In my recent book on growing up in Cheekpoint I devoted a chapter to my uncle Sonny and his operation of the Cheekpoint pilot boat
. His role was to embark and disembark pilots coming to and from New Ross. The role of pilot or river guide is probably as old as people have sailed into foreign waters. Its a topic I remember well stories of competing crews of hobblers
rowing down the harbour attempting to engage a ship with a pilot and a crew to tie up their vessel. A fascinating story in itself, but for another day.
SS Pembrook at Cheekpoint Feb 1899, note Pilot House sq building on left
AH Poole Collection NLI
The pilots were divided in two separate and distinct groups. The Waterford pilots took ships upand down river to the city. As part of their duties they took New Ross destined ships as far as Cheekpoint, at which point pilots for the competing port of took charge. The actual extent of the New Ross pilots role was “To pilot vessels within the limits from the junction of the River Barrow with the River Suir, up to the entrance of of the canal at St Mullins on the River Barrow, and to the lock quay of Inistioge, on the River Nore”
In the year 1854 New Ross Pilots were expected to abide by the following instructions;
“…to lose no time in boarding such vessels as may be ordered…and to behave in strict propriety…hoisting your distinguishing colour (white, with his number in black) immediately on going aboard a vessel…” A rule I was never aware of and certainly not used in my days of viewing the pilots comings and goings.
“You are to suffer no boat to take any vessel in your charge in tow, except you have orders…or except in cases of of sudden emergency or danger.” Presumably this was to avoid any claims of salvage and unnecessary expense.
“You are in no case whatever to interfere with the duties of the Revenue Officers, but on the contrary are to afford them every assistance…any pilot found so engaged in … shipping contraband…will be immediately suspended…” we have seen before the issues of smuggling
and what a serious challenge it was in the ports.
To encourage “…zeal, activity and good conduct…” pilots are allowed to share in money for “…meritorious services…” however severe penalties are threatened for “…disobediance of oders, irregularity of conduct, or wilful neglect…” Drunkenness is considered the highest order of misconduct!
For a bit of, admittedly poor, modern day footage of a pilot exchange at Cheekpoint here’s a piece I took during the week. Pilot cutter Crofter, putting a New Ross pilot aboard the inbound MV Arklow Cadet and awaiting the Waterford pilot to disembark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF3gQ9HFSsE
Pilots are also expected to discourage any master who might “…cause any part of his ballast to be thrown into the river or harbour…” obviously causing any hazard to navigation, or lowering the available depth of water for shipping was a concern then as now.
The Pilots concerned were:
Stephen Dunn 62
Michael Dunn 60
John Doyle 60
Daniel Eustace 62
Thomas Kehoe 47
Daniel Carroll 41
Patrick Toole 49
No apprentices were listed.
A sliding scale or rates for pilotage are given. These vary with a higher rate for foreign ships and the lowest for ships trading within the then UK waters. Ships between 30-40 tons are 10s for a foreign vessel, 8s for a British ship (this obviously included Irish owned and registered at the time) sailing from overseas and 5s for vessels trading within the UK. The highest charges went to ships listed at 400 tons and upwards. Charges range from £4 1s for a foreign vessel, £3 0s 9d for a British ship sailing from overseas and £2 0s 6d for vessels trading within the UK.
In total 261 vessels paid for pilotage that year into the port, and the same number left it. All but 6 of these ships were British registered. The income this raised was £190 16s 4d each way. The total cost for the pilots that year £315 1s 7d. Disappointingly, there was no breakdown of the size of ships entering or leaving. Ships towed up or down must still pay pilotage, as a pilot is required at all times we are told.
Nothing is made of the pilot boat operating at Cheekpoint, no name of the boat or person or persons employed. However in the costs of running to port, a small sum of £6 19s is expended for the pilot boats, buoys etc, which seems a small sum for the work involved in running a boat, except that the costs are made up elsewhere. In the photo from 1899 a square box pilot hut is partially seen, this was a base that pilots could await in “comfort” for a return trip back upstream. Not like today when cars are readily available.
Of course the pilots had an altogether easier time of it than the later generations as the Barrow Bridge was yet to be built, and it would prove a challenge to pilots
in time to come.
In June we will take a look at the rules governing the Waterford Pilots, of which there is some curious and interesting information. If anyone can supply a local image of the 19thC pilots or related photos to complement this piece I would appreciate it.
Much of the information contained is taken from Return of all Bye-Laws, Regulations, Orders or Ordinance, relating to Pilots or Pilotage now in force within the Jurisdiction of the Commissioners of the Port of New Ross; for the year ending 31st Dec 1854. Accessed from House of Commons Parliamentary Papers.
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