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.

Naming the new Dunmore East Lifeboat

Although Sunday 26th June dawned wet and breezy, as the morning wore on the cloud started to lift and by early afternoon it was a beautiful sunny summer day, but with a strong SW breeze. As Deena and I drove towards Dunmore East Geoff Harris broadcast from the quayside on WLR FM, whetting the appetite for what was going to be a wonderful, and historic afternoon. You see, at least for me anyway, this will almost certainly be the last naming ceremony I will ever witness. The new lifeboat has a 50 year lifespan, so the likelihood of me being around for the next event is highly doubtful. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the day so much.

Dunmore East RNLI officially named their all-weather Shannon class lifeboat, William and Agnes Wray. The Shannon replaced the station’s Trent class lifeboat last September (the new boat arrived on Sunday 26th September and quickly settled in) which was on service in Dunmore East since 1996. During those 25 years, Elizabeth and Ronald launched 412 times, bringing 821 people to safety, 20 of whom were lives saved.

The Shannon class lifeboat is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet. The naming of the class of lifeboat follows a tradition of naming lifeboats after rivers. When the Shannon was introduced to the RNLI fleet, it became the first time an Irish river was chosen, and it was done so to reflect the commitment and dedication of Irish lifeboat crew for generations. And as you probably already know, the lifeboats have operated from Dunmore since the Henry Dodd arrived in 1884.

What follows is a recap of our day with photos and video. Hopefully those who could not be there will get a sense of the occasion, including our good pals Andrew Lloyd and Leoni Baldwin who were unable to attend on the day.

Hooks and Crookes getting the afternoon off to a rousing start
Karen Harris Deputy Launching Authority accepted the lifeboat on behalf of the station in a very good address – she mentioned how it was her job to page the crew and what a relief it was to her to know that they have such a fine safe boat to go out it. Seated on the right is Eddy Stewart-Liberty, Chair of the Lifeboat Management Group who did a terrifc job MC-ing the afternoon
The Lifeboat was blessed in a service of dedication led by Father Brian Power (rt) and the Reverend Bruce Hayes.
A poem by the late John Bulligan Power was read followed by the students of Realt an Mara and the sea scouts accompanied by Hooks and Crookes singing the Lifeboat song – Home from the Sea with the permission of Phil Coulter who wrote to say he was sorry he could not attend in person
The lifeboat was then officially named the William and Anges Wray by Brendan Dunne. Brendan is a long term supporter of the blog, but an even longer term volunteer with the lifeboat. In over 37 years of service this is the third all-weather lifeboat that Brendan has served on. He was also crew on the Waveney class, St Patrick and the Trent class Elizabeth and Ronald. Photo courtesy of Liam Ryan
Our regular guest blogger and author of Dauntless Courage, David Carroll delivered a vote of thanks
William and Anges Wray on display following the ceremony with two bulk carriers at anchor, LMZ Vega to the left and Interlink Quality further off.
R117 joins the party!
A real sense of the maneuverability and sea quality of the vessel
It was a day for all, including some lifeboat legends such as Fergus Wickham of Rosslare and John Walsh. Photo courtesy of Liam Ryan
 Nadia Blanchfield and Walter Foley of Fethard RNLI with Patrick Browne. Photo courtesy of Liam Ryan. Had a great chat with Walter back at the station house, I’d get several blogs out of it if he’s let me print it…at least I have Nadia as a witness
Deena lines up patiently – we were utterly thrilled to get aboard
Myself and Michael Farrell with Brendan Dunne, proudly show us aboard the lifeboat. Thanks to Deena for the photo
Peter generously gives us a lot of his valuable time for a run-through of the controls that are available at each seat aboard. Incredible technology but with so much back up including manual controls. And then kindly shows us the rest of the vessel. Thanks to Deena for this photo too
Over to the station house then, where the history of the station is on show on every wall, for example, this service record board. Photo courtesy of Michael Farrell
Later we have a visit to the lifeboat station for more chats including some of the visiting stations of Union Hall and Fethard On Sea. As part of the afternoon, Brendan Dunne gave a presentation to Stephanie Currie in recognition of 32 years of service to the fundraising committee. He also acknowledged Margaret, Kathleen, Shirley, Anne and Susan from the fundraising committee who received their Long Service Awards at an event held in the Radisson Blu Hotel St.Helens, Dublin on Saturday.
David and Brendan phot courtesy of Michael Farrell
From the official booklet on the day – thanks to my cousin Christine for the copy

A wonderful day. Here’s wishing the vessel and crew fair winds and following seas.

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!

Midnight Mercy Mission – Dunmore East Lifeboat 1953

As part of the RNLI Mayday Mile, this year author David Carroll has agreed to join our team to help promote and fundraise for our local station at Dunmore East. Our 22km walk takes place on Sunday 22nd and over May we will have a number of lifeboat-related blogs. You can donate here at the Mayday mile page. Today David relates a story of a mercy mission that typifies the work of the RNLI and a story that he had yet to finalise before the publication of his remarkable Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community.

Easter Sunday in 1953 fell on April 5th. The weather was very unkind, and the Munster Express reported that the few visitors in the area were compelled to seek the pleasures of the fireside. The newspaper reported that the recent rainfall had proved to be a blessing for local farmers as the ground had been parched.  Disappointment was expressed that a local-bred horse called Free Lancer, supported by many local punters, had a very unsatisfactory outing in the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday. This was offset, somewhat, by the news that local jockey Jimmy Power had won at Manchester Racecourse on Saturday, riding Mosten Lane at 9/2 odds.  Closer to home, a successful and well-attended dance was held on Easter Sunday in the Fisherman’s Hall, Dunmore East with music provided by Frankie King and his band. An Easter Dance held in the Haven Hotel was also reported as being enjoyable.

As the fishermen of Dunmore East put back to sea and others in the village returned to work on Tuesday, April 7th, after the Easter break, little could they expect the dramatic event that would later unfold.

At 10.45 pm, Mr. Arthur Westcott-Pitt, Honorary Secretary of Dunmore East RNLI received a wireless message stating that a passenger on board the SS Corrientes, of Glasgow, was seriously ill with a perforated stomach ulcer and asking if the lifeboat would land him.

By 11.10 pm, in a moderate south-westerly breeze, Dunmore East lifeboat RNLB Annie Blanche Smith (ON 830), had slipped her moorings and was on her way and set a course to intercept the steamer, which was proceeding to Waterford Harbour about twenty miles due South.

RNLB Annie Blanche Smith, (ON 830) stationed at Dunmore East 1940 – 1970. Photo: Courtesy of RNLI

The seriously ill passenger was Captain More, a harbour master from Leith in Scotland. The SS Corrientes was on a voyage from Stockton, California to Liverpool, traveling via the Panama Canal.  The Waterford Standard newspaper reported that Captain More had been ailing for the last three weeks and within the last few days his condition worsened, and medical advice has been transmitted to the vessel by wireless from ashore.

At midnight, the lifeboat reached the steamer, about seven or eight miles from Dunmore East.  The same newspaper went on to report that when the lifeboat came alongside, a member of the crew asked Mr. Westcott-Pitt to come on board and see how tenderly the ill man could be lowered from the vessel.  With much difficulty, the sick captain, secured to a stretcher, was lowered to the lifeboat, which returned at full speed to Dunmore East, where an ambulance, doctor, and nurses were waiting to rush him to Waterford City and County Infirmary. Captain More and his wife, who came ashore also on the lifeboat had spent a six-months holiday in New York.

Waterford County and City Infirmary, where Captain More was rushed by ambulance. Photo: Courtesy of Waterford City and County Archives.

The lifeboat returned to Dunmore East at 01.10 am. Mr. Westcott-Pitt reported that the patient had been transferred to hospital, within 90 minutes of the lifeboat reaching the SS Corrientes. The crew of the Annie Blanche Smith for this service was as follows: Paddy Billy Power, coxswain, Richie Power, second coxswain, Richard Murphy, mechanic, M Whittle, second mechanic, and crew members, J Power, Maurice Power, and A Westcott-Pitt (Hon. Sec.).

Paddy Billy Power, Arthur Westcott-Pitt (Hon. Sec.), and Richie Power.  Photo: John Walsh

The SS Corrientes was a 7,058 GRT, a refrigerated cargo liner that had been built by Short Brothers Ltd, Sunderland and launched on December 21st, 1943, and completed in April 1944 as Empire Cromer. The Empire ships were a series of ships in the service of the British Government. Their names were all prefixed with Empire. They were owned and used during the Second World War by the Ministry of War Transport, which contracted out their management to various shipping lines. In the case of Empire Cromer, it was the Blue Star Line.

In 1946, Empire Cromer was sold to the Donaldson Line, Glasgow, and renamed Corrientes. This was the second ship of that name to serve with Donaldson Line. This previous vessel was torpedoed and sunk in 1940.

The Donaldson Line was originally founded in 1855 under the name Donaldson Brothers, the company began service from Glasgow to South America using a wooden barque. Over the years, many changes and acquisitions took place and new routes were served as the company developed. In 1966, Donaldson stopped their last passenger service, and in 1967 with the advent of containerisation, the company was liquidated, and the fleet sold.[1]

SS Corrientes. Photo: By kind permission of City of Vancouver Archives. Ref. code: AM1506-S3-3-: CVA 447-4113. This photograph is from the Walter E. Frost fonds. Built by Short Brothers Ltd, Sunderland, launched on December 21st, 1943. The ship was 431 feet 0 inches (131.37 m) long, with a beam of 56 feet 3 inches (17.15 m). She had a depth of 35 feet 2 inches (10.72 m), and a draught of 26 feet 9 inches (8.15 m). She was assessed at 7,058 GRT.[2]

This lifeboat service on April 7th, 1953 was not the only association that Mr. Westcott-Pitt would have with Captain More and his recovery to full health.

Many people, nowadays, may not know that in the years after World War ΙΙ, Dunmore East had its own small aerodrome in Coxtown, which was developed, owned, and operated by Mr. Westcott-Pitt. The land is now occupied by the Airfield Point and Shanakiel estates. In the early part of World War ΙΙ, Mr. Westcott-Pitt had flown with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), a civilian organisation tasked to deliver new and repaired aeroplanes to the RAF. In 1946, Mr. Westcott-Pitt resumed his private flying activities. He purchased an Auster Autocrat airplane and during the 1950s and 1960s, it was a familiar sight to local people as it flew over the village.

On Saturday, April 18th, 1953 the Dunmore East aerodrome was to play an important part in Captain More’s safe return to the United Kingdom.

Arthur Westcott-Pitt in his Auster Autocrat aeroplane.  Photo from the Patrick J Cummins collection, Courtesy of Mrs. Maura Cummins

An article entitled: ‘Arthur Westcott-Pitt: Waterford’s Aviation Pioneer’, by Patrick J. Cummins, appeared in Decies, No 66, in 2010.

The following news item appeared in the Waterford Standard, issued on April 25th, 1953:

“There was considerable excitement in Dunmore East on Saturday afternoon last when a special ambulance plane arrived from England to take back Scots harbour master, Captain More, who had been lying seriously ill in the Waterford City and County Infirmary since he was taken from the SS Corrientes by the Dunmore lifeboat on April 7th. Still seriously ill, Captain More, accompanied by Dr W O’Keeffe, was taken by ambulance to Dunmore, and I am told, such was the timing, that the air ambulance flew in to land at Mr. Arthur Westcott-Pitt’s airfield at almost the same minute. A doctor and nurse were on board the air ambulance, and in a few minutes Captain More was being winged across the channel, to, I hope, a speedy recovery.”

What became of the SS Corrientes?

 In 1954, Corrientes was sold to the Blue Star Line. It was intended that she would be renamed Oakland Star, but instead, she was declared surplus to requirements and in January 1955, Corrientes was sold to Williamson & Co Ltd, Hong Kong, and renamed Inchmay. On 3 April 3rd,1962, Inchmay ran aground at Wakayama, Japan. There were no injuries amongst her 45 crew. In 1966, Inchmay was sold to the National Shipping Corporation of Pakistan, Karachi, and was renamed Kaukhali. She served until 1968 when the vessel was scrapped.[3]

I wish to thank Coxswain Roy Abrahamsson at Dunmore East RNLI for allowing access to the station records and to historian Cian Manning for his help with access to local newspapers of April 1953.

The report of the service may be accessed on this link to the RNLI Archives: https://lifeboatmagazinearchive.rnli.org/volume/33/365/the-ss-corrientes?searchterm=The+S.S.+Corrientes&page=1

If you would like to support our efforts to raise funds for the Dunmore East Lifeboat this May you could use the following link to donate https://royalnationallifeboatinstitution.enthuse.com/pf/dunmore-east-rnli-team


  1. https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Donaldson_Line

2. http://sunderlandships.com/view.php?ref=103745#v

3. https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/SS_Inchmay_(1943)

Dauntless Courage – public lecture

The lecture was recorded and is available to view here

Our good friend and regular guest contributor, David Carroll will do a public zoom lecture on the History of the Dunmore East RNLI Lifeboats, crews, and the maritime heritage of Dunmore East, on Thursday 25th November at 20.00 hrs. I’m sure the talk will appeal to many of the blog regulars.

David on the right, seen with another good friend and ally to the blog Brendan Dunne. I’m open to correction, but I think Brendan might presently be the longest-serving voluntary member of the current lifeboat crew.

Organised by Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association participants are invited to “Dauntless Courage: The History of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Dunmore East Community,” delivered by David on Thursday 25th November at 20.00 hrs.

David is s a member of the DBOGA, author of the best-selling Dauntless Courage, and of course a regular guest blogger here with TnT. David was brought up in Dunmore East, where his father Captain Desmond Carroll was the Harbour Master from 1947 until 1969.

His passion for lifeboats stems from that time. His father operated the shore radio transmitter located in the old pilot station whenever the Annie Blanche Smith lifeboat put to sea. Meanwhile, David’s mother, Freda, always volunteered with a collection box for the RNLI on Regatta Day, and made sure that the support of all visiting yachts to the harbour was called upon.

Annie Blanche Smith at Dunmore East in the late 1950s. John Aylward collection

Although David has lived in Dublin for many years now, he has never forgotten his roots, retaining a deep interest in the maritime life of Dunmore East. In 2020 Dauntless Courage was published as a fundraising project for the Lifeboats, and sales of this book have generated over €31,000 for the RNLI to date.

DBOGA Fundraising for HOWTH RNLI: Pre-Covid, we listened to talks together at Poolbeg while passing the Yellow Welly around for your €5 donation. In Zoom Land we cant do that, but the RNLI still urgently needs funds.

Please click on:  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DBOGAHowthLifeboat to dob your €5 in. Thank you!

And don’t forget that the RNLI Lifeboat shop is now re-opened in Dunmore East and you can pick up lots of very affordable Christmas gifts including cards.

The details of this Zoom meeting are:
• Topic: David Carroll Talk
• Time: November 25th 2021, at 20.00hrs
• Link to join the meeting: hKps://us02web.zoom.us/j/89681992382?pwd=STZXcXArN3pKZ1cvcU1Cc1VaeURLZz09
• Meeting ID: 896 8199 2382
• Passcode: 390434