Daphne French – Remembering a pioneering yachtswoman

Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day. To celebrate it, we have a guest blog from David Carroll to recall the life and times of Daphne French, a yachtswoman who lived in Dunmore East during David’s childhood in the 1950s and 60s. David was the son of the Harbour Master, Captain Desmond Carroll, and his mother Freda, and had a front-row seat to much of the seafaring activities of the village.

When I was growing up in Dunmore East, people arriving at the village along the Ballymabin Road would have been familiar with a sign outside a bungalow called ‘Pamir Cottage.’ Many may have wondered what ‘Pamir’ meant and pondered the background of this name. However, I knew all about the famous barque called Pamir, thanks to my father’s seafaring knowledge.

Pamir was a four-masted barque, built in Hamburg in 1905 and owned during the 1930s by the famous Finnish shipping line of Gustaf Erikson for use in the Australian wheat trade. In 1949, Pamir was the last commercial sailing ship to round Cape Horn.  The ship would play a significant role in Daphne’s world of sailing and significantly she named her house in Dunmore East after it.

Daphne French was born in Co. Roscommon in 1905. The French family were Anglo-Irish whose home was Cloonyquin House near Strokestown.  It is said that they were decent landlords, their estate was never subject to land agitation. Daphne’s father was Arthur John St George French, born in 1853. He married Pauline Anna Haddock in 1898 and they lived at Lichfield in Staffordshire, where he served in the Army. Arthur’s younger brother, born in 1854, was the popular, well-loved, and yet sometimes neglected of Irish geniuses – William Percy French or as he was more popularly known, Percy French, songwriter, humourist, entertainer, and painter.

Cloonyquin House near Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Image courtesy of Percy French Society.

The 1911 Census shows Daphne living in Meath Terrace, Bray with her family. Her father is described as a retired military officer. Daphne’s age is given as four years, which surely is an error. Her older sister, Maeve, is noted as being born in Lichfield, Staffordshire.  Interestingly, the family’s governess is named Frances Alcock, who was born in Co Waterford. Edward H Alcock was the harbour master of Dunmore East in 1884 and one wonders if there is any connection?

It may have been living close to the sea that gave Daphne her lifelong love of sailing and the sea. Journalist Lorna Siggins has said that her life revolved around sailing and boats, since, as she said herself, “she read nothing but sailing and adventure books in her childhood.”

In 1935, Daphne French was the owner of a 30-foot ketch Embla. While sailing back into Dublin Bay after a cruising holiday with her friend Betty Parsons, she saw the Pamir entering Dublin Port with a cargo of wheat.

Ketch Embla, built in Southampton in 1908. Drawing courtesy of Irish Cruising Club

On reaching the shore, Daphne and  Betty caught a bus to the South Wall, boarded the Pamir and requested to see the master. They asked to be taken on the ship’s books for the ship’s next voyage – to Australia. They were signed on as stewardesses at one shilling per month. The voyage to Port Lincoln in South Australia took a record seventy-seven days to complete. “The irresistible silent march of the great ship, under 50,000 square feet of canvas, was a fine sensation,” Daphne wrote in her log.

Pamir berthed at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin, 1935. Photo: Courtesy of Cormac Lowth.

The arrival of the Pamir and subsequent stay in Dublin Port gave rise to much coverage in newspapers.  An overly descriptive report of her departure on October 10th, 1935, appeared in the Irish Independent on the following Monday and was written by a journalist who was titled ‘J.A.P.’  The article began with a transcription of Masefield’s Sea Fever. Near the conclusion of the report, the two female sailors are mentioned:

On arrival in Australia, the 12,000 miles voyage voyage made by the two female sailors was reported in the newspapers.

Daphne and Betty did circumnavigate the world, but their homeward voyage was on another Erikson four-masted steel barque, the L’Avenir. The following year, (1938) while sailing from Australia to Hamburg, with a cargo of wheat, the vessel radioed her position as 51˚ S and 172˚ E on March 1st, stating ” All well.” She was never heard from again.

Daphne’s arrival home to Ireland was noted in the ‘Irishman’s Diary’ columns of the Irish Times on June 16th, 1937. It noted that she had arrived back in Liverpool on June 5th and had left for a two-week holiday in Roscommon while her yacht was being fitted out in a Ringsend boatyard for a planned cruise.

In 1939, as clouds of war gathered over Europe, Daphne with one crew member and a paid hand embarked on a 2,500-mile cruise, through the Forth and Clyde canal in Scotland, across the North Sea and as far as the Aland Islands, north of Stockholm.  Many of the crew members of the Pamir were natives of the Aland Islands so maybe that was the attraction in venturing that far. This cruise took forty-four days and seventeen nights at sea with twenty-two days spent in port, starting on July 5th, and safely returning to Dún Laoghaire on September 8th. Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, and Britain had declared war on September 3rd. In recognition of this epic voyage, the prestigious Faulkner Cup presented by the Irish Cruising Club, was awarded to Daphne.

 Interestingly, Daphne was not the first female sailor to win this prestigious award with that honour falling to Elizabeth Crimmins of East Ferry in Cork in 1934. In more recent times, the award has gone to Co Waterford sailor, Máire Breathnach of Dungarvan, who made a rounding of Cape Horn in 2004.

Map of Embla’s voyage to the Aland Islands, Baltic Sea, July – September 1939. Courtesy of the Irish Cruising Club.

During the war, Daphne was a trainer of women trainees who were drafted to work aboard canal boats, as part of a Ministry of War Transport scheme, on the Grand Union Canal, delivering coal by barge from coalfields around Coventry to the factories along the Birmingham and Fazely canal and down to the docks in London.  

Daphne French on board the barge Cleopatra. Photo: Courtesy of Cormac Lowth.

After the war, Daphne came back to Ireland and moved to Dunmore East, setting up home in Pamir Cottage with its beautifully maintained garden.  

I can remember Daphne French well during my childhood in Dunmore. With my father as Harbour Master, she was a regular and courteous visitor to our house discussing seafaring matters and seeking my father’s advice or opinion on a myriad of nautical issues. She was a distinctive dresser, always wearing blue or navy sailing clothes, denim trousers, a reefer jacket, a knitted hat and sailing shoes. She drove a small ‘bubble car,’ a Messerschmitt. I can remember the distinctive sound of the two-stroke engine as it went up and down the village.

In Dunmore, Daphne sailed Dara, a small 4-ton yacht that was moored near the RNLI lifeboat, Annie Blanche Smith, close to where the Island was in the harbour. She had a circle of friends that crewed with her on short cruises from Dunmore or ones further afield. Paddy Billy Power, the well-respected coxswain of the Dunmore East lifeboat was a great confidant to Daphne, assisting her with the care and maintenance of Dara.

Dunmore East Harbour 1950s.  Dara is moored close to RNLB Annie Blanch Smith. Photo: Courtesy of Brendan Dunne, enhanced by Brendan Grogan.

The 1956 Irish Cruising Club Annual details an account of a cruise made by Daphne and her crew on Dara to the Scillies off Cornwall and back to Dunmore East. 

I can remember on one occasion, Daphne invited my mother to afternoon tea in Pamir Cottage and being an only child, I also went along. It was like a scene from a sea captain’s house in an Enid Blyton Famous Five novel. There were numerous books, ships in bottles, paintings of ships and all sorts of nautical memorabilia decorating the lovely bungalow.

During her time living in Dunmore, Daphne French was the Port Representative for the Irish Cruising Club. This entailed meeting and greeting the visiting yachts of club members and attending to their needs. Each year, she compiled a list of visiting yachts to Dunmore, and this was published in the Irish Cruising Club Annual. Her report in the Annual from 1962 makes interesting reading:

“In spite of gales of wind and rain, sixty-two yachts, sail, and power, visited Dunmore East between May and September. The pier as it was, is hard to recognise. The removal of the stone houses by blasting began in August. They have buttressed the outer wall against the most furious storms for 150 years, and it is difficult to imagine that their destruction could be justified in order to provide a double lane for fish lorries for a limited period- architecturally it is a tragedy.”

D. French.

The sailing activity was much curtailed during the harbour development for a period from the mid-1960s. It was not until the sailing club premises were completed and sailing activity moved to the Stony Cove area, that it flourished again. Unsurprisingly, during this period Daphne sold her yacht. Her active sailing time was ending and in 1966, Pamir Cottage was put up for sale and sold by Palmers from Waterford.  

Daphne spent the last years of her life living in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. She lived a life close to nature, tending her garden and learning to paint watercolours after the style of her Uncle Percy. She fascinated many of her sailing friends with her tales of the sea.

Daphne French died on July 20th, 1995, aged 90 years, and is buried at Redford Cemetery, Greystones. A fitting epitaph from the RL Stevenson poem is written on her grave – “Home is the sailor, home from the sea.”

The assistance of  Brendan Grogan who enhanced the Dunmore East 1950s photograph is appreciated. I also wish to thank Cormac Lowth, Brendan Dunne, John Aylward, Captain Alex Blackwell of the Irish Cruising Club, Mr Berrie O’Neill of the Percy French Society and Karen Poff and June Bow of www.youwho.ie. All assistance for this article is very much appreciated.  Previous related writing by Marine Correspondents Lorna Siggins and WM Nixon were a source of information.

More on the role of women in the area here:

If you liked David’s account you might also like to read another of his stories of growing up in Dunmore East

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How Two Brave Brownstown Fishermen Changed the Course of Lifesaving in Tramore Bay

To conclude our Mayday Mile coverage on the blog this year David Carroll shares a fascinating insight into the ultimate sacrifice of two fishermen and how it provoked the community to campaign for a lifeboat station. Remember the Mayday mile runs until the end of the month, and there are numerous events happening countrywide to sustain the voluntary efforts of the RNLI. Our own Dunmore East team can still be supported too. Over to David Carroll now.

Tramore Bay lies about eight miles west of the entrance to Waterford Harbour and the famous Hook Head Lighthouse and is embraced by two headlands, Brownstown, 110 feet high, to the east and Great Newtown, 150 feet high, to the west. The Bay is about eight square miles and is divided by a spit of sand three miles long running west to east, hence the name Trá Mhór, Great Strand. The south side of the strand is washed by the open sea whilst the side forms a lagoon connected at the east end to the sea by a narrow deep channel known as Rinneshark Harbour.

On one side of Tramore Bay is Brownstown Head, with two towers and on the other is Great Newtown Head, which has three towers, one of which has on top the famous Metal Man statue. Tramore Bay has, for centuries, held an infamous reputation as a graveyard of ships.1

Tramore Bay.    Courtesy of: http://tramoreshippwrecks.blogspot.com/ The chart by Doyle dating from 1737 uses the spelling ‘Rineshark’ for Rinneshark, an area that has several variations in the spelling, including ‘Rhineshark’ (1858).

From the sea, it was difficult to distinguish Tramore Bay from the entrance to Waterford Harbour, which vessels in distress would normally try to reach for shelter. The towers on Brownstown and Great Newtown Head were placed there in 1822-’23 in order to prevent this confusion. The towers were easily obscured in darkness and bad weather. Once a square-rigged ship got into difficulty in Tramore Bay, it was difficult to get on a tack that would clear one of the headlands. Facing south-south-west, the bay gave insufficient shelter from the prevailing winds to make anchoring effective. Only the Rinneshark channel at the north-east corner of the bay provided potential shelter but this was influenced by severe tides and complicated by many sand bars.

Tramore Bay. To this day, it can still be seen that the bay was once a graveyard for many sailing ships.  Courtesy of Jamie Malone

Mr Edward Jacob (1843 – 1924) of Tramore was Lloyd’s Agent in Waterford and also the local representative for the Shipwrecked Mariners Society.  He was also the Honorary Secretary for many years of Tramore RNLI. These involvements led him to have a particular interest in the hazards of the bay and to take notes and gather newspaper cuttings as well as plotting the location of shipwrecks on charts.  Starting in 1816, Mr Jacob’s records span eighty-four years of which no less than eighty-three shipwrecks occurred with the loss of four hundred and forty lives were lost.  The worst casualty was that of the Sea Horse. 2

Edward Jacob (1843 – 1924).
Courtesy of Jonathan P Wigham

The Sea Horse was a troop ship that sailed from Ramsgate in Kent bound for Cork with soldiers of the 59th Regiment and their families, who were returning from the Napoleonic Wars. In an attempt to reach the safety of Waterford Harbour, the ship found it impossible to round Brownstown Head and regrettably broke apart in Tramore Bay. To this present day, the tragedy of the Sea Horse is synonymous with Tramore and still resonates with the people of Tramore.  Records show that of the 393 people on board, 363 perished and only 30 of the strongest survived. 3

The records of the shipwrecks, starting with the Sea Horse in 1816 up until 1858 were published in the Waterford Mail on February 4th, 1858. This list had been compiled by Mr JW Maher and had been first sent to the Mayor of Waterford in response to the latest wreck in Tramore Bay and also as part of a campaign to have a dedicated lifeboat station at Tramore.  Up until that point, rescue attempts to save the lives of shipwrecked sailors fell to local fishermen and boatmen from HM Coastguard to venture out, usually in very difficult conditions.

The wreck that Mr Maher referred to was the French brig, La Capricieuse, with a cargo of coal, on a voyage from Llanelly to St Malo, with a crew of seven, which got into difficulty in Tramore Bay on January 25th, 1858.

A local newspaper described it thus:

WRECK AND LOSS OF LIFE AT TRAMORE

On Monday morning last a wreck, which was unfortunately attended with loss of life, occurred in Tramore Bay.- It appears from all that can be gathered on the subject, that a French vessel, La Capricieuse, laden with coals from Llanelly to St Malo, with a crew of seven men, had been some time previous to the catastrophe, beating outside the bay of Tramore, the sea running mountains high at the time. Shortly afterwards the vessel waterlogged, drove into the bay, and struck on Rhineshark point,remaining there in a most perilous condition. The coast guards put out in their boat to the relief of the vessel, but could not approach her; when a yawl, with four brave fishermen, put out and succeeded in reaching the vessel, the crew of which they took on board; but on her return, a heavy sea struck the yawl and upset it. At this time the coastguard boat, which had lain on its oars, came to the rescue, and taking six men on board brought them safely to the shore. She then returned and found three men holding on by the keel of the upturned boat, whom she took on board; but three who remained behind after the coastguard boat had first went to land, viz., John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty, fishermen and Pierre Dubois, one of the crew, had met a watery grave. Had there been a lifeboat here it is believed that all hands would have been saved. The vessel is now dry at low water. We are glad to learn a subscription list is now in course of signature for the relief of the families of the brave fishermen, who to save the lives of others, sacrificed their own.

The Waterford News of January 29th, 1858

Note:  In the Board of Trade record of Gallantry Medal Awards, there are six fishermen named as being in the yawl and not four as per the newspaper report. The crew members, who survived the capsizing of the yawl were: Michael Downey,  Edward Kelly, John Kelly, and John Dunn. They received Bronze Gallantry Medals in addition to a gratuity of £2 each. Robert Aicheson, Chief Boatman of HM Coastguard was also awarded a Bronze Gallantry Medal.

The loss of the two fishermen, who had gallantly sacrificed their own lives to save others, sent shockwaves through the local community. There was an immediate response. On the following day, January 30th, 1858, the Waterford Mail published the details of a petition sent to John E Feehan, Mayor of Waterford requesting a Public Meeting to make provision for the families of the drowned fishermen and to take steps to procure a lifeboat that would be stationed in Tramore. The notice read as follows:

To the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Waterford

We, the undersigned Residents of Waterford, and its neighbourhood, request you will convene a Public Meeting to take steps towards making some provision for the families of John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty, who were drowned in their attempts to rescue the Crew of the French Brig, La  Capricieuse in Tramore Bay, on Monday, the 25th Inst., ; and also, to take such steps  as may be necessary for procuring a Life Boat, to be stationed at Tramore, to prevent, as far as possible, such casualties in future.

                                                                   Waterford, 27th January 1858.

Waterford Mail. January 30th, 1858

The letter was signed by a large number of prominent citizens and merchants and Lord Mayor Feehan arranged for a public meeting to be held on February 1st in the Town Hall at 12 o’clock. The same newspaper also contained details, posted by Thomas Walsh, Auctioneer,  of the sale of the wreck of the La Capricieuse and her cargo of coal, to be held on February 2nd.

Waterford Mail, February 4th,1858.

In the Waterford Mail, dated February 4th, 1858, a Mr Dillon had a letter published in which he notes that an efficient committee had been formed at the public meeting, which had elected him as treasurer, in his absence. Mr Dillon also noted that he and Mr JW Strangman had already been collecting subscriptions for the aid of the two bereaved families. This amounted to £95 -19- 0 and when added to monies received by the editor of the Waterford Mail and the Mayor, the total amount came to £117-9-6. It is also recorded that the RNLI donated £20 to the fund set up to bring relief to the families of the two bereaved fishermen. Philip Dunphy, a local history enthusiast states that the final amount far exceeded the above figure.

A month later, in the edition of March 4th, the Waterford Mail published copies of correspondence between the Mayor Feehan of Waterford and the French Ambassador and other diplomats in London, seeking compensation for the bereaved families.  The French responses seemed to be rather pedantic. 

The committee set up to collect money to assist the families of the two drowned fishermen were successful in their appeal to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in London for a lifeboat to be stationed at Tramore.  There was an immediate response from the Institution and an inspector arrived shortly afterwards and selected a site for a lifeboat house, which was built and Tramore received its first RNLI lifeboat in January 1859, thirty feet in length,  which was unnamed.  Mr JW Maher, the compiler of the early list of wrecks in Tramore Bay, became the first honorary secretary of the lifeboat and Richard O. Johns became coxswain. Coxswain Johns would be the recipient of three RNLI Silver Medals during his time with the Tramore lifeboats. 4  

Coxswain Richard O. Johns.
Courtesy of Jonathan P Wigham

Over the next eight years, Mr Jacob records the lifeboat being launched on fourteen occasions to give aid to vessels and saving about one hundred and twenty lives. With the advent of steam, the number of shipwrecks began to decrease towards the end of the 19th century.  With the planned arrival of a new motor lifeboat ‘C & S’ (ON 690) to Dunmore East in 1925, the Tramore lifeboat was withdrawn in 1924. Tramore had to wait for forty years until 1964, when an inshore lifeboat station was established and has given outstanding service since that time.

One wonders, if any of the one hundred and twenty or so fortunate mariners that were rescued by the Tramore lifeboats, spare a thought as to how the lifeboat service that rescued them came to be established.   It was the gallantry of the two fishermen, John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty that caught the imagination of the people of Waterford and the surrounding area and galvanised them to successfully petition the RNLI to establish a lifeboat in Tramore Bay.

Dunmore East’s Trent class RNLB Elizabeth and Ronald (ON 1215), rounding Brownstown Head, following an exercise in Tramore Bay during 2014. This is close to the spot where John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty lost their lives in 1858. Photo courtesy of Neville Murphy

I first became aware of the names of John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty in February 2020. Along with Brendan Dunne, a volunteer crewmember from  Dunmore East RNLI, we visited the RNLI Heritage Department at Poole in Dorset to carry out research for the book Dauntless Courage.

David Carroll at the RNLI Memorial in Poole, February 2020. Courtesy of Brendan Dunne

Outside the entrance to the RNLI College, there is a memorial that honours the courage of all those lost at sea while endeavouring to save the lives of others around the United Kingdom and Irish coasts.  The names of John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty are inscribed on this memorial. The memorial unveiled in 2009, serves as a source of inspiration for current and future generations of lifeboat volunteers and supporters. It is a reminder that people who carry out selfless acts of heroism to help others will always be remembered.

Since then, I have endeavoured to find out more about these two brave fishermen. I have been unable to find any information on where John Fitzgerald and Thomas Crotty were buried, that is if their bodies were recovered. It is more likely that they were never found. No reports of their bodies being washed ashore could be found in an exhaustive search through newspapers by Philip Dunphy.   I am open to correction, but no plaque or memorial appears to exist in Ireland to remember these brave men. With the two hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the RNLI taking place in 2024, maybe it would be a fitting time for favourable consideration to be given to adding their names to those on the memorial in Dunmore East Harbour that commemorates all those lost at sea?  It is appreciated that such a request would be subject to certain protocols and procedures before it could be considered.

Lost at Sea Memorial, Dunmore East Harbour. Courtesy of Neville Murphy

Certain comfort can be taken that these two men are remembered at  RNLI Headquarters in Poole. Above the list of names on the Poole memorial to those who sacrificed their own lives to save others, the simple motto of Sir William Hillary is inscribed.  Sir William founded the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck in 1824. The name changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1854.  The words say:

‘WITH COURAGE NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

_______________________________________________________

Sources:

Records of Vessels Wrecked in Tramore Bay, 1816- ‘99’ by Maurice J Wigham,        Decies No 12., September 1979. http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ejournals/100733/1007333.pdf

http://tramoreshippwrecks.blogspot.com/

Waterford News, January 29th, 1858

Waterford Mail, January 30th, February 4th, and March 4th, 1858.

‘Lifeboat Gallantry’ by Barry Cox (Spink  &Son Ltd and RNLI 1988).

References:

  1.  Dauntless Courage , page 16.
  • Information extrapolated from ‘Records of Vessels Wrecked in Tramore Bay, 1816- ’99.’
  • For more information on the wreck of the Sea Horse, please see Decies No. 71, 2015 –‘The Sea Horse 1782-1816’  by Ivan Fitzgerald.  

               4.  ‘Lifeboat Gallantry’, pages 129,145, and 148.

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to Jonathan Wigham, Jamie Malone, Neville Murphy, and Brendan Dunne for their courtesy in allowing their photographs to be used.

Thanks also to Philip Dunphy of Carballymore for his local insight and assistance and also to Ivan Fitzgerald, formerly of Tramore, for information and documentation to enable me to compile the article.  Ivan has carried out extensive research on the Sea Horse tragedy, and has determined the accurate numbers of soldiers, family members, officers, and crew on board the vessel.

Historical Footnotes:

Tragedy was to strike the Fitzgerald family again, almost ninety years later. On May 1st, 1947, John Fitzgerald, aged 29 years, who had served in the Coast Watching Service at LOP 17, Brownstown Head, during World War ΙΙ, was drowned along with his father, Michael, while lobster fishing.  These men were descendants of John Fitzgerald, lost in 1858.  Please see ‘Dauntless Courage’, page 143.

Readers may find the following ‘blog’ of interest?   Phillip Dunphy can confirm that the ‘John Dunne’ referred to in the article to be the same ‘’John Dunn’ who was part of the crew of the yawl that went to the rescue of the La Capricieuse in 1858.

https://irishamericancivilwar.com/2019/10/05/an-elderly-fisherman-in-dunmore-east-remembers-his-part-in-the-american-civil-war/

Medal awarded to John Dunn – From Philip Dunphy’s Collection.

Maurice Davin – A man of the River Suir

This coming weekend my brother Robert and I will participate again in the RNLI fundraiser the Mayday Mile. This year, we are rowing the River Suir from Carrick to Cheekpoint. And to whet the appetite David Carroll has contributed a guest blog. David explores the life and work of another man of the river Maurice Davin, who like ourselves found such joy and excitement from being out on its waters. If you would like to support the RNLI, you can make a donation to our page as part of team Dunmore East, or indeed seek out you own local lifeboat which is participating also. Take us away David.

Carrick-on-Suir was the birthplace of Maurice Davin. He was born on June 29th, 1842, the eldest son of a prosperous farming family at Deerpark, who also owned a successful river trading business. With the security that a comfortable upbringing provided, Maurice could afford to indulge in a wide variety of sporting interests.

Regarded as one of the world’s finest all-around athletes – he was also a rower, rugby player, boxer, and cricketer – he was a respected household name across Ireland. Like his brothers Tom and Pat, he was a wonderfully talented competitor and achieved international fame in the 1870s when he broke several world records. However, he is best remembered for being one of the founders of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Thurles on November 1st, 1884. He chaired the meeting and became the first president of the GAA.

Maurice Davin  1842 – 1927. Courtesy of Tipperary Museum of Hidden History

On the death of his father in 1859, he joined with his mother, a woman described as being of great acumen, to run the family’s river haulage business and the large farm at Deerpark, rented from the Marquess of Ormond.

In 1994, Séamus Ó Riain, a former President of the GAA wrote a biography, entitled:  ‘Maurice Davin (1842-1927): First president of the Gaelic Athletic Association’.   In the book, he gives us a wonderful description and account of the river trade, in which the Davin family were most prominent:

“The other arm of the Davin economy was the river trade, which was of long standing, having been initiated by Denis senior in the previous century. Succeeding generations maintained and developed the enterprise…

The first team pulled the noddy as far as Ballydine, the second took it forward to Kilsheelan and the third completed the journey to Clonmel. A towing path was constructed on the northern bank which made it possible for teams  of horses to do the hauling. Goods were conveyed from Waterford in ‘lighters,’ boats capable of carrying up to sixty tons. The usual cargo was coal, iron, timber and feeding stuffs. Sweeps of oars propelled the lighter with the tide to Carrick where the cargo was transferred to smaller craft called ‘yawls.’ These boats were constructed by Kehoes of Carrickbeg who had earned a high reputation as boat builders. They used Oregon pine which was robust and durable enough to withstand the pressures of the strong river currents and heavy merchandise they had to carry.

Four and sometimes six horses formed a team to pull the yawl. At least two teams were needed and took alternate trips, so each team got a rest period. Big bony horses were chosen and specially schooled for the work. The strongest and most reliable animal was given the lead position and the other horses were positioned in line behind him. They were hitched with strong ropes to a forked post of oak set in the deck on the yawl. While all the horses had halters, only the lead one had a bit in his mouth. A fold of hay was fixed to the halter on the river side to act as a blinker so that the horse would not shy from the water.

Two men took charge of the yawl and four others attended to the horses, guiding them along the tow path as they hauled the boat against the current. Haul marks were cut in places along the way and if the water rose above this height, as it would whenever the river was in flood after heavy rain, the horses had to be stopped because they could not contend with such a force of water. The skipper worked the tiller which had a yarn arm attached to it to provide greater leverage in guiding the yawl.

Carrick-on-Suir from an old postcard collection.   Courtesy of Tipperary Studies, Tipperary County Council Library Service.

Work started at six in the morning when the cargo was transferred  from the lighter to the yawl, which could hold from twenty to thirty tons. The hauling commenced at nine o’clock and it took five and a half hours to make the twelve miles to Clonmel. The horses were stabled and fed, and the cargo unloaded on to the dock.  The yawl was poled (propelled) back with current (without the use of horses), taking two and a half hours to reach Carrick in the evening  before seven, with a cargo of pigs, dairy produce, poultry, and grain.

When the horses were rested, they were trotted back by road to Carrick. It was a long day and strenuous work for men and beasts.  The horses were treated well, fed on gruel, oats, and yellow meal (i.e., maize) and stabled comfortably. The haulers were specialists who were devoted to their work and the Davin family, to whom they gave a lifetime of service.

They were emotionally attached to the river and the life thereon. The depth of this feeling is illustrated in the last wish of a hauler: ‘Bury me in Churchtown where I can hear the creak of the yawlman’s tiller and the crack of the hauler’s whip.’ Churchtown cemetery, situated beside the river on the Waterford side, is the family burial ground of the Davins.  The arrival of steam tugs on the river and the increase in the transport of goods by rail brought a decline in the hauling trade which the Davins abandoned in the early years of the 19th century.

Clonmel c.1900. Courtesy of Tipperary Museum of Hidden History.

Boxing was one of Maurice Davin’s early athletic pursuits, but he then changed direction, being drawn to what was his first love, the river, and its boats. In the early part of the nineteenth century, there was a great tradition of boat racing in Carrick. The annual regatta would have been a popular event, enjoying the sponsorship of the gentry. The regatta had become a casualty of the general depression that followed the great famine, with the last successful regatta being held in 1848.  However, in 1863, Waterford revived its regatta and in subsequent years it became successful with a greater number of entries, including some from Carrick. This prompted Carrick to revive their own traditional regatta in 1865. 

Maurice Davin developed a passion for rowing and was phenomenally successful and fully committed to the sport. He decided to build his own four-oared racing gig. It was named Cruiskeen Lawn, a name chosen by his mother.  At the Waterford regatta in August 1871, the silver cup event was won by Cruiskeen, with Maurice as stroke, his brother Tom also in the crew and the cox was his other brother Pat.  On the same day, the race for two-oared boats, known as wherries, was won by Maurice Davin’s Gypsy. Cruiskeen scored a lengthy list of successes at subsequent regattas at Clonmel, Carrick and Waterford.  Even when he retired, his boat continued to have success with a new crew.

Maurice Davin’s first appearance at an athletic meeting as a competitor was in 1869 at Gurteen, near Kilsheelan, which came by chance.  But within a brief period of time, Maurice and his two brothers, Tom, and Pat, were dominating Irish athletics and would do so for over a decade. In the 1870s, it was said that they had half the world’s records for running, jumping, hurdling, and weight-throwing. Maurice excelled in weight-throwing and through a series of major victories over leading British athletes, he achieved international fame.

But his love for rowing and his beloved Cruiskeen Lawn never diminished. In an interview with a New York newspaper, given in 1907, Maurice Davin said:

“I built the boat over 40 years ago. Somehow or other she was not a success… it was not my fault that she did not win at a regatta in Waterford in the sixties. I held onto her, I had faith in her, for she was a sweet boat. Last year I lengthened her bow a bit and the boys took her to this year’s regatta in Waterford and won. Now what do you think of that for a boat?”

When he gave this interview in 1907, Maurice Davin was sixty-five years old. The  Tipperary Museum of Hidden History, in Clonmel, has noted that the interviewer remarked that he could have passed for a man twenty years younger.

Part of the Maurice Davin Exhibition on display at the Tipperary Museum of Hidden History, Clonmel.   Courtesy of Tipperary Museum of Hidden History

Maurice Davin had great veneration for his boat, which is also referred to by its Irish name Crúiscín. It had given him immense pleasure over the years, and he could not see his way to having it broken up – hence his determination to keep it, in the hope that it would be appreciated at some time.  It was hidden away in a cowshed on the farm at Deerpark for over one hundred years.

In 2005, Pat Walsh, a grandnephew of Maurice Davin was living at Deerpark and farming the land. He knew of the existence of the boat on the farm and made up his mind to donate it to the County Museum if they agreed to take it.  Pat brought the existence of the boat to the attention of Shay Hurley of the Workman’s Boat Club in Irishtown, Clonmel. Shay was astonished at the beauty of the boat. He and his committee members very quickly came on board (no pun intended)realising the potential that it had to be conserved as a national treasure. They became leading figures in a project that received grant aid and sponsorship. The project saw the boat’s removal from the cowshed and arrived on May 17th, 2006, at the Conservation Centre in Letterfrack, Co Galway, under the direction of Sven Habermann, a historical object conservator. The boat came back to Clonmel on November 24th, 2006, for permanent display in the museum.  Michael Kennedy, a shipwright from Dunmore East was also heavily involved in the conservation work.

Maurice Davin’s  Cruiskeen  on display at the Tipperary Museum of Hidden History, Clonmel.  Courtesy of Tipperary Museum of Hidden History

Around the same time in 2006 that the Cruiskeen was being conserved in Letterfrack, the Gaelic Athletic Association honoured Maurice Davin by renaming Croke Park’s Canal End, originally built in 1949, after the Association’s first-ever president. The stadium’s southern stand was re-constructed and re-opened in its current state in 2003.

Maurice Davin was unique amongst presidents of the GAA as he is the only man to have held two terms in office. He played a crucial role in steering the GAA through its turbulent initial period when its very survival was in doubt. For many years this was scarcely recognised. 

He was a man of considerable moderation, and he believed in sport without boundaries and was opposed to banning GAA members from playing foreign games. This led to his resignation in February 1887 but an intervention from Archbishop Croke and a sustained clergy-led campaign brought him back to the presidency in January 1888. Following a second resignation in January 1889, he never again played a significant role in the GAA. Instead, his love of sport remained undimmed, and he took an active part in community affairs while continuing to promote Gaelic games at a local level. Seeing the need for a sports field in Carrick-on-Suir he developed an enclosed GAA pitch on the family farm where the 1904 All-Ireland Hurling Final was played.

Maurice Davin never married, and he died on January 27th, 1927.  Poignantly, he is buried close to his beloved river Suir at Churchtown graveyard on the Waterford bank of the river Suir, midway between Carrick-on-Suir and Kilsheelan in the parish of Dysart.

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Sources:

Séamus Ó Riain  ‘Maurice Davin (1842 -1927): First president of the Gaelic Athletic Association’ , Geography Publications, 1994.

‘A Man and His Boat – MAURICE DAVIN’  by Marie McMahon, Curator, South Tipperary County Museum. This is an online document that may be accessed from a link on : https://www.hiddenhistory.ie/conservation-items/the-cruiskeen-project

‘Hear the Boat Sing’ website  https://heartheboatsing.com/

Dictionary of Irish Biography: ( Contributor: Prof. Paul Rouse)

https://www.dib.ie/biography/davin-maurice-a2428

Video Links:

The remarkable life and times of Maurice Davin.’ This is a 24-minute interview by Joe Molloy of ‘Off the Ball’ with Professor Paul Rouse of UCD.

‘The Davin Boat.’  A 5-minute video with Damien Tiernan ( Now of WLRFM)  visiting the cowshed at Deerpark.

‘The Cruiskeen – a river racer.’  A 36-minute video that documents the entire conservation project of restoring the Cruiskeen from Deerpark to Letterfrack where the conservation processes are explained. In addition, technical information on the boat is given and finally the journey back to Clonmel for permanent display is recorded.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Dr Pat Bracken of Tipperary Libraries for his helpful advice when I began to research this story. Dr Bracken has written two books on the history of sport in Co Tipperary:‘The Growth and Development of Sport in County Tipperary, 1840-1880’ (2004) and ‘Foreign and Fantastic Field Sports: Cricket in County Tipperary’ (2018).

Many thanks to Dr Pat McCarthy for giving me access to his copy of ‘Maurice Davin (1842 -1927): First president of the Gaelic Athletic Association.,’  and to Mr Willie Nolan of Geography Publications for giving permission to transcribe the chapter entitled ‘River traders’, from the book.

Thank you also to Ms Jayne Sutcliffe, Documentation  and Collections Officer, Tipperary Museum of Hidden History, Cultural Services, for all her assistance and to Dr Naomi Feely of Clonmel.

Historical Footnote:

Sven Habberman, the historical object conservator based in Connemara, was recently involved with another project with a nautical theme. This was the conservation of  the ship’s cabin in which Sir Ernest Shackleton died. It was found as  being used as a makeshift garden shed in Norway. The cabin was originally part of the Quest, the ship that Shackleton used on his final voyage. The Co Kildare explorer died of a heart attack on the island of South Georgia in the Southern Atlantic Ocean on January 5th, 1922.  Following conservation work by Sven Habberman and his team at Letterfrack, the cabin is on display in the Shackelton Museum, Athy, Co. Kildare.

Gentry at Play-Hook Regatta, 6th Aug 1870.

On this day in 1870 the great and the good of the harbour area and beyond gathered to enjoy the sport of sailing and racing at the Hook Regatta. In this guest blog post David Carroll shares the spectacle and many of the characters who took part.

The Standard and Waterford Conservative Gazette of Wednesday, August 10th, 1870 carried a most colourful report on the Hook Regatta, that had been held at Loftus Hall, under the patronage of the Marquis of Ely, on the previous Saturday, August 6th. We learn that tenants of the Ely estate in Wexford, fishermen from the coastal communities of Waterford Harbour, and citizens of Waterford all rubbed shoulders with members of the gentry and nobility as they came together to enjoy a magnificent day of aquatic events. The report began as follows:

“Hall Bay, Saturday – This annual event came off today in Hall Bay, under the most favourable circumstances, before several thousand spectators. Loftus Hall Bay – as most of your readers are aware- is situated at the very entrance of the Waterford harbour, one of the promontories leading into it being Hook, noted for its Tower, well-known to navigators. No more suitable spot could be selected for contests between yachts and sailing yawls, as the bay is very expansive, while, even in the calm of mid-summer, a good breeze from the Channel is sure to be encountered, accompanied necessarily by a strong swell on the water. This annual event was first originated by the present young Marquis of Ely some three years ago- its object being chiefly to afford a source of amusement to the tenants on his estate, and to fishermen residing in the vicinity of Waterford harbour. He gives annually all the prizes, and defrays all expenses connected with carrying it out, which is evident from the very great interest that the inhabitants of the Ely estate, and residents of Dunmore, Duncannon, Passage, Ballyhack, Fethard, and other parts of the harbour take in the proceedings – many hundreds from each of the places mentioned crowding yearly to enjoys the day’s amusement. The weather was all that could be desired for aquatic sports. From an early hour in the morning, a strong breeze from the SE blew across the bay, causing a strong swell on the waters, giving yachts, and sailing yawls every possible opportunity of showing their sailing qualities to advantage. The distance for yawls, as will be seen by the programme subjoined, was about nine miles, and for yachts about eighteen, and it is very creditable to the competitors to state that the sailing was of the very best description and would have done credit to many of the crack aquatic sportsmen. The yacht race was a very interesting one, the sailing on the whole good. As a matter of course the bay was crowded by crafts of various descriptions from all parts of the harbour. It is also right to state that the Marquis of Ely chartered the steam-tug William Wallace to convey a select party from Waterford. Captain Kelly of Passage, commander of his lordship’s yacht “Mystery” acted as commodore and his very excellent arrangements and his decisions gave unbounded satisfaction. His lordship and the Earl of Huntingdon exerted themselves in assisting Captain Kelly to carry out the programme. “

Standard and Waterford Conservative Gazette, Wednesday, August 10th, 1870

A reader might be forgiven for thinking that the hosting of an event such as the Regatta by the Marquis was indicative of harmonious relations between the Ely estate and the tenants. This was definitely not the case. Rather it was one of discontent.

The eviction of 121 people in 1865 by the agent Pat Hare created social unrest and in 1869 there were riotous scenes at a sports and race- meeting at Fethard when the same agent was abused for carrying out evictions at Killesk, an outlying townland on the estate. Rather incongruously, the agent was regarded as being solely responsible, as the crowd cheered and applauded the Marquis of Ely and his family when they appeared on the stage“. [1]

Billy Colfer. The Hook Peninsula

Pat Hare, land agent for the Ely estate is remembered as a cruel, bigoted, and an unjust agent. When he died, he was replaced by his nephew, Godfrey Lovelace Taylor and he has been described as every bit as cruel and unforgiving.[2] The Land League was founded by Michael Davitt in 1879 and it was no surprise that very soon after, a branch of the Land League for the Ely tenants was formed and was generally referred to as ‘the Hook 200’.[3] In the report of the Hook Regatta carried in the Waterford News of August 12th, 1870, both Hare and Taylor are listed as stewards for the event, along with Captain Kennedy and a Mr Lethbridge.

Loftus Hall had originally been called Redmond Hall, named after the family, that lived there until the 1650s when it was given to the Loftus family, who were English planters as part of the Cromwellian conquest. It became the principal residence of the Loftus Family in 1666 when Henry Loftus, son of Nicholas Loftus took up residence in the Hall.

August 2020 – exactly one hundred and fifty years after the Hook Regatta of 1870, sailing continues to be enjoyed in Hall Bay. Two ‘flying fifteens’, with spinnakers set, battle it out in the fresh conditions close to Loftus Hall. Photo: Liam Ryan

James Henry Loftus, the 3rd Marquis had died, aged forty-three, in 1857. His son, John Henry Wellington Graham Loftus, the 4th Marquis of Ely was only twenty years old at the time of the Hook Regatta in 1870. He had been born on November 22nd, 1849. His twenty-first birthday was still some months away. On November 25th, 1870, The Waterford News reported as follows:

“The Coming of Age of the Marquis of Ely- The coming of age of the Marquis of Ely, which happy event took place on Tuesday last was made the occasion of festive rejoicings at Passage same evening amongst his lordships tenantry, who are devotedly and deservedly attached to their good and popular landlord. Bonfires blazed on several points, fireworks illuminated the firmament, 4 and refreshments were supplied abundantly to the people who cheered again and again for the youthful Marquis and his respected mother. The entire féte was admirably organised and supervised in its progress by Captain William Kelly, the experienced commander of his lordship’s yacht, and all passe off most happily.”

The Waterford News, November 25th, 1870
The 4th Marquis, aged about ten years-old with his mother, Lady Jane Loftus, Marchioness of Ely. Image: Courtesy of Liam Ryan

His mother, Lady Jane Loftus, Marchioness of Ely (née Hope-Vere) was an interesting person. Born in 1821, she was appointed as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria from 1851 until 1889 and became a close friend. The Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of a lady-in-waiting holding the official position of personal attendant on a British queen or princess. The position is traditionally held by a female member of a noble family. Through her mother she was a cousin of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. She developed friendships with Queen Sophie of the Netherlands and Empress Eugénie in France.

‘Mystery’ – The yacht belonging to the Marquis of Ely, crewed by sailors from the Hook. Billy Colfer states that the yacht cruised the Mediterranean. Mount Vesuvius is depicted in this artistic image from Liam Ryan, courtesy of Stephen Colfer.

The Loftus Hall building that exists today was heavily renovated in 1872 by the Marquis, under the guidance of his mother. They undertook the extensive rebuilding of the entire mansion, adding the magnificent grand staircase and features that had not been seen previously in houses in Ireland. A lot of the inspiration was said to have been taken from Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer residence on the Isle of Wight.

All this work was believed to have been undertaken to facilitate a visit from her majesty, Queen Victoria. The Dowager Marchioness of Ely felt that a visit by her good friend and Royal Highness, Queen Victoria would raise both the stature and esteem of the Loftus family. Unfortunately for the family, Queen Victoria never set foot in Loftus Hall and the Loftus’ were left with a massive debt following all the works.

Interestingly, Queen Victoria had been in Waterford Harbour on August 4th 1849, when the Royal Yacht lay at anchor on a voyage from Cork to Kingstown, when the Queen felt ill. One wonders if she had viewed Loftus Hall as the Royal Yacht entered or departed from Waterford Harbour? There is a certain irony in the fact that many years later, she played an unwitting part in the demise of the landed estate.

In addition, the family never got to fully enjoy the house, with the 4th Marquis dying at a young age on April 3rd, 1889, without issue and leaving it to his cousin, who eventually elected to place the bankrupt estate on the market. Lady Jane died a year later, on June 11th, 1890, and is buried at Kensal Green cemetery in London, next to her husband.

The Hook Regatta programme included two races for yawls. The first was confined to tenants of the Ely estate and was won by the Hero, owned by M Fortune. The second yawl race was open to boats from all of Waterford Harbour. This race was keenly contested and was won by Kate of Duncannon (R Butler), followed by Kate of Woodstown (Captain Coughlan). Redwing was the winner of a race for hookers, confined to tenants of the Ely estate. Mr Fortune was named as the owner, so it looks as if the same person won both the yawl and hooker races for the Ely estate.

An original sailing yawl, typical of many in Waterford Harbour, the William rebuilt by Matt Doherty of Coolbunnia, Cheekpoint. Photo courtesy of Tides and Tales via PJ O’Shea

The third race on the Regatta programme was one for yachts. This event was very much the preserve of the gentry and nobility. Three boats raced for a cup which the ‘The Standard and Waterford Conservative Gazette’ valued at twenty sovereigns but ‘The Waterford News’, dated August 12th, 1870, put the value of the cup at ten pounds. One thing that the newspapers agreed upon was that the winner was the Emetic, owned by Mr Samuel Perry.

But for the bravery of the Dungarvan Lifeboat during September 1869, the Emetic, or indeed, Mr Perry, might not have been present, to participate in the Hook Regatta.

The south coast of Ireland was buffeted by bad weather at the end of September 1869. On September 26th, a fine American clipper called Electric Spark from Boston was wrecked on the Wexford coast near Blackwater, having earlier struck a rock near the Saltees and was in a sinking condition. The crew of twenty-one and the master’s wife were rescued by the Wexford Lifeboat. Two days later, the Cork Examiner reported in an edition dated October 4th, 1869 “an act of great and timely gallantry was performed on Tuesday last by the coxswain and crew of the Ballinacourty Lifeboat, Dungarvan.”

The rescue involved the yacht Emetic of Dunmore East. The report continued:

“Shortly after noon on that day, William Daly, the coxswain, saw a small vessel in the Pool, with the Union Jack at half-mast. Shortly after she hauled down the Jack and hoisted the Ensign, with the Union down as a signal of distress. Daly observing that the craft had dragged her anchors and was drifting helpless towards the shore, before a strong gale from the S.W., at once summoned his mates and manning the lifeboat at the station, the brave crew under the officer of the Ballinacourty Coast Guard Station, Mr. Brockman, dashed to the assistance of the imperiled vessel. They succeeded in getting safely alongside, when they found the craft was the yacht Emetic, the property of Mr. Samuel Perry, of Dunmore. The coxswain and three of the lifeboat crew instantly boarded the yacht, got her underway under a storm-topsail and reefed foresail and brought her and crew safely to land. Had it not been for the prompt and energetic action of the lifeboat men, sad consequences might have resulted, and their conduct in the affair deserves recognition.”

Cork Examiner. October 4th, 1869

Samuel Perry, a retired officer of the 12th Lancers, was a wealthy landowner and keen huntsman who lived at Woodrooffe House, near Clonmel, Co Tipperary. He was a Deputy Lieutenant (DL) of the county. This estate was in the possession of the Perry family from the beginning of the 18th century. In the 1870s, Samuel Perry owned 2,768 acres. [5]

Woodrooffe House, near Clonmel, home of the Perry family. Image by kind permission of Irish Architectural Archive

During the Civil War, the house was destroyed in February 1923 as were many other large houses in the county. [6] In 1867, Samuel Perry was married by his grace, the Archbishop of Armagh to Mary Power, daughter of John Power of Gurteen, the late MP for Waterford in a very fashionable wedding at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, in London. The bride was given away by her brother, Edmond de la Poer, also known as 1st Count de la Poer, the Liberal MP for Waterford at that time. [7]

A branch of the Perry family lived in Newtown House, New Park, Stillorgan in Dublin. From a related genealogy website, we learn that Samuel’s father called William, also a Deputy Lieutenant, used to holiday at Queenstown (Cobh), Dunmore East, and Kingstown.[8] This must have been the beginning of the ‘Dunmore’ connection. Samuel’s firstborn, a son also called William, later to become Major William Perry, D.C., was born on February 19th, 1869. Samuel’s father died in the same year on July 13th. Together, with the rescue of his yacht during the month of September, the year 1869 was an eventful one for Samuel Perry. He died in 1908. His son, Major William Perry, died in 1948.

Sir Robert Paul, Bart., owner of Sappho, the yacht that came second in the yacht race was a prominent and well-documented figure in agricultural life and civic society in County Waterford and further afield. In County Waterford, Sir Robert lived in the beautifully situated Ballyglan House, at Woodstown, overlooking Waterford Harbour. The bulk of the Paul estate at that time was in County Carlow where they had an estate at Paulville, near Tullow. In the 1870s, Sir Robert owned 1401 acres in County Carlow, 707 acres in County Kerry and 243 acres in County Waterford.[9]

Dawn at Ballyglan… Photo: Brendan Grogan. Ballyglan House, June 2021, located in a beautiful setting overlooking Waterford Harbour. Once the home of Sir Robert Paul in Co Waterford and still in use as a family home.

Sir Robert is remembered for the part that he played in bringing a RNLI lifeboat to Waterford Harbour. As far back as 1862, he had canvassed Waterford Harbour Commissioners to use their good offices to have a lifeboat stationed in Waterford Harbour. [10] A lifeboat was stationed in Duncannon in 1869 and in 1884, when Dunmore East received its first RNLI lifeboat Henry Dodd, Sir Robert became President of the Lifeboat Committee.

Dunmore East RNLI Committee 1884 – Sir R J Paul, Bart. President. Image courtesy of Dunmore East RNLI.

Sir Robert Joshua Paul, 3rd Baronet (1820-1898) is fondly remembered at St Andrew’s Church in Dunmore East where a beautiful stained-glass window honours his memory.

Window dedicated to Sir Robert Paul at St Andrew’s Church, Dunmore East. Image courtesy of Dave Gunn and St Andrew’s Church

The third competitor in the yacht race with his yacht Fairy was Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Haines. As one newspaper reported: The Fairy got a bad start, was never in the race, and only went the course once.

Haines was born in Kidford, Sussex into a military family. His younger brother was Field Marshal Sir Frederick Paul Haines, who like his brother, was also famous in India for outstanding military service. He gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Honourable East India Company Service. A street named ‘Haines Street’ still survives in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) called after Gregory.

In India in 1840, Lieutenant Colonel Haines married the Honourable Jane Eliza Mona Gough, daughter of Field Marshal Hugh Gough, later to become 1st Viscount Gough. Field Marshal Gough was said to have commanded in more general actions than any British officer except the Duke of Wellington. However, in Ireland, he is best remembered as the man on the horse, whose statue erected at the entrance to the Phoenix Park in 1880, was blown up by the IRA in 1957. Gough died in 1869 at his home St. Helen’s in Booterstown, Dublin, now the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel.

His son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Haines, and his wife had nine children. When he died in 1874, aged sixty-five, his will gives his address as Dunmore East. His house or where he may have stayed at the time still needs to be established. What we do know is that a memorial in his memory is still to be seen in St Andrew’s Church.

Memorial to Lieutenant Colonel Haines at St Andrew’s Church, Dunmore East. Image courtesy of Dave Gunn and St Andrew’s Church.

We must also remember the various fishermen and seafarers from the Hook Peninsula and coastal communities of Waterford Harbour, who took part in the Hook Regatta in 1870. They may not have had fancy titles before or after their names but their contribution to the rich maritime heritage of Waterford Harbour is immeasurable. They were custodians of a proud maritime tradition handed down to them. They possessed innate skills as regards boat building, fishing, locating fishing grounds, sailing, seamanship, navigation, and knowledge of every inch of the rugged coastline around the Hook and its place names. They also observed the sacrosanct practice of helping other seafarers in distress or danger. It has been said that the small area of Churchtown, close to the Hook, produced no fewer than seven sea captains, down through the years. Gratitude is due to these people for handing on their skills, knowledge, and respect for the sea to subsequent generations. It is also pleasing to know that water-based sports are still being extensively enjoyed on the Hook Peninsula and in the Harbour.

David Carroll

Footnote:
A search of local newspapers in subsequent years does not reveal any further reporting of the Hook Regatta, which would suggest that the event lapsed after 1870. A successful Dunmore East Regatta was held in 1871 and the Marquis of Ely, Sir Robert Paul and Lieutenant Colonel Haines are all listed as stewards for the event. [11]

Many thanks to Dr Pat McCarthy, Pat Bracken, Liam Ryan, Andrew Doherty, Michael Farrell, Eddie Stewart-Liberty, Dave Gunn and Brendan Grogan for assistance with this piece.

References:

  1. Colfer, Billy ‘The Hook Peninsula’, Cork University Press, 2004. Page 170.
  2. ‘On the Hook’, 2021 Annual ‘Godfrey and Gahan. Gone but not Forgotten’ by Liam Ryan.
  3. Colfer, Page 171.
  4. Firmament – this word means ‘sky’ – an archaic word.
  5. http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/family-show.jsp?id=3137
  6. http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_irish/history_irish_clonmelshow.htm
  7. Waterford News, July 5th, 1867.
  8. https://www.youwho.ie/newtownhousenp.html
  9. http://landedestates.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/family-show.jsp?id=2298
  10. Carroll, David ‘Dauntless Courage ’DVF Print and Graphic Solutions, 2020. Page 20.
  11. Waterford News, September 1st, 1871.

Dunmore East 1889: Prince George of Wales and the Royal Navy have a ’jolly time’ ashore.

As part of the RNLI Mayday Mile fundraiser, author David Carroll returns this week with another fascinating insight into the history of the Dunmore East RNLI. You can donate to the Dunmore East Mayday mile page here. David is the author of numerous guest blogs on this page and of course, Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community.

On May 2nd, 2013, Dunmore East RNLI Station was honoured to receive a visit from His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. The Duke has been President of the RNLI since 1969. He succeeded both his father and his mother as President of the charity and in this role, he has provided unwavering support to the RNLI for over 50 years.  He has been a true advocate and ambassador for all RNLI volunteers, and he has regularly visited lifeboat stations and attended many RNLI events throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Many people would have imagined that this occasion would have been the very first visit by a member of the British royal family to the Dunmore East RNLI station. But as we shall read, this was not the case.

May 2nd, 2013 – Coxswain Michael Griffin, Dunmore East RNLI checks the life jacket of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent before boarding RNLB Elizabeth and Ronald.  Photo: RNLI / Neville Murphy
March 13th, 1951 – Central Hall, Westminster – Coxswain Paddy Billy Power, Dunmore East RNLI chatting to the Duchess of Kent, mother of Prince Edward, at the presentation of a bar to his bronze medal for the rescue of the crew of the fishing boat St Declan on December 14th, 1950.   Second Coxswain Richard Power of Dunmore East also received a bronze medal.  Coxswain Edward Kavanagh of Wicklow was another recipient of a bronze medal at this ceremony. The three Irish lifeboatmen presented shamrock to the Duchess.    
Photo: John Aylward

Sifting through an old minute book, held in the Dunmore East RNLI station archives, one can find the annual report for 1889 and it records that Prince George of Wales was in Dunmore East on August 28th, 1889, on naval duty and paid a visit to the station. So, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent was not the first royal visitor to the station as most people would have expected.

Born in 1865,  during the reign of his grandmother Queen Victoria, Prince George of Wales was the second son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and was third in the line of succession to the British throne behind his father and elder brother, Prince Albert Victor.  In September 1877, when George was only 12 years old, he joined the cadet training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth, Devon, along with his older brother, Albert Victor. From 1877 to 1892, George served in the Royal Navy. During his naval career, he commanded Torpedo Boat 79 in home waters. Later he commanded HMS Thrush on the North America and West Indies Station. In 1891, when Prince George of Wales was promoted to commander, he assumed command of HMS Melampus. He relinquished his post in January 1892, on the unexpected death of his elder brother, which put him directly in line for the throne. On Victoria’s death in 1901, George’s father ascended the throne as Edward VII, and George was created Prince of Wales.  On his father’s death in May 1910, he became King George V until his death in 1936. He was the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth ΙΙ.

HMS Melampus commanded by Prince George of Wales, 1891-92. It later served as a guardship in Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) and visited Waterford in 1904. Photo:  Cormac Lowth

When King Edward VΙΙ visited Waterford on May 2nd, 1904, HMS Melampus was one of four Royal Navy warships that steamed up the harbour to the city to take up stations in advance of the royal visit. (Please see: 1904 Waterford Royal Visit from the River Suir.’ ).

1889 came just one year after the four-masted American sailing ship Alfred D Snow was sadly lost with all hands at Broomhill on the Wexford shore of Waterford Harbour on January 4th,1888.  The lifeboat In Dunmore East was pilloried for not putting to sea earlier. Launching the lifeboat was delayed and by the time it reached the wreck, all hope of saving lives had gone.  An inquiry was carried out, resulting in the coxswain Captain Christopher Cherry being sanctioned.

Subsequently, it is probably fair to say that Lieutenant Tipping RN, the RNLI Inspector in Ireland, was closely monitoring the performance of the station.  It is not surprising that the 1889 Annual Report is written in such a positive and upbeat fashion.  The report contains the following:

“Four practices of Boat and Crew were held during the year. At one of them, on August 28th, the Inspector (Lieutenant Tipping, RN), was present; and on this occasion also His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales, who happened to be in the harbour with his torpedo boat, visited the Boathouse. The Coxswain (Mr George R Wood) has given much satisfaction both in his care of the House, Gear, and Stores, and also by his steadiness and zeal in time of danger. The Committee are glad to report that the Crew are much improved and working well and harmoniously together, and that if called on at any time, day or night, every man will do his duty.”

RNLI Annual report 1889

I suspect it was considered a good idea to give Prince George a mention in the report. It certainly would have done no harm when the report landed on a desk in London. The art of ‘spinning’ good news is therefore not a recent phenomenon.

The RNLI lifeboat station at Dunmore East, visited by Prince George of Wales on August 28th, 1889. Photo: A Private Collection

Coxswain George R Wood was a fisherman from Tenby in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and was appointed coxswain after the loss of the Alfred D Snow in 1888. He was replaced by a member of HM Coastguard, George Bliss in 1892. It is most likely that he returned home to Tenby at that time. 

In a supplement to the Waterford Mirror and Tramore Visitor, published on Thursday, August 22nd, 1889, the arrival of Prince George in Dunmore harbour on the previous Monday, was extensively reported upon. The actual visit to the lifeboat station by Prince George would have taken place when the torpedo boats returned for a second visit. The report began as follows:

PRINCE GEORGE OF WALES IN DUNMORE EAST

The unexpected arrival of his Royal Highness at Dunmore on Monday evening created quite an interesting surprise. The flotilla of torpedo boats were scarcely observable until they steamed right alongside the quay. They entered the bay at a rate of seventeen knots an hour, and from their dark grey colour and partial submersion in the water, they could be hardly discerned, although it was a beautiful, clear evening, and just then about ten minutes past seven o’clock. There were six boats altogether, the seventh one, as already mentioned, having been left at Queenstown for repairs. Each boat carries a lieutenant commander and a crew of from 16 to 18. Although the boats do not look larger when in the water than a ten-ton steam launch, their actual registered tonnage varies from 90 to 150 tons each. When partially submerged, there is nothing seen but the ‘tower,’ a circular structure about 14 inches in diameter, which is used for look-out purposes.

Machinery is provided on board for giving a continuous supply of compressed air, and the various apparatuses for condensing water, firing the deadly torpedoes, and working the vessels at a high rate of speed when submerged are most intricate and elaborate. The boats that arrived on Monday are known as No 79 (of which his Royal Highness has command), 25, 41, 42, 50 and 59. Amongst the first officers to land was the Prince. He wore the ordinary uniform of a lieutenant of the Royal Navy, and of course, was not then recognised. He was followed by the commodore of the flotilla and several lieutenants, who walked through and spoke to the fishermen and others whom they met. On returning to the boats an order was given that all available men should have ‘leave’ until eleven o’clock. The blue jackets to the number of about a hundred immediately came ashore, and at once sought how the evening could be best enjoyed.

Mr Harney’s Hotel where the sailors from the Royal Navy enjoyed a ‘jolly time’. Photo: UK 3800 by kind of permission of Waterford County Museum

Mr Patrick Harney’s beautiful new hotel was first visited, and the bulk of the men remained there until the time arrived when their leave expired. They spent a jolly time of it, music both vocal and instrumental, being freely brought into requisition. When darkness set in, some of the men left in charge of the boats laid on the search light, which produced a sterling effect on the town. It was first directed to Mr Harney’s house, and by its brilliant rays, the number of seamen in each room, the blinds being up, was ascertained. Next it was laid on to ‘the Island,’ where it was brought bear on two ‘jolly tars’ who had managed on short notice to strike up an acquaintance with a pair of Dunmore lassies. Their discomfiture was quite palpable as they were ‘shown up’ to all who were in the neighbourhood of the dock. The quartet were exhibited with the vividness of a scene thrown on a screen by the aid of the limelight, all the surroundings being dark. The embarrassed victims of this clever joke tried to escape but it was no use. Every step they took they were followed by the powerful search light, until at last, in despair, they separated and found shelter from the rays of the light. In this way, those on board of the boats found an easy method of amusing both themselves and the others who were fortunate enough to be allowed on shore.

‘The Island’ – where two ‘jolly tars’ and a pair of ‘Dunmore lassies’ had a searchlight shone upon them! Photo: A Private Collection

The newspaper report continued at length and referred to the beautiful scenery that Dunmore presented and how His Royal Highness and his naval colleagues were entranced by it.  Mr. Harney, proprietor of the hotel gets considerable coverage, and his conversation with Prince George, who ordered stores for the flotilla when it would return to Dunmore in about a week’s time from Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire).  For good measure, the reporter included a paragraph about Lord Charles Beresford, or ‘Charlie B’ as he was affectionately known. Lord Charles (1846-1919) was the second son of John Beresford, 4th Marquess of Waterford, and was an admiral in addition to being a member of parliament.  Much later in his naval career, he was thwarted by his nemesis, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir John Fisher, from his ambition of becoming First Sea Lord.

 The newspaper report finally concluded as follows:

Within a week the flotilla may be expected to return, and if the seamen’s genial qualities are not exhausted in the metropolis, and that any of the convivial spirit which they showed at Dunmore on Monday night remains, their visit once more will relieve the tedium of the dull Dunmore evening.

The visit was not just newsworthy in Waterford. On Thursday, August 15th, readers in Scotland received coverage of the events in Dunmore under the title ‘AN INCIDENT OF THE NAVAL MANOEUVRES – TURNING THE SEARCH LIGHT ON.’

Our walk takes place this coming Sunday 22nd May 2022. More details here!