Johnny’s Lane, Crooke, Co Waterford

Breda Murphy.

Due to Covid 19 I’ve had a couple of new experiences recently, firstly I haven’t used an alarm clock since the middle of March! I thought I would have to wait until I retired to enjoy that treat, but not so, due to working from home.  Secondly, for the first time ever I began to realise that I live a privileged life, appreciating, that few things really matter in life, one being where you live when confined to staying within two kilometres of your home, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere better.  I live in the house where I was born, in Crooke, directly opposite Duncannon Church on the Wexford side.  My daily 40-50 minute walk takes me past Geneva Barrack to the Barrack Strand, down the lane at Newtown and back towards Passage up onto the road again by Johnny’s Lane, between Burke’s shop and Crooke Chapel.  While the Lane has had more footfall in recent months due to the lockdown, it is still rare to meet anyone especially in the early mornings apart from a few locals, who like myself, walk it daily. 

Johnny Hearn, Crooke, Passage East. Breda Murphy collection

I know it as Johnny’s Lane, called after an old man who lived where Burke’s shop is now, called Johnny Hearn.  I have only the vaguest memory of Johnny and am not even sure if it is my memory or someone else’s but I remembered my mother showing me a photo of my cousin Dermot Heffernan with Johnny as she told me where the lane got its name.  With time on my hands, I recently sorted through my mother’s photos and memories.  I was delighted to come across this photo of Johnny and Dermot taken at the top of the lane, both deceased now RIP.  The Lane may have a new name now, as lanes are often called after those who live there, but to me it will always be Johnny’s Lane.     

  

Looking up towards Crooke, the Church on the right

The Lane has an abundance of wild life, with several ancient crab apple trees, ready for making Jelly in the autumn, elders with flowers in the spring and berries in the autumn both good for making wine, meadowsweet with its pungent smell on a damp summer morning, sloes still green but ready soon for Christmas sloe gin, the nettles and docks grow in abundant companionship, one ready to undo the deeds of the other.  A large branch from one of the crab apple trees fell last winter and the path has had to re-route around it while the broken branch is still growing apples. Left there, it provides cover for birds, wild animals, insects and plants.  Us humans giving way to the natural world for a change.    Without human upkeep the lane grows in abundance and reproduces and self-fertilises as it has done for ever.  Its deadwood is providing cover for years before rotting back into the ground.   In the spring the top of the lane is full of wild garlic releasing its strong smell underfoot on a crisp morning.

Nearing the shoreline

The Lane holds an untold history and many secrets. It has been the site of children’s camps and games and other devilment and still is no doubt.  The strand still holds the memory of the cockle women, my grandmother Ellie Murphy and Aunt Molly among them, who picked on a low tide, bent over, heads low, among the rocks on the strand below. They carried and carted sacks of cockle and winkles up this lane. Its stone ditches at either side, still visible in parts, are wide enough for an ass and cart for those lucky enough to have one.  Paddy Ryan recently told me that his mother Statia, daughter of cockle women Janey Organ, as a young girl helping her mother collapsed walking up the lane under the weight of the bag of cockles that she was carrying, damaging her hip.  She spent nine months in bed but her hip never healed and was unable to pick cockles again.  The injury impacted on her for the rest of her life.  Statia was a kind and lovely woman and a regular visitor to our house when I was a child.  I remember her playing ‘this little piggy’ with my toes, I was probably around the age of two.   

The magic of the scene when the tide is in

Some mornings as I head up the lane from the strand, I stop and look back and on a full tide with the sun rising and dancing on the water I feel thankful to the cockle women and others who lived in Crooke and Passage before us who saved this lane for us by walking it.  And though we can travel more freely again I continue to feel privileged to live in such a stunning place with this wonderful river that has provided for many of us who live here, in more ways than one.    

Submitted by Breda for Heritage Week 2020

Memories of Passage East in the 1940s

Author: Fintan Walsh

Passage East in the era described

On the banks of the Suir that flows out to the sea
Lies a quaint little village that’s like heaven to me
Steeped in our history and also Ireland’s folklore
It is called Passage East and it’s a place I adore

In these few verses that follow a little story I’ll tell
Of the people and places I can remember so well
The great days we all had yet little money to spare
Everyone in the same boat yet all happy to share

The streets and the lane ways are a joy to behold
Beresford Row, White Wall,the Men’s Walk so old
Barrack Street ,Parade Street, Post Office Square
Dobbyn Street,The Brookside, they’re all still there

From the Gap of the Wall down to the Blynd Quay
Passing all the streets there’s loads you can see
A loose rock on one hill looking down from above
An old Church on the other the landmarks we love.

Passing by the Park, the Fish House, there no more
The memories flow back of these great days of yore
Arthur Miller he came there with the jobs to provide
Kippers from this old Fish House famed worldwide

Passage East Community hall – the old Fish House

Just behind was the Watch House for pilots to meet
To keep a check on the ships that they were to greet
Card games were played which at times raised hell
They played Thirty’s and Rummy and Pontoon quite well

Patsy Barron around that time was the lone ferryman
For pedestrians and cyclists a small ferryboat he ran
White flags on the quayside in Passage and Ballyhack
Were hoisted high by his clients to come over or back

The cockle women sisters with their donkey and cart
Nan Na, Maggie and Masher these were women apart
To the back strand in Tramore for cockles they went
Selling them inside in the city each Friday they spent

Nan Na, Mrs Robinson on the New Line out of Passage East

Four Gardai in the Barracks with Sgt Eustace the Gaff
Martin Darcy, Paddy Quigley, Tom London were his staff
Four pubs were in the village Lily White’s near the Pier
Kennedy’s, Brennan’s and Miller’s all sold plenty of beer

All the shopkeepers we recall as we roll back the stone
Mrs Carey, Mrs Angie Rogers, Cathy Colfer on her own
Mary Kate Connors, Mollie Cahill, Maggie Carey, Julie Ann
Willie Murray’s coal yard, Donnelly’s the Post Office ran

The Baldwin’s had the garage and a hackney car also
Rich Flynn owned the bus and he lived up in Knockroe
Jimmy Hanrahan was his driver a man never in a rush
Much better known by the nickname of “Jimmy the Bus”

Around Ireland the Emergency was in place at this time
We had the second World War now well in to its prime
Lots of men from the village then joined up the reserve
The LDF, The Maritime Inscription their country to serve

To the old School up in Crooke we all went to school
Frank and Clare Ahearne and Mary Kennedy did rule
They taught us our lessons never spared us the cane
Some loved these schooldays, they put others insane

Crooke Church on Sunday’s serving mass we would go
All the masses were in Latin which we all had to know
Many farmers would come there in their pony and trap
Some more walked miles with their cares to unwrap

A great part of our history the herd of goats on the Hill
For generations we’ve had them and hope always will
Fishermen loved them, weather change they could tell
As they moved into the valley from the front of the hill

Those great days of our youth we remember with pride
The many games that we played down by the seaside
All the fish that we caught with hooks, sinker and line
From the Quays,the Breakwater the memories entwine

Near every street corner we all played pitch and toss
Sometimes it twould be a win more times ’twas a loss
We all went hunting for rabbits with ferrets and dogs
In stubble’s,knocks and meadows,and very wet bogs

We played hurling on the streets and up against walls
The hurley’s we made,we hurled with old raggy balls
On the very top of the hill stood the old Bowling Green
Lots of matches were played many times with a scene

On fine summers days we loved to swim on the strand
For those who were learning we would all give a hand
There were very strict rules applied to both sexes then
The lady’s rock for women,the boy’s rock for the men

When the frost came in the winter we’d all have a ball
Sprinkling water on the streets how we can still recall
We skated and fell then someone would send a report
Then a lady with hot ashes would become a spoilsport

We caught finches and linnets with nets and birdlime
Every house around the village had a bird at the time
We worked with the farmers, picking spuds, saving hay
Thinning turnips, mangolds and also on Threshing Day

For the fishermen of the village we also did many a job
In the salmon and herrings season’s all got a few bob
The blackberries we picked and sold them by the stone
Many orchards we would rob in little groups or all alone

Travelling shows every summer always gave us a call
The shows they presented inside Tom Murphy’s Hall
Amusements by Hudson’s, swinging boats the big draw
An odd circus and pictures were other things we saw

So these are just a few memories of my days long ago
Growing up in Passage,there are many more I know
Some time in the future I’ll get out the paper and pen
With more memories to share of Passage East again

Submitted by Fintan Walsh as part of our Three Sisters Placenames project for Heritage Week 2020

Rowdyism at the Races -Regattas of 1893

The local regattas of Waterford, New Ross and the harbour have a long tradition, and the season of events in 1893 was as widely attended and as fiercely competed as any other years.  To the victors went the spoils and the bragging rights, to the losers disapointment and a determination to do better at the next event. But tempers sometimes flared, plans went awry and drink added fuel to already tense situations. But it was in the racing competitions that the real drama took place and 1893 would prove to be a lively racing season as any other.

A recent email from Florida of a silver vase/cup which was presented at the Passage East Regatta of 1893 led me on a fascinating trawl for further information.   The mention of regattas evoke a bright and energetic scene in my mind. Reared on stories of the older ones I can picture a flag boat, brightly bedecked from where the races were co-ordinated. The “quality” on their yachts and finer boats, the fishermen in their working craft, looking as clean and well turned out as any other, and their pride in their craft no less than the weathiest owners present. On land a variety of activities well attended by hundreds drawn by boat and foot from many miles. But it was on the water where the drama would be, fiercely contested races, disputes between crews, and bragging rights to the winners which brough huge pride to the boat, the crew and the winning village. As a child these exploits were often relived to me, the boats celebrated and the disputes grew legs in the telling, or so I thought. So although I could very well imagine the story around the photo of the cup I was keen nonetheless to try put weight to my theories.  And so a search of the newspaper archives[i] brought the 1893 season alive to me.  I will start it in chronological order of the events that I managed to discover.

A sense of a regatta scene at Helvic, Co Waterford

At the AGM of the Waterford Boat Club in March some concerns were expressed at the lack of members given that the new club house in Ferrybank – that left the club with a debt of £64.  The membership subscription was considered low, but as it was seen as a recreational pursuit at the time, the chairman was hoping that more numbers would come forward to facilitate a regatta later in the summer[ii]. A follow up meeting saw a committee appointed comprising of organisers, race starters, umpires and judges[iii].  However, in a later report it was “… decided, owing to the non-training of the crews to abandon the annual regatta… This announcement will, we feel sure, be met with regret, as this annual event was one of the most prominent aquatic fixtures in Ireland”[iv]  Possibly an overstatement, but not perhaps, to the readers of the Waterford Chronical.

New Ross had no such issues.  In fact the training was so hot and heavy in the boat club, people were putting their lives in jeopardy.  From one report we learn of three separate incidents in the one week.  Firstly a boat was wrecked when an over enthusiastic oarsman hopped aboard and went through the hull.  The crew were none the worse for the wetting, but the boat necessitated a visit from the builder (Mr Rough) in Oxford, England who made the necessary repairs.  Meanwhile another single rower smacked into a river boat at anchor.  “…The stem of the skiff was considerably damaged, and she filled with water, the trainer having to swim ashore, dragging, as well as he could, the boat after him.”  Finally a very capable oarsman had rowed as far as Annagh Castle but on returing up to Ross his Skiff was upset and sunk.  Swimming to shore he righted and emptied his craft returning to New Ross none the worst for his adventure except for his wet attire.[v]

Ida with a crowd of revellers aboard. With thanks to Andy Kelly

I’ve found a few dates mentioned for the New Ross regatta of that year, and it seems likely the event was rescheduled, but apparently it was run off on Monday June 26th.  Ironically the same date as had earlier been proposed in Waterford.  A report in the Waterford Chronical painted a wonderful picture of a Waterford city crowd arriving by the paddle steamer Vandeluer for a day of revelry and promenading, remarking on the passengers enjoying the views along the “majestic windings of the noble stream” but following arrival at the town of New Ross, the weather takes a turn for the worse, leading the writer to evoke Shakespeare “Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, And make me travel forth without my cloak, To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way, Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?[vi]

The races are run however including an open Cot race, Carvel built Yawl race for boats fishing inside the Tower of Hook, and a sculling Punt race. The race of the day was apparently the New Ross Boat Club Challenge Cup which was staged between the locals and Dublin University Boat Club, victory by a long margin to the locals was triumphantly recorded.  Two other races were recorded; large Gig race and a skiff race.  Numbers of competitors in the report were very small however, and I didn’t notice any boats from the lower harbour – perhaps their knowledge of the weather kept them away.[vii]

There was another side to the popular event however and for many weeks after, the courts dealt with several serious cases of public order.  In one, Joseph Halligan of Ringville (situated downriver on the Kilkenny side) was brought before the Petty Sessions after he wielded a bottle at a brawl during the regatta.  Halligan had arrive in Ross with his neighbours and friends to race in the regatta when some prime boys from the town, described as sailors and porters, had taken the oars to their boats and had refused to hand them back.  Tempers flared and on one of his colleagues being knocked senseless to the ground Halligan went on the attack and broke not one but two bottles off his tormentors.  Constable Kepple had made enquires and found that the defendant had been much provoked and on his evidence the bench decided to fine the defendant 1s with costs.  His willingness to cooperate and the evidence of Constable Kepple were cited as the reasons for the leniency shown.[viii]

Another report under the headline of “Drunkenness and Rowdyism” dealt with several cases of assault while another weeks court report was headlined “The Faction Fight Near New Ross”, and detailed a dispute between rival fishing crews of cot men from Kilbrehon and the neighbouring district arising out of the regatta races.[ix]

Tramore regatta with a wide variety of sailing boats and other craft participating.

The next meet of the summer was on Tuesday 12th September at Tramore.  A report of the day described it “so far as the spectators were concerned… a thorough success” However in racing terms it proved a disappointment at least for sailing purposes.  The course for all sailing races was “…from the flag boat at Cove, round  flag boat at Strand, round flag boat under Brownstown Head, round flag boat a mile south of Mettleman, and home”  There were ten races scheduled including for: Second Class Fishing Yawls, Half-decked Pleasure Boats, Lobster pot boats (oars and sail allowed), Passage and Ballyhack Fishing Yawls, Sailing Punts, First Class Yawls, Pair oared Punts, Swimming race, Coastguard Boats, Four Oared Yawls and a Duck Hunt.  The following account was given of the Coastguard race which although understated I could well imagine was a matter of some pride, not to say hostility between these particular crews: “This proved an excellent race, and we should like see another contest between the same crews. The Blue Jackets strained every nerve in their rivalry, and if the Tramore crew was beaten it was little more than short head. Order finish was—Bonmahon 1st, Tramore 2nd,  Ballymacaw 3rd and Dunmore 4th[x]

Cheekpoint was held two days later, on Thursday 14th September.  The scene was described as “an annual fixture, [which]…took place… under very favourable conditions, and was an unqualified success.  A hazy morning was succeeded by a beautiful autumn day, and the lovely expanse of water which forms the confluence of the Suir and Barrow never looked to greater advantage, gaily-decked fleet of pleasure craft and fishing boats giving an unwonted air of animation to the scene” [xi]

Pat Powers steam yacht Jennie, off the Rookery quay, pre 1903 as Barrow Railway bridge commenced late 1902

Giving a sense of the popularity, the river had many boats on show, where the wealthier or more privileged spectators took advantage of some of the best viewing opportunities, whilst being royally entertained. As befitted the local landlord, Pat Power of Faithlegg House, took centre stage with his steam yacht Jennie[xii] – crewed by local men including members of the Heffernan and Barry families.  The Jennie was “dressed with bunting from deck to trucks, and numerous and fashionable party were entertained on board by her popular owner.”  Amongst other yachts present as spectators on the day were Mr J N White’s Neerid,  Mr Murphy’s Pixie,  Mr Gallwey’s Thyra, Mr J R Colfer’s Dunmore, Messrs Graves and McConkeys  Irex, and many others that were unidentified.[xiii]

But it wasn’t just an event for the well to do.  The article mentions that  “The country folk [of which I would surely be included had I been there] assembled in great numbers along Cheekpoint Strand to watch the various contests, and we are glad to be able record that, although many of the rowing events elicited great enthusiasm and excitement, the day passed off without the least rowdyism or unpleasantness”[xiv]  Perhaps proving the point, I found no mention of the event in court reports afterwards.  Honest, I did look! That said, it was often while fishing or while visiting another village thereafter that sport could kick off. My father often recalled punch ups between competing crews due to a regatta race, where infringements, real or imagined, resurfaced and regularly led to trouble.

“There were numerous other events, including sailing and rowing races for fishing yawls, ships’ gig race, pair-oared and sculling punts, farmers’ race, pram [Prong] race, duck hunt, etc., all of which were well contested.”  But according to the report the principal event of the day was the race for pleasure boats, which resolved itself into duel between Mr R Kelly’s Oceola and Mr J Barry ‘s Ballinagoul, and Mr Allinghams Otis.  A vivid description of this 12 mile race that involved sailing below Duncannon and finishing with two laps around Cheekpoint to finish.  It turned into a two horse race after the Otis lost her topsail, after trading places on several occasions a thrilling finish saw the Oceola beat Ballinagoul into second place by six feet.[xv]

A colourised image of Dunmore East. Following interaction with Eoin Robson who facilitated further assistance with Alison Cable, Boat Register editor of the Old Gaffers Association we speculated on the possibility of the three boats shown as having participated in the Cheekpoint regatta described above. However, this was prior to the other information I have on Passage East. I share it in case it might prompt a memory or extra information (and it may also be spot on). None of the 3 [boats mentioned in the Cheekpoint regatta above] are in the 1895/6 [Lloyds yacht] register, but Oceola, belonging to Mr R A Kelly appears in 1897-90. She drops of the register in 1901. She is listed as a cutter, with sails by Grant. Displacement 5 tons Thames measure. 25′ on the waterline. Designed by E.Murphy and built by E Power in Waterford in 1892. Her home port is listed as Waterford, which certainly goes with racing at Dunmore East.

“Otis, owned by J Allingham also appear in the 1897 register, but her details are very scanty, merely listing her as a cutter of 5 tons Thames measure. Her home port is London. It is possible that the two cutters in this photo are Oceola and Otis, with the yawl being Ballinagoul. I have found no boat of this name in the register, although a J.Barry is listed as a yacht builder in Cork active in 1876 when he built Mystery”

More on Otis. “Her entry was very odd, since her details are so scanty and she also had no obvious connection with the Waterford Harbour area. However I found a boat listed in the 1903, 1910, 1915 registers called Kate, ex Otis. She is a cutter, with sails by Grant, 6 tons TM, 25′ on the waterline, and built by Hicks of Waterford in 1888. Her owner is listed as Patrick Bolger of New Ross. Patrick Bolger owned another very similar yacht called Kate in 1897, this one built by Fitzpatrick of Waterford. It is likely that Patrick Bolger bought Otis from Mr Allingham, and renamed her. There seems to have been a flourishing yacht building culture is Waterford! ” With thanks to Eoin and Alison for their thoughts and expertise.
On a related note – David Carroll has pointed out that the colour image used actually dates to 1925 or after. This still does not take from Alisons information however, these boats were built to last.

The email query that started this quest for details of the Passage regatta was the last to be run of the 1893 season.  Passage East was blighted by glorious sunshine and still breezes, which favoured those viewing and some of the rowing races but made a misery of the sailing.  For the purposes of trying to identify the cup I thought it best to concentrate on the sailing races, of which there were four but only two given any great detail.  “There were numerous entries for all the sailing races, of which two were for pleasure boats and two for yawls ; but these events were greatly marred by the want of wind. The chief race, for first class pleasure boats, brought the following to starting line —Mr Colfer’s Dunmore Allingham’s Otis,  Mr Kelly’s Oceola,  Mr O’Neill’s Naiad, Mr Barry’s Ballinagoul,” and Mr Power’s Mary Joseph.  The course was from Passage Pier. A good start was made at 12.15, and with a light W.N.W. breeze, the run was quickly made; here the wind veered W.S.W., and Mary Joseph and Ballinagoul, in this order drew away from the others; however, the breeze soon got back about W, which just enabled boats lay their course on the return journey to Passage. The second round was very tedious, and running for Dunmore the boats were at times barely aide to stem the strong flood tide. Mary Joseph caught a puff off Glenwater, which enabled her to creep ahead of Oceola, and managed to increase her lead on the reach home. The finish was Mary Joseph first by about three minutes, Ocoola second, the rest a long way behind. In second pleasure boat race Mr H W Goffs Waterway won easily from Mr Paul’s Alarm and Mr Meade’s Seabird.  The rowing were all well contested and in the afternoon donkey races, Greasy Pole and other sports, gave unbounded amusements to the large crowd on shore.”[xvi]

Passage East Regatta cup image courtesy of Paul Fitzgerald. The cup/ vase reads: PASSAGE EAST REGATTA, September 20th 1893, Won by (at this stage there is a distict gap with some soldering marks suggesting a badge or plaque had been in place -my theory s that it was for the winning craft and/or crew)
MIST (an abbreviation for Mr?), H.W.D. Goff

Unfortunately I could find no extra detail of the Passage events. I thought that through them I might get a better insight into the details on the cup and a lead on who may have won it, or the connection of Hubert Goff to the event.  Goff was the son of Sir William Davis Goff the business man and keen sportsman who had a passion for sailing. However Hubert was only a young man at the time, so would he have had the cash or the interest in providing a prize for a sailing meet? My theory is that he did. We do know from the report that his craft the Waterway won the second pleasure boat race. But is this the cup he won. Personally I don’t think so. I’m basing this on a theory that the hallmarked cup/vase which stands 4.5 inches high was engraved before the event and that a later plaque was added with the winning boat and crew.   It’s the only theory that I can imagine that fits with the writing that is there.  Afterall, why would the cup maker go to the bother and expense of adding another piece to the cup if it was all engraved after the event with the winner?  I’m open to correction or any other theories. Following through on this theory it is possible that the winner of this cup was the Mary Joseph, owned by Mr Power. Mere speculation here, as I have no further evidence, but Pat Power of Faithlegg had on son named Hubert who had also a passion for sailing and owned a number of sailing vessels. The only yacht I have a name for however is Star of the Sea, which was a boat he had built himself, apparently in the Rookery, Cheekpoint, which he sailed up until ill health prevented him.

Finally, the Passage regatta also led to court.  In this case two young lads named Connolly and O’Gorman appeared in court at the Callaghane Petty Sessions on charges of having robbed a boat while attending the Passage East Regatta and used it to head back upriver to Waterford.  However while enroute, they were rundown by the New Ross Steamer (The Ida at this time) and narrowly avoided drowning.  Their solicitor could do little but appeal to the mercy of the court.  Judgement was withheld but with a caution that compensation be made to the boat owner, Mr Arthur O’Neill of Glenbower.[xvii]

Despite hours of searching I found no mention of a regatta that year at Dunmore, Ballyhack or Duncannon.  The season was brought to a conclusion with Passage East, and no doubt the long winter would bring retelling of the events, replays of the winning strategies and planning for revenge for those who narrowly lost out.  It would all be replayed in 1894 and the competitions would be as fierce as ever.   But that of course is a whole different story.

If you have any other information, images or memorabilia on the events of 1893 or any regattas in the area I would love to hear them in the comments or to tidesntales@gmail.com  

If you would like a sense of the rowing races I previously wrote a story on the Cheekpoint regatta of 1909.

I have many people to thank for assistance with this piece. Paul Fitzgeral who prompted the search, John Diamond and Myles Courtney from New Ross, Joe Falvey from Waterford, Paul O’Farrell and Eoin Robson and Alison Cable. Each in their own way gave extra insight or their valuable time to help with details. I think the photos help to bring the story alive and I am indebted to Waterford County Museum and thier online catalouge of photograph used throughout the story. The responsibility for what is contained is my own.

My new book is scheduled to be published in September 2020.
Its available for pre-order at https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/waterford-harbour/9780750993685/

Passagemens daring rescue

On a dark November night in storm force winds and driving rain an Arklow schooner scurried up Waterford harbour in search of shelter.  Within sight of the Spit Light below Passage East the ship healed over stuck fast in the sand and her crew took to the rigging to flash lights in the hope of salvation.  Luckily for them, their signals were answered and four men departed Passage East in a fishing yawl.  But the odds were against them and nothing but expertise and luck would ensure a positive outcome.

Passage East, Co Waterford
Passage East, Co Waterford via Tommy Deegan Waterford History Group

The Arklow schooner France Jane was built in 1858 in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Her Arklow owners were Anne and Thomas J.Troy and she weighed 87 tonnes.[i]  She was on a run with corn from Belfast to Courtmacsherry under Captain Furlong.

Like many schooners at the time, the Frances Jane would take any opportunities for cargo that were available, competing as they were with the more dependable and regular steam ships.  Bulk cargos were a staple freight, or bagged or barrelled produce, anything that didn’t have a crucial delivery date. trips to smaller ports and out of the way locations were also a means of making freight. Earlier in the summer she had been tied up in Arklow with a cargo of coal which was advertised at knockdown prices in an attempt to clear her hold.[ii] In another sailing in September coal was again her cargo into her home port.

The run to Courtmacsherry was cut short by a strengthening gale of south east wind, by far the worst to meet off the Hook, and in an effort to make shelter the schooner made her way into the harbour.  As the rain came down and the winds strengthened she beat her way further in, until she ran aground on the Drumroe Bank.

1787 map of the harbour entitled “An actual survey of the harbour and river of Waterfor and of the bay of Tramore” by Robert Sayer (1724?-1794). Accessed from Bibliothèque nationale de France (Public Domain)
To access a higher resolution go to https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53011020p/f1.item.r=tramore
A close up of Sayer’s chart showing the Drumroe Bank, outside of Passage Strand. Note the spit light has yet to be built and a light perch marks the bank instead.

Once stuck fast on the hard sands, her fate was sealed. With no other options, the crew took to the rigging to escape the surging seas breaking over her side and shone lamps in the hopes of a rescue.  Fortunately their lights were seen, and on Passage East quay four fishermen prepared their small open fishing boat to meet the challenge.

James Hearne, the skipper, had three other men with him, James Pepper, Richard Galvin and Michael Sheehy.  All the men are listed in the 1901 census as living in Passage East and all are married with family.  Hearne (age 36, fisherman) is married to Mary, a dressmaker.  They have four children, the two eldest William and Ellen were born in Liverpool.  Pepper (40, fisherman) is married to Statia and they have five children at the time.  Richard Galvin (37, sailor) is married to Ellen, they are living with his mother in law, Catherine Daley.  They have five children and a niece is also living with them.  Patrick Sheehan (40, sailor) is married to Kate, and they have two teenage children. 

Their small yawl was well used to facing the weather of the harbour and their experience would have told them that in the conditions, the closer they got to the stricken vessel the greater the danger they would face.  As they pushed away from the quay they laid out the sweeps (oars) and bent to their task.  Rowing hard against the wind and rain, the men, who had no time to gather oilsikins, were quickly soaked to their skin and the cold must have penetrated their jerseys despite the exertions.  At one stage an oar was lost, on another it snapped in two against the force of the seas.  But on they battled with the two oars and eventually came alongside the Frances Jane.

A similar yawl as described in the piece, taken at Ballyhack, Co Wexford.
NLI, Lawrence Collection. Robert French Photo

Hearne jumped aboard the stricken schooner and helped each of the sailors into the the outstretched hands of his crewmates in the yawl. No details are given of the compelxities of this, but I’m sure they would have come in uder her leeward side (if the tidal conditional allowed) and in the shelter provided make the transfer. Again nothing is made of the men going below to gather any valuables etc, mind you it was probably little enough they would have had. I also have no information on the names of Captain Furlongs crew that night. Eventually a sail was hoisted to bring them home, the sails filling with the now helpful wind, and soon they were at Passage East quay where the sailors and the fishermen alike were cared for with the attention that only a fishing and sailing village would know instinctively.[iii]

After the storm comes the calm its said, and indeed such was the case in the days that followed.  The schooner was seen wrecked and forlorn, but it was hoped that if the weather  stayed calm she might be got off.  Her cargo of wheat was salvaged and was later advertised for sale.   “Mr. Patrick Bolger, auctioneer, New Ross, announces a very important sale of 260 barrels of fine Australian wheat, the salvaged cargo of the schooner Frances Jane, which recently came to grief in the harbour”[iv]

The schooner was not so fortunate however, as the weather worsened and she became a total loss. I don’t know the ultimate fate of the crew thereafter, but I’m sure after a good nights sleep, they were probably looking for a new berth to make their living from and would have shipped out at the earliest opportunity. 

The rescue was widely reported and the skill and bravery displayed that night was eventually recognised.  On Friday 30th January 1903 at the Waterford City Petty Sessions a publich ceremony was conducted at which the four men were recognised by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute . Mr Wardell, secretary of the Tramore Lifeboat Committee, and Mr Edward Jacob, Lloyd’s agent in Waterford, introduced the men and their feat before asking that the magistrates present them with the certificates.  Jacob explained that it was “…only common justice to the men that the attention of the Institution should have been called to their heroic action. The Institution considered the deed they had done was an act of the greatest bravery, and when the great risk that the men had run of losing their own lives was pointed out to them they could scarcely credit it. They even wrote for further particulars, and when finally satisfied they very handsomely rewarded men an act of downright actual courage and bravery, and would long be remembered”

All four received a velum certificate from the RNLI and £2 each.  James Hearne and Richard Galvin were there to receive the award in person.  Kate Sheehan and Statia Pepper attended instead of their husbands. The article gives no explanation for this, but most likely they were both at sea?)[v] Hearne received an extra acknowledgement for the damage caused to his vessel of 55 shillings. (the damage included the sweeps, gunwales and sails)

An advert from the front page of the New Ross Standard – Friday 05 December 1902. Accessed from British Newspapers Archive.

The wreck was an annoyance to fishermen and boatmen, but not to the normal traffic of the ports.  An article in the Passage notes of February 1903 rails against this injustice rightly pointing out that the wreck is an impediment to salmon fishermen and a risk to local boatmen, making a specific reference by description to the hobbler trade, though not be name.  The author articulates the view that because the wreck does not impinge on “…the grand electric lit steamers…” or the “…gondoliers…of the wealthy…” that it has been ignored by the Harbour Commissioners.[ii] But I’m sure that after a few weeks the fishermen and sailors adapted, it is afterall in their nature. Marks would have been taken and soon by day or night the position was identifiable by sighting hills, trees, spires and other buildings along both shores of the harbour. Indeed the children of Passage helped too, as there was one account I came across that mentions them hacking and sawing away on the wrecks timbers.

It was not until the summer of 1951 that the wreck was finally removed warranting a few lines in the Munster Express:  “The Remains of the wreck of the Frances Jane, mentioned in this column last week, was removed from the Spit Bank by orders of the Harbour Commissioners during the week…”[iii] Sad to think the names of the men involved didn’t get a mention, especially when you consider their bravery that night in the rescue of the crew of the Frances Jane.  At that stage all those men would have been dead of course and would be recalled only by family and by the village elders who rarley let such memories die. A brave deed worthy of remembering.

There is several gaps in the story which I tried over the last month to piece together. I have some extra information on Captain Thomas Troy of Arklow which I could not include due to time. Unfortunately I have no further details on the Passage East men named, or the velum scrolls they recieved. I also can find no specific information on the crew of the Frances Jane or an image of the vessel. If anyone would like to offer any further information you could comment on the blog or correspond via tidesntales@gmail.com


I’m indebted to Brian at www.arklowmaritimeheritage.ie for the information I have inculded on the schooner Frances Jane. Thanks also to Fintan Walsh who had first shared an account of the men and which got me interested in the story.

Im delighted to say that I’m appearing in the Theatre Royal tomorrow morning to do a reading of a story I wrote called Steamboat. Its for a live recording of the Sunday Miscellany show which will be broadcast on RTE Radio 1 later this year. For more information or to book you can check out the following link
https://www.theatreroyal.ie/events/sunday-miscellany

The unchristianlike crew

Following the death of their captain, the men of the barquentine Herbina were described as an “unchristianlike” crew.  The judgement was passed at an inquiry while the ship lay at anchor off Passage East in February 1892. But was it fair, or even accurate?  I will leave that to you to decide.

Over Christmas the brother in law, Bernard Cunningham, asked had I ever noticed the foreign captain’s grave in Crook, and wondered if I knew the reason he was buried there.  Funnily enough I had photographed it previously, as you do!, but had never followed up on the research. 

The grave belonged to Petro Valeiste (Velcich on his grave marker) , sea captain and part owner of the Herbina, a three masted barquentine of the port of Trieste (then part of the Austro- Hungarian empire).  The ship was sailing from Liverpool to Buenos Aires with a cargo of coal.  She departed from Liverpool on Thursday 18th February but ran into a storm on the afternoon of the following day and while the crew struggled to manage the sails, and a hired pilot kept the ship on course, the captain slumped to the deck and died. 

The Herbina was one of 11 ships that entered Waterford harbour following the storm and the Munster Express gave a vivid description of the scene with ships in a sinking state, the pilot boat and pilots run ragged in providing their services and the Dunmore East lifeboat on duty in case of emergency.[1]

When the Herbina was finally safe at anchor the local police barracks at Passage received news (presumably from a pilot) that the captain of the vessel was dead, and Dr Jackman from Dunmore East was summoned and went onboard.  Dr Jackman, however was not prepared for the strange sight that greeted him. For the captain lay where he fell and not a crew man would come near the body, and he had to place a shroud over the body and lift it into a coffin without a hand being lifted to help by the crew.  As the body was lowered down into a waiting hobbler craft, again the crew would not help.  News of the crew’s behaviour must have quickly spread.

Mercator
Barquentine Mercator by Yasmina. Accessed from Wikipedia (public domain)

A follow up inquest was held in Passage East on Tuesday 23rd February.  It was overseen by Mr E Power, Coroner, and the following made up the sworn jury; Capt Kelly (foreman),P  Hanlon, J Kennedy, W Power, J Kavanagh, M Hanlon, Thomas Ryan, J Donnelly, James Rogers, P Cashin, M Kavanagh & John Barrett.

The first evidence was supplied by the Channel Pilot* Philip Barrio who explained that on Tuesday 16th February he was engaged by the dead captain to assist in the navigation down the Irish Sea.  However as the weather was stormy, they delayed departure until Thursday 18th.  By the late Friday afternoon of the next day the weather again turned against them.  The captain consulted with the pilot on his decision to take a reef in the top sail, but to this the pilot objected suggesting he needed to reduce his sail considerably more.  Two men were already aloft and the captain decided to order all his remaining crew aloft.  Even as they climbed the rigging some of the sail was torn away by the wind.

As the crew worked diligently aloft, the pilot took the wheel.  However at some point he noticed the captain grab his chest and stagger away towards his cabin.   He explained that he was too occupied to take much notice of the man, but at one point noticed him slumped and thought he may be asleep.  On being challenged by his apparent lack of concern for the captain, the pilot explained that he had seemed to be in the best of health and it had not occurred to him that he was unwell.  He was also much absorbed in ensuring the safety of the ship and her crew, as the weather was so bad.

An obviously perplexed jury put question after question to the pilot.  Had the captain been in dispute with the crew?  Were angry words spoke?  Had he been ill?  Had he drink taken?  To all the pilot stated in the negative. A doubtful jurist also expressed surprise that the pilot was given the wheel. Rogers went so far as to say he was not satisfied with what he was hearing, but was overruled by the coroner.

First mate Gorgurevich Natals was then called to give evidence and he explained how on fulfilling his earlier instructions he descended to the deck to get further orders.  He came aft and noticed the captain slumped over.  He perceived that he was not breathing but felt warmth over his heart and called to the cook to bring some alcohol.  This was rubbed into the chest of the dead man, but did not revive him.  The jury, through questions ascertained that it was his first trip under the captain, that he was too preoccupied in the rigging to have seen what was happening on the deck and that he had heard the captain say he had been unwell prior to his joining the ship but he was in the best of health since the mate had signed on.

It was Dr Jackmans evidence of the behaviours of the crew towards their skipper which elicited the most surprise at the inquiry, actions, or more accurately lack of actions, which led the coroner to observe “This was certainly very inhuman conduct on the part of the crew” and later “scandalous conduct..l never heard of anything worse…disgraceful in the extreme”.  Mr Kennedy probably captured the mood of the jury when he described the actions as “Most unchristianlike”

Whatever transpired on the Herbina on that fateful voyage many members of the jury remained unconvinced that they were hearing the full truth, but the coroner seemed satisfied and ruled that on the evidence given that the captain had died from natural causes, heart failure.   

Later on in the day the remains were interred in the graveyard in Crook.  No further details are given.  Perhaps his crew went to pay their respects, maybe flowers were laid, maybe nothing at all apart from a priest and the gravediggers.  I have found no other mention of the ship or the crew.  Presumably she sailed once a replacement captain was found.  Given how superstitious sailors could be, we might consider him a brave man indeed to sail with the men labelled as the “unchristianlike” crew.

The majority of details are taken from a report in the Waterford Mirror and Tramore Visitor. – Thursday Feb 25th 1892 Page 3

[1] Munster Express Sat Feb 27th 1892 Page 7

*I had hoped to find a link to describe the work of a channel pilot, but couldn’t find a specific description, if anyone could direct me to same I’d appreciate it.