On Friday 16th April I appeared on Seascapes, the RTÉ Radio 1 maritime programme with Fergal Keane. Fergal very kindly interviewed me about my book Waterford Harbour Tides and Tales. We covered the background to my blogging and writing, discussed the importance of Waterford as a port, and finished with the story of the Portlairge. If you would like to listen back the link is below.
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]
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]
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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].
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 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.
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
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 .
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.
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.
On the tenth of December 1920 James Quilty sailed from Liverpool on theSS Esperanza de Larrinagabound 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
On the week that Dauntless Courage arrives from the publishers to local shops, I asked author David Carroll to whet the appetite with a short guest blog, and he has chosen an On This Day post about a rescue that is legendary in Dunmore East due to the skill and bravery shown by the lifeboat crew in rescuing local fishermen.
On Thursday, December 14, 1950, the Dunmore East lifeboat Annie Blanche Smith was called out and the Munster Express of the following day, reported as follows:
IN THE NICK OF TIME Dunmore Fishing Crew Saved from Certain Death LIFEBOAT BRAVES SNOW, BLIZZARD AND HIGH SEAS Last night (Thursday) at 8 o’clock, the fishing boats were coming into Dunmore, having been out since 10a.m. that day when it was reported to Mr. Arthur Westcott-Pitt, that flares were seen three miles west of Dunmore, off the dangerous Falskirt Rocks, near Rathmoylan Cove. Immediately Mr. Pitt ordered the lifeboat to go to sea to their assistance. At the time there was a terrific snow blizzard, with visibility practically nil, and it was doubtful if the lifeboat would be able to see the boat in distress.
…a very high south-easterly wind prevailed. The lifeboat left Dunmore at 8pm and nothing more was seen or heard of her for over two hours by watchers on the cliffs. Then the lifeboat appeared towing back McGrath’s fishing boat. What happened in the meantime can only be described as one of the most gallant feats of the Lifeboat Institution, thanks to the bravery of the Dunmore crew, which was as follows: Patrick Power (coxswain), Rd Power (second coxswain), Richard Murphy (chief mechanic) Michael Whittle (second mechanic), Maurice Power (deck hand).
The lifeboat crew searched the sea for the boat, and at first were unable to locate it and then to their amazement, found her a ship’s length of going on the Falskirt Rocks. To the utmost risk of the lifeboat and crew, the members went in amongst the rocks.
The distressed boat had previously dropped an anchor and sent out flares, but owing to the big seas, the anchor chain was smashed. To slow up the boat from making towards the cliffs-and their doom-the fishing crew threw out the herring nets, and this formed a brake slowing their relentless momentum towards the rocks and subsequent drowning.
Just in the nick of time, the lifeboat crew threw them a line and saved them. In only a matter of moments, the fishing boat would have been smashed to atoms, with the loss of five men. It appears that the engine of the fishing boat had failed a few hours previously when they sent up flares and threw out the anchor. But for great fortune and the bravery of the lifeboatmen, the fishermen would likely to have been lost in a night of terrible conditions. Mr Westcott-Pitt wrote the following at the end of the Service Report:
I would particularly like to bring to your notice the bravery of the Coxswain and 2nd Coxswain who successfully carried out a wonderful rescue. The 2nd Coxswain at the wheel took the lifeboat into the half submerged Falskirt Rocks in a snow blizzard during a full SE gale with the full knowledge that herring nets were drifting all around so as to enable the Coxswain to get a line on board the St Declan thus to rescue the five men- who were certainly doomed but for the brave and cool courage of the Cox, 2nd Cox and crew.
*John (Rocky) Power was listed in the official Service Report as a member of the crew. His name was omitted from the newspaper account. Skipper of the Saint Declan was Paddy Matty Power. Also, aboard was John Dunne of Coxtown, a stalwart of the lifeboat crew for many years, Jack Whittle, Dick Bulligan Power and Davy O’Rourke.
The Munster Express dated February 16, 1951 carried the following report:
GALLANTRY OF DUNMORE EAST LIFEBOAT MEN R.N.L.I. Awards for Rescue in Gale The R.N.L.I. has awarded to Coxswain Patrick Power of its lifeboat at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, a clasp to the bronze medal for gallantry which he won in 1941; the bronze medal to Second-Coxswain Richard Power and £3 10s. to them and each other member of the crew, for the rescue on the night of December 14 of the fishing boat, “St. Declan” and her crew in a gale with blizzards of snow. The lifeboat found the fishing boat close to the dangerous Falskirt Rocks. She was riding to her nets. In a few minutes she would have struck the rocks, the nets would have closed round her, and a rescue been impossible. The lifeboat went close to her, a line was thrown, and using 80 fathoms anchor cable, the lifeboat towed the fishing boat clear. This was done in extreme darkness in the teeth of the gale, with the tide running against the wind and a high sea breaking fiercely on the rocks. The lifeboat was handled with great courage and superb seamanship.
The awards took place in London on March 13, 1951 at a RNLI ceremony, where presentation was made by the Duchess of Kent. Coxswain Paddy Billy Power was awarded a bar to the bronze medal which he won in 1941 and Second Coxswain Richard Power a bronze medal. Coxswain Edward Kavanagh of Wicklow was also a recipient at the same ceremony.
After the presentation, a spray of shamrock was given to the Duchess of Kent by the three men from Ireland. In her speech, the Duchess said “it was with great pleasure that she had an opportunity of acknowledging the bravery and courage of men from lifeboat stations in Ireland”. She said: “No praise is too high for the 2,000 men who, year after year, carry out their work of rescue with a cheerful disregard of the dangers of every kind which attend this work.”
Thank you, David, what a stirring account of a dramatic rescue. I first heard of it while drifting for herring as a boy myself and the description of the lifeboat managing to get alongside a fishing boat in such conditions and with the driftnets all around, filled me with awe. Expect many such accounts in Dauntless Courage which will be in the local shops in Dunmore East, the Creamery, Burkes of Crooke, and Powers of Cheekpoint from this Wednesday afternoon. It will be in the Book Centre also and the committee that has worked so hard behind the scenes to support David will be at the Lifeboat Station in Dunmore East this Saturday 19th December between 11AM and 3.30PM and Sunday 20th December between 12PM and 3.00PM where pre-orders can be collected.
The Dunmore East area and the lifeboat fraternity, in particular, received some sad news at the weekend with the death of Agnes Abrahamsson. Agnes had a long family association with Dunmore East RNLI as a member of the Fundraising Branch, she was predeceased by her husband Walter who was a Coxswain/Mechanic for many years. Agnes was the mother of the current Coxswain/Mechanic Roy Abrahamsson. A sad loss, deepest sympathies to her family and friends. May she Rest In Peace. More information on her funeral arrangements here.
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