Ardmore’s Fr O’Shea to the Rescue

A guest blog by David Carroll

In 2024, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution will be celebrating two hundred years of saving lives of sea.  The Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded in London on March 4th, 1824 by Sir William Hillary. On October 5th, 1854, the name was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the RNLI – as it is still known today and still adhering rigidly to the same noble principles since 1824.

In 1924, there were eight men alive who had received Gold Medals in the first century of the Institution for gallantry and conspicuous service in saving life from shipwreck. Of the eight, five of them were English, two Irish and one Welsh. The eight were invited to attend the Centenary Dinner and other celebrations in London, as the guests of the Institution. Seven of the eight were able to attend. The one person unable to attend, due to ill health, was Reverend Father John O’Shea, who was at time was a curate serving in the parish of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. Father O’Shea was from Lismore, County Waterford. He was educated at Mount Melleray Abbey, on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains, near Cappoquin. His census returns in 1911 showed that he had been born in Australia.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17th, 1911, the wind freshened from the South East and soon it was blowing a full gale. Teaser, a schooner, registered in Montrose, Scotland of 79 tons register, owned by a Mr. John Hewitt of Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, North Wales, left Swansea on Tuesday, March 14th, 1911. She was bound for Killorglin in Dingle Bay with a cargo of coal and called in at Milford Haven which she left on Thursday, 16th, March. The Teaser had been built at Perth in Scotland in 1864.  She carried a crew of three: Master Thomas Hughes, from Connah’s Quay, a mate called Fox and an ordinary seaman Walsh.

Photo of Fr O’Shea courtesy of https://www.ardmorewaterford.com/heroes-of-the-teaser/

On Saturday morning, March 18th, Teaser got into difficulties and was unable to shorten sail and was soon driven ashore on the Black Rocks at Curragh (to the east of the village of Ardmore, Co Waterford).

The Gold Medal of the RNLI, which is a much-coveted distinction, only bestowed for deeds of exceptional valour, was awarded to the Reverend Father John M O’Shea, curate at Ardmore, who, with others, made a noble attempt to save the crew of the ill-fated Teaser. Attempts were promptly made to summon the nearest lifeboat, stationed at Helvick but owing to the storm the telephonic communication failed, and by the time the boat reached the scene all that was possible had been done by a gallant band of men at Ardmore.

As soon as the local Coastguard observed the vessel, the rocket apparatus was dispatched to the nearest spot. The coastguards, with skill, succeeded in throwing rocket lines over the wrecked vessel. The crew were, however, so exhausted by exposure and so numbed with cold that they could not make use of the lines.

Seeing that the unfortunate men were unable to help themselves, Petty Officer Richard Barry, and Alexander Neal, of the Coastguard, regardless of the danger which they ran, plunged into the icy sea, and attempted to swim to the vessel, but the heavy seas were too much for them, and they were beaten back to the shore.

The Teaser on her beam end after the tragedy. Photo courtesy of Andy Kelly.

It was then that Father O’Shea, seeing that their efforts were unavailing, remembered that there was a fisherman’s open boat nearly a mile away. He gathered a willing band of volunteers, who with him went for the boat, and by dint of great exertions, they got it to the scene of the wreck.  

Father O’Shea put on a lifebelt and called to the crowd for a crew. The men of Ardmore answered the call without hesitation, knowing that to get into an open boat in such appalling weather would have daunted the bravest man.  But these gallant men had answered many a call and this was to be no exception. Coastguards Barry and Neal, Constable Daniel Lawton of the Royal Irish Constabulary, William Harris, keeper of the Ardmore Hotel, Patrick Power, a farmer, John O’Brien, a boatman and Cornelius O’Brien, another local farmer, formed a crew.

With the crew of seven men and Father O’Shea in command, the little boat put to sea. These brave men were at very great risk – the risk on one hand of the heavy sea running and the rocks, and on the other of being dashed against the ship – but they succeeded in boarding the Teaser. Two of the crew were, however, beyond all aid, and the other man succumbed soon afterwards despite everything possible being done for him, both on board the wreck and later ashore. Father O’Shea administered the last rites to them. Whilst the men were on board the vessel, Coastguard Neal collapsed from exhaustion, and artificial respiration had to be used to restore him.

Unfortunately, the gallant and heroic efforts of the men of Ardmore failed as the crew of the Teaser died before they could get them ashore. Doctor Foley and many willing hands onshore did all that was humanly possible for the crew but without avail.

The Lifeboat, journal of the RNLI, Volume XX1, No. 241, August 1st, 1911 reported as follows:

“The efforts made on this occasion were characterised by exceptional courage, and the Committee of the Institution were satisfied that the gallant and continued attempts at rescue were due to the noble example and initiative displayed by Father O’Shea. They therefore decided to award him the Gold Medal of the Institution and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. They also granted the following awards— To Richard Barry, Petty Officer Coastguard, and to Alexander Neal, Leading Boatman Coastguard, who attempted to swim off to the vessel, and afterwards boarded her at great risk, the Silver Medal and £5 each and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. To Mr. William Harris, who boarded the vessel at great risk, a binocular glass, and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. To Constable Law, R.I.C. who also boarded the wreck at great risk, £5 and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. To Pat Power, Con O’Brien, and John O’Brien, who went out in the boat but did not board the wreck, £7- 10s. each.

When the decision of the Committee of Management was made known, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Aberdeen, very kindly consented to present the various rewards.

Arrangements were made for the men to travel to Dublin, and at Ballsbridge, where an exhibition was in progress, his Excellency, accompanied by Lady Aberdeen, made the presentation in the presence of many hundreds of people. His Excellency, who was cordially received, said they had met there that day to render honour where honour was most assuredly due. To celebrate a deed of valour and heroism was something worthy, and beneficial not only to those to whom homage was offered, but also to those who took part in such proceedings. The story of the event which had brought them there had already been narrated, but they could not too often be reminded of the splendid achievement and the noble efforts which they were there to commemorate and to acclaim. That deed furnished a noble example. But they must remember that such deeds meant more than courage and determination now. They meant that there was the quality and the attitude of the brain, and the good principles of life which were tested in time of emergency. These men were not found wanting but covered themselves with glory and distinction. Those brave rescuers had already been honoured by the King, but they who were assembled there that day were behind none in the heartiness with which they saluted them and asked them to accept the tokens offered by the RNLI as a lasting memento of the feelings of appreciation and grateful thanks for the example and the encouragement given to all those present, who would be stimulated by the admirable conduct of these men. (Applause.)

His Excellency then presented the awards, and her Excellency pinned the medals on the breasts of the recipients. The Rev. Father O’Shea, having expressed deep gratitude on behalf of himself and his companions, paid a high tribute to the men who had assisted him. Lieutenant W. G. Rigg, R.N., as representative of the Institution, cordially thanked Lord and Lady Aberdeen for their kindness, and the ceremony terminated.”

The medal presentation ceremony took place on Monday, May 29th, 1911 at the ‘Uí Breasail’ Exhibition, which was held in Ballsbridge, Dublin from May 24th to June 7th. It was attended during that time by 170,000 people. The Exhibition, with a sub-title of “The Great Health, Industrial and Agricultural Show’ was strongly supported by Lady Aberdeen. The title ‘Uí Breasail’ was taken from a poem by Gerald Griffin of the same name, meaning the ‘Isle of the Blest’. The poem speaks of a wonderful mythical island seen by St Brendan on one of his voyages.

Earlier on May 2nd, 1911, Father O’Shea and the party of Ardmore men were decorated by King George V at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace when he presented them with the Silver Medal for gallantry awarded by the Board of Trade.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Trust awarded its highest award – a Gold Watch to Father O’Shea.

On December 12th,1912, less than two years later, the steel barque Maréchal de Noailles of Nantes in France, departed from Glasgow for New Caledonia, a French Penal Island in the South Pacific, with a cargo of coal, coke, limestone, and railway materials.  It was an eventful start to the voyage, with delays and bad weather, and on January 15th, 1913, the vessel was close to Ballycotton, Co Cork, when the wind strengthened. The Master, Captain Huet, fired distress signals; eventually the ship was blown ashore three hundred yards west of Mine Head in County Waterford, not far from Ardmore.  Father O’Shea was very much to the fore in the safe rescue of the entire crew by means of Breeches Buoy from the shore. The following month, a letter of appreciation, written by Captain Huet from Morlaix in France was received in Ardmore by Father O’Shea.

At the ceremony held at Buckingham Palace on June 30th, 1924, King George V awarded the honour of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.)  on each of the seven men present and the absent Father O’Shea.

The King expressed his great regret that Father O’Shea was prevented by illness from being present and handed his medal to Sir Godfrey Baring, a member of the management committee of the RNLI for thirty-three years.

The citation said:

” For his example and initiative in leading very gallant attempts, by means of a small boat, to save the lives of the crew of the schooner Teaser, which was lost, with her crew of three in Ardmore Bay on the 18th, March 1911, during a whole S.E. gale with a very heavy sea.”

From Carrick-on-Suir, Father O’Shea was appointed Parish Priest of Ballyporeen, County Tipperary.  The George Cross was instituted by King George VI on September 24th, 1940 and on October 31st, 1941, Father O’Shea was requested to surrender his Empire Gallantry Medal and attend a function at Buckingham Palace on November 25th, 1941 to receive the George Cross in its place. Due to failing health, Father O’Shea could not attend.

Father O’Shea passed away on September 11th, 1942 in Clogheen, Co Tipperary, aged seventy-one.  In accordance with his will, he was laid to rest at the back of the Cross of Calvary in Ballyporeen Churchyard.  His George Cross, RNLI Gold Medal and Board of Trade Medals were left to the Cistercian Monks at Mount Melleray Abbey in County Waterford.

References:

Wilson, John      THE WRECK OF THE TEASER– A GOLD MEDAL RESCUE.                         The Life Saving Awards Research Society, Journal No. 30, June 1997.

Walsh, Donal    AN ACCOUNT OF THE LOSS OF THE ‘TEASER’ IN 1911 and THE ‘MARÉCHAL DE NOAILLES’ IN 1912 OFF THE WATERFORD COAST.                                                Decies XX1, Old Waterford Society, September 1982.

‘Introducing How a Group of Ardmore Men Became Guaranteed Heroes Overnight.’ – Ardmore Grange Heritage Group              https://www.ardmorewaterford.com/heroes-of-the-teaser/

http://www.vconline.org.uk/john-m-oshea-egm/4589402913

The Lifeboat – Journal of RNLI, Volume XX1, No 241 August 1911

The Lifeboat – Journal of RNLI, Volume XXV, No 282 November 1924

1911 Census    http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/

https://collections.mun.ca/digital/collection/mha_mercant/search

Details of the Teaser may be found in this archive. The owner is listed as John Hewitt and not Ferguson as recorded in other accounts of the shipwreck.

My thanks to David for this fascinating account of Fr O’Shea and indeed the people of Ardmore in the efforts to assist on both occasions. For a fantastic photo collection of the event take a look at the Ardmore Grange post:

Pilot Boats of Waterford Port

A recent announcement that the Port of Waterford had commissioned a new pilot boat to be called the Portlairge II prompted a flurry of communication to me asking for details and some of the history of the pilots.  So this months blog is a journey from 1816 to the present looking at some of the piloting in the harbour and in particular those vessels that held the title of pilot boat

Waterford Harbour Commissioners were established in 1816, which included pilotage as a central function.  Captain Thomas Hunt was appointed Pilot Master by Trinity House and Benjamin Conn was appointed his deputy.  On the 1 November 1816 Conn brought 19 men who had been appointed as the first pilots to the offices in town to receive their instructions.  Not long after another 11 men were appointed.[i] 

One of the earliest images I have of a pilot boat operating at Dunmore East, this is the Seagull. The longest serving craft on the station that i am aware of. Image courtesy of Richard Woodley.

My understanding of the pilots function really only comes from a modern perspective and so I won’t pretend to know for sure.  But the pilots were charged with replacing the Hobblers who had operated in the harbour, possibly for several centuries.[ii]  Ships entering port would signal by flag in daylight or by lantern at night.  Dunmore was the outer pilot station with Passage as an inner station.  A third boat is mentioned in the early years, but I don’t know if this was in the city, Cheekpoint or a relief boat.  In the early years many ships only required pilotage to Passage where they anchored and were emptied by lighters.  Others proceeded up to the city, or to Cheekpoint where a New Ross pilot took charge.  Pilots were obviously required for the outward journeys too.

The first mention I could find of a pilot boat was 1824 when the Scott answered a distress signal  from the steam packet Ivanhoe.  The pilot boat was joined by the revenue cruiser Hound, both of which were based at Dunmore where, it would seem, the Ivanhoe was bound with mails.[iii] Elsewhere in 1824 I found mention of a pilot boat called Caroline. There was also a sad account of a young Passage lad named Hearne who was lost off another pilot boat Sarah.[iv]

A modern scene in rough weather gives a sense of the difficulties faced by pilots and pilot masters in day of sail, as well as days of power driven vessels. An Arklow boat coming in the harbour with Loftus Hall in the background on the Hook Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Brendan Grogan

In 1826 both the Scott and the Caroline are mentioned in the one report. They have spoken with Roger Stewart and brig Wellington, Eliza and Ann and the brig Agenoria and have reported back on the port of departure, port of destination, master, cargo and the number of days at sea.[v] Although such a procedure might seem silly to us now, in those days of sail with little by way of communication, such details were vital elements of passing along intelligence to sailors families, the ship owners and the merchants with an interest in the cargo. Such intelligence was passed along to ships agents, nautical publications such as Lloyds List etc.

Normal day at the office! Photo courtesy of Brendan Grogan

According to the accounts of the commissioners in 1830 the income from pilotage amounted to Inbound – £1, 775 13 10 and Outbound – 1,577 3 10.  Various costs are mentioned in terms of pilotage incl timber, cordage and sails etc for several pilot boats, cost of two six oared yawls for the pilot establishment £53 18 3, the rent of the ballast office and watch houses at Passage and Dunmore, subsidence of pilots and assistants on board the pilot boats and the salaries of Pilot Master, Deputy Pilot Master and Acting Deputy Pilot Master.  There was also the wages of 39 pilots, 10 assistants and of extra pilots occasionally employed.  Just as an interesting aside for the die hards of harbour history, there was also a substantial sum mentioned in excess of  £4k for the widening of the of the channels of the upper and lower Ford to 210 feet wide, 7 feet deep at low water on ordinary spring tides.[vi]

In Late November 1830 the pilot boat Enterprise of Dunmore went to try assist the schooner Unity of New Ross, Andrew Power, master.  She was laden with coal for her home port and got into difficulties to the west of Dunmore, the Enterprise tried to come alongside and failing this encouraged the crew to make more sail in an effort to get her off the shore, but she grounded at Black Nobb and although four of the crew were lost, one was rescued from the shore.[vii]

A more modern approach to boat outhaul and maintanence, the Maritana ex Catherine Downey being hauled out at Waterford. Photo courtesy of Tomas Sullivan, includes the late Lenny Neill

At the August meeting of the Harbour Commissioners in 1842 a wide ranging discussion took place into the pilots and in particular the current pilot boats on station.  Three vessels were named:

  • Dart – a small, good weather boat, but of limited use in storms. 
  • Enterprise is described as a vessel “…whose decks were so split by the sun, that the men were continually wet when between decks, by the spray.”
  • Scott – suggested that she be temporarily repaired and sent down to replace the Enterprise

The Dart was described as an experiment, which had paid dividends to the port in that she cost less to buy, had increased the number of vessels boarded by pilots to a tune of 25% and this offset any perceived loss due to inability to travel in bad weather.  It was claimed that because she was a novelty there was a prejudice against her.  This prompted a rather barbed comment that “The committee did not rely on the airy statements of casual visitors to bathing places…” for information on their craft.  After a long discussion the decision of the committee was that the Scott and the Enterprise be repaired and the Dart be discontinued, on the understanding that she was a danger to the men who served in her.  As you will see from the advert below, such decisions took time to be realised however.

Waterford Mail – Saturday 07 January 1843; page 3

The early 1850s were a difficult time for one pilot boat in particular.  The Falcon was designed by a Dublin naval architect named Marshall.  Interestingly, when asked if the pilot master (Alcock) had been consulted on the design, this was very quickly brushed aside in a very dismissive way.  It seems the pilots experience was nothing to a man of learning from Dublin.  The plans were agreed and handed over to Mr Albert White, of Whites Shipyard, Ferrybank…and that as they say was only the start of an unholy fiasco. 

For details of where to buy my book Waterford Harbour Tides & Tales, see the following link

According to the late Bill Irish the smack Falcon was built in 1852.  She was 51ft long x 14ft beam  x 9ft draft and was 37tons.[viii]   However a war of words and letters would later break out, the completed Falcon was considered by her proposers as a fine vessel, but the pilots and their employers were less than satisfied in the vessels seaworthiness.  Ultimately it all ended up in court, and as far as I can determine the Falcon never saw service for the Commissioners.  As part of the settlement some of the expense of the project was to be recouped and invested in a new boat from Whites, the Gannet (1856) described as a pilot cutter 58ft x 16ft x 9ft and 40tons burden.[ix]

In 1859 I found the first mention of a vessel that went on to have a sterling career with the pilot service, Seagull.[x]

In 1862 there was a couple of interesting agenda items at the monthly meeting of the harbour commissioners.  Mr William Hogan at Passage brought a complaint about the colocation of a telegraph office in the pilot house at Passage and the inconvenience this might cause to his office.  This was not seen as a major issue by the commissioners however.  I can only suppose that this dates the origins of a telegraph connection from the village?  Meanwhile Board member TC Spencer expressed concern about the costs associated with the running of the pilots, which he stated were running at a loss of £800 PA.  In another interesting aside, a letter was read from a Mr B Dawson, Cork “…with respect of storm signals being erected on the quay for the benefit of shipping, stating the suggestion was made from purely philanthropic motives and that the expense would be only about £14”[xi] I’ve long theorised about some flag based communication or other means within the harbour, I look forward to finding out more about this detail.

In 1863 the pilot boat Gannett was sunk after a collision with the steamer Beta close to the bar above Creaden Head.  The matter was considered to be the fault of the master and crew of the pilot boat and there was an appeal for her replacement as it was felt that with only one boat at Dunmore, piloting would suffer.[xii] 

In 1868 a salvage claim was before the court of admiralty which describes an incident between the brig Cherubin and mentions two pilot boats.  One is The Joseph, described as a decked craft of 27 tons which was used for pilotage although it seems she was merely a relief boat. It appears the regular boat was under repairs, while the Seagull is described as not available as she was up the haven at Passage.

The Seagull had a sometimes a bit part and sometimes a major role in the years after including the loss of five coastguard men at Broomhill in 1869  and the inquiry into the wreck of the Alfred D Snow (1888) but due to space constraints, I will jump to 1913.  At a meeting of the pilot committee of the Harbour Board in 1913 pilots Glody and Kirby of Dunmore East station were called as representatives of the pilots (then numbering a skipper [Pilot Master?] and nine pilots).  A number of issues were raised including pay, conditions and work. The pilots objected to having to man the trawler Uncle Sam even for a few weeks in summer as a substitute while the Seagull was at Waterford being repaired.   The trawler was not sufficiently comfortable, but they had nothing to say against the Seagull, except that they would prefer a motor or steam boat.[xiii] The concern for comfort arose as the pilots lived aboard the vessels for days and sometimes longer as they awaited ships. A tough life, with little comforts, a dry bunk and decent food was surely not much to ask.

An interesting photo via Paul Duffin from Feb 1957, the Dunmore East Lifeboat Annie Blanche Smith brought in to assist his grandfather Jack Donnelly off an outbound Puerto Rican ship MV Menchy in very high seas. For readers with a copy of David Carrolls Dauntless Courage see p 152 for another photo

In April 1933 I found a mention of a pilot cutter named the Elsie J.  She was on station in 1932, as the details given are about running expenses including repairs during that year amounting to £182 1s 11d.  The costs have increased due to the repairs that were carried out.[xiv]  As of now, I can’t determine when she commenced on station however.  In October 1937, an unidentified pilot cutter (possibly the Elsie J) had a lucky escape after a sudden change in wind direction caused the boat to drag the anchor and she was driven towards Councillors Strand.  The pilots aboard had no choice but to man the small punt and escape towards the shore.  Fortunately they landed safely after an “exciting tussle with the huge waves”.  Equally as fortunate, the anchor stuck fast just off the shore, and the cutter was spared[xv].

The Lily Doreen at Dunmore in the emergency era. Photo by Theo Harris

In June 1942 an unnamed pilot cutter “…recently acquired arrived in Waterford from Limerick…  The vessel is in the command of Capt Stubbs, a Waterford native”[xvi]  I am speculating this is the Lily Doreen because when she was sold in 1951 it was mentioned that she was bought second hand from Limerick.  In June 1947 it was reported that the Lily Doreen had been struck by the Milford Haven steam trawler East Coast and that Tyrells of Arklow had estimated the damage to cost £450 to repair.[xvii] 

My neighbour Brigid Power often told me the story of how she would walk up with her mother and siblings to Coolbunnia from the village to watch for her father Capt Andrew Doherty who was pilot master on the Lily Doreen and i would imagine he also served on the Elsie J. When they were at Passage East at night he would signal them with a lantern on the dusk and it was his way of reassuring his family that all was well. To the best of my knowledge the Lily Doreen was replaced in 1951.  She was advertised for sale in December.[xviii] 

Her replacement was still at Dunmore East when I was fishing there in the 1980’s the Betty Breen named after the daughter of then chairman of the Board, Martin S Breen, and Betty also performed the naming of the vessel in October 1951 at Tyrells boatyard in Arklow.  The Betty Breen made her maiden voyage to Waterford shortly afterwards and it was said that her arrival was witnessed by a large crowd.[xix]

The Betty Breen being overhauled. Photo via Brendan Grogan

The Betty Breen had a busy time of it at Dunmore.  Although she played a role in numerous rescues and other events, one of the more interesting I found was the case of the Liverpool pilot which she took from the ship Chriapo, en route from Liverpool to the West Indies for bananas.  Having sailed out the Mersey into a NW gale, he could not be retrieved and so headed for Dunmore and the Betty Breen, and then to Waterford and via train to Rosslare and home.[xx]  At least this pilot had a less eventful trip, than his colleague Philip Barrio at Passage East in 1892. The Betty Breen was advertised for sale in the summer of 1993, her service days were over.[xxi]

A number of vessels have served the pilots since including the Catherine Downey, later Maritana, the Tom Brennan (Jan 1994) the Dun Mhor (2016).  I have no doubt that I have missed a few others as the searching via newspapers has its limitations.  If any reader can add more details I would appreciate it. Undoubtedly the Portlairge II will see many years of loyal service to the harbour. Hopefully it won’t be as eventful as some of her predecessors but either way I look forward to seeing the vessel in operation this coming September.

Portlairge II currently under construction in Youghal, expected to hit the harbour in Sept 2021. Phot courtesy of Capt. Darren Doyle

My thanks to Tomas Sullivan for helping with getting this started, to Darren Doyle at the Port of Waterford, to Brendan Grogan and Paul Duffin for photos.  Needless to say, all errors and omissions are my own.


[i] Mary Breen.  Waterford Port and harbour 1815-1842.  2019.  Four Courts Press. Dublin. p 33

[ii] Andrew Doherty,  Waterford Harbour Tides & Tales.  2020.  The History Press.  Cheltenham. (see chapter 9 Sails Ahoy Hobblers. pp 62-65) 

[iii] Waterford Mail – Saturday 06 November 1824. Page 3

[iv] Waterford Mail – Wednesday 27 October 1824, page 2

[v] Waterford Mail, Saturday 12th August 1826, page 4

[vi] Waterford Mail – Wednesday 17 February 1830; page 1

[vii] Waterford Mail – Saturday 04 December 1830; page 4

[viii] Bill Irish.  Shipbuilding in Waterford 1820-1882.  (2001)  Wordwell Books. Wicklow.  P.240

[ix] Ibid

[x] Waterford Mail – Saturday 13 August 1859; page 3

[xi] Waterford Mail – Wednesday 19 February 1862; page 2

[xii] Waterford Chronicle – Friday 15 January 1864; page 3

[xiii] Munster Express, Saturday, August 23, 1913; Page: 6

[xiv] Waterford Standard – Saturday 08 April 1933; page 7

[xv] Waterford Standard – Saturday 30 October 1937; page 3

[xvi] Munster Express, Friday, June 12, 1942; Page: 3

[xvii] Waterford Standard – Saturday 14 June 1947; page 6

[xviii] Irish Examiner, Thursday, December 06, 1951; Page: 7

[xix] Waterford News and Star, Friday, October 12, 1951; Page: 3

[xx] Irish Examiner, Saturday, January 03, 1959; Page: 7

[xxi] Munster Express, Friday, July 09, 1993; Page: 9

Venus B – a tragedy long remembered

A guest blog by David Carroll tells the tragic loss of the barque Venus B on Feb 21st 1885 at Ballymacaw and how it lived long in local folklore

From 1937 to 1939, the Irish Folklore Commission enlisted more than 50,000 schoolchildren from 5,000 schools in Ireland to collect folklore in their home districts. This included oral history, topographical information, folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, games and pastimes, trades and crafts. The children recorded this material from their parents, grandparents, and neighbours. The scheme resulted in the creation of over half a million manuscript pages, generally referred to as ‘Bailiúchán na Scol’ or ‘The Schools’ Collection’. Schools in the Barony of Gaultier took part in the project during the 1930s and by a remarkable coincidence, two girls, from two different schools living a few miles apart wrote about the same shipwreck from information received from older people living in the locality and the legends and folklore associated with the tragic events of February 1885.

Bad weather hit Ireland in February 1885. The Waterford Standard on Wednesday, February 24th reported that the severest storm of the winter blew on Saturday night in the Irish Channel and shipping due in Dublin was badly delayed. The weather along the South East coast was also severe. There were reports of ships having to put into Passage, one a sailing ship ‘Crusader’ with two boats smashed, three sails carried away and bulwarks damaged. Also, a steamship bound for Liverpool from Norfork U.S. put into Passage short of coals, having lost an anchor and 50 fathoms of chain off Creadan Head.
A headline in the same paper read as follows:

THE STORM
WRECK OF VESSELS TRAMORE AND
BALLYMACAW – ALL HANDS LOST

“The storm which swept over the country on Saturday has proved a most disastrous one, many accounts of shipping disasters being at hand. A wreck which took place at Tramore is particularly sad…[for] of the entire crew, not one was saved…….”

The vessel in question was the Camilla, a schooner from Cork with a cargo of coal that was wrecked close to the Brownstown Head side of Tramore Bay with all crew lost, despite valiant and courageous efforts made by the lifeboat in Tramore to rescue them.

The report continues as follows:
“Another shipping disaster occurred at Ballymacaw early on Sunday morning. A large barque, which had been ascertained to be the Venus B of Fiume, bound to Rio Janerio from Liverpool with a general cargo, Captain Sablich. When the vessel was observed it was between one or two o’clock in the morning, and shortly afterwards she was dashed on the rocks at Long Cliff, under the cottage of Mr Kiely. It was blowing a very stiff gale at the time, and the sea was washing with considerable force over the vessel. The coastguards hastened to render assistance, although it was conjectured from the fact that no lights were shown that the vessel had been abandoned, and this supposition was borne out by the fact that there was never any exhibition of life on board. Nothing on this head is however certain, as owing to the hour when the vessel struck, and the consequent darkness, but little knowledge could be gleaned as to her belongings. When day broke she was found to be the barque already named, and to be of 650 tons register. Portions of the cargo and wreckage continued to be washed ashore during the day, and it was then seen that she had been laden with railway iron, household utensils, crockery, ware etc. Some traces of blood, which were observed to be on the figure head, would lead to the supposition that some of the crew had received injuries of a more or less serious nature. The scene was visited by a large number of people on Sunday, when the most eager inquiries were made as to most probable fate of the crew, who must all have perished. The sea, which continued to break over the vessel, rendered her total breaking up a question of time. On Monday, it was reported that she had all gone to pieces, and on the same day a body, probably that of one of the ill-fated crew, was washed ashore.”

Source: nzhistory.govt.nz
1863 wreck from New Zealand (HMS Orpheus)- a fate similar to that of the Venus B.
On March 18th 1885, the following notice appeared in the Waterford Standard:

Readers may wonder as to how a sailing ship from a land-locked country such as Austria could come to be wrecked off the Irish coast. The answer is that prior to 1918, the political landscape in Europe was completely different. In 1885, Austria-Hungary was an empire, the largest political entity in mainland Europe. It spanned almost 700,000 square kilometres and reached down to the Adriatic Sea. Fiume, home port of the Venus B is now called Rijeka, a major port and industrial city in western Croatia.

Source: www.pinterest.com The port of Fiume c. 1890, the home port of the barque Venus B.

The two pupils from the Gaultier Barony that participated in the Irish Folklore Commissions ‘Schools Collection’ in the late 1930s were Mary Flynn from Portally and Kathleen Gear from Ballymacaw. Mary Flynn was a pupil at the Convent School in Dunmore East and transcribed information passed to her from her grandmother Mrs. Power of Portally, described as being over 70 years. Kathleen Gear was a pupil at Summerville school in Corballymore and recorded the story of the Venus B as told to her by her father Patrick Gear, aged 60 years.

While there are a number of small errors made in the stories as regards the correct name of the ship and the actual year, both accounts are fascinating and colourful to read and give us much more anecdotal information that we fail to get in newspaper accounts. We are told that the first person to see the ship in distress was Jim Gough. The 1901 Census lists Julia Gough, a widow aged 64 years living at Graigue, Rathmoylan with her son, Michael. It is probably correct to say that Jim was Julia’s husband. His name also appears in Griffiths Valuation – Waterford 1848-51.

Both scribes tell us that all the bodies recovered from the shipwreck were buried in Rathmoylan graveyard. The actual number of crew members has been difficult to ascertain. Kathleen tells us that many people in Ballymacaw got in new floors from the timber salvaged from the wreck. I wonder if any of those floors still remain? Both Mary and Kathleen also refer to the location of the shipwreck as being called the ‘wrack hole’.

Mary Flynn wrote that a man who came from Waterford to buy crockery fell down the cliff and was killed. She also writes that the shipwrecked vessel was then called the ‘Phantom Ship’ by older people in the district as it was always seen sailing up from Ballymacaw to the ‘old ship rock’ in Port Leanaibhe before a storm. Kathleen Gear also relates that following the shipwreck, the lights of the Venus B could be seen sailing into the ’wrack hole’. She writes that many people saw them.

As a young lad I spent some wonderful times during school holidays in the 1960s with Paddy Napper Kelly lobster fishing and also catching mackerel with Nicko Murphy along this picturesque but rocky coastline. There was always a forlorn and eerie feeling around Falskirt Rock with all the seabirds present as well as the incredible rock near the shore that looked like an old sailing ship and was so named. In stormy weather with poor visibility, I have no doubt that a person could easily mistake the rock for an actual sailing ship. But what about the lights? How do you explain that?

Coastline near Ballymacaw with Falskirt Rock visible in the distance. Photo credit Neville Murphy

Maybe the answer lies with the famous Irish folklorist Lady Gregory – a close friend of WB Yeats, who had a fisherman explain to her over a hundred years ago: “The fairies are in the sea as well as on the land. That is well-known by those that are out fishing by the coast.”


Thanks to David for that facinating account. David is of course author of Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community which was published in December 2020. The book is almost sold out, but some copies are still available. More details from the project website

References:

The Waterford Standard, February 24th 1885
The Waterford Standard, March 18th 1885

1901 Census.

The Duchas.ie ‘The Schools Collection’ contains many transcriptions of stories about shipwrecks and other maritime stories from pupils living on both the County Waterford and County Wexford sides of Waterford Harbour.

Centenary; Loss of the Esperanza de Larrinaga

A guest post courtesy of Liam Cheasty and Pat Sheridan

A centenary is defined as the one hundred anniversary of a significant event and in 2021 there will be many related to the War of Independence and partition of Ireland in 1921. However, while conflict and strife bring about many tragedies that are noteworthy ordinary life can be equally dramatic and hard. On the 2nd of February 2021 is the centenary of the death of my maternal grandfather James Quilty, my mother’s father. James was born on 18th of February 1893 to Andrew and Mary Ann Quilty .

Image courtesy of Liam Cheasty

In 1911 James was 18 and lived at 11 Roches Street in Waterford City with his parents, his twin sister Mary Kate and a younger brother Patrick who was 16. The census shows five children had been born to Andrew and Mary Ann and four were still surviving. Andrew Quilty is listed as being a labourer as was James and Patrick. Mary Kate is listed as a sailor.

James’ memorial card. Image courtesy of Liam Cheasty

Roches Street no longer exists and it is now the side entrance to De la Salle College. The houses were small with mainly large families of mostly labouring men and would have been known as a tough street in its time. James married Johanna Lonergan who lived in 1911 at 58 Lower Yellow Road. That house is now knocked and there is an opening between the Yellow Road and Mount Sion Avenue. Hanna was also born in 1893 and her parents were John and Mary who were from Carrigeen in Mooncoin on the other side of the River Suir. John Lonergan is also listed as being a labourer and they had six children. When James and Hanna married they lived at 72 Doyle Street. My father’s parents, William and Annie Cheasty lived at 43 Doyle Street almost directly across the road. In 1920 my four grandparents lived in Doyle Street, none of them lived long enough for me to know them.

In 1920 James and Hanna had two daughters Maura and Tish with Hanna expecting my mother. This was shortly after the First World War and times were tough in Waterford with lots of unemployment and the poverty that goes with it. As a struggling young man James had to get work where ever he could, so he went to sea as an able bodied seaman.

James Quilty signed up to a Spanish owned company trading in Liverpool, Larrinaga Steam Ship Company. This line had been founded in 1861 by a Basque from Mundaka near Bilbao called Ramón De Larrinaga initially serving Spanish Colonies in the Philippines and Cuba. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 the company prospered hugely with many Basques moving to Liverpool.

On the tenth of December 1920 James Quilty sailed from Liverpool on the SS Esperanza de Larrinaga bound for the Americas. Esperanza is the Spanish for hope and it was built in 1907 and was 109 metres long. It had a top speed of 10.5 knots and a grt of 4981 tons. There were three other Waterford born sailors on board, John Furlong, Thomas Hunt and John Ryan.

The Esperanza de Larrinaga had been hit by a German torpedo from UB-65 on 13th of May 1918, 35 miles north of Lough Swilly, Ireland. There was one casualty. The vessel was successfully beached, refloated and repaired. Some of its crew in 1920 would probably have been on board when it was torpedoed. I am not sure where the Esperanza de Larringa was destined for on the outward journey but the return cargo was American grain loaded in Norfork in Virginia. The return journey was to Reggio Calabria on the very toe of Southern Italy, a massive journey across The Atlantic , through the Straits of Gibraltar and down the Mediterranean sea.

Image courtesy of Liam Cheasty

The Esperanza sailed out of Norfolk in on 2nd of February 1921 as did the Ottowa, a 3,600 ton bulk oil tanker . Sailing out of New York on the same day was the Italian owned Monte San Michelle, quite a large vessel at 6,517 tons. On the night of the 2nd of February 1921 a dreadful hurricane developed in the Atlantic. A French steamer Vicorieux and the Belgian owned Bombardier were abandoned by their crew the storm was so bad. The other three ships were lost with all hands lost and no signs ever found. More info on the sinking here. Four Waterford born men, including my grandfather James Quilty perished that awful night. For a sailor on his maiden voyage and with little experience one can only imagine the horror he went through on that faithful night.

Meanwhile back at 72 Doyle Street in Waterford it must have been a really tough time for Hanna Quilty that February. Firstly she lost her husband to the sea, later that same week her own mother died and on 24th February she gave birth to my mother, Kathleen. She was now a widow with three infant children to take care of but she was a survivor. Taking the £50 she received from The Larrinaga Shipping Line she moved to 77 Lower Yellow Road opened a hucksters shop in her front room, where she raised her three daughters who went on to marry and raise their own children.

This guest blog of this important centenary comes courtesy of Liam Cheasty and his cousin Pat Sheridan. I’m indebted to both men for the research, keeping this story alive and allowing me to share it with the tidesntales crew.

Dauntless Courage – Book Review

The arrival of Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community was greeted with a wave of conflicting emotions this week.  Joy at seeing the book finally in print, tears of relief after two years of work and pride in the satisfaction of realising a book conceived and raised within a community of volunteers that makes up the RNLI.

Opening the book was a thrill, and the satisfaction of the smell of all those tightly bound hard covered pages only heightened the expectation that comes whenever I open a book.  Sometimes the first impressions are let down however, but not in this instance.  From the wonderful historic painting on the cover by local marine artist Brian Cleare through to the hundreds of photos and images on the inside, the quality of all are amazing and really bring the book to life. 

Running to almost 380 pages author David Carroll takes us on a journey through Dunmore.  Quite rightly in my view, David doesn’t start with the first lifeboat, Henry Dodd, in 1884.  He starts from the outset of the small little fishing hamlet through to the building of the pier and the coming of the mail packet.  Throughout, David continues to ground the lifeboat service in the community of Dunmore and in the life and times of the community which serves to remind the reader that unlike perhaps any other volunteer service, the RNLI relies on the maritime community in which it resides.

David captures some of the more heroic rescues of the past such as the rescue of five fishermen aboard the St Declan in 1952 which saw Paddy Billy Power and Richard Power receive awards for their valour through to the more mundane, but no less important shouts such as the provisioning and repairs to the SS Pauline in Tramore Bay in December 1932.  The book is so up to date, it even includes the Lily B rescue carried out off the Hook in October of this year.

Annie Blanch Smith at Dinmore 1958. John Aylward photo.

There are also the first person accounts from personalities in the area, people that are synonymous with the service such as Joefy Murphy, Frances Glody or John Walsh.  Sadly one of those recorded died before the book came to print, Stephen Whittle.  But this just highlights the importance of the book still further, in capturing and recording the first person accounts of those who have given so much.

It also records the crew, and the photos of those behind the scenes, the station support, the fundraising committee, the less glamorous jobs but without which such a service has no hope of maintaining itself.

The book is a testament to the volunteer committee that established around David to fundraise to bring the book to fruition.  It is also a timely boost to the fundraising fortunes of the station in these covid restrictive times.  But it is also a testament to the abilities of David Carroll, ably supported by his wife Pauline, and his deep regard for Dunmore and the people of the RNLI that the book has come to print. 

David in company with Brendan Dunne; lifeboat volunteer and a driving force behind the project

Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community is David’s first book, but I hope it won’t be his last.  It deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in Dunmore East, anyone who enjoys maritime history, and anyone who supports the work of the RNLI.

The book is currently flying off the shelves. For stockists of the book and online orders check out the project website