Rockabill & Tuskar; The last of the Clyde

To generations of locals, the Clyde boats were a by word for employment, trade, emigration and holidays and the final two that were often referred to at home were the Rockabill and the Tuskar.  Two very different ships, two different personalities but two ships that were part of the very fabric of a maritime port like Waterford.

The Clyde boats of my parents’ generation of course represented the last of the ships and a fine coasting tradition that spanned well over 100 years.  The Clyde Shipping company started out life, unsurprisingly I guess given the name, in Glasgow on the banks of the River Clyde in 1815. As the company prospered it entered the Irish market in 1856, initially to Cork but quickly to other ports such as Waterford.  It was a stalwart of the Irish goods trade, particularly in the South East, and Waterford as a result of its location was a pivotal hub. In 1912, the company further strengthened this link when it bought the rival Waterford Steamship Company.[i]

The old Clyde Shipping Co Offices
The old Clyde Shipping Co Offices, Waterford Quay

Down the years there have been many notable ships, none more so than the Coningbeg and Formby But two that are equally deserving of mention are the Rockabill and the Tuskar

The Rockabill(1931) was named like all the Clyde ships after a lighthouse (or lightships) around the coast of Ireland and the British Isles. She was built by D&W Henderson & Co on the Clyde.  Her maiden voyage took her from Liverpool to Waterford on the 5th February 1931.  She was primarily a cattle and cargo carrying ship but she had accommodation for 12 first class passengers on the starboard side of her upper deck and steerage passengers too.  Meals were provided but were not included in the cost, which was said to be very appealing to passengers, especially on rough crossings![ii]

Rockabill at Waterford. 29/10/1954 Shortall CQ.47. Andy Kelly Collection

She departed from Waterford quays between Reginalds and the Clock Tower and dropped cattle to the Wirral shore of the Mersey and later dropped her passengers to the West Waterloo Dock (east side)[iii]

Sailings continued during WWII until she was requisitioned for war duties in Liverpool on the 15th Sept 1943.   Sailings continued with relief ships on the route including the Skerries.  She finally returned to the route on the 4th May 1946 (at which point the Skerries was sold).[iv] 

After the war her routine was set at a fairly leisurely pace.  Her twenty hour (approx)  trip commenced on a Saturday from Liverpool arriving at Waterford on Sunday.  She left again on Tuesday arriving into Liverpool on Wednesday morning.  Sailing times were set to suite the tidal conditions. A cabin berth was £3 10s single or £6 return. Steerage was £2 single fare (Not many travelling in steerage would have the luxury of returning after all) Children between 1-14 were charged half fare.[v]

Some described the Rockabill as an unlucky ship and several accidents/incidents were recorded about her, perhaps because she lacked the power required in strong tidal conditions.  There’s a locally famous image of her across Redmond’s Bridge in Waterford on 15th December 1956 after she drifted into the bridge while turning.  Luckily both the bridge and the vessel  survived the incident as she floated away on the ebbing tide. Another incident occurred on 1st June 1942 – three miles east of Hook – when she ran aground but was fortunately towed to safety by the coaster Mayflower[vi]

The Rockabill against Redmond Bridge, Waterford. (L.M. 035 05) Andy Kelly Collection.

My aunt Margaret told me once that she first emigrated to Liverpool aboard the Rockabill in the 1950’s, extended members of the Doherty’s were fairly well established in the port at that stage, I imagine my father probably took the same route when he first went to sea on the Coast Line ships from that port too. As far as I can recall my grandfather actually sailed on her for a time too.

Rockabill last sailed into the port of Waterford in April 1962.  The Waterford News & Star of Friday 6th April[vii] recorded the event on the front page with a photo and headline ”Today a 31 year-old connection will be severed” and went on to outline her role in the port and the technical difficulties that hastened her demise.  Her final journey out the harbour brought her to Cork, and the breakers yard of Haulbowline industries Ltd.  It was an historic journey and worthy of recording.  She was the final steamer (coal burner) of the Clyde fleet and had proudly borne this mantel since 1953.  I’m guessing as such she was our last coastal trading steamer and so ended a chapter of our maritime history which started with the first steamers that operated such as the Mail Packet ships at Dunmore East (early 1820’s) or the Nora Creina in 1826.

Her replacement was a few months in coming on duty and when she did she was for a very different function. The Tuskar (1962) was built by Chas. Connell & Co as a motor vessel of 1,115 tons, launched on the 18th April 1962.  She was designed to carry cargo and containers however and her maiden voyage to Waterford was not until the 26th June 1962 (the MV Sanda covered the route in this time).  She worked the route until the 10th December 1968 before being sold to a Yogoslav company and renamed the Brioni.  She would be broken up in 1988.[viii]

Tuskar crew at Waterford. Any help identifying the men appreciated. Martin Tracey 1st man on left, Tommy Connors second from left, Des Hutchinson 6th from left and Tommy Cleere 7th. Davy Fardey 3rd from right. Photo courtesy of Demma Hutchinson (son of Des)

I suppose the reason that she was known so well to me was that my father sailed on her, for a time in 1968 after the new job he had come home to on the building of Great Island Power station was complete.  But maybe it’s also because, as was often the habit with the Clyde, that there was more than one vessel to have the name.

Although there were five ships that shared the name, the first I have information on is Tuskar (1890) which acted more in a relief capacity on the Waterford route from what I have read and was lost on the West Coast of Ireland during WWI. Tuskar (1920) was specifically built to accommodate the trade on the Waterford run and first sailed the route on the 1st September 1920.  She worked alongside the Rockabill for a time but after import duties started to take a toll on the company’s business she was sold to Swedish owners in 1937.  She would later be seized by Nazi Germany and her ultimate fate was to be sunk off the Greek coast in 1944.[ix]

SS Tuskar (1920) leaving Waterford. Andy Kelly Collection

The arrival of the MV Tuskar into Waterford was covered in many of the national papers of the time and according to the Cork Examiner[x] she arrived into Waterford on Monday 25th June.  On Tuesday a reception was held aboard and she was shown off to an invited audience. (although Des Griffin of the Waterford Maritime History Facebook page told me recently that although he was only a child he was able to go aboard and explore the ship from stem to stern) The guests included the following dignitaries: “Councillor John Griffen,  Mayor; Mr. Sean Gillen, City Manager; Mr. F. Cassin. Chairman of the Harbour Board; Mr P. Breen, President, Chamber of Commerce, were received on board yesterday. The attendance also included Captain Chestnut, Mr. William Logan, and Mr. A. Cuthbert. Glasgow, managing director and director of the company respectively, and Mr. W. D Sterling, a local manager.”

The article went on the describe the ship as a ; “1,597-ton vessel… a 15 ton and three five-ton cranes…equipped for the container traffic with accommodation for 450 cattle and a refrigerated hold for 100 tons of frozen cargo. Her speed is 14 knots.”  She departed on Wednesday with a general freight cargo and what was to be her mainstay on the route 370 cattle and 40 horses.

Her career was short-lived and there is little of the drama or excitement that would be connected to her forbearers.  The one tragedy with which she is associated in the papers was the drowning of a 16 year old apprentice at the L&N of Broad Street as it then was.  James Hanrahan of Morrison’s Road was lost down the side of the Tuskar when she berthed at the Clyde wharf in June 1966.  James was apparently cycling along the quay with his fishing rod when the bike swerved and James was thrown over the handlebars.  James’ body was later recovered by the Portlairge in September.

MV Tuskar, photo courtesy of Frank Cheevers

In 1967 she was reported as carrying up to 1000 live pigs, the largest consignment to leave the port since WWII, accumulated due to a bacon strike[xi].  While in 1968 the Munster Express[xii] carried a photo of a powdered milk shipment being loaded aboard, paid for by the Cork Rotary Club and bound for Liverpool and hence India to assist as famine relief.

But in December of 1968 the newspapers both national and local carried the story of the sale of the ship.  A company spokesman explained in the Irish Independent[xiii] that the sale was partly due to government policy to slaughter and process animals in Ireland.  Perhaps not surprisingly the Munster Express[xiv] was more concerned about the impact on jobs the route closure heralded and more generally in the position of the Port of Waterford in the overall scheme of maritime affairs in Ireland.

The sale of Tuskar was only another step in the sad decline of a once vital employer in the city of Waterford and her environs and although the company offices would remain open for another few years the writing was on the wall.  Today all that remains are the iconic offices on Customs House Quay, the sculpture to honour the crews of the Coningbeg and Formby and the fading memories of those that were lucky enough to see them sail into port. 

I’d like to thank Demma Hutchinson and Mark Fenton who helped me with this piece, both their dads also sailed on the Tuskar.  If anyone has any memories to share of crew or as passengers  I would be delighted to receive them for addition to this piece.


Sources used includes:

McElwee. R.  The Last Voyage of the Waterford Steamers.

[McRonald. M.  The Irish Boats. Vol II Liverpool to Cork and Waterford.  2006. Tempus. Stroud. Gloucestershire. Pp130-137

Remembering the Formby and Coningbeg

SS Formby

Within two days in December 1917, Waterford experienced its biggest loss of seafaring lives with the sinking of Clyde Shipping’s SS Formby and SS Coningbeg. Of the 83 souls who perished 67 were from Waterford, the harbour and hinterland and the effects were profound.  Because it was wartime, very little was written due to censorship, and many misunderstood the reasons behind it.  But in 1992 a Wexford man, Richard McElwee, committed pen to paper and finally told the full story of the loss.

The SS Formby was built by Caledon SB. & Eng. Co. Ltd., Dundee in 1914 and was considered the flagship of the Clyde shipping company. She was 270 feet long, 1283 tons and had a top speed of 14.5 knots. Although primarily a cattle transport vessel she could accommodate 39 first class and 45 steerage passengers.

SS Formby
SS Formby With thanks to Shaun McGuire who had it from a daughter of Thomas Coffey

The SS Coningbeg was originally SS Clodagh built for the Waterford Steamship company by Ailsa shipbuilders in Troon, Scotland, August 1903. When the company was sold to the Clyde in 1912 she was renamed. In 1913 she underwent a total refit. She was also 270 feet long, 1278 tons and capable of a top speed of 16.5 knots. She could carry between 5-600 head of cattle and 86 first class and 74 steerage passengers. 

The ships ran a twice weekly service carrying passengers, livestock, foodstuff and general cargo from Waterford and returning with passengers and general cargo from Liverpool. The trip was 16hrs one way and both ships had a reputation for strict time keeping.  

As WWI raged the ships and crews were constantly in danger.  Not alone did they assist the war effort, but they kept both sides of the Irish sea fed.  More importantly for themselves, no doubt, the crews provided food and an income for their own families.

Both ships had had skirmishes with U Boats and one example I found from the Munster Express of Feb 1915 concerned the Irish sea being temporarily closed to shipping due to a U Boat threat. The Coningbeg was confined to Waterford port which caused mayhem as her cargo of cattle had to be unshipped and accommodated elsewhere. Meanwhile the families of the Formby gathered under an increasing cloud, fearful as there were unfounded rumours that she was sunk.  Later that month, the Kerry News ran a story that the Coningbeg failed to put to sea, due to a dispute between the crew and the owners over a war bonus for the risks they were taking.

SS Coningbeg
SS Coningbeg ex Clodagh

At 11am on Saturday 15th December the SS Formby slipped her moorings and travelled out the Mersey and into the Irish sea. Aboard were 37 crew and 2 passengers.  She was due into Waterford the following morning, but when she did not arrive there was only minor concern.  As Saturday had progressed a storm of sleet and snow had developed and had become a gale overnight, causing widespread damage.  In Waterford it was presumed the Formby was sheltering and would be in to port later on Sunday. She never arrived.  As the fears grew it was decided to send word to Liverpool to halt the sailing on the Coningbeg.  No telegrams could be sent however, as all the lines were down following the storm.

Having sat out the storm in Liverpool, the Coningbeg set sail for Waterford on Monday 17th December at 1pm.  Oblivious to the concerns in Waterford she departed with a crew of 40 and 4 passengers. When she failed to arrive pandemonium ensued.  Family, relatives, neighbours and friends gathered at the Clyde company offices for any scrap of news.  Over Christmas the vigil continued but on Thursday 27th December the company felt obliged to write to each family confirming everyone’s worst fears, that they could no longer hold any hopes for their loved ones return.

Of the ships no trace was reported.  Locally it was considered to be too much of a coincidence that two fine ships would both disappear within two days of each other, except through hostile involvement. A special appeal fund was created to fundraise and provide for the seamen’s families until such time as they could qualify for the Board of Trade War Loss Pension (1920 in some cases). The appeal fund was still in use in 1927.

In time the body of the Formby stewardess Annie O’Callaghan would wash ashore in Wales, the only body to be recovered apparently (or at least positively identified).  The remains of two lifeboats and a nameplate of the Formby also.  But it would be the publication of Ernest Hashagens war diary which would finally confirm the fate of both ships, blasted from the Irish sea without any warning, or chance to get to their lifeboats, by the U Boat U-62.  

Down the years many still held that the ships were lost in a terrific storm. But on the 75 anniversary Richard McElwee published his account of “The last voyages of the Waterford Steamers“.  The book which goes into significant details into the sinkings and included excerpts from Hashagens memoirs makes for chilling reading.  But it also served to remind the public of the service these sailors gave to the city, country and the war effort of WWI.  This book was re-published for the 100th anniversary last year and I believe copies are still available in the Book Centre, Waterford.

The old Clyde Shipping Co Offices
The old Clyde Shipping Co Offices, Waterford Quay where families waited over Christmas 1917 for news

There is now a significant memorial, situated on the quay of Waterford which lists all the names (as does the link here written by a fellow Cheekpoint man) and was unveiled by the then president of Ireland Mary Robinson in February 1997. They are also remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial in London to merchant seamen, the Dunmore East memorial wall to Waterford seafarers and the more recent memorial wall in Dungarvan to those who died in WW I.

If you would like to hear the story here’s a fine audio piece from the BBC on the sinkings and aftermath narrated by Julian Walton


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The twice sunk schooner Cintra

Those who have looked on the photos depicting the bustling trade on Waterford and New Ross quays in the 19th Century must wonder at the safety aspect of so many ships in close proximity.  Indeed the risks associated with this golden age of sea travel have made for many epic stories of heroism and tragedy.  A story that perhaps is not so dramatic, but none the less indicative, if not more common, is that of the Clyde Shipping’s SS Pladda and the schooner Cintra.  The Cintra however sank not just once, but twice in the Waterford harbour area.
SS Pladda Image courtesy of Andy Kelly
According to the then Cork Examiner(1) Arklow owned Cintra* was en route to New Ross on Friday 4th October 1901 with a cargo of coal from Cardiff. Her master that evening was Captain John D Kearons, and she was piloted by a Dunmore East man Philip Boucher (or Bouchier) It was 8pm on a foggy night** and under darkness she was heading towards the river Barrow.  The Railway bridge had yet to start construction, which would eventually give us a century of incidents, so one must think the pilot had little to concern him at that point apart from the fishing weirs.
Heading into Waterford at the same time was the SS Pladda en route from Glasgow on her normal weekly run under Captain McLeod. She was a ship of the Clyde Shipping company. Passing Cheekpoint there was an almighty crash and measures were taken to reduce way and come about, the engines were reversed and the ships boat was dropped.

My
new Book “Before the Tide Went Out” launches tonight Friday 20th Oct
2017
Jack
Meades bar & restaurant at 7.30pm.
International
orders can be made here.
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orders via email to russianside@gmail.com
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The schooner had been struck broadside (abaft of the main hold) and she healed over but righted again. Sinking fast the Captain ordered all hands to abandon ship and the four crew and the pilot took to the tender and made it safely away, but with no personal possessions. The Cintra was sunk in minutes and the crew headed under oar power towards the shore.
Schooner B I, to give a sense of the Cintra
Photo from William Doherty courtesy of Pat O’Gorman 
Meanwhile the rescue crew from the Pladda arrived and seeing that that the Cintra crew were safe, hung a light from the mast of the schooner which was still to be seen over the surface.  Returning to their ship, they resumed the journey to the city.  No casualties were reported from either ship.  The Pladda would continue with the company until 1907 when she was resold and eventually she too got  a watery grave in 1942.
At a meeting of the Harbour Commissioners Quay Committee of the 9th October(2) the wreck was discussed as a hazard to navigation. Lying in seven fathom of water near the channel it was considered imperative to have it moved. However the owners of the Cintra, seven brothers and sisters from an Arklow family (presumably all the Kearon family had shares in the craft, and have a proud nautical tradition from information kindly sent by Arklow Maritime Museum) had written to say they could not afford to have the wreck removed and asked that the commissioners salvage what they could and that the owners get whatever was left over after costs were covered.
A further news report 3) stated that Messers Eason of Queenstown (Cobh) had quoted a fee of £340 to lift the wreck or £120 to blow her up leaving nothing 8ft above the river bed.  Both prices were agreed to be far in excess of what the Commissioners were willing to pay. The Harbour Master, Captain Parle, thought that explosives was the most cost effective manner of disposal and that his own staff could successfully carry this out.  It was decided that work would commence immediately.  
Cheekpoint, where the incident occured, note no Barrow Bridge spanning the Barrow
Photo from NLI AH Poole Collection circa 1899

Presumably the work was a success as the the final mention of the incident, perhaps not surprisingly was court! The Board of Trade inquiry found both ships at fault in the case, and further civil actions followed including one on behalf of Philip Boucher, the pilot, who it would appear was badly hurt in jumping aboard the the schooners tender.

The strangest part to the whole story of course is that this was the second time the Cintra had sunk in the harbour!  In 1899 (Thursday morning 16th November to be exact) the schooner departed New Ross without a pilot under Captain Fitzpatrick. She was carrying 1000 barrels of Oats for a Mr Reville of the town.  At the Lucy Rock, about five miles from the port she grounded and keeled over on the ebbing tide.  The flood tide later that day totally sank her.  No mention is made of salvage, but she obviously lived to fight another day.  The age of sail was coming to a close, but it would be several decades yet before their beauty was lost to the harbour.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
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Thanks to both James Doherty and Arklow Maritime Museum for extra information

Dear reader, if you have any further information, particularly a photo or image of the Cintra that I could include I would love to hear it via comments or by email to tidesntales@irelandmail.com

*

Built   
(registration
number)
Fate
Arklow owners
Dimension/Tonnage
Rig/Engine
1851 by Gowan, Berwick
(23983)
Lost at Cheek Point, Waterford estuary, 4 October 1901 en route
Swansea-New Ross.
George Kearon
Richard Kearon
78’ x 19.2’ x 10’
62 tons
Schooner
Produced with thanks from Arklow Maritime Museum

**in two other newspaper accounts the weather is described as crisp and clear with stars shining in the sky, and a blustery dark night!

***sourced from two accounts, Wicklow People 18/11/1899 & Wicklow Newsletter and County Advertiser 25/11/1899

(1) Irish Examiner 7/10/1901 P.5
(2) Munster Express 26/10/1901 P.7
(3) Waterford Standard 13/11/1901 P3.

Walter J. Farrell 1862-1944, Master Mariner and Harbour Master Waterford Port

Today’s guest blog, is from one of my earliest supporters and sources of encouragement, Brendan Grogan. Brendan has worked in the background and supplying photos, information and advice on my online mission to celebrate Waterford Harbours maritime tradition. This week he steps into the limelight, so to speak, by sharing the life and times of his grandfather Walter J Farrell; his early life growing up in Waterford, his going to sea at 16 where he rises to Master Mariner and his role as harbour master in the port of Waterford from 1904-1941. Walter’s diary entries depict a life of hardship and adventure, that was replicated by thousands, if not tens of thousands of harbour men down the generations.  I’d like to thank Brendan and his family for entrusting us to read it.  
I never knew my grandfather, In fact all four of my
grandparents had passed away before I was born. However, my mother’s father
left a lasting legacy. The account of his many voyages and stories of sea, live
on in his diaries, photographs and other paraphernalia of his life on the ocean
wave.
 

Walter Farrell in Harbour Master’s uniform c. 1935.
Walter Joseph Farrell was born on 16th July 1862 at 10 Sion
Row, Ferrybank. He was the third child and eldest son of thirteen children born
to Richard and Mary Farrell. His father, Richard Farrell was a ship broker, married
to Mary Monica Downey, daughter of Michael Downey, agent for the Clyde Shipping Company and Great Western Railway Steamers
He attended school at Mount Sion and later at Father Joe Phelan’s School
in Stephen’s Street.  In 1877 the family
moved to 57 High Street where his mother had set up a provision store.
SS Lodestar of London 1890
Walter served as bosun and later 2nd mate
Walter took to sea life in 1878 at the age of 16 when he
joined the barque Queen of the Northof the London firm of Ms. George
Lidgett & Sons, under Capt. P. Nolan (from Slieverue).  In May 1878 he sailed to Madras in India,
arriving back in London in May 1879 after a 12 month voyage without ever
touching dry land.  His second voyage
took him to Mauritius and Rangoon, onwards to Conception Bay Newfoundland  and back to Fleetwood after a voyage which
had lasted 19 months.  Subsequent voyages
as an Able Seaman brought him to Imbatuba in Brazil and home via San Francisco, Bombay, Buenos Aires Argentina,
Iquique Northern Chile, and many other ports around the globe.
One of his favourite stories to my mother as a child, was to
recount how the sailors slept in their clothes to try and keep warm. In the
night while sleeping, rats would gnaw on the buttons of their tunics which were
made from bone.
The following are extracts from the log which details his
many voyages:-
Extract from his 4th voyage in 1882:
“1882, Oct. 20th. I again joined the brig ‘Lorriane’ as A.B,
at Workington and sailed 20th Oct. with Captain Nolan for Bombay where we
arrived at the end of January 1883, discharged our cargo and loaded linseed for
Amsterdam arriving September 26th after an eleven month voyage. I left
‘Lorriane’ and went to London to study at Captain Maxwells’s Potters Academy in
Tower Hill where there was a wild lot of young sea men. I spent a fair share of
my money on amusement, Music Halls, Theatres etc. and not enough time on study,
failed exam for 1st Mate and came home to Waterford. I had a fancy to do a
little coasting”
Extract from his 8th voyage 1886:
“February 11th 1886, I sailed in ‘Lodestar’ again as Bosun heading
for San Francisco where we arrived some 17 weeks later having had very bad
weather rounding the Horn. The captain’s wife Mrs. Nolan and their two sons
John and William were on board making the voyage. This time I met many
Waterford people in San Francisco, A Mr. Dillon, Cadogans, Thorntons and an old
school mate Eddy Cummins and his brother , both sons of Mr. Cummins the
hardware and hotel  business now occupied
by Hearne and Co. the Quay. After we discharged our cargo, we took in ballast
and lay out in the bay for 2 months. Eventually we got orders to proceed to
Portland Oregon. On the return voyage, in bad weather rounding the Horn, we
lost an A.B.  off the mizzen topsail
yard, too much sea to launch a boat. Coming up for the Equator, little John Nolan
died. He was well coffined and carried to Queenstown where we arrived in 1887.
John Nolan was buried in the family grave in Ferrybank”
Extract from his 9th voyage 1887:
“August  1887, I
joined the Lodestar as 2nd Mate,  Captain
Nolan in charge and sailed for Bombay, discharged the cargo, loaded part cargo
of salt for Calcutta.  After discharging
the salt we loaded wheat for London arriving there 3rd October 1888 after a 14
month voyage. Captain Nolan went home leaving me by the ship”
SS Ardnamult unloading coal at Le Havre 1899

Walter eventually passed his exam for 1st Mate at John Merrifield’s Navigation School in Plymouth in 1889 and subsequently his
Master’s ticket for steam in 1891.
In 1892 after eleven 
voyages, some lasting as long as 19 months, over a period of 14 years,
to all corners of the globe, Walter with his Master’s Ticket for steam ships
joined Waterford Steamship Company as 2nd Mate on the SS Comeragh which worked
Tenby, Bristol and Wexford. He was subsequently, in 1895 placed in charge of
the SS Creaden which had the honour of bringing the first cargo of continental
sugar to Fenit and Limerick. He was appointed Master of the SS Ardnamult owned
by Limerick Steamship Company in 1896 and plied this and other steamships
between Hamburg and Ireland for nine years.
At sea on the SS Ardnamult 1899 doing his washing.
Walter was appointed Harbour Master or Pier Master of
Waterford Harbour on the 14th January 1904 at the age of 42, by the Southern
and Western Railway Company who had taken responsibility for Waterford Port,
later to be succeeded by Waterford Harbour Commissioners.  He had sailed the seven seas as boy and man
and now it was time to bid farewell to sea life.
Everyday duties included the management of all vessels
berthing at Waterford Port and responsibility for the Pilots who guided vessels
safely up the Suir Estuary to port. Captain Walter Farrell remained as Harbour
Master until his retirement in 1941. He lived a very active life, was married
to Bridget Lawlor from Sallypark who bore him three children and later, on her
death, married Mary Murphy from Mount Neil with whom he produced a daughter, my
mother, Maureen Farrell (Grogan). He passed away aged 82 in 1944. Maureen Grogan passed away
in 2014 in her 102nd year.
His successor was his nephew Richard Farrell who took the
reins as Harbour Master in 1941. Captain Richard (Dick) Farrell retired in 1975
and passed away in 1993 aged 95. Dick’s widow Maeve passed away this February
in her 104th year, she had been living at Havenwood Retirement Home for the
past seven years where she was looked after with great care and respect.
© Brendan Grogan
This is our fourth guest blog. The intention is to offer a
platform to others who are interested in writing about the maritime heritage of Waterford
harbour an opportunity to publish their stories. If you would like to
contribute a piece, please email me at russianside@gmail.com. The only criteria
is that it needs to have a maritime connection to the harbour and a maximum
word count of 1200 words. I will format, source the photos if required and add
in the hyperlinks. Guest blogs will be published on the last Friday of each
month. Our next guest blog is scheduled for Friday 28th April, a story about
the lighters that once reigned supreme in the Suir.  The story is brought to us by Leslie Dowley
of Carrick On Suir.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

the Clyde boats – Clyde Shipping company at Waterford

I was raised on stories of the Clyde boats such as the Rockabill or the Tuskar.  It wasn’t just because they passed the house on a regular basis, but they were major employers in the area, and were vital when it came to the export of cattle and other goods. We can’t ignore that there was also the connection to emigration and the loss that was felt when people went away, or the joy they felt on return, whether holiday or for longer. My father tended to take either of these ships as they sailed to Liverpool, where he was based sailing on English ships. My mother of course was more familiar with the Great Western. a rival company, that sailed to Fishguard and hence, for her at least, London.
Rockabill at Waterford circa 1954
Via Andy Kelly (Shortall CQ  47)
The Clyde boats of my parents generation of course represented the last of the ships and a fine coasting tradition that spanned well over 100 years.  The Clyde Shipping company started out life, unsurprisingly I guess given the name, in Glasgow on the banks of the River Clyde in 1815. As the company prospered it entered the Irish market in 1856, initially to Cork but quickly to other ports such as Waterford.  It was the backbone of the Irish goods trade, particularly in the South East, and Waterford as a result of its location was a pivotal hub. In 1912, the company bought the rival Waterford Steamship Company. (1)
Clyde Shipping poster from early 1900’s
featuring the SS Tuskar. Via Paul O’Farrell

To get a sense of the scale of the business here’s an advert from the Cork Examiner in 1878. (2)

CLYDE SHIPPING COMPANY
Regular Weekly Service between Cork, Skibereen, Schull, Bantry, Castletown-Berhaven, Valencia, Cahirciveen, Dingle &c., &c., by the Steamers “Rockabill” and “Fastnet”. For particulars of Sailings see separate Bills.
December, 1878
STEAM COMMUNICATION BETWEEN CORK, WATERFORD, DUBLIN, BELFAST 
AND GLASGOW
The Cheapest Route for Goods to and from the above Ports and Towns adjacent thereto.
The New and Powerful Screw Steamers 
COPELAND, SANDA, ARKLOW, WICKLOW, TOWARD, PORTLAND, 
RATHLIN, DUNMORE, FASTNET, ROCKABILL 
or other First-class Vessels, are intended to sail without Pilots, and with liberty to tow vessels and to call at any Port or Ports in any order in or out of the customary course, to Receive and Discharge Cargo, or for any other purpose whatsoever.
FROM CORK TO WATERFORD
TUESDAYS, 3rd, 10th, 17th and 31st December and on MONDAY 23rd December
FROM CORK TO DUBLIN via WATERFORD
TUESDAYS, 10th and 31st December
Via WATERFORD & GLASGOW,
TUESDAYS, 3rd and 17th, and Monday 23rd December
FROM CORK TO BELFAST, DIRECT
MONDAYS 9th and 16th December, and SATURDAYS 21st and 28th December
FROM CORK TO GLASGOW
Tuesday, 3rd Dec., via Waterford…12 Noon
Friday, 6th (direct) …2pm
Monday, 9th via Belfast…2pm
Tuesday, 10th, via Waterford & Dublin …3pm
Friday, 13th (direct) …5pm
Monday, 16th via Belfast …9pm
Tuesday, 17th, via Waterford …10am
Friday, 20th, (direct) …1pm
Saturday, 21st, via Belfast …2pm
Monday, 23rd, via Waterford …3pm
Saturday, 28th, via Belfast …5pm
Tuesday, 31st, via Waterford and Dublin …9am
Clyde Offices as they look today
Company motif over the upper windows

FROM WATERFORD TO CORK

Wednesdays, 4th 11th, and 18th December …1pm
Thursday, 26th December …1pm
Fridays, 6th, 13th and 20th December …1pm
FROM DUBLIN TO CORK (Direct)
Saturday, 7th December …8pm
Saturday, 14th December …4pm
Saturday 21st December …7pm
Saturday, 28th December …4pm

FROM BELFAST TO CORK, via, GLASGOW
MONDAYS, 2nd, 23rd, and 30th December.
WEDNESDAYS, 11th and 18th December.

FROM GLASGOW TO CORK
Every Monday, via Waterford …1pm
Every Wednesday, via Waterford …1pm
Every Friday, via Dublin …1pm
Except during Christmas and New Year Holidays, when Sailings will be
Tuesday, 24th December, via Waterford …1pm
Friday, 27th December via Dublin …1pm
Tuesday, 31st December via Waterford …1pm
Caledonian Railway to Greenock, 6pm

FARES

                                                                                Cabin.          Return,   Deck
                                                Cork to Waterford …   9s          …    14s   …   5s?*
                                                Cork to Dublin      …   10s        …    15s   …   5s?     
                                                Cork to Belfast      …   17s 6d   …   —     …   ?
                                                Cork to Glasgow   …   17s 6d   …   25s   ….   ?
   Children above (?two) and under twelve years of age half fare
Return Tickets, available for One Month, not Transferable

Note.- The Clyde Shipping Co. insure all goods shipped by this Line of Steamers at 3s 4d per (cont.?) to Traders having yearly agreements, and 5s, per (cont?) to occasional shippers. Values to be declared at time of shipment. Forms and information to be had at the offices.

For Rates of Freight , &c., apply to
Clyde Shipping Co., Queen Street Limerick;
Clyde Shipping Co., Custom House Quay, Waterford;
Clyde Shipping Co., 21, Eden Quay, Dublin;
James Maddock, Newport [Mon.];
J.C. Pinkerton. 10 Victoria Street, Belfast;
Clyde Shipping Co., Custom House Place Greenock;
Clyde Shipping Co., 2, Oswald Street, Glasgow;
CLYDE SHIPPING COMPANY
Patrick’s Quay, Cork
(10588)

The above gives some sense of scale to the operation.  On the list of ships it was noteworthy that the two ships most closely recognised with Waterford, the Coningbeg and Formby did not feature.  Their dual loss in 1917 would  rock the city and harbour. I was interested to note that the company had the right to sail without pilotage into and out of ports, normally a good revenue for the port, and one that would not be lightly waived. Also intrigued to see how prevalent it was for steam ships to offer towing facilities. Obviously the golden age of sail was coming to an end, but the need for becalmed sailing ships to get to port or sea was a lucrative business.  Perhaps the most interesting point I found was the willingness to call to any port to discharge or take cargo. It might explain why a ship of coasting size was at Cheekpoint in the photo below.
Unidentified large ship at Cheekpoint circa 1900
NLI Poole Collection
It was also interesting to see so many familiar ships names in this very old notice. Needless to say, the Rockabill mentioned in the ad was a different vessel. From the 1860s, there was a tradition of naming ships in the company after lighthouses, or lightships. In all 32 names were used, some on up to five different vessels(3). As can be seen the Waterford company offices were located on Customs House Quay.  The offices finally closed in 1967 and I believe the last sailing of a Clyde boat from the city, at least under the company flag was Rockabill in 1968 (but I’m happy to be corrected on this point). Ending a very proud tradition indeed.

* Some parts of the paper were difficult to read, if not illegible. I’ve added a ? where I was unsure of the text, and left it blank where I was totally unsure.

(1) McElwee. R.  The Last Voyage of the Waterford Steamers.
(2) Cork Examiner, 13/12/1878, P.4
(3) Here’s a full list of the company ships 

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