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

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

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.

4 Replies to “Glencoe and other shipwrecks on Waterford’s coast- Dec 1840”

  1. Hi Andrew, It’s great to see all the information that you are putting up on the coastal history of the area. Waterford Harbour Tides & Tales is a must read site for me. Look forward to your next item, Cheers!!!

  2. Hi Andrew,
    I’ve been researching Ballymacaw Coastguard Station and the men station there from 1820 till it was discontinued in 1906/7. I can give you the names of the men who would have been there when the Glencoe was wrecked:

    Charles French, Chief Officer from Mar 1839 to Jul 1841
    Samuel Sarman, Chief Boatman from Feb 1835 to Feb 1841
    Matthew Hudson, Comm. Boatman from Sep 1838 to Mar 1849
    Richard Wade, Comm Boatman from Aug 1840 to Feb 1844
    John Wigery, Boatman Apr 1834 to Apr 1841
    Roger Cox, Boatman from Apr 1834 to Sep 1848
    Michael Parker, Boatman from Sep 1837 to Apr 1843
    John Drinan?, Boatman Jul 1838 to Feb 1841
    Andrew Cunningham, Boatman from Dec 1839 to Sep 1848
    William Taylor, Boatman Aug 1840 to Oct 1841

    That’s the full complement at that time of 1 Chief Officer, 1 Chief Boatman, 2 Commissioned Boatmen and 6 Boatmen , though not all were involved in the rescue: – Coastguards of Yesteryear website gives the following information:
    FRENCH, CHARLES. Chief Officer, Coastguard, Ballymacaw, Co. Waterford. Silver Medal. 21 January 1841
    On the 7th.December 1840 when the vessel ‘Glencoe’, Glasgow to Calcutta, was wrecked near Waterford, Mr. French, six coastguards and four local men placed themselves on nearby rocks with lifelines round their bodies. As the Master and his crew of twelve men dropped from the bowsprit and jib boom, they were dragged one at a time through the surf to safety.

    1. Thanks for that information Olivia, that is really excellent and I am delighted to have it. Best of luck with the research.

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