of sand three miles long running west to east, hence the name Trá Mhór, Great Strand. The south side of the strand is washed by the open sea whilst the side forms a lagoon connected at the east end to the sea by a narrow deep channel known as Rinneshark Harbour.

On one side of Tramore Bay is Brownstown Head, with two towers and on the other is Great Newtown Head, which has three towers, one of which has on top the famous Metal Man statue. Tramore Bay has, for centuries, held an infamous reputation as a graveyard of ships.1

Tramore Bay.    Courtesy of: http://tramoreshippwrecks.blogspot.com/ The chart by Doyle dating from 1737 uses the spelling ‘Rineshark’ for Rinneshark, an area that has several variations in the spelling, including ‘Rhineshark’ (1858).

From the sea, it was difficult to distinguish Tramore Bay from the entrance to Waterford Harbour, which vessels in distress would normally try to reach for shelter. The towers on Brownstown and Great Newtown Head were placed there in 1822-’23 in order to prevent this confusion. The towers were easily obscured in darkness and bad weather. Once a square-rigged ship got into difficulty in Tramore Bay, it was difficult to get on a tack that would clear one of the headlands. Facing south-south-west, the bay gave insufficient shelter from the prevailing winds to make anchoring effective. Only the Rinneshark channel at the north-east corner of the bay provided potential shelter but this was influenced by severe tides and complicated by many sand bars.

Tramore Bay. To this day, it can still be seen that the bay was once a graveyard for many sailing ships.  Courtesy of Jamie Malone

Mr Edward Jacob (1843 – 1924) of Tramore was Lloyd’s Agent in Waterford and also the local representative for the Shipwrecked Mariners Society.  He was also the Honorary Secretary for many years of Tramore RNLI. These involvements led him to have a particular interest in the hazards of the bay and to take notes and gather newspaper cuttings as well as plotting the location of shipwrecks on charts.  Starting in 1816, Mr Jacob’s records span eighty-four years of which no less than eighty-three shipwrecks occurred with the loss of four hundred and forty lives were lost.  The worst casualty was that of the Sea Horse. 2

Edward Jacob (1843 – 1924).
Courtesy of Jonathan P Wigham

The Sea Horse was a troop ship that sailed from Ramsgate in Kent bound for Cork with soldiers of the 59th Regiment and their families, who were returning from the Napoleonic Wars. In an attempt to reach the safety of Waterford Harbour, the ship found it impossible to round Brownstown Head and regrettably broke apart in Tramore Bay. To this present day, the tragedy of the Sea Horse is synonymous with Tramore and still resonates with the people of Tramore.  Records show that of the 393 people on board, 363 perished and only 30 of the strongest survived. 3

The records of the shipwrecks, starting with the Sea Horse in 1816 up until 1858 were published in the Waterford Mail on February 4th, 1858. This list had been compiled by Mr JW Maher and had been first sent to the Mayor of Waterford in response to the latest wreck in Tramore Bay and also as part of a campaign to have a dedicated lifeboat station at Tramore.  Up until that point, rescue attempts to save the lives of shipwrecked sailors fell to local fishermen and boatmen from HM Coastguard to venture out, usually in very difficult conditions.

The wreck that Mr Maher referred to was the French brig, La Capricieuse, with a cargo of coal, on a voyage from Llanelly to St Malo, with a crew of seven, which got into difficulty in Tramore Bay on January 25th, 1858.

A local newspaper described it thus:


On Monday morning last a wreck, which was unfortunately attended with loss of life, occurred in Tramore Bay.- It appears from all that can be gathered on the subject, that a French vessel, La Capricieuse, laden with coals from Llanelly to St Malo, with a crew of seven men, had been some time previous to the catastrophe, beating outside the bay of Tramore, the sea running mountains high at the time. Shortly afterwards the vessel waterlogged, drove into the bay, and struck on Rhineshark point,remaining there in a most perilous condition. The coast guards put out in their boat to the relief of the vessel, but could not approach her; when a yawl, with four brave fishermen, put out and succeeded in reaching the vessel, the crew of which they took on board; but on her return, a heavy sea struck the yawl and upset it. At this time the coastguard boat, which had lain on its oars, came to the rescue, and taking six men on board brought them safely to the shore. She then returned and found three men holding on by the keel of the upturned boat, whom she took on board; but three who remained behind after the coastguard boat had first went to land, viz., John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty, fishermen and Pierre Dubois, one of the crew, had met a watery grave. Had there been a lifeboat here it is believed that all hands would have been saved. The vessel is now dry at low water. We are glad to learn a subscription list is now in course of signature for the relief of the families of the brave fishermen, who to save the lives of others, sacrificed their own.

The Waterford News of January 29th, 1858

Note:  In the Board of Trade record of Gallantry Medal Awards, there are six fishermen named as being in the yawl and not four as per the newspaper report. The crew members, who survived the capsizing of the yawl were: Michael Downey,  Edward Kelly, John Kelly, and John Dunn. They received Bronze Gallantry Medals in addition to a gratuity of £2 each. Robert Aicheson, Chief Boatman of HM Coastguard was also awarded a Bronze Gallantry Medal.

The loss of the two fishermen, who had gallantly sacrificed their own lives to save others, sent shockwaves through the local community. There was an immediate response. On the following day, January 30th, 1858, the Waterford Mail published the details of a petition sent to John E Feehan, Mayor of Waterford requesting a Public Meeting to make provision for the families of the drowned fishermen and to take steps to procure a lifeboat that would be stationed in Tramore. The notice read as follows:

To the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Waterford

We, the undersigned Residents of Waterford, and its neighbourhood, request you will convene a Public Meeting to take steps towards making some provision for the families of John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty, who were drowned in their attempts to rescue the Crew of the French Brig, La  Capricieuse in Tramore Bay, on Monday, the 25th Inst., ; and also, to take such steps  as may be necessary for procuring a Life Boat, to be stationed at Tramore, to prevent, as far as possible, such casualties in future.

                                                                   Waterford, 27th January 1858.

Waterford Mail. January 30th, 1858

The letter was signed by a large number of prominent citizens and merchants and Lord Mayor Feehan arranged for a public meeting to be held on February 1st in the Town Hall at 12 o’clock. The same newspaper also contained details, posted by Thomas Walsh, Auctioneer,  of the sale of the wreck of the La Capricieuse and her cargo of coal, to be held on February 2nd.

Waterford Mail, February 4th,1858.

In the Waterford Mail, dated February 4th, 1858, a Mr Dillon had a letter published in which he notes that an efficient committee had been formed at the public meeting, which had elected him as treasurer, in his absence. Mr Dillon also noted that he and Mr JW Strangman had already been collecting subscriptions for the aid of the two bereaved families. This amounted to £95 -19- 0 and when added to monies received by the editor of the Waterford Mail and the Mayor, the total amount came to £117-9-6. It is also recorded that the RNLI donated £20 to the fund set up to bring relief to the families of the two bereaved fishermen. Philip Dunphy, a local history enthusiast states that the final amount far exceeded the above figure.

A month later, in the edition of March 4th, the Waterford Mail published copies of correspondence between the Mayor Feehan of Waterford and the French Ambassador and other diplomats in London, seeking compensation for the bereaved families.  The French responses seemed to be rather pedantic. 

The committee set up to collect money to assist the families of the two drowned fishermen were successful in their appeal to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in London for a lifeboat to be stationed at Tramore.  There was an immediate response from the Institution and an inspector arrived shortly afterwards and selected a site for a lifeboat house, which was built and Tramore received its first RNLI lifeboat in January 1859, thirty feet in length,  which was unnamed.  Mr JW Maher, the compiler of the early list of wrecks in Tramore Bay, became the first honorary secretary of the lifeboat and Richard O. Johns became coxswain. Coxswain Johns would be the recipient of three RNLI Silver Medals during his time with the Tramore lifeboats. 4  

Coxswain Richard O. Johns.
Courtesy of Jonathan P Wigham

Over the next eight years, Mr Jacob records the lifeboat being launched on fourteen occasions to give aid to vessels and saving about one hundred and twenty lives. With the advent of steam, the number of shipwrecks began to decrease towards the end of the 19th century.  With the planned arrival of a new motor lifeboat ‘C & S’ (ON 690) to Dunmore East in 1925, the Tramore lifeboat was withdrawn in 1924. Tramore had to wait for forty years until 1964, when an inshore lifeboat station was established and has given outstanding service since that time.

One wonders, if any of the one hundred and twenty or so fortunate mariners that were rescued by the Tramore lifeboats, spare a thought as to how the lifeboat service that rescued them came to be established.   It was the gallantry of the two fishermen, John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty that caught the imagination of the people of Waterford and the surrounding area and galvanised them to successfully petition the RNLI to establish a lifeboat in Tramore Bay.

Dunmore East’s Trent class RNLB Elizabeth and Ronald (ON 1215), rounding Brownstown Head, following an exercise in Tramore Bay during 2014. This is close to the spot where John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty lost their lives in 1858. Photo courtesy of Neville Murphy

I first became aware of the names of John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty in February 2020. Along with Brendan Dunne, a volunteer crewmember from  Dunmore East RNLI, we visited the RNLI Heritage Department at Poole in Dorset to carry out research for the book Dauntless Courage.

David Carroll at the RNLI Memorial in Poole, February 2020. Courtesy of Brendan Dunne

Outside the entrance to the RNLI College, there is a memorial that honours the courage of all those lost at sea while endeavouring to save the lives of others around the United Kingdom and Irish coasts.  The names of John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty are inscribed on this memorial. The memorial unveiled in 2009, serves as a source of inspiration for current and future generations of lifeboat volunteers and supporters. It is a reminder that people who carry out selfless acts of heroism to help others will always be remembered.

Since then, I have endeavoured to find out more about these two brave fishermen. I have been unable to find any information on where John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty were buried, that is if their bodies were recovered. It is more likely that they were never found. No reports of their bodies being washed ashore could be found in an exhaustive search through newspapers by Philip Dunphy.   I am open to correction, but no plaque or memorial appears to exist in Ireland to remember these brave men. With the two hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the RNLI taking place in 2024, maybe it would be a fitting time for favourable consideration to be given to adding their names to those on the memorial in Dunmore East Harbour that commemorates all those lost at sea?  It is appreciated that such a request would be subject to certain protocols and procedures before it could be considered.

Lost at Sea Memorial, Dunmore East Harbour. Courtesy of Neville Murphy

Certain comfort can be taken that these two men are remembered at  RNLI Headquarters in Poole. Above the list of names on the Poole memorial to those who sacrificed their own lives to save others, the simple motto of Sir William Hillary is inscribed.  Sir William founded the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck in 1824. The name changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1854.  The words say:




Records of Vessels Wrecked in Tramore Bay, 1816- ‘99’ by Maurice J Wigham,        Decies No 12., September 1979. http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ejournals/100733/1007333.pdf


Waterford News, January 29th, 1858

Waterford Mail, January 30th, February 4th, and March 4th, 1858.

‘Lifeboat Gallantry’ by Barry Cox (Spink  &Son Ltd and RNLI 1988).


  1.  Dauntless Courage , page 16.
  • Information extrapolated from ‘Records of Vessels Wrecked in Tramore Bay, 1816- ’99.’
  • For more information on the wreck of the Sea Horse, please see Decies No. 71, 2015 –‘The Sea Horse 1782-1816’  by Ivan Fitzgerald.  

               4.  ‘Lifeboat Gallantry’, pages 129,145, and 148.


Thank you to Jonathan Wigham, Jamie Malone, Neville Murphy, and Brendan Dunne for their courtesy in allowing their photographs to be used.

Thanks also to Philip Dunphy of Carballymore for his local insight and assistance and also to Ivan Fitzgerald, formerly of Tramore, for information and documentation to enable me to compile the article.  Ivan has carried out extensive research on the Sea Horse tragedy, and has determined the accurate numbers of soldiers, family members, officers, and crew on board the vessel.

Historical Footnotes:

Tragedy was to strike the Fitzgerald family again, almost ninety years later. On May 1st, 1947, John Fitzgerald, aged 29 years, who had served in the Coast Watching Service at LOP 17, Brownstown Head, during World War ΙΙ, was drowned along with his father, Michael, while lobster fishing.  These men were descendants of John Fitzgerald, lost in 1858.  Please see ‘Dauntless Courage’, page 143.

Readers may find the following ‘blog’ of interest?   Phillip Dunphy can confirm that the ‘John Dunne’ referred to in the article to be the same ‘’John Dunn’ who was part of the crew of the yawl that went to the rescue of the La Capricieuse in 1858.


Medal awarded to John Dunn – From Philip Dunphy’s Collection.

Carrick to Cheekpoint by traditional punt -Mayday Mile 2023

To support our local lifeboat station at Dunmore East my brother Robert and I rowed the river Suir this year – an estimated 25 miles. If you would like to support our efforts here’s the link to make a financial contribution. All donations go to the RNLI. When I wrote the first day’s account and published the blog update, we stood at €490. But before we set off on Sunday the donations were flowing in and as this update goes to print we have just over €800 online. We have postal and hand-delivered envelopes still arriving to add to our bucket collection, and Brian Power in the Cheekpoint Stores asked us to leave the sponsorship card in the shop until later this week, so we will update here once we have the full figure. – Update as of 17/5/2023 Just updated the online with bucket collection which incl postal donations and sales of strawberry plants by Robert. This came to €336. Update 18/5/2023. We just updated the site with the generous sponsorship from Powers Shop Cheekpoint – the figure raised there was €320. Thank you one and all. The figure now stands at €1,476. Update of June 2nd 2023. We reached the grand total of €1,571. While team Dunmore made the combined total €5,124. What a great achievement by the whole team. Many thanks to all who sponsored the events…Here’s to next year.

It’s terrible to be getting old. For the past two years, we completed the Mayday Mile by walking from Cheekpoint to Dunmore by cliff and shore. But as we both now have problems with arthritis, this year we thought a boat trip might be easier – on our joints I mean.

Now rowing a boat provides a two-fold challenge. As a person, It takes a certain amount of skill, knowledge, and resilience. But more importantly, you are also at the mercy of the river and the weather. The notion of this appeals to me. People talk about respecting the water – which to some simply means wearing a life jacket. But the river is a living entity, it breathes life, it changes in an instant and its tides and currents ebb and flow on their agenda – an agenda set down by natural rhythms, cosmic forces, and weather. There are also rocks, mud banks, sand bars, and man-made impediments. With motor power you can bend the river to your will…when you row, you must show it the utmost respect and attention in order to reach your destination. So we are channeling the spirits of all the past generations of river folk, fishermen, and lightermen who worked these waters and had a deep connection with it.

What follows is a photo diary of the journey. Day one was a glorious sunny day, very warm, but we battled a strong breeze that was against us until we got to Mount Congreve. Day two was cooler, with a northerly breeze, that helped us no end.

Carrick from the Old Bridge looking downriver, this was taken on Friday after we took the punt up by road. We launched from Carrick Beg and I enjoyed a row around especially admiring the “May Blobs” as one of my favourite authors and Carrick Beg native describes them in his book Full Tide – the great Michael Coady
L-R Conor, Brian, Robert and Maurice. Maurice has been a great help to me for several years now, always great advice, a source of photos and connections. he even contributed a guest blog on William O’Callaghan, the last barge operator at Carrick
Maurice insisted I get my head in…I try to avoid that as much as possible for obvious reasons 🙂
Setting out with a cheer from our brother Chris, his wife Sabrina and children Carragh and Cathal
Ormond Castle from the River…something I’d always wanted to see since reading a guest blog of the castle including a water gate by the wonderful Carrick legend Patsy Travers Mullins.
Another long time goal…to use the navigation cut that I have written about several times. One most recent blog which quoted the evidence of J Ernest Grubb to a Royal Commission stated that the Suir Steam Navigation Co (SSNCo) was established as an incorporated company in 1836 by an act of parliament. This company was charged with “improving and maintaining the navigation of the River Suir…” and for the construction of a “ship canal” at Carrick On Suir.  It was funded from a levy of 1d per ton on seagoing craft above Grannagh.  This canal was made by cutting a channel through limestone rock on the south side of the river just below Carrick On Suir allowing “ocean-going craft drawing 10 or 11 feet of water” to reach the town 
Conor Power photo
Two great guides are Conor and Brian…each was a fountain of knowledge on many aspects of the river. I think this was Riordan’s Gap (on the left) where a police officer waited to pounce on cot men who were pooching
Another goal – Roches Quay or Tinhalla. Apparently, the croppies and other prisoners were shipped out from here for transportation to Van Diemens land. Billy explained how before the canal cut, the lighters could only reach this quay, the cargo then being carried by road to Carrick. Conor is after pulling a few favours and we hope to visit by land soon. Although not in the photo, there was a very interesting house on the property which I later found to date from circa 1700
Had a big chat with the lads about the 15th century Tower House called Tybroughney Castle, a lot of history here to be explored by me at some future date. Apparently, it’s an air B&B…how bad. Coal Quay was another point of interest that I must return to, located in the foreground
According to the lads there’s a lime kiln here in the undergrowth – but no obvious landing area for a lighter to unload…these local guides are worth their weight in gold
The wind is freshening now as we head further down, ebb tide starting to run. Photo courtesy of Brian White
Slievenamon fades into the distance as we continue down the Suir. The Mountain of women…according to Wikipedia “The origin of the mountain’s name is explained in Irish mythology…, the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill was sought after by many young women. Fionn stood atop the mountain and declared that whichever woman won a footrace to the top would be his wife. Since Fionn and Gráinne were in love, he had shown her a short-cut and she duly won the race.[1][4] The mountain was also known by the longer name Sliabh na mBan bhFionn, “mountain of the fair women”.” Its getting time for our guides to leave. Their company will be missed, but its time to bend our backs to the task.
Morris Oil terminal and the third bridge we have passed today, Fiddown.
Rocketts Castle on the Waterford shore. Its been a tough row with the wind against us. Not much time for the camera since Fiddown. It took us almost an hour since passing Fiddown to reach this spot.
Passing down Polerone Quay where we had a great cheer from the shore from Catherine and another page follower Paul Cuddihy. Certainly helped our spirits and was much appreciated.
Finally a bit of shelter close to Kilmeaden Castle on the Greenway. We finally got a break here for a bit of grub and a cuppa tea. Mount Congreve is in sight now. And the dreaded Long Wretch – just have to keep focused on Grannagh. Didn’t get a photo at Congreve as the currents were erratic – I had been warned about this but it still came as a surprise. Got a lovely cheer from the shore from Carol O’Shaughnessy amongst others and even our brother-in-law Maurice dropped down for a chat…all helps with the motivation.
The old jetty at the now closed Paper Mills…our father worked there for several years, and I remember him bringing home comics that he had lifted from a shipload of magazines that were unloaded from a chip here for recycling.
Spotted this as we passed…as I explained to a very underwhelmed brother this looks like the remains of a small quay. Sure enough, I found it later on the OSI…although there was no road marked for it so more digging as to its purpose is required on my part
The Historic maps are a national treasure. The G here is for Gracedieu…Looking forward to trying to see if I can get anything further on this feature
Grannagh Castle…a welcome sight at this hour of the evening
T F Meagher bridge
Blackwater River or Pill…I’m working on a blog about this important location…well when I say working on thinking about it and plan a trip up it this summer
The Red Iron – or the Suir Railway Bridge…we are sore all over at this point, but I am enjoying the scenery now, even if there is a distinct whiff of urban industrial decay….and some clowns are burning a tyre ashore! Robert actually asked me about the bridge – and I tried not to go off on one, but I probably told him more than was necessary.
Industrial heritage building! Gouldings fertiliser plant
Finally..our last bridge of the day, Rice Bridge Waterford and almost home for the evening. 18.46pm a heck of a long day
Our last stop of the evening, a welcome beverage and an even more welcome last 15 minutes of the Leinster V Munster match…what a result Munster!!! Looking forward to a shower and bed now. Next phase tomorrow

Day two – a cooler day with northerly winds. We said we would wait until 3pm to depart as it gave the rain a chance to clear and the ebb tide to start flowing. We had a lovely send off from the city pontoons, with family and friends. Although our minds are willing our bodies are aching – so the encouragement is all the more welcome. A darker day, so although I had more time for photos, I didn’t get as many.

And away we go, with shouts of encouragement from Catherine, Geoff, Carmel and others from the Plaza. Photo courtesy of our cousin Jim Doherty
A good ebb tide flowing, but cold in the wind. Photo Jim Doherty
The entrance to Johns Pill or Johns River, I’ve been working on a blog for some time now – but it turned into a chapter of a book after I walked along it with Cian Manning, and now I probably have enough for a new book. I’m also thinking of doing a walking tour of it over the summer – although I don’t know that there would be that much interest in it. I’m well aware that my interests attract a niche audience.
Heading out of the city now, and on the Kilkenny side, this navigation light is an area known on an old chart as Smeltinghouse Point. I’ve promised myself to find out more about this placename
The Cove – a popular pooching spot for Cheekpoint drift netters back in the day
Now coming down the Ford channel between Little Island and Co Kilkenny- as I explained to Robert, dynamited and excavated on at least 3 occasions to ease access to the old Port of Waterford. I’ve a blog drafted, but never got round to completing it. You can see the ebb tide running a fair knots strong on the port navigation bouy. On the Kilkenny shore we would have Prospect House on the left and Springfield House on the right.
Fitzgeralds Castle on the Island.
The end of the Ford channel (it is marked as Queens Channel on some charts, but we never called it that, so I won’t be changing any time soon) O Brien Cement works mark the upper end of the new port, the area here was and is known as Belview after the house of the same name. It translates as the Beautiful View. It certainly was in the old days no doubt, but progress has turned it into an industrial site now, albeit with great views
The ruins of Bellevue House. It features in my walks around Faithlegg, because of the Power family connection
Looking across the Ford now to the Guide Bank Navigation light, the Ballycanvan estate in the background, the old house now in ruins. The area is close to Jack Meades, the occupied Woodlands House is in the trees.
Belview, Port of Waterford, and the Arklow Coast is coming alongside. We have to hold on here, as we don’t want to interfere with shipping. After about five minutes we realise it is not coming up any further and we can resume our row. Never, ever, get in the way of shipping. Drilled into us as children, but I saw a chap in a pleasure boat block the channel below Cheekpoint last year as he came upriver – seemingly totally unaware that a container ship was behind him – despite the loud blasts of the ship’s horn
You might just make us out on this photo just off O’Briens. Our journey has taken us from Waterford today down the Kilkenny side of the Island and we are only two miles from home at this point. Thanks to Alison Flannery for the photo.
Tied up now, and I think that is Seamus Healy supervising from the wharf. He’s retiring today (Sunday 14th May) from the Port. He has taken some great videos in recent years of the Port activities
Glasshouse, Co Kilkenny and the lower end of the port, for now. Plans are afoot to expand down. There was an old quay here, the remains of some fine steps are still on the shoreline, beyond is the ruins of Glasshouse Mill or Kennedy’s Mill and behind that is the belching chimney of Smartply
Close to home now, the Minaun and Deerpark sweeping down to the river, the Faithlegg Marsh at its feet.
Wilson Avonmouth inbound, again we had to stay close to shore to stay out of its way.
Another feature to be avoided in the lower Suir, an old ebb weir, now just a sad collection of rotting timber poles, but once a vibrant fishing “fixed engine”. I think we called this the Mill Weir, as it is located just off the old mill race. Just below it lies Snow Hill Weir, also derelict, but a few poles still stand
Home sweet home – the meeting of the three sister rivers, the Suir we have seen, the Barrow and Nore flow under the Barrow Railway Bridge. Maybe we might explore those next year if we are alive. Photo – Alison Flannery
Thank God for that…Arrived safely at the new Cheekpoint Pontoon.
Photos courtesy of Carol McGeary
The shore team 🙂 L-R Deena, me, Mam (who had just put away the rosary beads), him, Ciara his better half and Kate our sister who had a homecoming planned but we got there too early. The closest we came to a wetting over the weekend was when she doused us in holy water before we headed to Carrick.
Thanks to Carmel Jacob for the photo above and below
with Mam, cousin Michael Murphy, and my godmother Elsie Murphy. We asked the two ladies if they wanted a row out “we did enough of that in our youth” they replied

I’m indebted to my brother Robert for helping me with this…I can’t think of anyone else who would be up to the task or have the patience to listen to me. Thanks to Conor Power of Carrick for the assistance and support, and in particular his knowledge of the snap net fishery. Brian White for the wonderful discussion about placenames, history, and nature. To Maurice Power who helped me arrange the Carrick layover and was so generous with his advice on the trip and our itinerary. My thanks to Brian and Daniel Power who allowed us to put a sponsorship card in the local shop, and Bridgid who went out of her way too to promote it. To Carol McGeary who helped with the online donation page and so much more to help to promote the fundraiser. Thanks to Johhny Codd at Waterford for looking after us on the layover. To David Carroll who provided two guest blogs to promote the row, and the Mayday Mile. To Pat Moran, with who we would not have made it at all. He helped to get the punt out of the water and towed it to Carrick for the trip. Finally to everyone who sponsored the trip, which although a personal challenge, it was really about raising money for the RNLI. We owe the lifeboats a great deal, this is our small contribution to such a worthy cause. Much obliged to you all.

Pat bringing us up to Cheekpoint.

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.

Falskirt Rock

My first introduction to Falskirt Rock was in the Spring of 1984 fishing on the decked motor boat Reaper with Jim Dips Doherty and his neighbour Denis Doherty.  Denis pointed it out to me as we steamed away west from Dunmore East towards Tramore Bay with a deck filled with ground nets on a frosty but clear March morning.  The seas were breaking around it and the jagged top was exposed as the seas surged. 

The sight of the rock alarmed me I had to admit.  Not just because I was aware of how dangerous it could be to a boat that had lost power and might drift atop of it.  No there was another reason – and for me a scarier reason.  You see during that previous winter when I first fished out of Dunmore for herring, several nights we had set our nets close by, and I was ignorant of the rock and the inherent dangers it posed.  The fact that Jim and Denis knew, and I trusted them completely, was beside the point.  It reminded me of how little I knew of the deep waters off the coast and how literally out of my depth I was in these unfamiliar waters.

Fileskirt from 1787 chart entitled, “An actual survey of the harbour and river of Waterford, and of the bay of Tramore,”

As if to underline these fears Denis told me about a fishing boat that was washed close to the rocks while fishing at night in a raging storm and blizzard of snow in December 1950. The crew alerted fellow fishermen by flares of their difficulty and the local lifeboat Annie Blanche Smith raced to their rescue. But by the time the lifeboatmen arrived the boat (Naomh Déaglán) was almost atop the rock and the fishing nets were starting to bunch around her almost like a shield or protective boom. Somehow the lads on the lifeboat managed to negotiate their way in despite the obvious risks to themselves if the prop of the lifeboat was fouled, got a line to the fishing boat, and managed to tow the five-man crew to safety. I had goosebumps listening to Denis that day (although I was sure he was putting legs on the story). However, David Carroll shared it with us before, and if anything the story was more incredible.

Falskirt Rock from the air, photo courtesy of Neville Murphy
Falskirt Rock as seen from the shore a few weeks back


Falskirt is a rock that is barely visible at high water but partially strips when the tide recedes. It is about 400 meters off the coast, close to Swine Head (sometimes referred to previously as Swiny Head/Point). It lies off the coast between Portally and Rathmoylan. The Waterford Harbour Commissioners Bye-Laws of 1960 define the outer limits of their influence as a straight line drawn between Hook Head and Swiny Point. The International Shipping & Shipbuilding Directory of 1940 defines the outer limits of the pilotage of the area as being determined within an imaginary arc with a radius of 4 miles drawn seaward from a midway point between Hook Head and Falskirt Rock.

Origins of the name

Although I am using the spelling Falskirt I’m aware of at least two other spellings. Fileskirt from the Robert Sayer chart dated 1787 called “An actual survey of the harbour and river of Waterford, and of the bay of Tramore,” Another spelling I have read is Foilskirt. The meaning or origin is not included in Canon Powers Placenames of the Decies alas, although I did find one article from 1871 claiming it to mean “The Cliff of the Sea Rock’ – which seems to suggest a part of the actual coastline rather than the rock itself. Ray McGrath, writing in the quarterly newsletter of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society in 2017 draws on the knowledge of the late fisherman and lifeboat legend Stephen Whittle and speculates that although the name is obscure, the first part may refer to ‘cliff’ and the second syllable ‘scairt’ possibly meaning separation.

After publication, Seán Ó Briain commented (see full comment below) that it is also mentioned in The History, Topography, and Antiquities of the County and City of Waterford and named Fileskirt.“..at the projecting headland called Fileskirt or Swinehead, there are sunken rocks nearly covered by the sea at high water..” Seáns conclusion is that Fileskirt could have been the name of the headland, from which the rock got its name.

Sailing Directions

I will return to the placename Swede Patch in the future
An excerpt from the Sailing Directions for the Coast of Ireland, Part 1. 1861. Richard Hoskyn RN. which details to the mariner the means by which the rock can be avoided.

Incidents associated with it

Although the five-man crew of the Naomh Deaglán had a narrow escape in 1950 at least three shipwrecks have been recorded that I am aware of on the spot. In 1804 an unidentified brig was sunk after striking the rock but all the crew was saved. In 1867 a vessel called Willie was wrecked on the rock – no details of the crew were recorded. (Pete Goulding later sent a newspaper clipping stating the crew was saved. The Willie had departed Waterford on a Tuesday afternoon and grounded and later broke up about midnight. Carrying oats, a large part of this floated off and into Tramore Bay.) Meanwhile, in June 1884 the crew of 6 off the trawler Welcome Home was rescued after striking the rock. (1) Of course many shipwrecks down through the ages were simply referred to as lost off the Waterford Coast – it’s possible if not probably many others were claimed by the Falskirt. David Carroll in Dauntless Courage of course recorded the relatively recent tragedy associated with fishing, when a small punt driftetting for salmon was washed up onto the rocks with two brothers aboard. Sadly one was lost, but the other was saved thanks to the efforts of the local lifeboat RNLB St Patrick (See Dauntless Courage pp184-5). As recently as June 2021 the Dunmore East lifeboat Elizabeth and Ronald went to the rescue of 4 people in a 4-meter fishing boat that lost its propeller and drifted close to Falskirt.

Warning method

You might think that such a danger to navigation would be worthy of a marking system or a light. Well in November 1859 a Commission for Improving the Port and Harbour of Waterford proposed that a beacon, tower, or pillar be erected as a warning to navigators on what was spelled Foilskirt. They also appealed for a lighthouse to replace the perch at Passage Spit. The details were submitted and published in the Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Condition of Lights, Buoys and Beacons of the British Isles in 1861. We got the lighthouse – The Spider Light, but the Falskirt remained as nature left it – and as it still is today.

A sense of the menace that Falskirt presents – Waterford Harbour Sub-Aqua Club

Mayday Mile

This concludes a series of Lifeboat related posts to acknowledge the RNLI fundraising efforts associated with the Mayday Mile. Members of the Dunmore East Team would still benefit from any donations, please consider them, the website remains open for the first week of June. I’m indebted to David Carroll for his assistance with the content this month.

(1) Sourced from Shipwrecks off the Waterford Coast by Tony Caulfield