Long Lost Log of the Brig Glide

Occasionally a blog falls literally into my lap.  So it was with this account when a partial and very faded 19th-century sailing ship log was handed to me recently. But what would the tattered pages of the document reveal? An incredible amount as it happens including the ship, the owner, the crew, an astonishing account of a storm-tossed journey, and ultimately the story of the destruction of the Waterford ship on the Wexford shore

Walter and Evelyn Byrne presented me with the document on a recent visit to their pub in Ballyhack, where I was presenting the story of the paddle steamer era. The ship’s log was found in the attic of their pub, and although only a few tattered pages remained, the very faded writing allowed me to at least identify the ship and master.  The puzzle was under what circumstances did the log end up in the attic of the pub, why was it placed there, and by who, and what exactly could I find about this old sailing vessel from the 19th Century.  As it happens, a heck of a lot, thanks to the help of a number of friends. 

An entry in the faded and damaged log for the brig Glide, laying at Passage Monday Dec 23rd 1867
Brig Glide

The brig Glide was a Waterford-owned vessel.  According to Lloyds register of shipping in 1863[i] the ship was built of timber in Halifax Novia Scotia in 1837. The ship was just over 80 feet long, 20 wide, and 12 deep and her stated tonnage was 154 Tons.  The ship was only listed in Lloyds in 1863 and 1864. Then under the command of Captain T Black, the owner was listed as an L Freeman and her port of registry is Waterford.

The Log

Interpreting the remaining pages of the log is a bigger challenge.  A ship’s log is a record kept by a ship’s captain in which the vessel’s daily progress is recorded, the wind, weather, currents encountered, and anything of interest that occurs aboard during a voyage.[ii] Unfortunately the partial log is a very challenging read and I can only decipher parts of it due to the handwriting, the damage, and that it is written in very abridged writing to capture wind, weather, seas, and any incidents. Admittedly I am also curtailed by a lack of experience with reading these, this is my first. Reading historical fiction or biographies can’t quite compare.

On one page the following crew names are recorded; William Walsh, Thomas Riley, Thomas Deveraux, ? Bird, Charles Bird, Pat Furlong, Peter Regan, and John Colfer.  There is also a Patrick Furlong, perhaps the already-mentioned Pat?  A couple of other names were illegible.    (see the end for post-publication information that confirms that some of the crew were from the Slade area of Hook)

Journey to St Andrews

We can make out two full journeys of the vessel and a few partial details of others and the crew.  The first entry deals with a trip from Cardiff to St Andrew’s (I think this is Saint-Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada) under Captain Thomas Black (Thomas was born in Waterford in 1807).  The log commences on July 13th, 1866 when the weather is fair and the Light of Lundy has been sighted.  The journey was uneventful finally arriving at their destination on Sept 1st.  I can’t work out what the outgoing cargo was, but they had difficulties loading deals (timber boards) for the return trip, finally departing on Thurs 27th Sept.  Again the trip home seems uneventful but on Mon October 29th, 1886 the Coningbeg lightship was spotted.  This was rounded at noon and at 3.30 pm a pilot was picked up at Creaden Head, anchoring at Passage at 7 pm

Note a 30-day uneventful passage across the Atlantic, but look at the issue faced by the brig Form on more or less the same journey.

After this some pages are missing and the handwriting and style of the recording change and the name John Commins appears. There’s mention of a trip to Cardiff and Waterford, but the next full account is a trip from Waterford to Boulogne, France.  This trip was anything but routine or uneventful. 

A stormy passage

The Glide was fully loaded (again no mention of the cargo) and was prepared for sailing on Friday, Dec 20th, 1867.  On Sat 21st they departed downriver coming to an anchor at Passage East awaiting favourable winds.  On Sunday 22nd they sailed, rounded the Hook, and ran into a strong SE wind.  On Monday the weather was worsening, the Mine Head light was sighted, and they made the best of the wind to make it back to Passage East where they anchored at 5 pm that evening.  Christmas was spent at anchor, but apart from the weather, the log records nothing of the holiday, any gifts, special meal, or religious observation. I hope they enjoyed it, cause the drama was only beginning. 

On Sat Dec 28th they again sailed from Passage East but thereafter the log is empty of any entries until January 6th when they are sheltering off Falmouth and seem to be busy repairing their masts, rigging, and sails suggesting they have weathered a bad storm.  They remain there until Sat 11th Jan 1868 before getting underway, sighting the Eddystone Light.  On Sunday the 12th the Portland Light is sighted but the winds are increasing, the sail is taken in and there is mention of standing by the pumps if I am interpreting the writing correctly. 

On Tuesday 14th a strong gale is continuing and their second anchor is let go giving 60 fathoms of slack.  The crew is employed at “Sundrey jobs”.  No mention is made of the first anchor.  I can’t work out if that suggests the first one was lost in the events between the 28th Dec and the 6th Jan or that they were deploying the second one to assist the first.  On Wednesday 15th Jan 1868 they haul up the anchor and continued to the Downs where they again dropped anchor and remained until Monday 20th (They tried to move on 18th but had to drop anchor again.  The log ends with a simple entry on Monday, January 20th, 1868 – “Light winds from eastward at 4 am, got up one anchor and got the other short and at 8 am got underway.  At noon pilot came onboard”  Presumably they had arrived at Boulogne…almost a month after first departing Waterford.

The end of the Glide

So what happened to the Brig Glide after the French trip?  Well, I’m not sure, as there was only one record of her in local papers, sailing in ballast for Cardiff in Nov 1870.  ( I found the following after publication which lists the journeys for the first few months of 1871 which included Waterford, Welsh ports, Boulogne and Gursnesy. Also a crew list in this link.) However, I can tell you for sure about her last journey…which ended in disaster on the SW Wexford coast – a familiar refrain here on the blog.  The Waterford Chronicle of Wednesday 25th Feb 1874 recorded that the ship had left Cardiff laden with coal the previous week and on Friday 20th had run into fog just after sunset.  The fog was so dense nothing could be seen within a cable length of the vessel.  At some point the vessel grounded close to Kilmore Quay and broke up on rocks, the crew getting away safely. Another article states the location as Ballygrangans Bay to the east of Kilmore.

A small trading brig entering the Bristol Avon, painted by Joseph Walter. 1838. Royal Museums Greenwich. Public Domain. Wikipedia. I’m afraid I could find no depiction of the Glide, but hopefully, this might give a sense of the scale and sail plan of the vessel.

John Power records that the Glide had 141 tons of coal aboard and had left Cardiff on the 15th Feb but put into Milford to shelter from a storm. She sailed again on the morning of the 20th, meeting the fog off the Wexford shoreline later that night.  Having grounded, the stern post was damaged and the ship made water, rising to about three feet in the hold.  The master tried to set more sail to run the ship ashore,  but she remained fast and they eventually lowered the ship’s boat and rowed ashore.  The piece which was drawn from a local newspaper report concludes that the master was at fault for not casting the lead, to determine the closeness to shore, a practice which would save many a ship in the area![iii] 

As May approaches so does the annual May Day Mile fundraiser for the Dunmore East RNLI. This year my brother Robert and I plan to row from Carrick On Suir to Cheekpoint in a two-day adventure in the punt. We reckon it’s about 25 miles and if you would like to support us, you can donate to this worthy cause here. Watch out for lots of updates, photos, videos,and blogs to capture the month here on T&T

Loughlin Freeman

The owner of the vessel was Loughlin Freeman. He was a merchant and businessman who as early as 1845 had written to the Freemans Journal and described his operations as being extensive including shipping and carrying river freight along both the Suir as far as Clonmel and the Barrow to Dublin.  At the time of the loss of the Glide, several reports mentioned that he was based in Barronstrand Street in Waterford and was also a Town Councillor.  In other accounts, he was described as “an honest and upright liberal in the customs house ward”. In his obituary (1887) he was described as one of the longest-serving TC’s – over 32 years and had also served on the Harbour Board.

Keyzer St and sometimes spelled Keiser St now. Photo via Michael O’Sullivan on the WHG facebook page. Cian Manning previously wrote of the Viking origins of the name

However, Slaters Commercial Directory of 1870 has his business address as Keyzer St, Waterford where he is listed under several entries including an agent for Ale and Porter, a ginger beer and soda manufacturer and a corn merchant. No mention of shipping interests, timber imports or indeed coal. More about h

Orientating our readers from outside Waterford of the location of Keyzer St from the OSI Historic map series. Cian Manning has guest blogged on the street name for us previously.

Now for Freeman to lose one ship in 1874 must have been tragic, but worse was to come.  For in August a sister vessel, the brigantine Alcedo,  left Waterford for Cardiff, where she was impounded by inspectors as she was found to be rotten. 

The reason was a politician named Samuel Plimsoll who first entered the House of Commons as a Liberal in 1868. In 1873 he published Our Seamen, which attacked old and decrepit vessels or “coffin ships,” unseaworthy and overloaded vessels, which were often heavily insured, in which owners risked their crews’ lives. Plimsoll initiated an investigation by a royal commission in 1873, and in 1876 the Merchant Shipping Act gave stringent powers of inspection to the Board of Trade and fixed the loading line (Plimsoll mark) for ships.

Alcedo incident

Unfortunately for Freeman, the Alcedo became a cause celebre and what followed was a series of court cases, newspaper reports, and even statements in the UK parliament where Plimsoll had helped to ensure that the matter of seafarers and their well-being was a topic of concern.   And although the wheels of justice turned slowly, turn they did.  In Waterford, in 1875 one of Freeman’s sons was escorted from the court after an outburst while his father was sentenced to prison for two months and fined £300.  Paradoxically, Freeman failed to live up to his name.

The story of the Alcedo is an interesting one and probably deserves its own blog, perhaps in the future.

The present Byrnes of Ballyhack and an image from he early 20th C probably looking from off one of the paddle steamers fully laden on deck with sheep
Byrnes attic

And why was there a partial ships log in an attic in Byrnes of Ballyhack?  My first thought was that it was left behind by some foreign ship’s master following a shipwreck or death.  Then I wondered if it had been part of the wreck sale, found in an item purchased from the ship at the time, however unlikely that the captain would have left it behind.  But when I shared the information with Walter Byrne, particularly the name of the ship’s master, John Commins, Walter was able to tell me that the family took over the pub in 1929 and that one of the previous owners was the Commins family. 

Thanks to Maria Doyle nee White I now know that John, listed as a Master Mariner, died at his home in Ballyhack on January 26th 1894 aged 73. He died after an illness of five days of pneumonia. His death was witnessed by his son John. Most likely John Commins left the log behind as part of his personal possessions. That’s our working theory – perhaps someone can let us know more.    

I’m indebted to Walter and Evelyn Byrne for the loan of the partial ships log for this piece and to the assistance of Cian Manning, marine artist Brian Cleare, Liam Ryan, Maria Doyle and Andy Kelly.

This story, and the research of it has brought me past the 200th ship I have found that was built or registered in Waterford. I also have a separate list of ships sunk in the harbour or coast of Waterford as well as Waterford ships lost elsewhere…the list now stands at 652.

Post Publication Gillian Finn supplied me with the following details and images on the Historical Wexford facebook page – Two of the crew Charles & brother Christopher Bird were from “Slade” Charles in particular sailed around globe. I work a Hook Peninsula Tree on Ancestry tracking all past inhabitants, I came across a crew record for the Glide.
I enclose it here, lists all the men who sailed on that voyage.

Courtesy of Gillian Finn
Courtesy of Gillian Finn

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[i] Accessed from https://archive.org/details/HECROS1864/page/n369/mode/2up?q=Glide

[ii] James A Dunnage.  Shipping Terms and Phrases.(1925) Pitman Press, London. See p52

[iii] John Power. A Maritime History of County Wexford. (2011)  Olinda Publications.  Kilmore Quay. See p169-70

Imagine arts – Great Westerns Wake

For this years Imagine Arts festival I am doing two talks – both in Jordans on the Quay and both on the theme of Waterford Maritime History.

The first is “In the Great Westerns Wake” – a reminisce of the ship that traded from the early 1930s to the mid-1960s from the Adelphi Wharf and which is synonymous with the city, trade, and emigration. This informal talk is delivered without any visual aids and is based on excerpts of stories I was told and some historical snippets. It takes place on Tuesday 25th October at 1 pm. Free entry. More details here

An appropriate view of the ship given the title of my talk I think

The second is my welcome return (speaking for myself here obviously) to the Booze Blaas and Banter on Saturday 29th October. The early morning hootenanny is described as a homage to the bonhomie and craic that were the early hours Dockers Taverns of yore where dockers gathered to ” clear the wrinkles outa their nuts” Sponsored by Waterford Council of Trade Unions, this year has another great lineup of speakers, poets, and songsters, always a magical morning. More details are here.

And these are just two events that feature yours truly, there’s also a fantastic lineup of other heritage events to choose from, have a browse.

Captain Tom Donohue’s remarkable war afloat

David Carroll, author of Dauntless Courage, and a regular and ever-popular guest blogger with the page, brings us the story of Waterford sea Captain Tom Donohue who died on this day in 1949.

When Captain Tom Donohue, a fifty-nine-year-old native of Dungarvan, and the most renowned member of its maritime community, took command of the MV Kerlogue of Wexford in late 1943, he was no stranger to the shocking violence encountered at sea in World War ΙΙ and very much aware that neutrality was no safeguard for Irish seafarers.

Captain Tom Donohue. Courtesy of Waterford County Museum

The MV Kerlogue (335 tons) was built in Rotterdam in 1939, just prior to the outbreak of World War II for the Wexford Steamship Company. By late 1943, the neutral Kerlogue had been attacked by both sides as well as saving the crew of a Liverpool collier. As we shall read, she would go on to take part in one of most amazing and dramatic rescue operations of World War ΙΙ.

MV Kerlogue off Tuskar Rock, painted by maritime artist, Brian Cleare.

Back in 1941, Captain Donohue was in command of the Lady Belle of Dungarvan. Built in 1900, by J Fullerton & Co. at Paisley in Scotland, the Lady Belle was 140 ft in length, 24 ft beam, and had a cargo capacity of about 330 tons. She had been purchased by the Moloney Steamship Company of Dungarvan in 1925.

On March 26th, 1941, the Lady Belle was attacked from the air by the Luftwaffe while on a voyage from Dungarvan to Cardiff to collect a cargo of coal for her owners, A Moloney & Sons Ltd., Dungarvan. Ten miles SE of the Smalls, at the entrance to the Bristol Channel, she became the target of one of the many marauding German planes that pillaged the British coast. Although severely damaged, she made it to Milford Haven, under her own steam in a crippled condition. The crew was uninjured. She was sold soon after to Sheehan and Sullivan of Cork.

SS Lady Belle of Dungarvan.

The Lady Belle is still fondly remembered in the folklore and maritime heritage of Dungarvan. It also gives it name to a well-known pub, located in Grattan Square, Dungarvan.

On October 7th 1941, while sailing from Port Talbot in Wales to Rosslare, MV Kerlogue was damaged by a mine but survived. Earlier in that same year, on April 2nd, a British convoy was attacked by German bombers. Distress signals were seen by the Kerlogue, which altered course and went to aid of the disabled Wild Rose, a collier from Liverpool. The crew members were rescued and the Kerlogue managed to tow the Wild Rose and beach her on the strand at Rosslare.

In May 1943, Tom Donohue was serving on the SS Irish Oak, homeward bound from Tampa, Florida to Dublin with a cargo of 8,000 tons of phosphate fertiliser. At 08.19hrs on May 15th, when 700 miles west of Ireland, she was torpedoed and sunk without warning by
a then-unknown German submarine. Later it transpired that the identity of the submarine was U-608. Another submarine U-650 had encountered the Irish Oak on the previous day. The Irish Plane, the Irish Rose, and the Irish Ash responded to the SOS. The full crew of survivors was located by the Irish Plane, having spent eight hours in lifeboats and were landed at Cobh on May 19th.

May 1943 saw the greatest losses suffered by U-boats up to that time, with 41 being destroyed during the month- 25% of the operational U-boats. On May 24th, the German Naval Commander Karl Dönitz ordered a temporary halt to the U-boat campaign. Sadly, for the Irish Oak, this withdrawal had come too late.

Artistic impression of the sinking of the SS Irish Oak, May 15th,1943, 700 miles west of Ireland. Kenneth King Image courtesy of Cormac Lowth

Later that year, on October 23rd, 1943, 130 miles south of Ireland, on passage to Lisbon with a cargo of coal, MV Kerlogue was circled by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Sunderland flying boat. Three hours later, she was attacked by two unidentified aircraft for over twenty minutes. Another RAAF Sunderland came on the scene and the Kerlogue signaled, requesting an escort and medical assistance. The Sunderland replied that help could not be given. The severely damaged Kerlogue limped back to Cobh, where it was found that the cargo of coal had saved her; without it, the shells would have penetrated the hull. The ammunition fragments were found to be of British origin. The identity of the attackers remained a secret until the thirty-year rule released Air Ministry documents into the Public Records Office at Kew, London.1 The aircraft were found to have been Mosquito fighters of No 307 Polish Night Fighter Squadron.

The Master of the Kerlogue on that voyage, Captain Desmond Fortune had both his legs fractured. The attack left Captain Fortune relying on crutches and suffering from wounds he received for the rest of his life. Second Officer Samuel Owens had shrapnel fragments in his chest and John Boyce of Rosslare and Jim Carty of Wexford were also injured.

The Kerlogue was repaired in Cork and on December 27th, 1943, with Captain Tom Donohue now in command, departed from Lisbon homeward bound to Dublin with a cargo of oranges.

All hopes that the Captain and crew had of having a trouble-free voyage were soon dashed. At first light on December 29th, the Irish vessel was in a position some 360 miles equidistant south of Fastnet and west of Brest, was repeatedly circled by a German aircraft signaling an SOS, and that help was required in a south-easterly direction. Kerlogue altered course and after two hours steaming came upon the most appalling aftermath of naval warfare from the previous day.

The German Narvik-class destroyer Z27 and two Elbing class torpedo boats, T25 and T26, had been sunk. More than seven hundred men, most of them dead, were in the water. The sea all around the Kerlogue was covered with men floating on rafts, on the wreckage, and in lifejackets.

These sailors had intended to escort Alsterufer, a German blockade runner, which was on a voyage from Kobe, Japan to occupied France with a cargo of rubber and other strategic war materials. The Admiralty in London had mounted ‘Operation Stonewall’ to intercept blockade runners and the cruisers HMS Glasgow and HMS Enterprise sailed from Plymouth to intercept her. An intense naval battle took place in the Bay of Biscay and in the action the two British cruisers, despite being outnumbered, sank the German ships with their 6-inch guns. Unknown to them, Alsterufer had been set on fire by a Liberator aircraft of 311 Squadron, RAF, and sunk on the previous day, December 27th.

Bay of Biscay where a fierce naval battle took place on December 28th, 1943.

“As rafts rose into view on the crests of the giant waves, we could see men on them and others clinging to their sides. At first, we did not know whether they were Allied or Axis until somebody noticed the long ribbons trailing downwards from behind a seaman’s cap which denoted that they were German Navy men.” 2

Captain Frank Forde in his excellent book, ‘The Long Watch: World War ΙΙ and the Irish Mercantile Marine’, graphically describes the action:

“For ten hours the rescue work continued, Kerlogue moving from group to group, dragging exhausted men, many ill-clad and suffering from exposure, on board. Cabins, storerooms, and alleyways were soon packed with shivering, soaked and sodden men; others were placed in the engine-room where it became so crowded that Chief Engineer Eric Giggins could not move around to tend his machinery, and so by signs – as none spoke English- he got the survivors to move the instruments he could not reach. Fourteen men were packed into the tiny wheelhouse, leaving the helmsman, Able Seaman Thomas Grannell of Wexford, barely room to steer. Captain Donohue had the most seriously injured placed in his cabin, and assisted by Third Officer, Garret Roche, began first-aid treatment. It was a hopeless task; there was no doctor on board, or amongst the Germans, and medical supplies were totally inadequate for the numerous injured. One man was burned from head to foot and though conscious when taken on board, died a few hours later. Another two died during the night. It began to grow dark about 4pm, but the rescue work continued by floodlight until 9pm when, with 168 survivors on board, Captain Donohue turned north for Ireland.”

Lieutenant-Commander Joachim Quedenfelt was the senior German Officer that was rescued. He was in command of the 1,300-ton torpedo destroyer T26. Out of a crew of 206, Kerlogue picked up 93 from this vessel. The German Officer described how after a night on a raft, he watched the next morning “the little ship bravely moving through enormous waves to pick up more and more of my comrades.” 3.

Lieutenant-Commander Quedenfelt requested that the ship sail to La Rochelle or Brest in France to land his men. Captain Donohue steadfastly refused, which was a very brave act when you consider the Germans outnumbered the Irish crew.

A roll call and inspection of the survivors after their first night aboard Kerlogue disclosed that three sailors had died. During the afternoon of December 30th, the Kerlogue stopped and the sailors were buried at sea. Subsequently, another wounded sailor died but it was decided to retain his body on board for burial in Ireland.

Under the terms of the navicert issued to Captain Donohue by the British Naval Authorities at the beginning of the voyage, he should have headed to Fishguard for examination and clearance before proceeding to Dublin. (The navicert was a permit given to neutral ships by the British Authorities that required them to call at a designated UK port for examination and clearance on both outward and homeward legs of their voyages from Ireland.) Because of the condition of the survivors and shortage of supplies, Captain Donohue headed for Cork, the nearest Irish port.

The Kerlogue maintained radio silence for fear of drawing attention to its destination. As luck would have it, the cargo of oranges proved to be valuable in sustaining the German sailors on the voyage and preventing dehydration. To avoid being spotted by Allied planes, the sailors were kept out of sight below decks during daylight hours, only coming on deck for fresh air at night.

At 22.00hrs on December 31st, when about 30 miles south of Fastnet, Kerlogue, broke radio silence and advised Valentia radio of their position and that they had 164 survivors on board, seven of them seriously wounded and one dead body. They requested medical aid on arrival. Valentia acknowledged the message and signed off with ’Well done, Kerlogue’. Fifteen minutes later, Land’s End Radio in Cornwall broadcast a message, which was repeated every fifteen minutes, instructing Kerlogue to proceed to Fishguard as required by the conditions of her navicert. This order was ignored by Captain Donohue, who acted in the tradition of Admiral Nelson’s ‘blind eye’ and switched off his radio receiver.

MV Kerlogue is met by the Irish Marine Service patrol vessel Muirchú and Motor Torpedo Boat, M1 at Roche’s Point at the entrance to Cork Harbour, January 1st, 1944. Painting by Brian Cleare and by kind permission of Mr Eoghan Allan of Cobh.

Captain Donohue described the homecoming as follows:
“At 10 am on Saturday, New Year’s Day 1944, we stopped off at Roche’s Point. Doctors boarded the vessel and sent some of the survivors ashore. I then proceeded into the harbour and docked at the deep-water quay in Cobh. I was boarded by the ship’s owners together with Naval, Military, and Red Cross people as well as some people of Cobh. The wounded men were removed ashore together with all other survivors. The crew and me went to the hotel for a good wash, food, and, needless to say, sleep. I had all the beds and bedding removed from the Kerlogue. Crew’s quarters cleaned, washed, and fumigated by shore people. We left Cobh on Sunday, January 2, shortly after 4 pm bound for Fishguard for examination.” 4.

The German sailors were taken to Collins Barracks, Cork, where one of the wounded, Petty Officer Helmut Weiss, died from burns. Along with Lieut. Braatz, who had died at sea, the two sailors were buried in Cobh but re-interred later in the German War Cemetery at Glencree, Co Wicklow. Once the other sailors were declared fit, they were transferred to the Curragh Internment Camp for the duration of the war.

When Kerlogue reached Fishguard, to obtain her clearance, Captain Donohue underwent what he described in the newspaper article by Tom Tobin, as ‘his most trying experience of all’. The senior British naval officer raged at Captain Donohue for not bringing the Germans to the Welsh port and threatened to withdraw the ship’s navicert. It was described as an ugly scene as the irate Dungarvan man, flushed with anger, reminded the shouting bully that his only concern was to save life. It was to the credit of the other Royal Navy officers listening, that they apologised for this ill-mannered outburst. 5

The Kerlogue eventually docked in Dublin on January 5th, 1944. A letter from Dr. Eduard Hempel, German Minister to Ireland, was delivered to Captain Donohue. In it, he expressed, ‘To you and your crew my profound gratitude as well as my high appreciation of the unhesitating valiant spirit which has prompted you to perform this exemplary deed, worthy of the great tradition of Irish gallantry and humanity. I hope to make your personal acquaintance soon.’ 6 Later, Dr. Hempel presented a solid silver cup to Captain Donohue with smaller replicas for each of the other members of the crew on behalf of the German Government.

Captain Tom Donohue died on December 2nd, 1949, and is buried on the grounds of Abbeyside Church near Dungarvan. John Young, the recently deceased Dungarvan maritime historian, previously remarked on how poignant it is that he was buried in a site that is only fifty yards from the sea.

In 1994, a Commemorative Service was held in Abbeyside Church to mark the 50th anniversary of the rescue. A wreath was laid on the grave of Captain Donohue and the ceremony was attended by members and relatives of his family, survivors, Naval and Diplomatic personnel, and Public Representatives.

Commemorative Service held in Abbeyside Church, May 29th, 1994. Photos: Waterford Co Museum
Kerlogue memorial on the Crescent, Wexford Quay. Image courtesy of Leo Coy

In 2015, a memorial was unveiled at Crescent Quay, Wexford to honour the ten men who risked their own lives in December 1943 to save the lives of others, responding to the age-long code of the sea- help a fellow seaman in distress.

David recently gave a public lecture on his book Dauntless Courage, which is now available to be viewed.

Bibliography:
The Long Watch by Captain Frank Forde, Gill, and Macmillan, 1981
‘The Kerlogue Incident’ by Patrick Sweeney, Maritime Journal of Ireland, Spring 1994, No. 31
A Maritime and General History of Dungarvan 1690-1978 by John Young
‘Why oranges were scarce that 1943 Christmas’. Newspaper article by Tom Tobin. Kindly made available by Waterford County Museum.

References:

1 The Long Watch, page 118.

2 The Long Watch, pages 119 /120. Words spoken by Chief Officer, Denis Valencie

3 The Long Watch, page 121.

4 ‘Why oranges were scarce that 1943 Christmas’. By Tom Tobin

5 The Long Watch, page 123.

6 Ibid.

Many thanks to Brian Ellis, Honorary Librarian, National Maritime Museum, and Willie Fraher and staff of Waterford County Museum for their assistance with this article.

A model of MV Kerlogue and other interesting information is on display at the National Maritime Museum, Haigh Terrace, Dún Laoghaire.

Arrival of the new Port Láirge

On the 18th of November, a significant piece of local maritime history was created when the new pilot launch Port Láirge was received by Port of Waterford at Dunmore East.

‘Port Láirge’ is a name well known in the maritime heritage in Waterford. The previous namesake Portlairge was the much-loved steam dredger that served on the Suir from her arrival on the 10th September 1907 until she broke down in late 1982.

The Portlairge, in her heyday, was so identifiable with Waterford that I chose it for my recent books cover from an original image by Jonathan Allen. Press on the photo if you would like a signed copy for a present this Christmas 🙂

The origin of the place name of course is contested. According to one of our foremost young historians Cian Manning, Port Láirge translates in English as ‘Port of a Thigh’ with one origin story attributing the name to the tragic fate of a young prince named Rot. He was attracted to sea by sirens, the winged mythical female creatures, perhaps seeking an intellectual conversation when he is then torn limb from limb with his thigh bone washing ashore at Port Láirge. I have also read that Láirge may have been a person, or indeed that looked down on from Mount Misery, the shape of the Suir at the city may suggest the shape of a thigh. Think I prefer Cian’s theory 🙂

Pictured at the Dunmore East pontoon taking receipt of the new Port of Waterford Pilot Boat,‘Port Láirge’, are from left: Captain Darren Doyle Port of Waterford, Joefy Murphy from Dunmore East, John Glody from Dunmore East, and Sean Whitty from Passage East. Photo: Mary Browne

Back to the boat. The €1m all-weather 15-meter interceptor was built by Safehaven Marine in Youghal Co Cork which was established in 1998 and employs 30 people. They have built over 110 vessels in that time including 48 pilot boats from all over the world. Their latest will be based at Dunmore East and will provide safer working conditions for pilotage personnel. The vessel is self-righting and capable of recovering if capsized by a large breaking wave. The vessel also offers a reduction in fuel emissions and is a more efficient pilot launch vessel for the Port of Waterford. More info on the design of Port Láirge here.

On Sea Trials. Courtesy of Safehaven Marine
Cockpit with all the mod cons. Courtesy of Safehaven Marine
Plenty of room and comfort for pilots. Courtesy of Safehaven Marine

On the Port of Waterford website Capt Darren Doyle, Harbourmaster, said, “We along with the maritime community here in Waterford are delighted with the new addition to the fleet of Port vessels. The work of the pilot crew is highly skilled and it requires a state-of-the-art vessel to ensure that this work can be carried out year-round in all weather conditions.”

As the ‘Port Láirge’ arrived off Dunmore East she shadowed the pilot launch she will replace ‘Tom Brennan‘. A pilot had just been boarded to the bulk carrier Minneapolis Miyo IMO 9875721 inbound to Port of Waterford from Taranto in Italy. Photo: Safehaven Marine

I think it’s important to mark the arrival of Port Láirge. For not alone is it an important event in the harbour, it’s also a vote of confidence in the ongoing running of the Port of Waterford and indeed to a lesser extent New Ross.

But in its own way, this event will one day be history too. From bitter personal experience, I know that such events will at some point in the future elude researchers. Time and again I endure the frustration of searching the internet and written sources to piece together the events of relevance to our maritime community.

David Carroll is currently helping me to try to track down the first pilot boats to work in the harbour via the National Archives. To date, we can say that following the establishment of the Harbour Board in 1816 the first such vessel that we could name was the pilot cutter Scott in 1824. We have managed to piece together many other vessels that served the pilots since. Post-publication fellow blogger Pete Goulding of Pete’s Irish Lighthouses fame contacted me with details of the pilot cutter Caroline in operation in January 1818.

Dunmore as it would have looked in the era of the Gannet and the arrival of the Betty Breen

And we know that although the majority of pilot vessels were bought second-hand and repurposed from fishing boats and pleasure craft, a small number were purpose-built for the pilot service. For example in  1856 the Gannet,  described as a pilot cutter 58ft x 16ft x 9ft and 40tons burden, was built and launched from Whites shipyard in Ferrybank, Waterford. It later came to a sticky end in December 1863 off Creaden Head. And in October 1951 the Betty Breen was launched from Tyrell’s boatyard in Arklow, operating from Dunmore East until 1993.

If you want a sense of what this new vessel can do, check out this video of her rough weather sea trials of punching through breakers in force 10 winds

So in marking the arrival of a new, Irish-made, purpose-built, vessel for the piloting service we are not just acknowledging a new boat. We are celebrating a long and proud tradition in seamanship, seafaring, and commercial activity that has enhanced and grown not just Waterford and New Ross, but the region itself. A major milestone, and for me anyway, a vote of confidence in the harbour for many more years to come.

Loss of the Gannet – an unholy row

On a dark December night off the coast of Dunmore East, the pilot boat Gannet spotted an incoming steamer and sailed on a line upriver to intercept.  The action would lead to the loss of the pilot boat and an unholy row in Waterford that would see the court of public opinion brought to the fore.  But that was still to come, our story starts on that winter night.

Pilot boat Gannet was built at Whites shipyard in 1856.  She was 40 ton 58ft cx16ftx 9 feet on what are now the city’s North Quays.  A predecessor, the Falcon, had been deemed unfit by the board.  The Gannet however had served faithfully alongside another vessel, the Seagull.

At 5.30 pm on December 3rd, 1863 the Gannet was on duty off the coast of Dunmore East, sailing around in anticipation of inbound ships requiring a pilot.  Captained by a Pilot Master, and when with a full compliment, 6 pilots aboard, she would respond to a raised flag in daylight or show a light in darkness from ships requiring pilotage. 

As the Gannet proceeded upriver towards Creaden Head, lights were exchanged with the ship, which later claimed in showed no signal for a pilot.  The ship was the SS Beta (built 1861; 747 gross tons, 220ftx30x17) of the Malcomson lines Waterford Steamship Company (WSCo).  The Beta was on a regular run between the port and London ( several reports state that she was calling to Waterford having sailed from Belfast for London).  The Captain had a Board of Trade Masters certificate for Waterford, exempting him from taking on a pilot, the regularity of sailing, and his experience having been determined that he was exempt.  In a later newspaper report that year Captain Upton was named as Master, but no Captain was named on the night of the incident in the reports I have found.

From later newspaper accounts, the Gannet hove-to above Creaden Head and three pilots got into the small boat that was used to board the pilots.  As they did so, they noticed the Beta change direction to pass astern to the pilot boat, and at this point, the Gannet came about to again intercept.  With no time to change course, the Beta rammed the hull of the pilot boat. [I]

Pilot cutter Seagull – with thanks to Richard Woodley, the cutter was a contemporary of the Gannet and may have looked somewhat similar

The cutter was struck on the port side, abaft the mast, and sank immediately.  The Pilot master with three pilots – Glody, Diggins, and Delaney managed to get aboard the steamer.  Their three colleagues, Butler, Power, and Ryan, were towed in the small punt to Passage East. [ii]

At the next meeting of the Board a discussion into the loss of the Pilot Cutter and whether to lease another.  There was a lot of upset as the master of the Beta had been quoted as telling the Pilot cutter captain that “He knew damn well he didn’t need a pilot”.  Members wondered if maybe ships should be required to signal a specific light that a pilot was not required!  A unanimous decision was taken to write to the Board of Trade to request an inquiry.[iii]

Creaden Head on a glorious Summers day, the area of river above it is where the incident happened

At the last Harbour Board meeting in December, a letter was read from the Committee of Privy Council for Trade in a response to a request from the commissioners asking for an inquiry into the case of the collision.  The response was not what the Board had hoped for, but they were of the opinion that since this was a case of a collision it was not of a character in which they usually interfered and therefore they declined to get involved.   However, after a discussion, it was decided that as the “Merchant Shipping Act stated that when a steamer met a sailing vessel it should keep out of her way and in this case the Beta did not, that the Board would request that the Board of Trade revisit their decision” [iv]

Given the earlier description of what had occurred…it’s difficult to understand how the Harbour Board came up with that decision.  But ask they did and refused again they were; receiving what was described as “a very definite and negative response from the Board of Trade”.  Somewhere amidst all this toing and froing one William Malcomson (WSCo & member of the Harbour Board) let it be known that he was happy to enter into arbitration to try to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of both parties. This was agreed to after a prolonged and rather fractious debate that went on long into the night.[v]

William Malcomson after Bill Irish

However, at some point in the following weeks, it seems that the Harbour Board took a decision to revisit this decision and made a request that the arbitration be overseen by Queens Advocate from Dublin.  This was interpreted by some as kicking the arbitration into a legal sphere.  And it provoked an unholy row.

A WSCo advert from June 1863 (and below) Waterford Mail – Wednesday 17 June 1863; page 1
It would seem that the ships normally came in to Waterford on the Thursday from Belfast, and sailed again on the Friday for London

Part of the problem seems connected to a letter written by the Steamship Company to the Harbour Board, that was overlooked at the monthly Board meeting.  However, the letter found its way into the papers, and not just in Waterford.  The response was explosive.  The court of public opinion cared little for the navigation laws of shipping.  The Malcomson family was then a huge employer in Waterford, and with an internationally good name in business and shipping circles.  A very long and detailed analysis of the matter was contained in the Waterford Mail, which excoriated the Board, pointed out Malcomson’s support for Waterford, the Board, and notable charitable good works, and questioned the very purpose of the Board.  The actions of the board were considered petty and unjust.  Malcomson’s position was that this was an expensive way to do business.  His position was that both sides should enter the arbitration in good faith and see if an agreement could be reached.  If there were points that were disputed, then these could be judged by the Advocate.  A much cheaper solution he believed.[vi]

The Harbour Commissioners offices were located in this building on Gladstone St at the time

At the Board meeting of March, Alderman Denny took the floor of what I can only assume was a very unsettled assembly.  He addressed the controversy and acknowledged the public disquiet in the city and how the matter had been handled.  He went on to extol the virtues of William Malcomson and the Waterford Steamship Company and also to discuss the current action believing it would have been better: “to have asked for reasonable compensation for the loss of the Gannet. The original cost of that boat was £1,150, and she was 7 years at sea, exposed to very trying and severe weather all seasons so that it is not too much to say that she lost 5% of her original value (PA obviously though not mentioned in the report) thus leaving her value at £757 or thereabouts.  If we make up our minds that the crew the Gannet was in no way to blame in the matter, then we are entitled to about £750, and more in fairness. If, on the other hand, it can be shown that the Gannet was wrong and that the fault did not lie with the Beta, are not entitled to a single farthing.”[vii]

Councillor Walsh rebutted this pointing out that it was right and proper that the Harbour Board take legal proceedings against Malcomson and WSCo.  At issue he felt was the livelihoods and property of the 7 pilots who were aboard the Gannet that night, and who were out of work since.[viii]

After much acrimony, a proposal was put forward from Mr Jacob saying that legal proceedings should be halted and that a request for a settlement of £600 be put to the WSCo.  This was seconded and eventually agreed to.  In what must have seemed like a very melodramatic twist, at this point, Mr. Jacob held up a letter from the WSCo stating that they would be happy to settle the matter for £600.  Game set and match to Mr. Malcomson it would appear.[ix] 

Members of the Harbour Board were insistent that an inquiry was required into the actions of the Pilot Master that night in the harbour.  Questions were raised about his fitness to operate, and the judgment of all the pilots on the night.  However, there were also pragmatic concerns.  What if the Board found that the pilots were in error?  Would the £600 be forfeit, would they come out the worse.  It seems that a subcommittee was formed to look into the matter, but I could find no report in the papers of the time as to any findings.[x]  I’d imagine that the vast majority of people had already heard too much about the incident.

But what of the Gannet?  Whatever the acrimony within the offices of the Harbour Board, the matter still existed of a sunken vessel and one less pilot boat to meet the needs of the port.   A wreck buoy was stationed directly over the vessel and a notice contained in papers as early as the day after the event. Subsequently, the wreck was raised, as it was an impediment to shipping.  My guess is that the damage was so bad, the pilot boat was dragged closer to the Wexford shore and dropped to the bottom.  Walter Foley told me previously that the salmon driftnet fishermen had a foul mark off Broomhill called the Pilot Boat.  It’s the only one that I am aware of that fits the bill.

The following notice appeared in local papers

Interestingly, the Gannet was not replaced.  Newspaper accounts later that year point to a drop in shipping and a struggle to meet the wages of pilots due to the resulting loss in revenue to the port.   Although other boats were employed at Passage, and an occasional replacement at Dunmore, the Seagull carried out the duties on her own at Dunmore East until she was replaced at some point in the early 1930s by the Elsie J.