Williamo’s barge, 29B

This mornings guest blog comes from Carrick On Suir but as with all things connected to the water, it travels fairly widely. Maurice Power, another of those supporters of my blog that I have come to rely on, introduces us to an institution on the River Suir in Carrick On Suir. An institution embodied in a man and a boat; Williamo’s barge – 29B. Over to Maurice…

Recently a photo of William O’Callaghan’s barge was shown on our local facebook site Things I Miss About Carrick and somebody wondered where it is now. His barge was the last working sand dredger in Carrick and possibly the only one which used a mechanical digger to extract sand and gravel from the river bed.

Williamo’s barge taken from North Quay in Carrick looking across to Carrickbeg. Williamo normally moored the barge tied up to the buttments of the New Bridge (Dillon Bridge) In Carrick. It kept the kids from playing on it.

Williamo, as he was known, grew up on the river coming from a family with deep roots in the navigation of lighters and yawls which transported goods from ships lightened in Waterford. Lighters would typically transport goods with a burden of 40/60 tons they had a draft of 2′ 9″. Prior to the introduction of the tug the Fr Matthew by Earnest Grubb which was the first steam tug to operate on the river between Waterford and Carrick lighters were navigated by the use of poles, sweeps (oars 30 feet long which took 6 steps forward and 6 steps backward to operate) and sails. To continue to Clonmel the goods would be transferred to Yawls which had a burden of 20 tons and a draft of 16″. These were towed in pairs with a team of 12 horses to Clonmel. Williamo’s father, Daniel, was part of the last crew to tow yawls to Clonmel in 1922. When the railway was introduced in the early 1800s river trade dwindled until it finally ceased the 1960’s. However the long tradition of excavating sand from the riverbed continued up to Williamo’s retirement when it finally ceased.

Williamo was noted for his knowledge of the river and was often called upon to help others who were unfamiliar with the river for assistance or advice on navigation issues. He was a very genial and approachable individual who loved to tell stories and relate experiences. Williamo was also known in times of need, and noted in times of tragedy, recovering several bodies from the river.

 So what was the History of Williamo’s barge? Firstly using photographs and the help of guys from Inland Waterways and the Heritage Boat Association I was able to establish from unique profiles on her hull such as a sharp bow, lower rubbing streak, upper rubbing streak which stops short, tiny washboard that Williamo’s barge was registered under the title number 29B.

The first record I could find of 29B was an advertisement in the Freemans Journal dated the   27th September 1873 offering for sale 13 canal boats the property of a Patrick Coyne deceased which included a barge 29B.

Again in the Leinster Leader dated the 29th of March the property of a Mr M Mitchell deceased from Enfield were up for Auction. The sale included a canal boat 29B in working condition.

 Barge 29B was first weighed in Killaloe on the 24th of October 1912 under the ownership of Murphy Brothers of Rathangan, Co Kildare.

On the Grand Canal via the Irish Press April 21st 1934

Dimensions recorded were Length 60 feet, Breadth 12 ft. 9ins. Stem height 7ft. 2ins. Stern height 7ft.2ins. and laden with 50 tons in weight she drew 4ft.2ins. She also had 50 gallons of fuel in her tanks. The weigh master was a Denis Crowe from Killaloe. She would have been fitted with a standard Bollinger engine. A  Mr D.E. Williams, General Merchant from Tullamore, bought her in 1947. He was the founder of the world famous Tullamore Dew Whiskey Company.

29B was then passed on to a Denis Ronan of Athy. A photo from the Kildare Nationalist shows her giving tours during a carnival in the early 1950s. It’s interesting to note the lack of health and safety regulations in this era.

In 1956 she was sold onto Messrs Deegan of Waterford who subsequently sold it to Williamo. He used her on the river until his retirement in 1983 when she was bought by a Mr Gerry Oakman from Athlone. Gerry brought her back up to the Shannon by way of the Barrow Navigation system and the Grand Canal where she worked as a work boat on various  projects on the Shannon before being retired and converted into a live-aboard barge in Shannon Harbour Co. Offaly.

Last year she was again sold on and moved to Lough Derg where she is on a hard stand and is undergoing a major refit. The photo above was taken about a month ago.

Probably the last photo of barge 29B in operation in Carrick on Suir. Williamo at the helm and his son at the bow. Photo by John Denby. Carrick on Suir

I was fortunate to be party to the facebook discussion and follow up research of Williamos barge on the Things I Miss About Carrick on Suir Facebook page. Social media has many negatives associated with it, but virtual journeys such as these that reach deep into a locality’s past and weave a path to the present are surely one of the platforms positive achievements. Just like the Carrick natives, the photo above reminded me of so many boats that signified my own childhood and to this day, such as the Portlairge, my uncle Sonny’s pilot boat Morning Star or the harbour launch as she crewed the buoy gangs to work.

I can only thank Maurice for sharing it with me and everyone else who is part of our online community. In preparing for this piece I recalled an iconic image and a wonderful poem by Carrick poet Michael Coady. On checking with Maurice he confirmed that they were about the same man. Michael’s poem which features in his book of the same name (Going by Water) celebrates Williamo’s life and his connection with the river, and features an image of his coffin borne by river to burial. As I haven’t asked permission to use any of it, can I just recommend that you keep an eye out for it. In a few lines he really captures the essence of the river and how it embodies us.

This will be my final guest blog in the current format, but it certainly will not be the end of sharing the best of our maritime heritage. On a personal level the series has proven to be the most emotionally draining. In some cases editing other peoples work, or offering suggestions that might risk offence. There is also the extra pressure of making sure that I make no mistakes in the formatting or that it reaches a wide audience. I have been fortunate over the years that I have had copy for each month, and that through this I have been able to extend the reach of what I personally can do, by sharing the passion, intelligence and personal insights of others who share my appreciation of our maritime heritage. We might be few in general terms, but I think the blog has proven a genuine interest and appetite for recognising and celebrating the boats, people and industries that thrived in our three sister rivers and her harbour.

I’m celebrating the four years of the blog at an event in the Reading Room, Cheekpoint on Saturday 8th June at 7.30pm. All welcome.

Rochestown roots, an Irish Homestead

This months guest blog is brought to us by Brian Forristal who remembers his ancestors in a small cottage in Rochestown, Co Kilkenny beside the fast flowing River Barrow. A family of boatmen and farm labourers, Brian’s recollections are set in the context of a walk, a few years back through the Rochestown townland. He stopped for a while outside the family homestead which prompted a flood of memories. Over to you Brian.

The zinc roofed cottage signifies the birth of the Forristal family from my perspective, as it was where my grandfather and great grandfather originated.  Looking in on it now, its position emanates ‘homestead’ and I can feel the pull of my roots back to this hallowed spot.  Passing by there on Saturday 17th October 2015, I could still sense very strongly the serenity and tranquility of the place, as I peered through the gates and cast my eyes across the remnants of family history. My grandfather, Thomas Forristal was born on 23rd June 1886 in the cottage in Rochestown, to the union of John and Mary Forristal nee Reddy.  He was the fourth of five children. 

His father is listed on his birth cert as a farm labourer, but on the 1901 census he was a boatman.  This coincides with the stories of him working as a ferryman on the river, probably seasonal work, and more likely he worked for the local farmers during the winter months.  Thomas is not listed on the 1911 census, which may infer that he was either out of the parish on that night, or had by then moved to Waterford city for work.

Brian’s hand drawn map of the area and the hunting ground of local fishermen

The five children born in the cottage include Thomas’ brothers James, Patrick, Jack and the eldest, a sister, named Bridget.  When the then owner, Jimmy Walsh showed me and my dad around the cottage in the 1990’s (Dad’s first visit since its new occupants)we were amazed at how small the interior looked.  What I found very interesting was where the fold down table was positioned; you could still see the brackets, a great space saver.  There were hollows in the wall which held the pails of water, so you had to be very economical with the little space that was available.  There was a small loft upstairs, which was a bedroom, and a room/shed next door was used for the same – which raises the question of where everyone slept?

Fishing and boating was in their blood and they fished on the Barrow.  My grandfather and his brother Jack took part in many regattas over the years and were very competitive; I have a copy of a programme from a Waterford regatta from 1925 in which they were both listed along with other men from Glenmore and Slieverue, and I know from talking to people around the parish that Jack in particular was feared by many crews in competition.

Their brother James is listed at home in the 1901census but by 1911 he is in Clonmel where he is a boarder at house #4 in Gladstone Street.  He is listed as 31 years of age and working as a clerk in a coal yard; he had joined the Irish Volunteers and was out in 1916.  During the War of Independence he joined the 3rd Tipperary Brigade and fought throughout that conflict, but played no part during the civil War.  He died on 29th May 1961 aged 78, and is buried in St Patricks Graveyard in Clonmel.

Landing place in the lower Barrow where boats were moored and a place of work, leisure and storytelling
Brian Forristal

John or Jack as he was more commonly known is also listed as a boatman in the 1901 census and may well have worked with his father during that period; he is listed as being 17 years old.  He also worked in various labouring jobs around the townland, but is best remembered for his rowing prowess on both the Suir and Barrow rivers.  Tommy Connolly (who Brian has introduced to us on the blog before) once said of him “By Christ, he was an oarsman” and in the only photograph I have of him he looks the part; tall, broad shoulders, wearing a cap and under his nose a sweeping moustache, fashionable at the time.  Unfortunately Jack died a young man from peritonitis in the city infirmary here in Waterford city on 19th July 1939 aged 55 years.  Quickly and without warning, as a burst appendix does, a silent and deadly killer that stripped Rochestown of one of its favourite sons.  At the present I am a year older now, than he was when he died, and that puts things into perspective.

A traditional boat of the lower Barrow, a prong with draft net ready to set on her stern. Brian Forristal

Paddy was by all accounts the quiet one of the family, I don’t know.  He was the last of the family to live in the cottage, and in old age moved in with my Grandmother and grandfather in Morgan Street.  I have a photograph taken with my grandfather and himself in the yard behind the house, in which he looks like he is smiling, and on the other hand grandad looks deadly serious.  He was also supposed to be very curious in appearance, and liked to dress well and look after his clothes.  Which brings me to Tommy Connolly telling me that if paddy walked down the mud to give a hand pulling a prong ashore, he would stroll back up onto the bank and there would not be a speck of mud on him.  When I put it to Tommy that would not be unusual if he had wellington boots on, he retorted that that he was talking about when he had his shoes on!  Surely impossible, but not according to Tommy, who stated that mud and dirt evaded him and he always looked clean and polished.  I have no idea of what paddy worked at all his life, a farm labourer no doubt, dad did not mention it, and now in the mists of time I realise I should have asked him more details.

Paddy remained a bachelor, just like Jack, and died on the 11th march 1953, aged 64 years, again laid to rest in the family plot in the Big Glen.

Glenmore Church

 My grandfather Thomas moved into Waterford city to work, and from family recollections he worked on the Clyde wharf as a docker/checker.  We found out that he was previously married before my grandmother came on the scene, and this was intriguing to me as I sought out this elusive woman, and what had happened to her.

Her headstone, at the back of the chapel in Glenmore, records her name as Catherine Roche, and she was from the townland of Scartnamore, not far from Rochestown.  She was born in 1886, and died in 1923 at the age of 37 years.  Family history tells me that she died whilst 7 months pregnant on their first child which was very sad.  The following appeared in the Waterford Evening News on Saturday March 3rd 1923.  Death of mrs K Forristal, (37)  We regret to announce the death, which took place yesterday at her residence, Morgan Street, of mrs Kate Forristal, wife of Thomas Forristal.  The funeral will take place tomorrow in Glenmore.

What a sad time this was for granddad, to lose the love of his life so young and so tragically.  Some years ago on one of our walks, dad and I went to Scartnamore, and we met Pat Grace who was able to  show us the ruins of the house that Catherine once lived in.  It was at one time a fine two storey country house set in off the lane in a medium sized haggard.  The ruin is now down to one level and overgrown.  It is situated near the end of the lane that comes in from the High Road and that runs towards Kilcolumn graveyard.  So it was a very remote setting brimming with peace and quiet, and having only a couple of cottages around them.

I often think of that day, March 4th 1923 with granddad standing at the graveside in Glenmore, a cold March wind in his face, and having to lay to rest the two most important people in his life.  Life throws up many unfair challenges to everyone, but he probably thought ‘why did I get the cruelest of them all?’  What if they had survived?  We would not be here today, and be able to talk about them and remember them.  His life then took another journey when he met my grandmother Sarah Foran.  He was working on the docks and she was employed in a shop in Patrick’s Street, over which she lived.  They married and had five children and the story went on from there, and here we are.  When I am in Glenmore graveyard paying my respects, I go to Catherine’s grave and say a prayer for her and her baby.  I feel I owe that to granddad at least.  Thomas Forristal died on the 29th April 1955 aged 68 years.

Clyde Wharf, where Thomas was employed, viewed from the North Quays via Brendan Grogan

As a tail end to the above I managed to get copies if the 1901 and 1911 census returns and we find Catherine aged 14, and registered as Kate in the 1901 census, living with her father and mother in Scartnemore-Rathinure.  Her parents John (farmer) and Kate Roche, her two brothers and two sisters.  Interestingly they had on the night four lodgers who were all navvy’s presumably working on the construction of the Waterford to new Ross railway line.  In the 1911 census she was still at home and aged 22?  One has to be very careful about some of the entries as the ages sometimes do not add up. The navvy’s were long gone from the house at this time.

And so, last but not least, we come to the only sister to inhabit that household, my father’s aunt Bridget.

The only image I have seen of her was a photocopy of a print that Billy Forristal gave me many years ago.  It shows Bridget standing outside the cottage, proudly wearing her hat, and overhead a magnificent canopy of reed thatch covering the roof.  To her side a bicycle stands against the wall.  All that I have been told of her by dad was that she was a lovely woman, proud and hardworking, who looked after the menfolk of the house, with diligence, family love and devotion, above and beyond the call.  She never married and lived all her life there in Rochestown.  Tommy Connolly told me a snippet of information about her, and that was that on the 1st may every year she would go out into the yard, and having cut a bough of hawthorn, she would place it on the top of the dung heap or tie it to the nearest tree, and then set about decorating it in honour of our lady for the duration of the month.  And so Bridget fades into the mists of time like so many others, and the faint memories leave their trace around the cross roads of Rochestown……and now we take to the road again…

Brians writing underscores the deep and lasting connection a sense of place creates. Its something I’m sometimes lucky enough to share with visitors to my own area. To see the old homestead, a grave, where a family member worked or went to school creates a deep bond with an area, a connection that seems to transcend time and place. But I’m also very conscious of those who are not remembered, who left no trace, not even the stones of their mud cabins remaining. Which brings to mindthe English poet Edward Thomas, and some specific lines from his poem Roads (1916)
“Roads go on
While we forget, and are
Forgotten like a star
That shoots and is gone.”

Next month Maurice Power takes us to Carrick On Suir where we meet a working boat and boat man, that in the fullness of time has almost become iconic.  That of course is my view, next month you can decide

Submit a guest blog

If anyone reading this has a blog that they would like to submit for consideration they can email me at tidesntales@gmail.com to discuss. The blog should relate to the areas maritime heritage be 1200 words approximately. I’m always delighted to get new material, and would love to hear from younger readers too, who might have ideas to share.  The purpose of the guest blog is to widen the scope and allow other  local voices to emerge from around the harbour, coast or the rivers of the three sisters

Great Western weathers the storm

A few weeks back I published a story of the Great Western and what it meant in the Waterford area.  Each story that I publish generally gets a response, an email or two, comments on the blog, facebook comments and messages.  But the story of the Great Western really hit a nerve and this weeks guest blog is prompted by one email in particular which I will come to momentarily. 

It’s difficult to pick a few remarks out of the many that I received, but if I must then fellow villager, Helen Barry, sent me a lovely photo and clipping of her uncle Michael Heffernan which I think might make another blog.  Michael, of course, went on to be the last captain of the dredger Portlairge.  My cousin, Captain Jim Murphy, from Crooke originally but now living in Liverpool, sent me on a lovely piece about going to sea on the Great Western.  Eiblis Howlett sent on a memory of coming to Ireland on her summer holidays and how her dad on seeing the harbour as she sailed up to the city in the morning time would recite the John Locke poem “The Exiles Return, or Morning on the Irish coast” O, Ireland! isn’t grand you look— Like a bride in her rich adornin ! With all the pent-up love of my heart I bid you the top of the morning !

The Great Western shortly after coming on the Fishguard – Waterford run in 1934
Photo courtesy of Frank Cheevers. Waterford Maritime History group

But of all the replies I got one stood out as it was a childhood memory of an incident of 1954 from Owen Paddy O Grady. Paddy, who lives in Germany, is one of those long term (heading to year five would you believe) blog followers who occasionally sends me an email. (It keeps me encouraged and reminds me that people from all over the world are now part of the tidesandtales community). I suppose what captured my imagination about Paddy’s piece is that I could almost see myself in his shoes as a young lad in the city, knocking around the quays, gazing at the comings and goings of the many dozens of ships that would have then populated the city on a weekly basis. Part of me believes many of those who read the blog will identify with that too, so here’s Paddy’s account of a terrible storm of November 1954.

Your latest Blog on the Great Western reminded me of an episode of the past which, at the time made me shiver. Here´s the story in my best old Waterford english: Waterford was, in my youth, frequently visited in the Autumn, at Christmas-time, and in further Winter times by hard storms. But one that I will always remember was the storm in November 1954 which traversed over the south and south east of Ireland and further eastwards towards Wales and of course, the port of Fishguard.

On the 27.11.1954 we heard, on the radio, of problems of the tanker World Concord in “the channel” which eventually broke in two. What we further heard was (via radio and my fathers “connections”) that the Rosslare lifeboat had been launched. It later transpired that the Rosslare boat had already taken crew members off  another troubled freight ship and then went on to the assistance of the sailors on one of the tanker sections. As the life boat, at this time, was on duty for a very long period (30 hours), it actually ran very low on fuel – or out of fuel –  and had to be refuelled or towed back by a fishing boat

WORLD CONCORD, the Liberian Tanker, which broke in two during heavy gales in the Irish Sea on 27 November 1954. The ship was only ten miles off the Pembrokeshire Coast when she broke in two. In little more than half an hour the two halves drifted a considerable distance apart. Copyright: © IWM (A 33078) . Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163741

The actuall run of things were never reported in Waterford by the papers or our “connections”. The Storm prevailed, if I can recollect correctly, for at least 3 days and 3 nights and word came round that there was no radio contact to OUR Great Western, which was under way to Waterford,  and that she was long overdue.

We were all very worried but she eventually appeared on the Suir several hours behind schedule and docked successfully. My father gave me the good news at dinner time (13.00 hours) and I immediately cycled to the Adelphi quay to satisfy myself that she WAS “in”.

What I saw was a battered Great Western tied up, no crew members; no passengers or any stevedores were to be seen on deck or on the jetty. It was a complete silent situation in and around the ship. But the Western was there and the crew had obviously been left to sleep off their ordeal. I can very well remember the damage I saw:  the gunnel on the starboard side, forward of the bridge, was Flat WITH THE DECK !! What the port side was like I could not see. Also a number, if not all, of the ventilation cowls were missing and there was almost no rigging in place, which was probably the reason for the loss of radio contact.

Community Notice. I’m happy to promote any event that is heritage focused, subject to space, that fits with the page mission to promote the maritime heritage of the three sister rivers and the harbour area.

We later heard that the captain had decided to ride out the storm as opposed to taking the risk of navigating safely into the harbour mouth with heavy southerly seas up his stern. That`s just one of my Great Western recollections which may be of some interest to you.

My Grandparents and parents had a hairdressers shop at 133 the quay which was beside Reginald’s Tower where the Viking remade boat stands. Our father was very friendly with the crews and captains of Western and the Clyde boats and was consequently  “well informed” Our family had past connections with Waterford shipping in that our grandparents sailed their “freighters of the time” to and from various English ports and the south coast harbours of Ireland.

To give a sense of the storm the Great Western had just endured a report from the Liverpool Echo on the 27th reported on the ferocity of the Irish Sea that night of the 26th and into the 27th.  The World Concord is reported as having broke apart and her crew in great peril.  (It would later emerge that her two sections had remained afloat and had drifted apart, the 35 crew on the aft section were rescued by the St Davids lifeboat and later that day the crew of the Rosslare lifeboat found the bow section.  She stood by the hull and the seven men aboard all through the night affecting a rescue the following morning and after a hair raising transfer from the jacobs ladder to the deck of the heaving lifeboat, they dropped the survivors to Holyhead It would be Wednesday of the following week before the Douglas Hyde returned, where a brass band played the “Boys of Wexford” on the quayside in salute to their heroics.[1]).  An unidentified ship was reported as lost off the Lizard and although crew members were spotted in the water and in a lifeboat, none were believed to have survived in the report.  A Dutch tug Humber and the Newhaven lifeboat was standing by an auxiliary sailing ship the Vega which had jettisoned her cargo in an effort to stay afloat.  Meanwhile the crew of the South Goodwin lightship was missing, the lightship had broke her anchors and drifted ashore.[2]   

The  crew of Rosslare Harbour lifeboat Douglas Hyde.
Back row left to right – Dick Duggan, Jim Walsh, Jack Duggan and Paddy Owens.
Front row left to right – Richard Duggan, Coxswain Dick Walsh, Dick Hickey and Jack Wickham.
This photo appears in the Nicholas Leach book, The Lifeboats of Rosslare Harbour and Wexford courtesy of Rosslare Harbour RNLI and via Brian Boyce Rosslare Maritime Heritage Centre.

Although I have tried unsuccessfully to find an account of the journey of the Great Western from the local papers (and thanks to Maurice Power for his assistance too) the only mention I have is that she was overdue by several hours but unharmed by the trip[3].  I hope to source further information soon.  I’d like to thank Barry at Holyhead Maritime Museum and Brian Boyce at Rosslare Maritime Heritage Museum for helping me with sourcing photos. In our guest blog feature next month we travel up the Barrow river in the company of Brian Forristal and meet his forbearers on the banks of the mighty river. Next week I go in search of the Great Lewis.


[1] For a stirring account of the Douglas Hyde rescue see John Power’s book A Maritime History of County Wexford Vo II pp 458-462.  Copies still available from the Rosslare Maritime Heritage Centre

[2] Liverpool Echo – Saturday 27 November 1954; page 8

[3] Waterford News & Star – Friday 3rd December 1954; page 6




[1] Liverpool Echo – Saturday 27 November 1954 page 8

A fit Situation for His Majesty’s Packets: building the Harbour at Dunmore

Today’s guest blog comes from Roy Dooney who has previously delivered a facinating presentation to the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society on the building of Dunmore harbour. I’m indebted to Roy for typing up his presentation for sharing with the readership. I found it a fascinating piece and I’m sure you will too.

The title of this piece is taken from the Act of Parliament just over two hundred years ago, dated 3rd June 1818, described as “An Act for improving and completing the Harbour of Dunmore in the County of Waterford, and rendering it a fit Situation for His Majesty’s Packets.”

The King at the time was George the Third who reigned from 1760 until his death in January 1820.

The Act of Union came into force in 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. By 1821 the estimated population of Britain was about 14 million, and that of Ireland was about 7 million. So Ireland, with a rapidly growing population, was a major part of the United Kingdom.

Dunmore pier with railway line used in construction phase

In our modern era of constant cheap and direct communications, it is important to remember the huge primary importance of the postal service in past times to maintain links of trade, public administration, security and news between Britain and Ireland.

There had been an unsuccessful French naval invasion in 1796, followed by a rebellion in 1798.

There was another abortive rebellion led by Robert Emmet in 1803.

Britain was at war with France from 1793 until the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Information flows were central to keeping London well informed about what was happening in all parts of Ireland.

Getting the mail backwards and forwards through the shortest possible sea crossings was a priority for the Post Office.

The first postal route to Ireland from London was through Bristol and then Milford Haven in Wales.

In late 1813 the Post Office sought applications for the design and construction of a new packet station in the Suir Estuary, much closer to the open sea than the then packet station for Waterford at Bolton (Cheekpoint).

At that time the ships from Milford Haven had to sail upriver, often against contrary winds, tides and the river itself. A packet station “lower down” would allow the mails to be landed at an earlier place and be taken by road to Waterford. This would be faster and more reliable than the vagaries of sail.

One of the main reasons for using Milford Haven for mails was that since most of the mail originated in London, the route from there to South Wales was a better road, faster and safer than that through Chester, across North Wales and Holyhead.

Oilean na gClioch which features a fine pointed arched bridge (see left of photo). This was designed by Nimmo and is similar to others he designed at Poulaphouca in Wicklow and Shaughnessy’s Bridge in Connemara. Authors collection.

The historian and map maker Gerald of Wales c. 1188 described Milford Haven as “the most excellent  harbour in Britain for ships to enter” and it was the point of departure to Ireland of many Royal and military expeditions.

Among many others these include Strongbow with Henry the Second as early as 1171, Prince John in 1185 and then as King John in 1210, Richard the Second in 1397 and Cromwell in 1649.

Dunmore was settled at quite an early stage. There was a grant in 1203 from King John to Heverbrichtof Dunmore and a Manor of Dunmore referred to in 1287.

A fishery is referred to in 1303.

By 1774 there was a reference to “eighty sail of fishing ships now belong to this small port.”

The oldest house still standing in the village from c 1790-1800 is Virginia Cottage on the hill from the lower village going up to Killea.

The first plan for building the Harbour at Portcullin Cove was submitted in March 1814 by 31 year old Alexander Nimmo to the Post Office.

Work began on building the Harbour in September 1815.

At the end of June 1818 the Government announced that: “as the Packet Station has been changed from Passage to Dunmore and a Post Office having been established in Dunmore it will be necessary for those residing in that area to have letters addressed “Dunmore East” to avoid confusion with Dunmore, County Galway.”

On July 7th 1818 an official notice appeared which stated that “on and from 7th inst. The British mails will be despatched from Dunmore East to Milford.”

Steam packets Meteor and Royal Sovereign which operated on the Milford Waterford route circa 1824
Maritime Museum Greenwich, via Roger Antell

Dunmore was designated as one of five Royal Harbours in Ireland through which mail was conveyed. The others were Ardglass and Donaghadee in Northern Ireland, and Howth and Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) to the north and south of Dublin respectively.

Nimmo was a quite extraordinary man whose contribution to designing and building the harbour in Dunmore, as well as many other projects across Ireland was enormous.

He was one of a number of Scottish engineers who played a transformative role in modernising transport in Britain and Ireland.

He first came to Ireland to work on bog engineering in the West and went on to plan and develop at least 50 piers and harbours ranging from North Mayo to Greystones in Wicklow.

This bust of Alexander Nimmo is the only likeness of him recorded and was done by his friend John B Jones in 1845. It is in the Royal Dublin Society.

The Tidy Towns committee in Dunmore East unveiling a plaque in June 2018 at the Harbour   to remember Nimmo who died at the age of just 49 in 1832.

Nimmo was a brilliant engineer but his correspondence in the National Archives with the Post Office and Dublin Castle show a repeated weakness when it came to accounting for monies spend and keeping the project on budget.

For its time, the construction was ambitious and complex.

Rock was quarried locally from the cliffs above the Harbour and a little further away above the Flat Rocks. It was then moved down to the pier on a railway. Stone had to be blasted and then cut by hand.

Limestone was also quarried in Dunkit and floated down the river on barges.

One of Nimmo’s achievements was to make a diving bell that worked. It was subsequently used in other projects in Ireland, particularly the Wellesley Bridge in Limerick which he designed.

Nimmo’s original plan had included a lighthouse and in July 1818, when the Harbour was about to enter service, the Secretary of the Post Office asked the Ballast Board in Dublin, who ran the lighthouse service, to let them set up a temporary light at the end of the pier.

George Halpin who designed the lighthouse was one of the great men in Irish lighthouse history responsible for many others around the country.

The design is of a fluted Doric column of which there is only one other in Ireland – the Haulbowline Lighthouse – in Carlingford Lough.

Dunmore East lighthouse circa 1900

Dunmore’s importance as a harbour for post and trade was under threat before it was finished.

Steam ships with greater strength and reliability were already in service. By 1817 the first steam ship on the Irish Sea travelled between the Clyde and the Mersey and a paddle steamer between Carrick on Suir and Waterford was in service.

The Post Office built its own steam ships for the mails and went into service from Holyhead in 1821, Dover in 1822 and Milford Haven to Dunmore in 1824.

As the steamers became more powerful they had no difficulty making the passage upriver to the extensive quays in Waterford and its concentration of merchants and mail coach connections.

Dunmore also grew as a resort, and by 1824 Ryland referred to it as “formerly a place of resort for fishermen, but now a fashionable and delightful watering place.”

Dunmore harbour changed from a packet station to a fishing port as the 19th century progressed. In more recent times it has undergone extensive re-modelling as excavations and infill have taken place.

As Nimmo’s biographer Noel Wilkins says of the Harbour today: “The visual prospect along the main quay (the original Packet Quay) towards the fluted lighthouse rising majestically at its head, has a certain boulevard-like quality that is decidedly unusual in fishery harbours, recalling the grandeur of its original purpose.”

My thanks again to Roy for this great addition to the blog and an insight into the making of Dunmore harbour. If anyone reading this has a blog that they would like to submit for consideration they can email me at tidesntales@gmail.com to discuss. The blog should relate to the areas maritime heritage be 1200 words approximately. I’m always delighted to get new material, and would love to hear from younger readers too, who might have ideas to share.

Three terrible days, Jan 1862

Over a three-day period of January 22nd, 23rd and 24th 1862, a large number of shipwrecks and loss of life took place in Waterford Harbour and along the County Waterford coastline, making it probably one of the most catastrophic events in the maritime history of Waterford.

The ferocity of the weather was best demonstrated from a report that the Coningbeg light-ship dragging her anchor for a distance of four and a half miles, when it had held firm in other recent storms*.

The Daily Express of Monday January 27th 1862 reported that “at Dunmore, the sea rolled clear over the Pier Head, and rushed with great violence up a considerable part of the town.”

Meanwhile the Waterford Mail on the same day reported: “We have had a succession of storms such as we have not had to record for many years. “Old Ocean” has been in one of his rough moods, and has strewn our coast with shipwrecks. The gale of Wednesday was sufficient to alarm the heart of every one who had a single relative or connection with the water. A lull took place on Thursday, but it was followed, on Friday morning, by one of the most terrific hurricanes we remember, and the casualties have been terrible to record….”

SS Royal Charter lost at Angelsea 1859. Wikipedia (Public Domain)
A sense of the scene. SS Royal Charter lost at Angelsea 1859. source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

What follows is a full account of the local losses over those three terrible days

1        ‘Active’

 “The storm of Wednesday caught the little schooner Active of Cork, supposed to have been laden with coals, off the coast of Annestown, and the captain evidently finding that he could not weather the gale, tried to beach the ship in Annestown bay, and in doing so a tremendous sea caught her, and dashed her to pieces against the rock. Five persons were seen on her deck, none of whom were saved, and it supposed that her crew consisted of nine persons – None of the bodies have been washed ashore. While the coastguards were engaged in watching the goods washed ashore from the Active, they were alarmed to hear of the loss of another, a large vessel, in the same locality.” (1)

2      ‘Indian Ocean’ was the large vessel, the story of which has an interesting twist.

“Supposed Loss of an Emigrant Ship and all on board, – At five o’clock on yesterday (Friday) morning a large emigrant ship was beat to pieces at Annestown. Her deck was crowded with crew and passengers. It is much to be apprehended every one of them perished. From a paper washed ashore the vessel is believed to be the ‘Indian Ocean’, which sailed from Liverpool for Sydney, New South Wales, last Monday.  She was laden with a valuable cargo, of general assortment, with which the coast is strewn. The paper is a printed form, signed for W.Nichol and Co., dated 2nd January 1861, at Bombay, directing the commanding officer of the ‘Indian Ocean’ to receive fifty bales of cotton, and give a bill of lading.” (2)

 “Wreck on the Coast of Ireland.- The large vessel lost off the coast of Ireland on Friday, is now fully ascertained, was the Indian Ocean of Liverpool. With the confirmation of the fact of her loss, comes the welcome intelligence that the captain and crew of twenty-five persons, supposed to have gone down with the wreck, were all saved by the timely arrival of the ‘Europa’, which took them off the vessel before she drifted ashore. The ‘Europa’ was on her voyage from St. John’s to Liverpool, and landed the whole of the rescued men at the latter port on Saturday. (3)

3       ‘Queen of Commerce’

“A little to the west of Dunmore lies a little bay called Ballymacaw, and into was driven a very fine vessel bound from Antwerp to Liverpool, where she was chartered as a passenger ship. The captain availed himself of the idea of which had been put out respecting wind kites. He tied a line to a hencoop, and flung it overboard; it was found to be too light and did not float ashore as could be wished, and was drawn on board, and the line attached to a lifebuoy, which was washed ashore and gladly secured by the coast-guard. A rope of sufficient strength was then sent ashore, and taken up from the beach to the cliff where it was made fast and thus the entire crew, 23 in number were rescued from the waves.” (4) 

The author David Carroll on rt, his wife Pauline and Michael Farrell chair Barony of Gaultier Historical Society on a recent trip to Brownstown
Brownstown head, in more settled weather.

4       ‘Nairne’

“The Nairne, Captain Ness, of Leith, and bound for Havannah with coals, was caught by the storm off Brownstown Head at the western shore of Tramore bay. The haze and rain prevented the captain or crew from thinking they were so near the coast; suddenly the mist cleared and they saw the ominous towers on Brownstown Head, just at the same moment a sea struck the vessel and washed the man at the wheel overboard, and almost instantaneously the vessel struck with such violence that the masts went by the board. Fortunately, they fell towards the land, and formed a bridge from the vessel to the cliff. The captain and crew immediately clambered up the perilous ascent, some of them almost without clothes, and just as the last man reached terra firma the ship was engulphed in the waves, and masts and spars were floating in the ocean.  The captain and crew were immediately taken charge of by Mr. Thomas Walsh, who acts as sub-agent for Mr. Barnes, the representative of the Shipwrecked Mariner’s Society, and they were provided with the necessaries which they required. Some of them have reached Waterford, but others have been unable to be removed from Brownstown. (5)

5       ‘Tiger’

The Tiger, of Bath, N.S., bound from Liverpool for Boston, with a general cargo, was on Wednesday, driven near Creden Head. Two of the sailors tried to get ashore with a line, but the boat swamped, and they were thrown into the foaming surge. The captain and those on board, tried to aid them, by flinging ropes, life bouys etc., to them, but they drifted away, and the men were both lost. The vessel held together until the weather moderated, when the rest of the crew- 23 in number-were brought by Mr. Boyse, sub-agent to Josiah Williams, Esq. Lloyd’s agent of this port. They reached this on Friday morning in the Tintern. The Tiger has since become a total wreck”.  (6)

Loss of the SS Central America National Maritime Museum London (Public Domain)
Loss of the SS Central America. source: National Maritime Museum London (Public Domain)
Although again not a local depiction I thought it gave an accurate if frightening sense of the scenes depicted by David

6      ‘Loss of a Schooner, and all hands’

“A very fine schooner was also seen running for this harbour. She made her way most gallantly until, when in the act of cutting a sea, she was struck with violence on her quarter; she was seen to stagger from the force of the blow, and before she could recover, another large wave struck her and capsized her. She went down with all hands. “ (7)

From my reading of the books written by Edward J. Bourke, this schooner was lost at Red Head, close to Dunmore.

7     ‘The Sarah Anne’

“This fine schooner, the property of Capt. Curran, was lost on Wednesday in Dungarvan bay. She was laden with coals, and bound from Cardiff for Waterford. She was blown past our harbour and lost near Ballynacourty on 22nd inst. Her master, John McCarthy, her mate, Thomas Connery, and also Thos. Dowse, seaman, and Maurice Connery, boy, were natives of this city.” (8)

8       ‘Loss of an Austrian Ship, and all hands.’

“A fine vessel supposed to have been an Austrian, which was seen from Dunmore on Friday, inside Hook Tower, was struck by an awful surge, and went down, and not a soul has been saved.”  (9)

9       ‘The Sophia’

 “The vessel, belonging to Mr. Bellord, of this city, laden with coals, from Cardiff, was while running into this harbour, struck by a sea, near Creden Head, with such violence that her wheel was broken and she became almost unmanageable. The captain (Barry) succeeded in getting her inside Creden Head, and beached her in comparatively still water. The crew was brought off by the pilot cutter Gannet.” (10)

10     ‘The Angelica’

During the gale on Monday, the Angelica, of Genoa, Domina master, from New York, with grain, which had called into Queenstown for orders and taken a Cork pilot on board was, while on her voyage to Newcastle, driven into our harbour. (The wind blowing strong from the south west.) She was unable to bear up for Passage, and struck on Creden Bay bank, close to the Sophia. The Duncannon and City of Paris steamers tried yesterday evening to tow her off, but failed in their attempt, though the vessel was lightened by throwing some of the wheat overboard. The crew are all safe.”  (11)

The inclusion of the Angelica, brings the list of vessels lost to ten, which is what the main headline in the Waterford Mail stated.  Disaster, was not confined to the County Waterford coastline. Other parts of the country were also witness to tragic losses and Waterford ships were casualties of the severe weather elsewhere. Further reading of newspapers of the time record that the stern portion of the Martha of Wexford was washed ashore near Waterford with no news of her crew.

The Waterford Mail also reported on January 27th as follows:

 “It is our melancholy duty to report the total loss of this fine schooner on the south-west coast. Her master (Thomas) and three of her crew have also been lost. The Prudence (148 tons register) was built of oak at Bedford, and owned by Messrs. White Brothers of this city. She was laden with oats and bound from Limerick to London. We are sorry to hear that was uninsured.”

The paper also reported that the S.S. Diana of Waterford from London for Rotterdam was reported on shore at Brielle. (South Holland.) Amongst all the sad and poignant reports of vessels and crews being lost, it was pleasing to see recorded that the steamer Vesta arrived safely to Waterford:

SAFE ARRIVAL OF THE VESTA

“The arrival of the Vesta steamer from Liverpool created quite a sensation in this city on Saturday. She had sailed on Wednesday, and faced both terrific storms of Wednesday night and Friday morning. She had a terrific conflict with the elements; but owing to the good seamanship of Captain Coffey and the crew, she made her voyage with less loss than might have been anticipated. During her passage the storm was so great that the man at the helm was lashed to the wheel to prevent him being washed over-board and the mate was with him to steer the vessel………..” (12) 

Both S.S. Diana and S.S. Vesta were part of the large fleet of ships owned by the Malcomson family.  Both vessels had been built in Govan, Glasgow and not in their own Neptune iron shipyard in Waterford.  

Well thats 2019 off to a great guest blogging start! I am indebted to David Carroll for this excellent report, giving as it does not just an historical record but a clear sense of the danger and difficulties posed to 19th Century sailors. It brings the value of the modern meteorological service into sharp focus. Perhaps those who would like to criticise forecasters for weather warnings and trying to keep people safe should dwell a moment or two on events such as these and how fortunate we now are

If you would like to submit a guest blog I would be delighted to receive it. Its an opportunity for anyone to contribute to telling the story of the area on the last Friday of the month. It needs to be something in relation to the maritime history of the three sister rivers, harbour or our coastline, about 1200 words, word doc format and submitted to tidesntales@gmail.com

In next months guest blog Roy Dooney brings us the story of the building of Dunmore Harbour. And its a beauty.

If you want further information/a different perspective on the events of the day, I published a story previously sourced from the News & Star

References:

(1)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(2)          Dublin Evening Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(3)          Derbyshire Courier, February 1, 1862

(4)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(5)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(6)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(7)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(8)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(9)          Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(10)       Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

(11)       Waterford Mirror and Tramore Visiter, January 30, 1862

(12)       Waterford Mail, Monday January 27, 1862

See also ‘Shipwreck of the Irish Coast’ Vol. 3 by Edward J. Bourke

*According to John Power “A maritime history of Co Wexford” Vol I, (2011) p 66 what saved the Coningbeg lightship (Seagull) was the hard work of her master and crew, who deployed a standby anchor which fortunately held. A news report I read ststed she was back on her station by the Sunday.