Recalling Geneva Barracks

Deena and myself have found many ways to endure the Covid 19 lockdown, good food, plenty of exercise and some other daily habits such as watching the 9pm news to be informed and remembering to keep in touch with family and friends to break the isolation. One daily ritual that has emerged specifically during the lock down is an evening reading by Catherine Foley from her book Beyond the Breakwater. A chapter each day as been a welcome distraction as is her witty, heartfelt and often melodious memories of life in the area that we call home. One that stood out was her reading of Geneva Barracks and the colour and drama of a sports day from the 1960’s held in the grounds there.

Catherine reads Chapter 15 – Geneva Barracks. Filmed by her sister RoseAnn

Now I always thought that Geneva Barracks must sound almost exotic to anyone who has never heard of its history. And the childhood memories of Catherine certainly paint a vibrant and dynamic community scene. I had never been to events there however, but It brought to mind recollections from the late 1970’s walking with others from Cheekpoint to Lynches farm at Parkswood and a newly mown field filled with stalls, people, animals, running races and all manner of entertainment.

Fintan Walsh explained to me yesterday by email, that events had a long association with the Barracks.  “Since the early part of the 20th century lots of sporting and musical activities took place there including Feis’s with singing and dancing, bands came out from Waterford, games of football  and hurling would be included, football between Dunmore  and Wexford teams, between Passage and Kilkenny teams and billed as Inter Provincial games.  My father told me these would be packed from all over the South East.  When Passage Hurling club was formed in 1935 they used Geneva for most of their matches until 1950 or so and Gaultier also used it for football games.  In the 1940’s Passage Hurling Club organised sports with many events there.  I remember being in Geneva for horse racing in the late 1940’s, I remember a Passage youth riding a horse called Movita. Woodstown played many soccer games there in the fifties.  The sports you mention were organised by a local Parish Committee in the 60’s up to the very early 70’s.”

Catherine Foley with her mother at the sports day

Catherine also sings in that reading a song entitled “the Croppy Boy” a song synonymous with the 1798 rebellion and the dark side of Geneva Barracks – An Internment camp.  According to Jim Hegarty a fort had been established on the site in 1790.  He describes it as an enclosed 14 acre site surrounded by 18ft walls and with four look out bastions on the corners with gun loops.  A Chavaux-de-frise was built to guard the front entrance which was built to accommodate 1500 troops. 

A hand drawing of what the Barracks looked like

After the 1798 rebellion the Barracks was used as an internment camp where the conditions were described by one, Colonel Thomas Cloney, as “The filthiest and most damp and loathsome prison, devoid of any comfort.”   Abuse was frequent, torture, whippings and executions.  Those that survived had a few options, none of which were very pleasant.  Press ganged to the navy, service with the army or to face transportation for life to Australia or the West Indies. 

A few years back at a Barony of Gaultier walk in the area, Richard Corcoran explained that the troops stationed at the Barracks were despised in the area due to their viciousness and violence towards locals.  In fact many of the homes of that era didn’t have windows that opened onto the road, so common was it that troops would fire musket shot at homes.

the bottom left look out bastion (based on the sketch above) as it looks presently
South Facing wall today

Richard also explained how the prisoners were marched down the Passage Road under musket and bayonet guard to be filed onto ships at transhipped to Cork for deep sea ships and transportation.  Jim Hegarty mentions three different battalions of troops – The Devon and Cornwall Fencibles, the Dumbarton Highlanders and German Hessians. Paul M Kerrigan in Decies 28 remarks on a Royal Navy 64 gun ship named the Admiral de Vieres that arrived in Passage East in February of 1799 to provide escort to troops who were embarking from New Geneva for Ebgland aboard commercial sailing ships. No mention is made of the regiment however.

I could find little more about the barracks and its military use.  According to my cousin James Doherty  one of the reasons for the siting on the Barracks was that ‘…British authorities ( rightly as it would turn out ) feared that Ireland would be used as a stepping stone to Britain by the French, these fears became reality when the French landed in Bantry in 1796.  Earlier in the same year a senior British engineer had inspected the Irish defences and had commented on the strategic importance of Geneva Barracks but its lack of strength, Charles Vallancy noted ” Geneva only mounts two 12 pounder cannon ” and recommended the strengthening of the garrison.’

Obviously the insurrection of the united Irishmen of 1798 changed its focus.  But as James points out ‘…The battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and the complete defeat of the French Navy would see a move away from coastal defences with the military focusing towards  large central barracks in the population centres.”  According to Jim Hegarty plans were drawn up to convert it to a military hospital which never came to pass.  According to Patrick C Power it was abandoned in 1824.

But why the name Geneva Barracks?  Well that as they say is a whole other story but briefly it goes back to the year 1783 when the Irish Parliament of the time provided money towards the relocation of Swiss artisans to the Waterford harbour area.  The plan was a grande one which was to see the making of watches on the site, along with accommodation, a university and associated industries to support the work.  It came to nothing but I can’t help by think that the scene as captured by Catherine in her story and Fintan in his recollection gives a small indication of what could have been – a vibrant, bustling and lively location filled with drama, laughter and shouts of joy. 

  • References used:
  • Jim Hegarty. Time and Tide.  A short history of Passage East
  • Catherine Foley. Beyond the Breakwater. Mercier Press
  • Decies #28 Spring 1985. Paul M Kerrigan. P 5
  • Patrick C Power. History of Waterford City & County. 1998, Dungarvan

For the readings by Catherine Foley you can use this link to RoseAnn Foleys You Tube Channel. You can also subscribe for notification of the daily uploads . And she can be contacted for copies of her book by email to:
The book costs €15 and the postage is added to that – in Ireland it is €3.40. It’s €5.70 to the UK and it’s €7 to Australia.

Great Island Power Station Demolishing Commences

In recent weeks planning permission was sought by SSE Airtricity to begin the process of removing the old heavy oil producing power plant located on Great Island Co Wexford.

In older times before decommisioning and construction of the new gas fired station. Courtesy of Brendan Grogan

The decommissioned power station had long been a thorn in the side of Cheekpoint residents, Co Waterford, due to the noise that emenated from the plant. In recent years this has been added to with the construction of a new gas fired power station adjoining the old site. However the plans to remove the old plant and its 300 foot chimneys was not met with widespread support. Many in the community expressed a wish to see the chimneys retained and recently a scheduled meeting to begin a campaign had to be cancelled due to the Corona Virus social distancing rules. Foremost in the critics of the plan was noted historian Julian Walton who pointed out the heritage value. The local development group had pointed out the similar plans for the Dublin based poolbeg chimneys had led to a successful national campaign for their retention.

the recent notice about planning permission, posted on the local notice board by Paddy Lebowski

Locals on both the Waterford and Wexford sides however, were taken aback when workers moved in on the site this week and already one chimney has been knocked with the assistance of explosives. No damage was caused locally, but it is understood that some windows were blown in at Great Island, Ballykerough and Campile.

the view of the site this morning 🙁 apologies for the quality, taken by my phone suspended from a balloon floating over the site

Speaking on behalf of Cheekpoint residents Paddy Lebowski expressed the disgust felt by many at this sneaky act of architectural vandalism. Paddy went on to question the social distancing rules which appear to be not in evidence on the site. However due to the 2km rule imposed on newspapers and media in general it is feared that the site will be completely cleared before any attention is brought to bare on the situation.

Thanks to Sean O Briain for technical assistance with the ariel shot used

Mark “ships out”

This month, I’m indebted to my good friend Mark Fenton for a story to bring a smile to people’s faces. Mark like myself was reared in a home where the sea was in our blood and we wanted nothing more than to sail away into the wild blue wonder. Maybe thats why we got on so well when we first met in a factory in Waterford. Friends ever since, he sent this story on to me recently of his maiden voyage. Just the antidote to the present Corona virus crisis.

When I was a child, all I wanted to do when I grow up was drive lorries or go to sea. The motivation for the lorries, was that my uncles in Cork drove regular runs to the continent or were hauling beet and molasses to and from the sugar factory in Mallow. But the sea was my first love, because my father Sean, God rest him, was a seaman. Not a sailor, not a weekend yachtsman but a true, deep-sea-going, bulk tanker, smelling of diesel and Old Spice, hard-working, hard-living and drinking seaman. He was, as it would turn out to be, one of the last of a breed and the likes of which is unlikely to be seen again on these shores. He was at home among the local band of salty characters, some of whom had exotic nick names like ‘Moochy Machi’, ‘Three-dog Kayting’ and ‘The Dinger’. Everyone either knew my father or knew of him and they knew he went to sea, and I the young me was determined to follow him.

Tea break (Smoko) on the Irish Sycamore 1966. Sean Fenton from Waterford, and Chippy Cormac Lowth.
Photo courtesy of Cormac Lowth

We grew up at the end of the Rock shire Road in Ferrybank, Waterford. Our house was practically in the yard of the then fledgling Bell Lines, which grew to be a major container shipping operation. The skyscraping flour mills of R and H Hall was another neighbor on the North Wharf where ships came and went twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Our weekends and holidays were spent walking the river wharves and banks from Redmond Bridge to the Barrow Bridge, along the now defunct Rosslare railway line, dodging the boat trains, counting wagons on sugar beet trains and waving to the crew of passing ships heading in and out of Waterford City. Bell Boats, Rock Boats, B+I Boats, Purcell cattle boats, tramp boats and coasters carrying livestock, soya, coal, timber and combine harvesters…. we knew all the names, ‘Racer’, ‘Rover’, ‘Ranger’, ‘Skellig Rock’, ’Livestock Express’,  ‘Miranda’, ‘Wakfuji Maru’… the list goes on. Global trade and transport were all around us. The ports of Rosenberg, Radicatel, London, Abudabi, Dubai, Karachi, Newark and New York were as familiar names to us as Kilmacow, Tramore or Wexford. And I dreamed of one day being at helm of one of them big ships traveling the oceans of the world.

Crew MV Bell Racer at Kagoshima Japan 30-3-1977. Sean Fenton Bosun. Photo courtesy of Mark Fenton

It was clear to me then that there was no point staying on in school until I was eighteen when I could get away to sea at fifteen. From the 1950s right up until the early ’Eighties, this career path was possible and I had no reason to believe it would be a problem for me. However, the harsh economic realities of the time combined with a decade long dock strike in Waterford port, conspired to ensure that 1982 to 1985 were probably the worst time in Irish maritime history to attempt to embark on a seafaring career in my home town. The R and H hall boats were sold, Arklow Shipping had a reduced fleet, Bell Lines was struggling, opportunities on the cattle boats didn’t arise for an inexperienced 16 year old, it was a grim time on the quay side, the only boats going in and out of Waterford were few and far between, and foreign.

I had taken what was probably one of the last deckhand apprentice exams for Irish Shipping Ltd but by the time that competition was finalized, Irish Shipping had disappeared from the world’s oceans. In desperation, I applied to the Navy, my heart wasn’t in it and I held small hope of success.  With my dreams on hold for the moment, I took a position in a supermarket and spent my days stacking peas and beans while wishing I was instead ploughing the ocean wave.

But I never really gave up hope and one day, out of the blue, I received a call from a shipping agency based in Cork. They had a vessel due in Waterford in a couple of days and needed a crewman ASAP. My enthusiasm made up for my lack of experience and I was offered the job. I handed in my notice at the shop, put my love life on hold and packed my bag in preparation for my first signing on. The night before the big day, my mates and I rallied in Jordan’s ‘American Bar, a traditional seaman’s pub on the quays in Waterford, to toast my luck and to wish me ‘bon voyage’. Wasn’t I the proud sailor next morning as I stood on the aft deck, heartily waving to the lads on the pier as the ship slipped her moorings and pulled away?  I wondered where my first exotic destination was going to be?

But my beaming smile was quickly disappearing as I realized something was terribly wrong. The ship was turning about in the broad basin of the river and was heading inland towards the open span of the Redmond Bridge. Horror of horrors for a would be Waterford salty sea-dog, it dawned on me that , my first port of call could only bet a place called Fiddown, a little village 14 miles upriver in County Kilkenny not far from Kildalton,  the biggest farming college in Ireland.  My face was frozen as it dawned on me that I was probably the first person in my seafaring family to head away to sea and to end up in a village in the heartland of Irish agriculture. It took us about four hours to plough our way up there (pun intended) and when we tied up at the little quay, I swiftly secured a lift home from a Michael O’Brien and was sitting at my mother’s table in time for tea. My father told nobody – it would have been unpardonable for a Fenton to head to sea and end up in the middle of Co Kilkenny.

Dredger Lake Lothing. Heading downriver through Redmon Bridge. Courtesy of Michael Butch Power

Unperturbed by this little hiccup I rejoined the vessel later that night and next morning we set sail for the port of Swansea, I held my breath as the ship slipped under the centre span of the city bridge and I waved up at the people looking down on us.

By the time we dropped the pilot at Passage East I was on the bridge and as the vessel made open sea between Dunmore and Hook head I couldn’t help but feel a little bit nervous, particularly as I noticed that  all the trawlers were steaming towards the shelter of Dunmore. I was wise enough to know that those men would go out in any kind of weather and seeing them heading for shelter had to be a bad omen. We spent two days and two nights between the lights of Dunmore and the beacon of Hook Head, bow into the storm without making any headway. When we eventually arrived in Swansea I thought I couldn’t possibly have been more ill. I had never been to Swansea before and probably because I was so ill, found it to be a rather depressing place full of coal and electricity pylons. Here we loaded coke for St Helier in the Channel Islands and with a quick turn-around we were gone. The trip down to the Channel Islands was uneventful although quite rough, particularly around The Needles and Lands End.  Arriving safely in port, I was a bit more upbeat about prospects. Which was just as well because things were about to take a turn much for the worse.

The first sign of disaster was when the ‘Old Man’ informed me that I was to take over the duties of cook. My culinary skills at this stage in my young life were confined to making toast. The second sign was when it became evident we were running out of food and water soon after leaving St Helier for Dieppe. The old man felt we would make it but the weather had other ideas. I still have nightmares about the nights between the lights of Phare de Cap Levi and Phare de Getteville on the Pointe de Barfleur in North West Brittany; I saw visions of death as the elements hammered our little vessel like a pencil in a swimming pool. Every now and then we would rise up on the crest of a massive wave only to find ourselves at the top with no support, to fall with a sickening slap, lights out, propeller spinning uselessly in the air and stalling on entering the sea again where the lights would go out. But we survived. The storm passed and we arrived in Dieppe.

But not before I learned something new about myself. Each morning the captain, the first mate and the chief engineer had a rasher, a sausage, and an egg for breakfast while the crew ate only cereal. This particular morning I was faced with the following dilemma: I had no bacon or sausages and just one egg. So who was to get the egg – the old man, the chief or the mate? I boiled it up and ate it with toast, before calling everyone else to a cereal breakfast. There was muttering but no mutiny.

SS Kattegat. At R&H Halls, North Quays Waterford in 1937.
Courtesy of Michael Butch Power

In Dieppe, we were to load soya for Belfast, but here too was another dockers’ strike. By now, the shine was wearing off my dreams of a life at sea and as we were heading to Belfast I thought, I’d call it a day there. As they old sea-dogs say, after many other adventures, I arrived home on Christmas Eve, my mother was delighted to see me and never asked any questions. Neither were any explanations offered. Since then, my career path has not strayed from terra firma but I still get a great laugh from recollections of my short but sharp seafaring adventure.

My thanks to Mark Fenton, who shared this lovely, humorous, account of his first and final shipping out. He made it further than I ever did! Livig through these unprecedented times with the Corona Virus shutdown, we need every and any oppotunity to smile. I’m indebted to Mark for just such a tonic. If you want to pass on any comments to Mark, if you email i will happily pass them on.

“Hail Glorious St Patrick”

Today is a historic and unprecedented first I believe. Due to the spreading pandemic of Corona Virus, the national Irish holiday of St Patricks Day is effectively cancelled. No parades, the pubs where people traditionally “wet the shamrock” are closed and people are asked not to gather at house parties. And shock of all shocks, even the churches are closed. So this year, I thought I’d reshare an old story of mine on my childhood memories of the day.

On St Patrick’s Day my thoughts often wander back to the “wearing of the Green” of my childhood, and particularly the 9am mass at Faithlegg Church. I suppose the mass stands out, as in those days before the day became a “festival” it was much simpler of an affair. As we didn’t have a car we rarely got to see a parade, except on television. But it was a day off, which like so many others was spent out rambling the strand and the Minaun. However if we were unlucky and it rained we probably had to re-sit a re-run of Darby O Gill and the Little People or, my mothers favourite, the Quiet Man.

One of my earliest memories is of coming home from school with a hand made badge with a saftypin stuck on the back with sellotape and a drawing of a harp and plenty of green white and gold. I understand that the badge went back to the Irish soldiers that fought in the trenches in World War I. We could look forward to a break from school, and also a break from lent. Lent then generally meant no chocolate, sweets, or my favourites -Tayto crisps. But on this one daywe were allowed to relent the fast and I remember one Paddy’s Day being almost sick after gorging myself on bags of Cheese & Onion.


Church was very important in our home growing up, and Patricks morning was a major occasion. The main difference on this morning of course was the obligatory bit of shamrock, splashed across the left lapel of the coat on us boys, and affixing it always happened just as we were about to go out the door- this in case it would wilt before we got to mass.

There were mornings of course when the shamrock had not been sourced due to scarcity. Those were even better, as we were dispatched across the strand and up to Nanny’s in the Russianside. Nanny, like many of the older citizens, took a marked pride in the display of the trinity leaf.

Whereas at home my mother or father first adorned their own attire and we got the scraps, Nanny’s was different. Nanny would have a bowl, fully laden, and as we crashed in atop of her, she would line us up and fuss and bother (in a way my mother didn’t have the time to with five to divide her time) by picking a nice piece and then pin it in place with an eye to detail.

Her own attire on the day always had a lot of green, and could include in part, and sometimes in total blouse, cardigan, head scarf and coat. The coat would have a spread of Shamrock that would have fed a sheep. On then we went, up to the cross roads with her, to board the Suirway bus.

Accessed from . Photo of the late Johnny and Lena O’Keeffe, Main Street, Millstreet. With thanks to Paudie Creedon for the information,

The Suirway bus of course was a trial. This local service ran for Sunday mass and on holy days of obligation, and was crammed with mass goers of all ages. The old lads blackguarding accusing your shamrock of all manner of insult. Some would say it was wilted, others that it looked scrawny whilst others, and perhaps the worst insult of all would call it a “a bit of oul clover” At the church the unspoken competition would be in full swing for the most impressive display, but I can never remember anyone besting Matt “Mucha” Doherty. The spray of shamrock would be emblazoned across the left side of his chest, like the mane of a lion. You could only marvel at how he managed to keep it fresh looking.

The ceremony on that day always appealed to me. I loved the stories associated with Patrick, but most of all I loved the singing. Songs in the church were generally the preserve of Jim “Lofty” Duffin. Jim would stand up in the centre of the congregation and from his hymnbook, sing solo. It didn’t feel right to accompany him, and generally people didn’t. But there were days during the church year that the congregation shook itself free and one of these was St Patricks morning.

It’s as if we dropped our reserve on those days, and, generally led off by Jim, first the women and then all but the most impervious of men joined in and as we all stood, the mass ended is a crescendo of a community event. For me, I think the day meant a lot to us as a community in a nationalistic kind of way, a day that celebrated something that made us proud to be Irish in a country that at the time, probably didn’t have a lot to be proud of. And in standing to sing, it was almost like singing the national anthem. For several years it was the central meaning of the day for me.

After more than fifty years, I can hear the singing yet…Hail, Glorious St Patrick

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, dear saint of our Isle,
On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
And now thou art high in the mansions above,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan’s wiles and an infidel throng;
Not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.

On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

In the war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear saint, may thy children resist unto death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, their prayer,
Their banner the cross which they glory to bear.

On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
Shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
And the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
Its warmth undiminished, undying its light.

On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth,
Where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
And our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam,
For God and Saint Patrick, and our native home.

On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.

Warm memories for me now, made more so this year by the required isolation of social distancing. But we can still celebrate the day. The flags are up, food is in, a few drinks on the sideboard are ready to be poured. I wish everyone who reads this a happy “La Le Feile Padraig” and will keep in mind all those who won’t have the time to celebrate today, as they will be working on the frontline to keep us all healthy and safe.

Ghost Ship Maury

The appearance of a ghost ship on the Cork coastline during the recent Storm Dennis raised many eyebrows and prompted a flood of questions.  The vessel was the cargo ship MV Alta abandoned in the mid-Atlantic in 2018 when ten crew members were rescued from the ship by the American coastguard.  Floating freely since she appears to have washed up unnoticed. But ghostships have a long tradition in seafaring communities including Waterford.

On the 8th February 1886 the iron built sailing ship County of Kinross (1878) was sailing off the south coast of Ireland having only just commenced her long sea journey from Cardiff to Bombay with a cargo of coal.

County of Kinross Accessed from

In the early hours the watch spotted an unlit vessel wallowing in the Atlantics heavy seas, her masts and rigging in disarray.  No response was received from signals, and fearing some tragedy or mysterious event, they “lay to” until dawn and then lowered a boat and the first mate and four seamen headed towards the sailing ship which proved to be a Norweigan barque the Maury. 

Boarding the wooden sailing ship, the damage was obvious to the seamen and there was evidence of a collision as her port side bulwarks was smashed in and much of her spars and rigging was lying on the deck, she was also taking water.  A quick search proved there was no life aboard which left the sailors with a dilemma. 

Despite the damage, the vessel was at the time seaworthy, had a full cargo in her holds and was within a days sailing of Waterford (if the weather was favourable).  She was, therefore, a valuable salvage prize which the seamen could hardly spurn.  After consultation with their captain, the ships carpenter came across to make temporary repairs, before he returned to the County of Kinross, which continued on her journey,. The scratch crew of the first mate and four sailors then began the trip to Waterford. 

By some good fortune they later managed to engaged the services of a Liverpool steam tug Great Britain which was passing, and with the assistance of the pilot cutter managed to reach and anchor at Passage East on Tuesday, February 9th at 3pm.

Their prize was the Maury(1866), a Barque rigged three masted sailing vessel, built at Arendal, Norway in the shipyard of Ananias Christopher Hansen Dekke. She had departed from New York on January 13th under Captain Hansen with a crew of 12, destined for Waterford with 3,475 barrels of paraffin oil for the company of George White & Sons on the junction of O’Connell St/Thomas St Waterford. 

Maury Accessed from

In a subsequent newspaper interview the Chief Officer described the trip across the Atlantic as uneventful.  However as they approached the Irish coast on Sunday 7th the weather became thick with reduced visibility and heavy seas.  They decided to reduce sail, set a starboard tack and maintain a watch.  At a later stage a fog horn was heard, and sometime later they spotted a ship heading directly towards them, but so close there was no time to avoid a collision. The Maury was struck on her port side and the Chief Officer believed that they were almost cut in two.  As the other ship was embedded in their side, and fearing imminent sinking, the crew abandoned ship, but later returned to the Maury to try locate a missing crewman.  This man (named Paul Kostal or Rostal) was eventually located and removed from under the fallen spars, rigging and sails. 

The other ship was the Sir Henry Lawrence, an iron built, barque rigged sailing ship on a trip from Liverpool to Calcutta with a cargo of salt.  Although the two ships eventually disentangled and separated, the Sir Henry Lawrence stayed at the scene. At daylight there was no sign of the Maury, and they presumed she had sunk in the darkness. It was decided to make for Cork where the crew of the Maury were landed.  Despite medical attention, the injured crewman who had sustained damage to both legs, later died.

As a small aside, the Cork Examiner reported the incident in full, and I’m sure there was heightend expectation along the cork coastline, as the paper speculated that given the damage to the side of the Maury, that on sinking, the thousands of barrals of oil must surely float onto the cork coast! Alas

Meanwhile at Waterford the legal niceties of salvage were progressed and the cargo of paraffin was unloaded, most probably via lighter and hence to the city and the intended destination of George White and Sons.

George White & Sons advert from Waterford Standard Dec 14th 1901

Paraffin: Although lamps have been used since the earliest times it was not until the industrial revolution that the technology of lamp light developed substantially.  James Young discovered the potential of a liquid in a seam in a Derbyshire coalfield which he named Paraffin.  Although in short supply it had clear uses in lighting lamps.  Petroleum oil began commercial production in Pennsylvania in 1859 and this would become the worldwide source of paraffin for many years to come.  The increased availability led to an explosion, if you’’ pardon the pun, in lamp design and dare I say refinement!  Many of these lamps were still in evidence in kitchens when I was growing up in Cheekpoint, and indeed storm lamps were often to be seen hanging in sheds. 

At a subsequent court case where the matter of salvage was decided the following is an account that I located via a newspaper report of the time:  The Maury and her cargo were valued at £1,743 and the judge in the case, Judge Townsend fixed salvage £1.700. The salvage money was allocated as follows:  The owners of the County of Kinross Messrs Robert and John Craig (Glasgow), £300; The ships master, Captain Barry £220; James Broadfoot. first mate, who took charge of the Maury, £300; and to George Thompson. John McGillivery, James Pulett, and Henry Hett, the four seamen who went with him. £120 each; Peter Cameron. carpenter £30; and to three seamen who bad assisted him £10 each ; to Thomas, second mate of iron ship, and to the second mate and other officers and of the County of Kinross, £300.

The Maury was owned by E. Dedekam from 1866-93 and having been sold, she was renovated under the ownership of Hans H. Pettersen in 1894 and went on to sail for many years later, until finally sold to a Swedish owner in 1915. I’m not sure what happened to the ship after that.

The appearance of the MV Alta then is no great surprise in the historical context of shipping. There have been many amazing happenings on the sea. But I think the grounding, apparently out of the blue is a matter of some concern. This certainly might have been understandable in the 19th century, but hard to credit, and actually a little embarrasing, in this modern era.

I’m indebted to Eoin Robson who generously helped me with queries and translations from Norway. I also want to thank Anna Helgø, Collection manager at the Maritime Museum of Stavanger, Norway.

My new book will be published in September 2020. Its available for pre-order from the History Press