My first season of herring fishing 1983

I’d imagine that for as long as humans have lived in the harbour of
Waterford, men and women have gone to fish. 
Perhaps one of the most common and dependable species was the Herring.  My first experience of the fishery was as a
boy washing fish boxes and running errands for the men who salted and barreled
at Cheekpoint quay.  But catching them
was an altogether harder job, especially when using a driftnet, something I was first introduced to in the winter
of 1983.
I set out on the Reaper that winter, with Jim and Denis Doherty.  The other boats in Cheekpoint village was Robert
Fergusons Boy Alan, Dick Mason skippered the St Agnes, Ned Power had the
Colleen II and Mickey Duffin skippered the Maid of the West
As the Reaper and the other Cheekpoint boats proceeded downriver, we
were joined by the Passage and Ballyhack men. 
I heard family names associated with the boats such as Whitty, Connors,
Pepper and Bolger from Passage and from Ballyhack Foley, Roche and Myler.  Together we formed a convoy of decked and
half decked motor boats of varying size and power and a multitude of
the Cheekpoint fleet from around this time
Photo courtesy of Anthony Rogers
Arriving in the lower harbour, the boats fanned out, hungrily
searching the deep waters for signs of herring shoals.  Some boats were
close in to the shore, beneath Loftus Hall and further down towards the Hook. Others
stretched as far as Creaden Head.  Boats took various courses,
and many zig zagged amongst each other, keen to “mark” a herring shoal on the
fish finder and establish a pattern of where to “shoot” the nets.  Dunmore
boats skippered by Paul Power, Napper Kelly and Mick Sheen would be sounding as
they came across to meet us.
Herring barrels at Cheekpoint in the 1970s
Photo via Tomás Sullivan

As the gloom of the evening gathered and the sun set over the Commeraghs
away to the west, the frenzy grew.  Boats were eager to set the nets in
daylight, to better see where others were setting nets, and also because the
herring tended to rise with the dusk and skippers felt they would miss their
chance of a decent haul if they left it too late.

Many a night the shoals could not be found.  It was generally
obvious from a lack of bird activity, the tell-tale signs of gulls wheeling
overhead, or divers such as the majestic and gigantic gannets plunging from a hundred feet or more
into the freezing seas and emerging with a beak full of silver meat.  On
these nights the boats tended to be well spread out and the VHF radio was
Other nights were different, thankfully.  The seas were alive with
birds and seals.  A slick of oil, released from the herring on the sea
bed, which Denis said you could smell and taste in your mouth, something I
never manged to do.  The radio was buzzing with sightings and at times Jim
would call us in to look at the fish finder marking a herring shoal, the extent
of it mapped out on the grey blue paper as a stylus etched the fish below.
Once satisfied that the herring were abundant enough the winkie[1] was turned on and cast
over, followed by the nets.  I looked after the lead rope initially, not
trusted as yet with the head rope and ensuring that the cans were paid out
clear of the nets and set to the correct depth[2].  Generally all the
nets were set, but occasionally, Jim might heave too, concerned by the markings
on the fish finder and the extent of the shoal.  When you hit the herring
in large quantities a couple of nets could fill the boat, and the last thing
you needed was extra work.  Once set, the nets were tied via a hauling
rope to the bow of the boat we hung from them.  
This was a signal to get the tea on, and the grub bag out. The kettle was boiled on a gas stove and the tea
bags were added as the kettle started to sing.  Hot and sweet, tea with a sandwich never tasted any better.  
Hauling was a tough affair when the nets were full.  Here’s an interesting
 from Northern Ireland.  But at least a net hauler
made the work easier.  Generations of fishermen had used their bare
hands.  Once ready to commence, the rope
was hauled in to the gunwale and opened from the net.  Then the head and
lead ropes were gathered up and placed over the hauler drum.  The
hydraulics engaged and the nets were then pulled on and helped in over the
Anthony Rogers photo of the Cheekpoint boats early 1980s

While Jim kept the boat up to the nets, Denis hauled the ropes and I
gathered up the nets as they fell to the deck and dragged them to the stowing
area.  When the catch was light this was easy enough, but on nights with a
big catch, this was hard arduous work.  The netting coming in over the
drum could be three feet wide and it was all I could do to help Denis and Jim
at the hauler and then stagger away under the weight of the nets to stow them
on the boats deck. 

Having hauled a big catch, there was always a sense of euphoria
aboard. Once you had a market, it meant a decent wage that
week, and in the weeks coming up to Christmas, or indeed after it, such a catch
was always welcome.  As we headed home, you took a break for a time, but
in truth the nights work was just beginning, the fish had to be cleared, and thereafter
boxed and sold.  None of which was
I wrote a series of accounts of the Herring fishing previously. These include

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[1] A
flashing light that was used to mark the nets. 
Battery operated it only worked in the dark, and when not in use it was
unscrewed to break the connection and so keep the batteries.
[2] I
was raised with drift nets, but although we used the same method for herring
fishing, the nets were deeper, longer, with smaller mashes.  The other difference was that plastic cans
with a fathom or two of rope was used to allow the nets sink to reach the
herring.  The length required was altered
as required.

Dunmore U Boat trap – part II

Last week we looked at the story of the sinking of UC-44 in Dunmore East in August of 1917.  This week I wanted to complete the account with a look at what subsequently occurred to the salvaged sub and her crew.
The U boat was thoroughly examined and the design and features noted.  Once completed, some have said that she was towed upriver and used as a foundation in a breakwater in Duncannon. Stokes however has a different account, and perhaps this is where the confusion lies.  Her engine apparently lay in a garage in Duncannon for years afterwards, and rusted and worn, was dumped into a new breakwater. (Stoke: p193)

Salvage operation at Dunmore via Paul O’Farrell
on the Waterford Maritime History page

Other accounts say that initially she was taken out of the harbour and dropped back to the ocean floor. There is further speculation that the wreck was depth charged or in some other way broken up and dispersed.  Either way, there appears to be no known wrecksite.  However, it was not until 2011 that her sister UC-42 was re-discovered lying intact outside Cork harbour, is it possible UC-44 remains to be re-discovered.

An intact mine being unloaded (1 of 9 remaining aboard) note Dunmore
Lighthouse to the left.  via Paul O’Farrell on the Waterford Maritime History page

Some mementos still exists of the U boat however.  For example this piece from USA shows how important the event was and to the Americans who were there to assist aboard the USS Melvile.  And they also have memento in the Imperial War Museum in London.  I wonder are there any still remaining in Dunmore, Duncannon or elsewhere?
An inscribed memento of the event via the Imperial War  Museum
link above, passed on to me by James Doherty

Although the U boat sank, at least 3 of her crew, the Captain, Tebbenjoahnnes, and two engine room staff; Richter and Fahnster, escaped.  When the explosion happened they were in the conning tower, and were separated from the main craft.  Their escape necessitated them opening the outer hatch of the conning tower and a swim to the surface that lay 90 feet above.  All three broke the surface together, but eventually they drifted apart and as we saw last week the commander, Tebbenjoahnnes, was rescued when three Dunmore East fishermen came to the rescue. (McElwee pp 183-9)

Tebbenjoahnnes was cared for in Dunmore overnight, but next day journeyed on to Waterford and then Cork and from there to Dublin for the short sea journey to Holyhead and subsequently to London for interrogation and life as a POW.  (Ibid). The actual telegram and other correspondence can be viewed online!  Stokes relates an interesting anecdote about  Tebbenjoahnnes’ journey.  He boarded the RMS Leinster under escort for the trip across the Irish Sea.  He was sitting in the saloon with a British officer having a drink, when Captain Birch, the ships captain, approached the party and remonstrated with them.  Captain Birch stated that he would clap them both in irons if the German was not immediately confined.  Tebbenjohannes was led to his cabin, and there he sat out the remainder of the journey, apparently in an unlocked and unguarded cabin, while his escort went back to the saloon. He’d given his word not to try and escape! (Stokes p.198)  The RMS Leinster would be sink following a U Boat attack in October 1918 and the good Captain along with 500 other souls would die.  (Hutchinson: pp 77-84)
His “interrogation” in London seems to have been a conversation, at least when you read the actual report.  He gives a good description of the event including his position; 52 07′ N – 06 59′ W, fixed with Hook light and Dunmore prior to laying mines.  He also gives a list of the crew but this seems to be incomplete.  There is a short piece online looking for further information on him, which suggests that he went into banking after the war, and in WWII played a role with the German Navy. It appears he was still alive in the early 1960’s, but nothing else seems to be known.
Of his fellow crew mates, less is known unfortunately.  Richter’s corpse washed up on Wexford shore in the following weeks and was buried in Duncannon.  It was re-interred after the war to the German Military Cemetery at Glencree Co Wicklow.  Bahnster was the name given in several sources as the other man.  However I’d like to set the record straight on this, his surname was Fahnster.  Its a typical name of Northern Germany, which was revealed to me by a German friend, Nicki Kenny. Joahnn Fahnster’s body was not recorded as ever being found, as far as I can see.
UC-44 had 30 men aboard on the night that she sank.  Having traced three we still have twentyseven souls unaccounted for.  There is a thread online claiming that 19 bodies were contained in the submarine when she reached Dunmore, undoubtedly the others would have washed out of the damaged hull. The reference for this claim is cited as Robert Grants book the U Boat Hunters. Some claim that in line with Naval policy, they were taken out and buried at sea.  It has been speculated that to inter so many in a cemetery on land would draw attention to the fact that the U-boat had been salvaged and thus loose an advantage to the Germans. (Stokes: p.192-3).  Many accounts don’t even mention the crew, their average age being 20!

Sunrise at Dunmore East last Sunday morning

Personally I think it is timely that the event be remembered.  As someone who has lost a brother, an uncle and friends to drowning, it strikes me as sad not to have some testament of these sailors death. Whatever we may feel about the U boats and the destruction that they caused and lives that they shattered in Waterford, her harbour and beyond, they were still brave men, doing what they were ordered to, as was their duty.  

Maybe by not knowing these men makes it easier to forget them,  Well thanks to Nicki, who I have already mentioned I can at least reverse that small omission. The names and ranks of those lost are listed at the following link and below.  With the anniversary coming up next year, we may have an opportunity to remember this event, and deepen our understanding of our harbours history and heritage.

Rank                Surname               Christian name

Heye D.

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Thanks to Nicki Kenny and her husband Mick for assisting me with the German research this week. Also to James Doherty for allowing me to wreck his head and to Paul O’ Farrell for some of the images.

Here’s a great link to a blog post by Roy Stokes on UC 44 and others, most of which is similar to what os contained in his book referenced below.

Another interesting blog post highlighting the sinking and a memento sculpted from the starboard propeller to the inventor of the depth charge Herbert Taylor:

Hutchinson. S.  Beware the Coast of Ireland.  2013.  Wordwell. Dublin

McElwee. R. The last voyages of the Waterford steamers. date unknown. The Book Centre Waterford

Stokes. R.  Between the tides; Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast.  2015. Amberly.  Gloucestershire.

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 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  T