Glencoe and other shipwrecks on Waterford’s coast- Dec 1840

On a dark tempestuous winter’s evening, the brig Glencoe was blown onto the rocks at Ballymacaw to the west of Dunmore East. As the winds howled and the seas crashed and washed over the ship her 13 man crew had little hope of survival but those on shore had seen this kind of incident before and plans were already underway to come to their aid.

The Glencoe was a brig of 275 ton from Sunderland, England. Under Captain J Keith she was en route from Glasgow to Calcutta with a mixed cargo including coal, bales of manufactured cotton, and beer. Having being caught out in a storm, her crew found themselves battling hopelessly against the natural elements.

Not the Glencoe, or even Ireland. A shipwreck scene accessed from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/page/wreck-general-grant

She eventually grounded on rocks at what one newspaper described as “…under Mc Dougals farm”. Six men based at the local Coastguard station (was this Dunmore East or the older station at Rhinne Shark one wonders) accompanied by four local volunteers rushed to the scene and under the command of Coastguard Chief Officer Charles French proceeded to get lines aboard to the stricken crew. After several hours all 13 were safely brought ashore.

The brig was smashed to pieces on the rocks and the papers reported that the cargo was lost. However later in December 40 bales of cotton described as “with all faults” was auctioned off at Fallows Warehouse, Peter St (in what I understand was Liverpool) I’m sure the locals were burning the coal for some time to come, and as for the ale, no mention is made of this at all. I can only hope it was widely enjoyed along the coastline.

The newspapers mentioned several other casualties that same week in Waterford. A young boy named Walsh, an observer of the wreck of the Glencoe was lost and drowned off the rocks. Meanwhile, at Tramore, an empty lifeboat from the James Jenny was discovered on the beach. An unnamed barque was wrecked at Stradbally while another ship the Leisk enroute from Malaga to Glasgow grounded at Bunmahon but her crew and cargo of oranges were reported safe and well. The ship was lightly damaged and there were hopes that she would be got off.

The following sad account came to light of the drowning from the rocks

A subsequent newspaper article explained that the Leisk was high and dry on the east end of Bunmahon beach. The cargo was safely stored in Mr Robinson’s warehouse in Waterford city and the vessel was likely to be refloated on the next spring tides. The damage was minor, the hull was ok with some damage to the rigging, cabin, and forecastle. The optimism of an easy salvage was misplaced however as it was March before she was finally refloated and towed to Waterford.

The Waterford Mail reported that the ship that was wrecked at Stradbally was a barque and that a crew of 13 were lost, although all bodies were reported to have washed ashore. It was speculated that the ship was bound for Dungarvan with a cargo of timber, but this was speculation. Meanwhile, in Dungarvan, the local schooner Spankaway under Captain O Neill with a cargo of ore from Bunmahon was blown ashore on Monday 7th in the storm after her anchor chains parted. Again there was little damage and she was expected to be refloated. Another incident was the schooner Shamrock of Youghal, which reported some minor damage due to the weather.

Following the successful rescue of the crew of the Glencoe Chief Officer French was awarded a Silver medal by the RNLI for his leadership. Despite searching I could find no mention of the names of any of the others who played such a crucial part. If you would like to know more of the work of the local RNLI and their rescues down the years, why not order a copy of David Carrolls wonderful new book at the following link

https://dunmorelifeboatbook.com/product/dauntless-courage/

Some details of the Glencoe rescue are taken from Jeff Morris’ book The Story of the Dunmore East Lifeboat. The other information is taken from a look through the local papers of the era.

https://dunmorelifeboatbook.com/
https://dunmorelifeboatbook.com/

Book Launch of ‘Dauntless Courage’: Celebrating the History of Dunmore East RNLI

As any blog regular will know, the lifeboats and their actions are a feature of so many of the stories on Tides and Tales. So it is with great anticipation that we look forward to the forthcoming Dauntless Courage, a history of the Dunmore East Lifeboat Station in the coming weeks. And even more so, as it is one of our own, a regular guest blogger on the page, David Carroll who is the author. Some further details below.

Radio presenter Damien Tiernan will lead an online panel discussion (Wednesday 25 November at 8 pm) with ‘Dauntless Courage’ author David Carroll and Dunmore East RNLI volunteer crew members.

WLR FM radio presenter, former South East correspondent for RTE and author of ‘Souls of the Sea’ Damien Tiernan will lead the panel discussion with the author of ‘Dauntless Courage’ David Carroll who will also be joined by Dunmore East RNLI volunteer crew members Brendan Dunne and Neville Murphy. The launch is coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Glenmalure Tragedy which is featured in the book.

Dauntless Courage’: Celebrating the History of the Dunmore East RNLI, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Local Community. All proceeds from the book will be going to the local Dunmore East Lifeboat Fundraising Branch to support the saving of lives on our seas.

After several years researching and writing of the book, the public unveiling will take place online with an in-depth panel discussion of the research involved in writing the book, the characters behind the lifejackets, the many acts of courage that took place far from shore, and a look at the local community that was so often the backbone of every crew that took to sea to save those whose lives were in peril.

L-R Damien Tiernan, David Carroll, Brendan Dunne and Neville Murphy

The online event will take place on Wednesday 25 November at 8 pm for approximately forty minutes, with a live Q&A session for attendees afterwards. Registration for the event can be made by clicking here

David Carroll, author of Dauntless Courage said: ‘What has really struck me about writing this book has been the amazing goodwill and generosity of so many people who have helped to make this book possible, especially all the interesting and historic photographs and paintings that we have been given access to for inclusion in the book’.

David in company with Brendan Dunne on a research trip (pre covid) to Poole

Damian Tiernan, WLR FM radio presenter said: ‘I am honoured and delighted to be hosting this discussion, I have a long association with members of the RNLI in Dunmore and I worked closely with them over the years. The publication is a wonderful record of all that has happened complete with superb pen portraits and descriptions of events and superbly written and produced’.

Here’s what Dr Pat McCarthy has to say about the book

I must admit I am really looking forward to the book. I’m hoping that if time allows David may do a guest blog featuring one of the rescues that the lifeboat and her crew were involved with in the coming weeks. You can preorder the book now. All proceeds go to the local Dunmore East Lifeboat Fundraising Branch to support the saving of lives on our seas. If you have any questions or need further information on the book you can email dunmorelifeboatbook@gmail.com

My father to the rescue

On Saturday night, 12th Nov 1955 a collision in the River Mersey involving three ships saw one ship sink, 9 crewmen struggle for an hour without lifejackets in freezing water and a dramatic rescue which included three young seamen from the village of Cheekpoint Co Waterford.

The Cheekpoint men were my father, Bob Doherty, my uncle John and Jimmy (O’Dea) Doherty. They were departing Liverpool as seamen aboard the MV Ocean Coast in dense fog.  The ship was carrying general cargo and bound for Falmouth.  The three were just out of their teens, but already seasoned sailors.

My father Bob on right with unidentified shipmates

The first official communication on the night was at 22:10 when the Ocean Coast sent out the following message “Queens Channel, Q15 Buoy, River Mersey. There has been a collision between two unknown ships. I am anchored and sending a lifeboat over. Strong ebb tide running. One of the ships in the collision has sunk”

My father’s ship, MV Ocean Coast, was a twin-screw motor cargo vessel 250 ft in length and a 38ft beam and 1,790 tons dead weight. She was built for short sea route trips by Leith shipyard for the Coast Lines shipping company and was launched on 31st July 1935.  During the war years, she had served as a supply vessel to Gibraltar and North Africa.  She also played her part in the D Day landings servicing Omaha beach carrying petrol. My father was in short pants at that stage, snaring rabbits to supplement the meager supplies at home in the village, and dreaming of going to sea like his father.

The collision, it would subsequently emerge, was between a fully laden Swedish motor oil tanker SS Juno and the SS Bannprince which was operated by S William Coe of Liverpool.  The Bannprince was crewed by Northern Ireland men. Like the Ocean Coast, the Bannprince had served with a volunteer crew during the war, helping to evacuate some of the 337,130 Allied troops from Dunkirk between May and June 1940. Following this, she was taken over for “Unspecified special government services” and was one of the first ships to land at Sword beach during the D Day landings with much needed medical supplies.

The Bannprince was outward bound that fateful night, fully laden with coal for Colerain. The first the crew knew of difficulties was when the ship’s horn sounded three shrill blasts moments before there was an almighty crash and the ship heeled over.  She would sink in ten minutes and most of the crew of 9 had no time to get a life jacket.  Her lifeboats were submerged. In the freezing Mersey, the crew did what they could to stay together and help those that couldn’t swim.

It was almost an hour between collision and the calls from the lifeboat of the Ocean Coast were heard in the water.  At this point, most of the sailors were close to exhaustion and had drifted apart.  My fathers lifeboat rescued six and a lifeboat from a sister ship Southern Coast picked up the remaining 3 men including the captain and the only crew man to lose his life, second engineer James Ferris of Limavady, Derry.

They put the six survivors aboard the New Brighton lifeboat and returned to the Ocean Coast to continue their voyage.  On the 3rd April 1957 my father along with 5 other crew men (including Jimmy) received a certificate from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society in recognition of their efforts.  The Captain received a silver cigarette box and the chief officer a parchment.  

My father went to sea as a teenager like so many other men of his generation.  Himself, Jimmy and Uncle John are now gone to their rest, and with them their best stories.  He never actually spoke at home of this rescue and it took a bit of time to actually research it. But then again, it was just after the horrors of the second world war, and events like this were trivial in comparison. Jimmy O’Dea did have a yarn about it, however.   According to his telling when they approached the men in the water my father, who was an excellent swimmer, had to jump overboard to help some of the weakened men out of the water. Jimmy O Dea and the other rescuers were returning to their ship when they noticed my father wasn’t aboard. They turned back, rowing now with a vengeance only to find my father swinging off a buoy shouting “where the hell were ye then shipmates???”  Fact or fiction we’ll never know, but my father would have loved it, the bigger the laugh the better, even at his own expense.

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

This excerpt from the story is only one along with 22 others which feature in my new book about the life and times of so many ships, seafarers, and their families connected to Waterford harbour which is available now from bookshops, online, or directly. More details by email to tidesntales@gmail.com or at this link

New Book Out Now

Passagemens daring rescue

On a dark November night in storm-force winds and driving rain, an Arklow schooner scurried up Waterford harbour in search of shelter.  Within sight of the Spit Light below Passage East, the ship healed over stuck fast in the sand and her crew took to the rigging from where they signaled in the hope of salvation.  Luckily for them, their signals were answered and four men departed Passage East in a fishing yawl.  But the odds were against them and nothing but expertise and luck would ensure a positive outcome.

Passage East, Co Waterford
Passage East, Co Waterford via Tommy Deegan Waterford History Group

The schooner France Jane was built in 1858 in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Her Arklow owners were Anne and Thomas J. Troy and she weighed 87 tonnes.[i]  She was on a run with corn from Belfast to Courtmacsherry under Captain Furlong.

Like many schooners at the time, the Frances Jane would take any opportunities for cargo that were available, competing as they were with the more regular running steamships.  Bulk cargos were a staple freight, or bagged or barrelled produce, anything that didn’t have a crucial delivery date. trips to smaller ports and out-of-the-way locations were also a means of making freight. Earlier in the summer, she had been tied up in Arklow with a cargo of coal which was advertised at knockdown prices in an attempt to clear her hold.[ii] In another sailing in September coal was again her cargo into her home port.

The run to Courtmacsherry was cut short by a strengthening gale of southeast wind, by far the worst to meet off the Hook, and in an effort to make shelter, the schooner made her way into the harbour.  As the rain came down and the winds strengthened she beat her way further in until she ran aground on the Drumroe Bank.

1787 map of the harbour entitled “An actual survey of the harbour and river of Waterford and of the bay of Tramore” by Robert Sayer (1724? -1794). Accessed from Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Public Domain)
To access a higher resolution go to https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53011020p/f1.item.r=tramore
A close-up of Sayer’s chart showing the Drumroe Bank, outside of Passage Strand. Note the spit light has yet to be built and a light perch marks the bank instead.

Once stuck fast on the hard sands, her fate was sealed. With no other options, the crew took to the rigging to escape the surging seas breaking over her side, and lamps were lit and waved about in the hopes of a rescue.  Fortunately, their lights were seen, and on Passage East quay four fishermen prepared their small open fishing boat to meet the challenge.

James Hearne, the skipper, had three other men with him, James Pepper, Richard Galvin, and Michael Sheehy.  All the men are listed in the 1901 census as living in Passage East and all are married with a family.  Hearne (age 36, fisherman) is married to Mary, a dressmaker.  They have four children, the two eldest William and Ellen were born in Liverpool.  Pepper (40, fisherman) is married to Statia and they have five children at the time.  Richard Galvin (37, sailor) is married to Ellen, they are living with his mother-in-law, Catherine Daley.  They have five children and a niece is also living with them.  Patrick Sheehan (40, sailor) is married to Kate, and they have two teenage children. 

Their small yawl was well used to facing the weather of the harbour and their experience would have told them that in the conditions, the closer they got to the stricken vessel the greater the danger they would face.  As they pushed away from the quay they laid out the sweeps (oars) and bent their backs to their task.  Rowing hard against the wind and rain, the men, who had no time to gather oilskins, were quickly soaked to the skin and the cold must have penetrated their jerseys despite the exertions.  At one stage an oar was lost, and another snapped in two against the force of the seas.  But on they battled with the two oars and eventually came alongside Frances Jane.

A similar yawl as described in the piece, taken at Ballyhack, Co Wexford.
NLI, Lawrence Collection. Robert French Photo

Hearne jumped aboard the stricken schooner and helped each of the sailors into the outstretched hands of his crewmates in the yawl. No details are given of the complexities of this, but I’m sure they would have come in under her leeward side (if the tidal conditional allowed) and in the shelter provided, make the transfer. Again nothing is made of the men going below to gather any valuables etc, mind you it was probably little enough they would have had. I also have no information on the names of Captain Furlong’s crew that night. Eventually, a sail was hoisted to bring them home, the sails filling with the now helpful wind, and soon they were at Passage East quay where the sailors and the fishermen alike were cared for with the attention that only a fishing and sailing village would know instinctively.[iii]

After the storm comes the calm it is said, and indeed such was the case in the days that followed.  The schooner was seen wrecked and forlorn, but it was hoped that if the weather stayed calm she might be got off.  Her cargo of wheat was salvaged and was later advertised for sale.   “Mr. Patrick Bolger, auctioneer, New Ross, announces a very important sale of 260 barrels of fine Australian wheat, the salvaged cargo of the schooner Frances Jane, which recently came to grief in the harbour”[iv]

The schooner was not so fortunate, however, as the weather worsened and she became a total loss. I don’t know the ultimate fate of the crew thereafter, but I’m sure after a good night’s sleep, they were probably looking for a new berth to make their living from and would have shipped out at the earliest opportunity. 

The rescue was widely reported and the skill and bravery displayed was eventually recognized.  On Friday 30th January 1903 at the Waterford City Petty Sessions a public ceremony was conducted at which the four men were recognised by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. Mr. Wardell, secretary of the Tramore Lifeboat Committee, and Mr. Edward Jacob, Lloyd’s agent in Waterford, introduced the men and their accomplishments before asking that the magistrates present them with the certificates.  Jacob explained that it was “…only common justice to the men that the attention of the Institution should have been called to their heroic action. The Institution considered the deed they had done was an act of the greatest bravery, and when the great risk that the men had run of losing their own lives was pointed out to them they could scarcely credit it. They even wrote for further particulars, and when finally satisfied they very handsomely rewarded men an act of downright actual courage and bravery, and would long be remembered”

All four received a velum certificate from the RNLI and £2 each.  James Hearne and Richard Galvin were there to receive the award in person.  Kate Sheehan and Statia Pepper attended instead of their husbands. The article gives no explanation for this, but most likely they were both at sea?) Hearne received an extra acknowledgment for the damage caused to his vessel of 55 shillings. (the damage included the sweeps, gunwales, and sails)

An advert from the front page of the New Ross Standard – Friday 05 December 1902. Accessed from British Newspapers Archive.

The wreck was an annoyance to fishermen and boatmen, but not to the normal traffic of the ports.  An article in the Passage Notes of February 1903 rails against this injustice rightly pointing out that the wreck is an impediment to salmon fishermen and a risk to local boatmen, making a specific reference by description to the hobbler trade, though not by the name.  The author articulates the view that because the wreck does not impinge on “…the grand electric lit steamers…” or the “…gondoliers…of the wealthy…” it has been ignored by the Harbour Commissioners. But I’m sure that after a few weeks the fishermen and sailors adapted, it is after all in their nature. Marks would have been taken and soon by day or night the position was identifiable by sighting hills, trees, spires, and other buildings along both shores of the harbour. Indeed the children of Passage helped too, as there was one account I came across that mentions them hacking and sawing away on the timbers of the wreck.

It was not until the summer of 1951 that the wreck was finally removed warranting a few lines in the Munster Express:  “The Remains of the wreck of the Frances Jane, mentioned in this column last week, was removed from the Spit Bank by orders of the Harbour Commissioners during the week…”[iii] Sad to think the names of the Passagemen involved didn’t get a mention on this occasion, especially when you consider their bravery that night in the rescue of the crew of the Frances Jane.  At that stage, all those men would have been dead of course, and would be recalled only by family and by the village elders who rarely let such memories die. A brave deed worthy of remembering and never to be forgotton.

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I’m indebted to Brian at www.arklowmaritimeheritage.ie for the information I have included on the schooner Frances Jane. Thanks also to Fintan Walsh who had first shared an account of the men and which got me interested in the story.

Titanic. Waterford & Wexford connections

Introduction

The sinking of the RMS Titanic is a world renowned event.  I was reared on the story either from local storytelling or the movie “A Night to Remember”.  But it was only in recent years I even thought to research a local connection, when I came across a bronze memorial in Bunmahon to a man named Dwan who perished aboard.  This coming Monday 15th, Waterford Civic Trust will honour another man who was aboard. His name was Patrick O’Keeffe, a passenger who not just survived, but also ensured several others were saved too. 

The Titanic. 

Titanic was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast for the White Star Line.  She departed Southampton on her maiden voyage on 10th April 1912 calling to Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Cork before crossing the Atlantic towards New York.  At 11.40pm on the night of the 14th April (about 375 miles south of Newfoundland), she hit an iceberg.   The “unsinkable” Titanic sank in a matter of hours.  Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died.

RMS Titanic via Wikimedia open source. Photographer: F.G.O. Stuart (1843-1923)

Patrick O’Keeffe

Patrick was born at Little Michael Street in Waterford City on 11th July 1890 to John O’Keeffe (a quarry labourer) and Catherine Fitzgerald Patrick was one of 9 known children.  Patrick had returned to Ireland for a holiday, having first emigrated to USA in 1910 with his uncles. 

Apparently homesick, he had returned home for a month’s holiday in 1912 and had an earlier return sailing booked aboard the RMS Baltic; apparently his brother persuaded him to stay an extra week so they could spend Easter together as a family and his booking was transferred to Titanic.

He boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (his ticket cost £7, 15s as did all the 3rd class steerage passengers listed below). As the ship sank Patrick managed to make it to the steerage decks and he jumped into the freezing seas. Thanks to being a strong swimmer, he kept himself afloat, eventually pulling himself aboard the capsized collapsible B life raft.  He managed to rescue several others from the water and they were later picked up by the SS Carpathia and landed at New York. He was a number of weeks convalescing having sustained heavy bruising.

Patrick would go on to marry and have a family and worked for the rest of his life in America.  The memory of the sinking stayed with him, so much so, that Patrick never returned to his native country again.  He eventually died in 1939 and was buried in New York. For more information on the unveiling of the blue plaque follow the Facebook event link

Patrick O’Keeffe as a young man. Via Waterford Civic Trust

Frank Dwan

Frank (Francis) Dwan was born in Clogheen, Co Waterford, at the height of the famine in January 1847.  A fisherman by trade Dwan, in the 1911 census was living with his wife at Knockmahon, Co Waterford.  Several of Frank’s children lived in America and he decided to visit them in 1912, boarding the Titanic at Queenstown on a third class ticket.  His destination was Morris Plains, New Jersey where his daughter Alice Murphy and son Michael and their families lived.  He died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

George Francis “Paddy” McGough

Duncannon Co. Wexford crewman. George Francis “Paddy” McGough was born in Duncannon in 1875. He signed on to the Titanic as an AB (Able Seaman) at Southampton on 6th April 1912. He was plucked from the freezing waters by lifeboat #9 and took the tiller and steered the boat. On the SS Carpathia coming into view he was credited with saying “Let us pray to God, for there is a ship on the horizon and it’s making for us.” He went back to sea for the rest of his working life and died in 1940.

Community Notice. I’m happy to promote any event, subject to space, that is heritage focused and fits with the page mission to promote the maritime heritage of the three sister rivers and the harbour area.

Chief Purser Hugh McElroy

McElroy was living at Tullacanna (near Wellingtonbridge) in Co Wexford in the 1911 census but he was born in Liverpool and had spent his life at sea. He was put in charge of loading lifeboats as the ship went down. He was credited with keeping the loading in line and at one point discharged his pistol at two crew men who boarded a lifeboat and refused to make way. He went down with the ship, but his body was later recovered, identified and buried at sea.

Other Wexford folk

There were a few other Wexford souls aboard including Robert Mernagh, Passenger  (28) from Ballyleigh, Ballywilliam, New Ross. Interestingly he was another who had returned on holidays and was heading back to America.  He may have delayed his plans to travel, to await a relative from Bree Co Wexford; Elizabeth Doyle.  Elizabeth was also returning to America, having come home to Ireland to nurse her ailing father.  Both lost their lives. Another to die was crewman Laurence Doyle, fireman (27). Although his origins are unproven, he was thought to be from County Wexford. John O’Connor, Coal trimmer, Coolcotts, Wexford town, survived.

The sinking as depicted on screen over 8 minutes

Conclusion

I was told recently there may be another passenger from Dungarvan and a crew man that hailed from the Dunmore East area originally.  At the time of going to print I have not enough info to commit anything to paper but who knows in time we might enlarge the list.  Incidentally there are two other connections that spring to mind.  The staircase in Loftus Hall on the Hook peninsula was said to be built by the same craftsmen that built the staircase aboard the Titanic.  The other is another unproven anecdote.  But in Cheekpoint I was told as a child that the Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic, actually considered locating in Waterford in the late 19th C based on the local skills base, and had surveyed a site in Cheekpoint near the Sheag Rock.  Had that come to pass, perhaps the Titanic might have been built in Waterford! Unproven, by the author, as yet!

Hello, I’m Andrew Doherty. I’ve written a blog each Friday now since May 2014. Tides and Tales is completely self financed and done in my spare time. If you would like to subscribe to get it to your email each week, contact me at tidesntales@gmail.com Hope you have a great day