1950’s Dun Laoghaire visitors to Dunmore

My guest blog this month is from a stalwart of the page, David Carroll.  Like myself he has a passionate interest in the local maritime heritage story and his personal reflections and research into the stories make a significant contribution to our understanding.  This month he considers the regular summer visitors from Dun Laoghaire to Dunmore during his childhood and paints a very vivid scene.

Both my parents, Desmond and Freda, were from Dun Laoghaire but had come to live in Dunmore in 1947, six months after I was born. The reason we arrived was that my father was appointed Harbour Master in succession to Major Wilfred Lloyd.  My parents were very happy living in Dunmore and had integrated well into the maritime community of the village. They remembered Dun Laoghaire fondly and loved every opportunity that presented itself to catch up on gossip and news.  Countless visitors made this possible; members of the OPW dredger crew, visiting yachtsmen, fishermen during winter months and also those staying in the hotels, caravans or renting houses during the summer months.

1950’s Dunmore

One such visitor was my uncle Jim (J.J.) Carroll who came to stay with us one summer during the mid-1950s at the time the Dunmore Regatta was taking place. My uncle, who incidentally was the first curator of the National Maritime Museum, was an expert model maker of ships and locomotives. He brought with him a model yacht that I was able to race in the regatta, which was a great thrill for me. He also brought a replica model of the Kingstown lifeboat Dunleary 11, the last lifeboat to be stationed in Kingstown, which relied solely on oars and sails for propulsion. It was in service from 1914 until 1919, during which time the RMS Leinster was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine UB-123 off the Kish with the loss of over 500 lives in October 1918. I arranged for the model to be displayed in our garden beside the harbour to draw attention to the Annual Flag Day for the Lifeboat, which was always held on Regatta Day.  That was a time, long before Twitter and Facebook were used to publicise such events. The model is now on display in the National Maritime Museum.

JJ’s model as it looks today, highlighting the proud history of the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat
Dunmore was a favourite port of call for Dun Laoghaire yachtsmen. It was an ideal ‘stopping-off point’ for a yacht sailing onto Crosshaven or West Cork and was also convenient for yachts coming from Milford Haven in Wales. Looking at visiting yachts to the harbour as recorded in the 1957 Irish Cruising Club Annual, over fifty per cent showed Dun Laoghaire as their home port. This would be typical of all summers in the 1950s and up to the time that the re-development of the harbour started in the early 1960s.
I have some fond memories of the Dun Laoghaire yachts coming to Dunmore and some that I might want to forget! The typical yachtsman arriving in Dunmore would have been a professional type of person as yachting was a pastime that required a lot money to fund. Having worked hard all year, many would let their hair down during their time in Dunmore. It was mainly all good-natured fun and antics but one escapade that I was told about, by my parents, involved a small Messerschmidt car being brought through the windows of the Haven Hotel and placed in a guest’s bedroom.

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One of the most ebullient yachting characters from Dun Laoghaire was a dentist called Gerry Reddy. He was a regular visitor, coming as a member of the crew on different yachts. On one famous occasion, he arrived, not by sea but rather by air and it almost had an unhappy ending. The front page of the Irish Press of 12th August 1954 reported as follows:
Escape In Waterford Plane Crash
“A 4-Seater Miles Messenger aircraft crashed at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford last night while attempting to land on a local air-strip. Neither of the two occupants of the plane was injured but both received a severe shaking. The plane was piloted by Mr. Cedric O’Callaghan, who had with him as passenger Mr. G. Reddy also of Dublin. After circling the harbour twice, the plane overshot the landing ground, plunged through a wire fence and landed heavily in scrub. The under-carriage and wings were wrecked”. [1]
The Waterford News went on to say: “..It was the second time within a week that Mr. Reddin (I think they meant Reddy) figured in an unpleasant incident. The first occasion was when the yacht in which he was a passenger was buffeted by mountainous seas five days ago off Hook lighthouse.

All on board though that they were going to be swamped and crushed to death on the rocks. They tried to light flares, but they had become so wet that they would not light. It was the intention to raise an alarm so it could be conveyed from the lighthouse to the crew of the Dunmore East lifeboat.

If the lifeboat had arrived at that time, according to Mr. Reddin, they would have abandoned the craft at sea. They steered the boat two miles out to sea after considerable difficulty and managed to get into Dunmore East on the tide.” [2]
Two other regular yachtsmen were Roy Starkey and Bob Geldof  who sailed a small 4-ton yacht called Bonita.  I can recall them coming into our house at midnight to hear the shipping forecast on BBC radio. This information was vital to them before setting off to round the Tuskar and heading up the Irish Sea home to Dun Laoghaire. Bob Geldof lived just a few doors away in Crosthwaite Park, Dun Laoghaire to where my mother had lived before her marriage. I can recall saying to her that Geldof was an unusual name and she told me that  it was a Belgian name and the family had come to live in Dublin, which satisfied my curiosity. Many years later, he rose to national prominence because of his famous son, also Bob who became celebrated as the singer with the Boomtown Rats and who brought Live Aid to the world.
Two motor yachts from Dun Laoghaire, listed in the 1957 Irish Cruising Club Annual were the Kittiwake and the Santa Maria and I have memories of them both for very different reasons.
Community Noticeboard:
The Santa Maria, may have been a converted fishing boat, and was kept in pristine condition by two professional yacht hands from Dun Laoghaire called Pat Carey and Billy Davis. They crewed and maintained the motor yacht on behalf of the Creedon family, who were well known in business.  Pat and Billy were real seafaring characters and I always thought that they may have spent time at sea earlier, with Irish Lights or maybe on the mailboats.
During my summer holidays around that time (1957/58) I was allowed serve as an altar boy at the daily Mass in the small chapel attached to the Convent that overlooked the harbour.  On one occasion, I was told that  the priest celebrating mass would be the priest who was a guest aboard the Santa Maria. The priest was from Blackrock College in Dublin. He obviously was used to older and better-trained boys serving and was very intolerant of me as I struggled sometimes with the responses, which in those days were in Latin and I had a tendency to ring the bell at the wrong time!  After Mass, the priest took me aside and told me directly that I would need to speed up and cut out the errors. I was very upset and did not return to the Convent after that until the Santa Maria was well and truly around Hook Head.  Much later, I discovered that the priest was Father Walter Finn, nicknamed Wally, who was a famous rugby coach in the College and coached many successful SCT teams.
I had much happier memories of the Kittiwake. Another well-known person in business, called Sam McCormick, who held the agency for Caterpillar heavy-duty machinery in Ireland, owned this motor yacht. This company later became McCormick MacNaughton.  He and his family were always very kind and generous to my parents.  I often used to catch shrimps in the harbour and hand up a bucket full to the guests staying onboard, who always seemed to enjoy cooking and eating them.
At the end of the 1957 summer, my father was asked to skipper the Kittiwake on its return voyage to Dun Laoghaire.  Along with Sam McCormick and his eldest daughter Jean, I was given special permission to be part of the crew. I was absolutely delighted. This was to be first time to go past the Hook in a boat and I was told that the course my father was to steer would bring us right between the two Saltee Islands. I could not hide my excitement. From Killea church, you could see the Saltees in the distance off the Wexford coast.  I was looking forward to seeing them at close quarters, but the reality was somewhat different, as I got very seasick as we passed through the sound between the two Islands and had to lie down on a bunk in a cabin for a few hours. We reached Wicklow by nightfall and went to the Grand Hotel for a lovely meal. My appetite has returned at this stage.  Next day, was the All-Ireland Hurling Final and we completed a very enjoyable voyage to Dun Laoghaire along the Wicklow and Dublin coastline. I recall that it was about 3am, when we arrived back in Dunmore by car but I was still up in time for the first day back at school, which was overshadowed somewhat by Waterford’s narrow loss in the final.
It was not only during the summer that Dun Laoghaire folk came to Dunmore because during the winter herring seasons, fishing boats from Dun Laoghaire formed part of the large fleet fishing in the rich herring grounds at Baginbun and landing their catches at Dunmore.
Nordkap photo courtesy Richard Mc Cormick, National Maritime Museum” 

One Dun Laoghaire skipper who stood out and was held in very high esteem by my mother and father was Brian Crummey of the m.f.v. Ard Ailbhe. This was partly because he hailed from Booterstown, where my parents had lived but more importantly because he was highly qualified and trained skipper and a very ambitious one that had the expertise and drive to compete with foreign fishermen.

In 1967, Brian travelled to Norway to bring the trawler Nordkap back to Ireland. It was 65 feet in length (20 m), wooden hull and powered by a 230hp engine. It was an outstanding vessel.  Brian, of course continued the Dun Laoghaire / Dunmore East connection many years later when he married Frances and came to live in the village.
The two ports will always have connections and I am sure that other people will have as many happy memories to share, over the years, as I had growing up on the harbour in Dunmore.

Next month’s guest blog will feature Catherine Foley, who will introduce us to her uncle Joe from Passage East.  I’m always delighted to get contributions for the guest blog.  If any others out there would like to contribute, I would love to hear from you.  The brief is 1200 word count, on a theme of  the three sister rivers, the ports of Waterford and New Ross and harbour maritime history.  If interested to know more or discuss an idea please drop me an email. 
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[1] Irish Press 12 August 1954
[2] Waterford News 13 August 1954 (Thanks to Michael Farrell of BGHS for alerting me to this.)

Maintaining Dunmore East Harbour

For this latest guest blog, I’m delighted to welcome back David Carroll, who shares more memories of his childhood in Dunmore East in the 1950’s & 60’s. In a similar vein to his previous blog on the village, and his recollection of the ship wreck of the St Austell, David gives us a no nonsense account of the village at the time, the geography, characters and what life was like on a daily basis. I’m sure you will enjoy it.
A recent visit to the National Maritime Museum of Ireland, based in the Mariners Church, Haigh Terrace, Dun Laoghaire brought memories flooding back of my idyllic childhood spent living in the harbour at Dunmore East.  They were triggered by a photograph of a diver, his helmet and diving suit. The information panel beside it included the following:
“Bob Lewis. A diver and stonemason with the Board of Works in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for more than 38 years, Bob Lewis was the last person to use this diving suit. His pump man was Michael John Molony. Lewis would not allow or trust anyone else to do the job. At the time there was no phone to speak with the surface. The diver had to signal with a series of pulls on a rope known as a life-line.”

However, it was not only at Dun Laoghaire harbour that Bob Lewis worked as a diver, he also came to Dunmore East. Both harbours came under the auspices of the Office of Public Works (O.P.W.) or the Board of Works as it was also called. Howth harbour was another and along with Ardglass and Donaghadee in Northern Ireland, these five harbours were designated as Royal Harbours before partition.
In the 1950s, a great deal of repair work was carried out on the foundations of the Dunmore East pier at the back of the lighthouse. Bob Lewis did all the underwater work. As the photograph below shows, work was also done in the harbour, particularly around the steps near the lighthouse. Here, a crowd would gather to watch, including myself. Once the diver went below the surface, there was not a whole lot to see but this did not deter sightseers still looking on.     
Diver Lewis preparing to dive.  Photo credit Theo Harris
The photo captures Bob Lewis and his support crew preparing to dive from the pontoon at the lighthouse steps in the harbour. The man in the cap must be his trusted pump man Michael John Molony and also assisting on the deck of the pontoon is Connie Fancy Power from Portally. The man in the shirtsleeves is Stephen Mullally from Killea. The man under the canopy, with the white shirt collar is, I am almost certain, Patsy Fancy Power from Killea, brother of Connie.
The author, David Carroll, standing
Beside the diving suit. 
The ‘Passage and Dunmore Jottings’ from the Munster Express(1) of 1955 reported as follows:  “Harbour Pier Repairs. The harbour pier at Dunmore East, which has been undermined by the sea, will shortly undergo repairs by the Board of Works. Stones and concrete are being pressed into holes’ and crevices.”
What I remember about Bob Lewis is that he was what I would call now, a very austere person. This, I suppose, was not surprising considering the dangerous nature of his work. Another thing, that I can recall, is that he always insisted staying, while working in Dunmore, with George and Maisie Roche.
A little bit like the certainties in life, death and taxes, there were two things that were certain about my childhood growing in Dunmore each summer. One was that the kittiwakes always came back and the SS Sisyphus, the Board of Works bucket dredger would turn up! In reality, it probably did not come to dredge the harbour every year but it always felt as if it was always present in the harbour during summer months.

S.S. Sisyphus at Helvick, Co. Waterford.   Photo credit- Waterford Co. Museum
The poor old Sisyphus was a much-unloved vessel. It had a different type of operation than the Portlairge that dredged in the Port of Waterford. The Sisyphus had a system of buckets linked by chain that lowered down through the bow and the mud was lifted, somewhat inefficiently, into the buckets and deposited in the hold as they turned over.  The Sisyphus was of course a steam ship and I can clearly recall looking at clouds of smoke, through my father’s binoculars, bellowing from the funnel as it came around Hook Head making its way towards Dunmore.
When the dredger worked in the harbour, it was a chaotic scene. A myriad of cables were laid in all directions from the ship to the shore keeping the vessel in place.  The clattering sound of the buckets was deafening in the harbour and, needless to say, lots of dirty smoke filled the air.
Sisyphus at Dunmore accessed from http://trawlerphotos.co.uk and repaired by Brendan Grogan
The master of the Sisyphus was called Kelly and he was from Arklow. However, the rest of the crew were from Dun Laoghaire. One of the mates was a big man called Maguire and he was a keen soccer fan. He came to Kilcohan Park one Sunday with my father and myself to see Waterford play and he introduced me to one my heroes, Tommy Taylor, the Waterford goalkeeper. I was absolutely thrilled as this was the first time that I had actually met a footballer in person. Tommy Taylor’s work had often brought him to Dun Laoghaire harbour where he had got to know some of the dredger crew.
At the end of the summer, there was always great consultation between the master of the dredger and my father, the Harbour Master, as regards weather forecasts. The dredger would not sail unless the sea was flat calm and the forecast for the following days was good as well.  The dredger had been built on the Clyde in 1905 but looked very old and decrepit by the 1950s. She never looked like a vessel that could withstand a battering at sea. The Sisyphus remained in service until sometime in the 1970s. Apart from a photograph of the crew of the Sisyphus, no artefacts are on display in the National Maritime Museum. An engine from another O.P.W. dredger, Saxifrage was preserved and is on display but sadly, the Sisyphus ended up in the scrapyard of Hammond Lane Foundry.
The efficiency and productivity of the Sisyphus was put into context a few year later, in 1963, when the W.D. Seven Seas, a suction dredger arrived in Waterford Harbour from the U.K. to dredge Duncannon Bar.  The contrast between the two vessels could not be greater. My father told me at the time the Seven Seas would dredge the entire Dunmore harbour in a single day.


At a later stage we will return with David to the Dunmore of his era with a look at the visitors that came to the port at the time.  I want to sincerely thank David for this mornings piece and also, as it happens, his regular correspondence and support in promoting the harbour area.  Next months guest blog will come to us from Catherine Foley, with an excerpt from her new book “Beyond the Breakwater”.  Regulars will enjoy it I know, particularly those with Passage East connections. If you would like to contribute a piece to any of my guest blog Friday’s (last Friday of each month) please get in touch to russianside@gmail.com.  All I ask is that the subject matter be linked in some way to the maritime heritage of the three sisters or the coast on either side, and 1200 words approx.  I will source photos and links to the piece and promote via my usual channels.

(1) Munster Express 19 June 1955

Thanks to Brian Ellis for his support to David with this piece.  Brian works voluntarily with the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire. 

I publish a blog about Waterford Harbours maritime heritage each Friday.  
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