Apprearing on RTE 1 Tracks and Trails

I’m delighted to say that I will be appearing on RTE 1 TV’s very popular walking series Tracks and Trails this coming Friday night, 5th April 2024 at 7.30pm.

I will be guiding Crime journalist, Nicola Tallant who follows the cliff top trail starting out from Dunmore East. She meets with local legend Elaine Power of East Pier and then comes along the path where I meet her at Portally and we walk towards Rathmoylan Cove.

“Out on the cliffs with the coastline spread out before her, Nicola walks with local author Andrew Doherty who shares with her the maritime traditions and old seas legends of this part of Waterford.”  

I had prepared a piece on the importance of local placenames and the origins behind these. I concentrated as much as possible on the fishing traditions, how local fishermen used the placenames as coastal day markers that allowed them to divide up the sea in terms of fishing grounds/locations, as useful and important as any field boundary ashore.

We spoke of shipwrecks, and some interesting events such as the origins of Swede Patch, or the importance of Failskirt Rock. I also covered the rescue of the Naomh Deaglán by the Dunmore East Lifeboat crew.

For all that I said was covered, here’s what was broadcast on the night. I made a mistake with the incident mentioned, calling the ship Chamber of Commerce, it was the Queen of Commerce. Apologies in advance

The topic of smuggling and the coastguard came up naturally as Nicola was interested in the subject from her day job. I covered some historical incidences, much of it based on a guest blog by my cousin James.

Nicola also encountered Deena’s swimming buddies from Dunmore East and the surrounding areas – the Mermaids.

Hopefully, it comes across well, it’s an area and a history we should be proud of.

Saving the stricken St Declan

On the week that Dauntless Courage arrives from the publishers to local shops, (December 2020) I asked author David Carroll to whet the appetite with a short guest blog about a rescue that is legendary in Dunmore East due to the skill and bravery shown by the lifeboat crew in rescuing local fishermen.

On Thursday, December 14, 1950, the Dunmore East lifeboat Annie Blanche Smith was called out and the Munster Express of the following day, reported as follows:

IN THE NICK OF TIME
Dunmore Fishing Crew Saved from Certain Death
LIFEBOAT BRAVES SNOW, BLIZZARD AND HIGH SEAS

Last night (Thursday) at 8 o’clock, the fishing boats were coming into Dunmore, having been out since 10a.m. that day when it was reported to Mr. Arthur Westcott-Pitt, that flares were seen three miles west of Dunmore, off the dangerous Falskirt Rocks, near Rathmoylan Cove. Immediately Mr. Pitt ordered the lifeboat to go to sea to their assistance. At the time there was a terrific snow blizzard, with visibility practically nil, and it was doubtful if the lifeboat would be able to see the boat in distress.

…a very high south-easterly wind prevailed. The lifeboat left Dunmore at 8pm and nothing more was seen or heard of her for over two hours by watchers on the cliffs. Then the lifeboat appeared towing back McGrath’s fishing boat. What happened in the meantime can only be described as one of the most gallant feats of the Lifeboat Institution, thanks to the bravery of the Dunmore crew, which was as follows: Patrick Power (coxswain), Rd Power (second coxswain), Richard Murphy (chief mechanic) Michael Whittle (second mechanic), Maurice Power (deck hand).

Annie Blanch Smith and her crew at Dunmore East 1958. A John Aylward photo.

The lifeboat crew searched the sea for the boat, and at first were unable to locate it and then to their amazement, found her a ship’s length of going on the Falskirt Rocks. To the utmost risk of the lifeboat and crew, the members went in amongst the rocks.

The distressed boat had previously dropped an anchor and sent out flares, but owing to the big seas, the anchor chain was smashed. To slow up the boat from making towards the cliffs-and their doom-the fishing crew threw out the herring nets, and this formed a brake slowing their relentless momentum towards the rocks and subsequent drowning.

Falskirt on a calm day. Photo Neville Murphy

Just in the nick of time, the lifeboat crew threw them a line and saved them. In only a matter of moments, the fishing boat would have been smashed to atoms, with the loss of five men.
It appears that the engine of the fishing boat had failed a few hours previously when they sent up flares and threw out the anchor. But for great fortune and the bravery of the lifeboatmen, the fishermen would likely to have been lost in a night of terrible conditions.
Mr Westcott-Pitt wrote the following at the end of the Service Report:

I would particularly like to bring to your notice the bravery of the Coxswain and 2nd Coxswain who successfully carried out a wonderful rescue. The 2nd Coxswain at the wheel took the lifeboat into the half submerged Falskirt Rocks in a snow blizzard during a full SE gale with the full knowledge that herring nets were drifting all around so as to enable the Coxswain to get a line on board the St Declan thus to rescue the five men- who were certainly doomed but for the brave and cool courage of the Cox, 2nd Cox and crew.

*John (Rocky) Power was listed in the official Service Report as a member of the crew. His name was omitted from the newspaper account. Skipper of the Saint Declan was Paddy Matty Power. Also, aboard was John Dunne of Coxtown, a stalwart of the lifeboat crew for many years, Jack Whittle, Dick Bulligan Power and Davy O’Rourke.

The Munster Express dated February 16, 1951 carried the following report:

GALLANTRY OF DUNMORE EAST LIFEBOAT MEN
R.N.L.I. Awards for Rescue in Gale

The R.N.L.I. has awarded to Coxswain Patrick Power of its lifeboat at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, a clasp to the bronze medal for gallantry which he won in 1941; the bronze medal to Second-Coxswain Richard Power and £3 10s. to them and each other member of the crew, for the rescue on the night of December 14 of the fishing boat, “St. Declan” and her crew in a gale with blizzards of snow.
The lifeboat found the fishing boat close to the dangerous Falskirt Rocks. She was riding to her nets. In a few minutes she would have struck the rocks, the nets would have closed round her, and a rescue been impossible.
The lifeboat went close to her, a line was thrown, and using 80 fathoms anchor cable, the lifeboat towed the fishing boat clear. This was done in extreme darkness in the teeth of the gale, with the tide running against the wind and a high sea breaking fiercely on the rocks. The lifeboat was handled with great courage and superb seamanship.

The awards took place in London on March 13, 1951 at a RNLI ceremony, where presentation was made by the Duchess of Kent. Coxswain Paddy Billy Power was awarded a bar to the bronze medal which he won in 1941 and Second Coxswain Richard Power a bronze medal. Coxswain Edward Kavanagh of Wicklow was also a recipient at the same ceremony.

Paddy Billy Power with The Duchess of Kent , London, March 13, 1951.
Photo: John Aylward

After the presentation, a spray of shamrock was given to the Duchess of Kent by the three men from Ireland. In her speech, the Duchess said “it was with great pleasure that she had an opportunity of acknowledging the bravery and courage of men from lifeboat stations in Ireland”. She said: “No praise is too high for the 2,000 men who, year after year, carry out their work of rescue with a cheerful disregard of the dangers of every kind which attend this work.”

Get David Carrolls new book on the
history of the Dunmore East RNLI, Dauntless Courage now!
https://dunmorelifeboatbook.com/product/dauntless-courage/

Thank you, David, what a stirring account of a dramatic rescue. I first heard of it while drifting for herring as a boy myself and the description of the lifeboat managing to get alongside a fishing boat in such conditions and with the driftnets all around, filled me with awe. There are many such daring accounts in David’s by-now classic account of the Dunmore East Lifeboat – Dauntless Courage, which was published in December 2020.

Shanoon, Dunmore East

David Carroll

Shanoon, Sean Uaimh – “Old Cave” Canon Patrick Power, Place names of the Decies

Pedantic people might tell you that Shanoon, the rugged stretch of high cliff that overlooks the harbour at Dunmore East is strictly not within the ‘Three Sisters Family’ of Rivers, Suir, Barrow, and Nore. I would beg to differ. One Royal Charter afforded to the merchants of Waterford enhanced the role of the Mayor, by adding the title Admiral of the Port of Waterford, whose outer limits were specified as a line linking Hook Head in County Wexford with Red Head, just west of what is now Dunmore East. So ‘Shanoon’ gets in by the skin of its teeth as it is close to Red Head[1]

A chart from 1787 (Before the harbour at Dunmore East was built) showing Shanoon Point in relation to Red Point (Red Head) and Hook Point..[2]

But Shanoon was famous an exceptionally long time before 1356. Long before recorded history, people lived close to the area. Prehistoric artefacts collected over a forty-year period by the late Noel McDonagh, a former Dunmore East fisherman in the area close to Creadan Head, having been examined by eminent archaeologists, concluded that some of these finds were over 10,000 years old. This indicates that the area would have been one of the oldest settlements in Ireland.[3]

For protection from enemies or wild animals, small communities would erect their huts on narrow strips of cliff-top which projected out into the sea. On the inland side of this projection an embankment would be erected as a defensive measure. These habitations were known as promontory forts and Iron Age people established a promontory fort overlooking the sea at Shanoon. [4]

The name Dunmore derives from Dún Mór – the Great Fort [5], which was a promontory fort built close to Black Knob on Shanoon near the old Pilot Station. This should not be confused with a large castle, believed by Julian Walton to have been built by Lord Power of Curraghmore around the late 15th century, probably in the 1470s, of which only one tower remains today, close to Ladies’ Cove.[6]

Nowadays, a well-appointed car park has been constructed on Shanoon, which gives motorists a splendid view of the entrance to Waterford Harbour, and the Hook Peninsula. It also the starting point for a delightful walk along the cliffs-tops out and back to Portally of four kilometers. Learn more about this walk from Ray McGrath’s Gaultier Heritage Rambles:

When I was growing up in the 1950’s, the Shanoon played a big part in my life. It was a larger area then, before the 1960’s when part of it was blasted away to provide the material to construct the new fishing harbour.

This aerial photograph taken before WW2 shows Shanoon very much like it was during the 1950s. Anecdotally, the photo was taken by the RAF who were carrying out reconnaissance of the Irish coastline.

The three abiding memories that I had of Shanoon, growing up were: Pilots, cows, and ‘Black Knob’.

When I was a boy, the Waterford Harbour Pilots were based in the look-out station perched strategically on top of Shanoon. From here, in a time before modern navigational aids, they were able to observe all shipping arriving at the entrance to Waterford Harbour bound for the ports of Waterford and New Ross. As Ray McGrath has written “Waterford Harbour Pilots have come from a small number of Dunmore and Passage families, including the Glodys, the Fitzgeralds, the Walshs, the Bastons, Whittys, and Dohertys. Mariners owe much to their knowledge, skill and dedication”. [7]

At the time, a myth abounded that the pilots had been based on Shanoon for more than a century but in recent years, I have learned that this was not true. What happened was that when a new pilot cutter Betty Breen arrived in 1951 to replace the Lily Doreen, the pilots found the accommodation onboard to be very cramped and decided to move to the station on Shanoon, which was lying vacant at the time.[8]

To get from the station to the pilot boat, the pilots took a short cut down a steep path in the cliff closest to the harbour. This was not a path for the faint-hearted as a slip could end in tragedy. Needless, to say, I was under strict instructions from my parents never to attempt to take that path to gain access to Shanoon.

Also, during the 1950s, William Power of Powers Bar, who has had a butcher’s shop beside the pub, rented the Shanoon from the Office of Public Works (OPW) for the purpose of grazing some of his cattle. The nuns teaching in the nearby Convent School often became alarmed when they looked out and saw cows dangerously grazing right at the very edge of the cliff on the harbour side of Shanoon. As a pupil in school, until I was aged eight years old, I can still recall the nuns despatching a senior girl up the village to raise the alarm and witness Andy Taylor, the butcher, still in his butchers apron, and a young Billy Power running down the road with sticks to hunt the cows back from the edge of the cliff.

A more recent aerial photo of Shanoon, reduced in size. The arch that joined Black Knob with Shanoon is now missing. It was a victim of a severe 1960s gale. The remains of a gun-post used during the ‘Emergency’ are still visible. Photo: Neville Murphy

‘Black Knob’ was the rock at the end of Shanoon, where the cliff took a 90˚ turn towards the start of the pier at Dunmore East. It was probably during a severe gale in the 1960s that the arch that joined it to Shanoon collapsed into the sea. The landmark had great significance for me as I was strictly forbidden from going past it alone in a boat as at that point you would be away from sight in the harbour, where my father kept a vigilant watch.
For a brief period, I used to set a lobster pot close to Black Knob behind the pier but fishing for shellfish was not my strongest forte.

One thing that I still regret is that I never had to explore or even view from close-up the cave that runs under Shanoon. It is called ‘Merlin’s Cave or Cove’ on charts. Access from the cliff is impossible and even trying to get close in a small rowing boat would be dangerous and probably not recommended.

Shanoon has witnessed and withstood a lot of bad weather over the years. It is particularly vulnerable to severe weather coming from a south-easterly direction. A poet, who only described him or herself as ‘MH’ submitted a seventeen-verse poem to the Munster Express in 1895. It tells of the dreadful storm took place in 1888 when the Alfred D Snow was lost on the County Wexford side of Waterford Harbour. The ‘cone’ raised on Shanoon would have been a signal hoisted by the Coastguards to warn of an impending storm. Here are the first three verses:

A GALE AS ONCE WITNESSNED IN DUNMORE EAST
All early in the bleak forenoon
The cone is raised on the Shanoon;
And every sign on sea and land
Denotes a gale is at hand.

The sky is of a sable hue,
Which almost hides the Hook from view,
And from the strands and coves below
White bubbles around the village blow.

As if disporting in the sky,
In all directions, seagulls fly.
While by the cliffs and darksome caves,
Black divers stem the curling waves.

Submitted as a contribution to Heritage Week 2020

  • [1] Brophy, Anthony Port of Waterford: Extracts from the Records of the Waterford Harbour Commissioners from their Establishment in 1816 to the Report of the Ports and Harbours Tribunal, 1930. Decies No 60, 2004.
  • [2] https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53011020p/f1.item.r=tramore
  • [3] Carroll, David Dauntless Courage, Celebrating the history of the RNLI Lifeboats, their crews, and the Maritime Heritage of Dunmore East, 2020
  • [4] Fewer, TN, A Brief History of Dunmore East, discoverdunmore.com
  • [5] Power, Canon Patrick, Place names of the Decies, (Cork, 1952).
  • [6]Carroll
  • [7]Gaultier Heritage Rambles: The Dunmore to Portally Cliff Walk, Waterford News and Star, Sept. 03, 2019
  • [8] 2020 Interview with former Harbour Pilot and Lifeboat Coxswain, John Walsh

Recalling the loss of UC 44

It was just about midnight on a calm moonlit night in Waterford Harbour. Aboard the WWI mine laying submarine UC-44, her skipper, Kurt Tebbenjoahnnes, satisfied himself as to their position and gave the orders to start deploying her load.  The UC class of sub were a relatively new design and although they could deploy mines from the surface, secrecy was paramount.  As the night was so clear and they were initially so close to land (at Creaden Head, Co Waterford) Tebbenjoahnnes gave the command to submerge. These mines were stored in chutes in the forward section of the submarine. Each mine was dropped individually and the position carefully recorded.  As the mine dropped out, the sub floated astern on the tide.  As it hit the bottom, a soluble plug held the mine in position, allowing plenty of time for the sub to clear.  Saltwater reacted to the plug, which eventually dissolved and released the mine which floated up to a predetermined height on a wire.

A sketch sketch of the mines deployed

Beneath the mine was a hydrostatic valve that was set to a specific depth which controlled the position of the mine.  Whatever way the tide was running, it maintained the mine beneath the surface making detection much more difficult.  There the mines waited for an unsuspecting ship to pass over and strike the protruding horns which triggered an explosion.

While this operation was ongoing Tebbenjoahnnes remained in the conning tower, checking the boats position and plotting his course for Queenstown (Cobh) in Cork harbour.  Suddenly he heard and felt a loud explosion and his boat lurched downwards and struck the seabed.

Tebbenjoahnnes found himself on the bottom of Waterford harbour in the conning tower and was speedily joined by two other submariners; chief engine room officer Fahnster and a young apprentice named Richter.  Any attempts to raise the submarine were in vain and with no communication with the rest of the crew and waters rising around them they were faced with only one choice, to try for the surface which was 90 feet above. All three emerged from below almost as one, but eventually they drifted apart. Miraculously Tebbenjoahnnes was pulled aboard a local fishing boat later that morning by Dunmore East fishermen. Tebbenjoahnnes was cared for in the home of Mrs Chester and was attended by Mr Austin Farrell. Later that morning he was turned over to the authorities and began his journey to London and life as a POW.

For a view of the wreck of UC42 which was lost in Cork Harbour follow this link via Carroll O’Donoghue via KINSALE DEEP SEA ANGLING

Removing the remaining mines following salvage. Courtesy of Paul O’Farrell

The rescue of Tebbenjoahnnes would trigger a series of events over the next few days and weeks that would see the death of a crew man aboard the minesweeper Haldon and the dramatic salvage of the submarine that would have a major part to play in the allies winning WWI.

All that was to come however. On that morning of the 5th August, Tebbenjohannes had breakfast before commencing his new life as a POW under escort to London for interrogation.

A story of the salvage and the implications of WWI is subject of a new book by Tony Babb. It makes for an interesting read


HMS Juno and Stormcock at Waterford 1902

A recent maritime related photo from my cousin James Doherty led me on a rambling search for the ship and her purpose.  We identified her early on as the Stormcock, we knew it was in Waterford , but with precious little other detail as to the purpose of the visit or a date.

tug Stormcock at Waterford 1902 (I think!)

Normally I start searches such as these with a shout out to an intrepid band of online maritime enthusiasts or local history nuts who I can’t even begin to name now that the list is getting so long. But I’m so often embarrassed by the lengths such online friends go to, when I consider the time they put into such queries. So I decided to try go it alone this time with an odd interaction with James.

Google presented a myriad of entries for a Stormcock including several Liverpool based tugs, but nothing presented as clarifying what we had, except a few photos of a similar profiled ship.  The photo we had however, didn’t suggest tug.  The vessel looks too clean and the officers on deck suggested Royal Navy.  There are also a lot of very well dressed men hovering nearby, and aboard, including one lady.  It seems to be a social occasion, an important event rather than a visit by a workboat. 

a close up of a life buoy that yielded a name

The papers were a bit more helpful and the first mention of a tug of this name in Waterford went back to March 1889. What was described as one of the largest and finest sailing vessels that ever entered the port of Waterford had stranded on the Ford (the river where it separates Little Island from Kilkenny).  The ship was the St Charles, of Maine, United States of America. From the description she sounds like she may have been one of the famous Down Easter types, of which the Alfred D Snow would be most familiar to us here in Waterford. Her master was Captain Purington, and she carried a crew of 21.  When she grounded she was being towed by the tug Stormcock of Queenstown, Cork.

The St Charles had left San Francisco on the 16th October 1888 with a cargo of 11,600 quarters of wheat.  Having arrived to Queenstown her cargo was purchased by Messrs White Brothers and Co of Waterford, the brokers being Messrs Matthew Farrell and Son, the Quay, and the United States Consul, Mr William Farrell (a member that firm).  Brendan Grogan has guest blogged on two of the family that would later go on to be highly regarded Harbour Masters. The ship was quickly got off but found to be taking water.[1]  Her cargo was discharged and she later left, towed by the Stormcock for Liverpool.

The chances that this is the occasion which led to the photo being taken is not very plausible however, its doubtful the quality of Waterford would have been aboard for such a working trip.  

A later report however seems much more plausible and I now think this is most likey. The occasion was a Vice regal tour of the coast by the then Lord Lieutenant and the Countess of Dudley.  Along with other dignitaries they had toured the south coast aboard HMS Juno (1895) examining coastal defences, sights of interest and visiting and/or attending social engagements at Glengarriff, Cork City and finally dropping anchor at Dunmore East on Wednesday 29th October 1902.

HMS Juno, Wikipedia public domain

The plan for the day was that what was described as a Royal Navy Tender Stormcock would convey the party up the harbour to the city.   In the city they were to meet the town dignitaries.  The report goes on to say that “…Alderman W G Goff, Jr, Glenville… will place his two motor cars at the disposal of their Excellencies. After lunch with Alderman Goff they will take a drive in the neighbourhood. They will then return the Juno and sleep on board, the Juno meanwhile proceeding Kingstown, which will be reached on Thursday morning. Their Excellencies will then return by special train from Kingstown to Dublin.”[2]

I have to admit that this event tallies very nicely with the image I am looking at. 

The Stormcock as I said is a difficult enough ship to place as there are so many of that name.  The tugs named with cock in the title seem to all relate to the Liverpool Screw Towing and Lighterage Co and associated firms, and appear to have a strong link with the local shipyard of Cammell Laird. (I read online that the company gave a three for the price of two deal on their tug boats at some stage!)

Some of the dignitaries waiting on the quay or aboard. Presumably Mr Davis Goff is the man with the hat, scarf and gloves in the centre.

The most likely vessel I have found is the Stormcock (1877) which was launched by Lairds on 5th December 1877.  In 1882 she was chartered by the Admiralty for naval operations in Egypt, who later purchased the vessel outright.  I presume she was moved around as required and if my guess is right she became a feature in Cork harbour at some point after this. 

Stormcock circa 1885 via Clyde Maritime

The Stormcock played a significant part in the rescue of survivors from the Lusitania, although controversially in one account.  She was one of the first ships to arrive in Queenstown with survivors either onboard or being towed in a line of life boats with another tug Warrior.  However earlier she had intercepted two trawlers who had collected survivors and were on their way into nearby Kinsale.  Commander Shee of the Stormcock ordered the trawlers to stop and transfer the survivors aboard.  This irked the trawlermen no end as they were only a short trip away from Kinsale and the journey upriver to Queenstown would take much longer.  It also annoyed many of the survivors, possibly fearful of further U Boat attacks on a naval vessel.[3]

For anyone local, the annual Daffodil Day Coffee morning takes place this coming Sunday

Funnily enough we have met the ship only recently.  In 1922 she was sold to Samuel Palmer of Cork and was renamed the Morsecock, a ship which featured in the salvage of the SS Valdura off the rocks on Crossfarnoge Point aka the Forlorn at Kilmore Quay.

My thanks to my cousin James Doherty for his assistance with this piece. All errors and conclusions are my own however. James runs the very popular twitter page called Irish Smuggling.


[1] Waterford Standard – Saturday 02 March 1889; page 3

[2] Waterford Standard – Wednesday 29 October 1902; page 3

[3] Nolan.L & Nolan. J.E. Secret Victory. Ireland and the War at Sea 1914-1918.  2009. Mercier Press. Cork