Fate of the sailing barque Etta

On a wild windy winter night in December 1888, the Belfast Barque Etta, rounded Hook Head in search of shelter, the lifeboat was signaled, but the ship was driven onto the rocks of Creaden Bay before the lifeboat could reach the vessel. Miraculously all but one were rescued from the vessel, thanks, in no small part, to the knowledge and seamanship of the ship’s captain James Arthurs. This is the tale of the Etta, which grounded in a gale on Friday 21st December 1888 sometime between 11 and 12 midnight.

According to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping 1890[i] the Etta was built in Quebec in 1863.  She was registered under the company name of the Etta Ship Company, JS Wright, Belfast and was part owned by her master, Captain James Arthurs.  She arrived in St John NB via Montevideo on November 5th 1888[ii]and after loading timber, sailed for the port of Fleetwood on Nov 29th.[iii]  The ship encountered a succession of gales crossing the Atlantic and as they approached the Irish coast, a decision was made to run for shelter.

David Philip Jones, First mate of the barque Etta, later gave the following first person account of their situation. 

As it transpired, fate played a hand.  It was close to low water and rather than crash into a vertical cliff if the tide was in, the Etta grounded on the somewhat level, if jagged, rocks on the old red sandstone shore. 

Creaden Head and the bay, I can’t with any certainty say where it grounded but I would think somewhere from the ripened field of corn inwards is most likely. Author

The Dunmore East lifeboat had spotted the distress signals and the crew of the Henry Dodd, rowed with all their might to the rescue.  Although they could not get near the wreck in the conditions, they managed to rescue five of the sailors who had set off from the Etta in the ship’s boat, apparently before she struck.  The timing of their leaving or what their crew mates thought is not described. 

Meanwhile, locals ran along the cliffs, fields and roadways to lend what assistance they could.  RIC Sargent Thomas Sutcliff was guided down to the wreck scene by a local labourer named James Redmond.  They managed to get a line aboard the stranded vessel which was grinding and thumping into the jagged shoreline.  Although news reports differ it seems that there were likely 12 remaining crew, Captain James Arthurs and his wife.   

Sutcliff seems to have played a leading role in the proceedings, there is no mention of the Coastguard in the reports, even though they most certainly brought the rocket apparatus and equipment, that would eventually bring the crew and Mrs Arthurs ashore.  Redmond again proved his worth, when he plunged into the surf to assist the captain’s wife who seems to have become overcome in the chair.[v]

Some accounts state that despite the pleas of those ashore, Captain Arthurs refused to leave his vessel, perhaps determining that his ship would survive the merciless pounding on the shore.  Captain Arthurs from Islandmagee, on the east coast of County Antrim, was 2/3rds owner of the vessel and perhaps he gambled that if he stayed with the vessel he would not lose his profits on the trip to any salvage claim.  The news report claimed that the cargo was not insured.  It also stated that he was familiar with Waterford, so perhaps there was an element of calculated risk in where the ship came ashore? Alas, in full view of his rescuers, his crew and his wife, a breaking sea washed him off his feet and over the side never to be seen again.[vi]   

An illustration of the Breeches Buoy in operation sourced from The County Record. [volume 1], October 21, 1897, University of South Carolina

The local police as well as many from the surrounding locality “…rendered valuable assistance in attending to the shipwrecked crew and Mrs Arthurs. They were all subsequently taken charge of by Mr Edward Jacob, local secretary of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society, and forwarded to their homes at the expense of that benevolent institution…”[vii]

The ship, however, survived.  The wind seems to have moderated on the flood tide, and the next morning the Etta was seen hard aground but upright.  Later the local tug Dauntless put a crew aboard which stripped down the masts and rigging and tried to hold the vessel together.[viii]

An effort to sell the wreck fell through, as most bidders felt the ship and cargo were doomed.  Several attempts were made to refloat the vessel, in a desperate scramble to salvage the ship and the cargo before the weather turned again.  Eventually, on Monday 31st December 1888, it was reported locally that the tug Dauntless and the PS Rosa managed to haul the wreck off the shoreline.  I’m presuming that the weather had stayed calm, and with spring tides and some patchwork and bailing, the vessel floated clear. [ix]

The Etta was brought to the relative safety above Creaden Head where she was anchored.  Soon afterwards, the vessel, lying on her beam end, was towed up to Cheekpoint by the Liverpool based tug Pathfinder. [x] It would appear she was grounded at the village, perhaps along the Strand Road.  Some of the cargo was removed and presumably, an assessment of the hull took place.

SS Pembroke February 1899 grounded at Cheekpoint following a similar incident where the vessel was inspected and made ready for towing to Liverpool. AH Poole photo

In early February two tugs were in position at Cheekpoint, but had tried unsuccessfully to get the Etta off the shore.  The owners of the Etta, J S Wright & Co, Corporation St., Belfast had decided that the vessel could be towed back to her home port following some repairs to the hull.[xi]  The floating nature of the cargo may have also played a role – earlier plans to remove the timber cargo and sell it in Waterford had been changed. Perhaps the cargo was employed as an aid to buoyancy?  I am only speculating here of course. 

Eventually, the ship was towed clear and was taken by the steam tug Rescuer out the harbour to bring her home.[xii]  But that wasn’t the final drama because the tug ran into stormy weather in the Irish Sea and later it was reported that the waterlogged Etta was labouring badly in Belfast Lough and the tug was having a difficult time getting to her home port.[xiii]  The Etta was made of strong timbers however, and in March the cargo that had taken so long to reach its destination was finally advertised for sale, although the advert did caution that the timber was a little darker, as the vessel that carried them had been ashore. An understatement for sure, given all that had transpired[xiv].

An image that might give some sense on the towing of the Etta to Liverpool, Steam Tug Rescue, Capt. Robert Lumley Cook, Towing the dismasted Brig. Rapid of Shoreham, into the South Entrance Sunderland Oct. 29th 1880 by artist John Hudson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The only victim of the Etta was her master, Captain James Arthurs.  There were hopes that when the vessel came clear of the rocks at Creaden his corpse might float clear too.  Indeed it was widely reported that his body was retrieved from near the wrecksite that same day.  A follow-up report however confirmed that no body had been retrieved and an appeal was made for people to keep an eye out.  Perhaps as an inducement, it was reported that the “hardy old sailor” had £200 in gold on his person when he was lost over the side.[xv]  I could find no record of his body ever being retrieved, however.

Not the Etta, but the barque Gunvor wrecked on the Cornish coast in 1912 in a very similar circumstance, image sourced from google – Photo: E. A. Bragg, photographer of Illogan.

The only mention I could find of Captain Arthurs in the local papers of Antrim gave the following, scant detail.  “…The members of Islandmagee Masonic Lodge, No. 162, heard with sincere regret of the sad loss at sea of their worthy brother, Captain James Arthurs, who for many years was a faithful and honoured member of their lodge, and at their first meeting since his death desire to express their sympathy with his bereaved widow and sorrowing friends, and pray that the Great Architect of the Universe may comfort and sustain them under their sad bereavement.”[i] 

As is so often the case, the fate of the Etta and her crew gets lost in the mist of time. One aspect of the story however is the role that Captain Arthurs played. He decided to run for shelter, he, it seems, knew Waterford harbour well. Did he also know the lay of the land at Creaden Bay and that he was sailing to the ship’s doom, but that there was a fighting chance of survival? Had he weighed up the odds, and thought there’s a fighting chance given the wind, tide, and the geography of the shoreline in the specific part of the Bay he grounded. It seems to me that he did, but perhaps that is the romantic in me looking for a nice hook to the story. If any reader could add anything to the man’s career which might corroborate or dismiss such a conclusion I would be delighted to have it.

Below is a new initiative to try pinpoint each wreck using google maps which I will update as new blogs are completed and which I hope will cover the entire coast of Waterford in years to come


For a different account and in particular, the award for bravery given to Sargent Sutcliff see David Carroll’s book on the Dunmore East RNLI – Dauntless Courage.


[i] https://archive.org/details/HECROS1890/page/n87/mode/1up   Accessed 22/12/2023

Our Mayday Mile event in photos 2022

We completed our Mayday Mile event – Cheekpoint to Dunmore by Cliff and Shore – in aid of our local RNLI station at Dunmore East on Sunday, May 22nd, 2022.

Although the day dawned overcast and damp by 11 am the cloud was lifting and the walk proceeded in a fresh SW breeze but an increasingly sunny and pleasant day. The aim, of course, was to raise funds for the local lifeboat by the end of the evening we had gone past the €1000 mark which was really something.

Thanks to everyone who supported us on the way to everyone who donated. Big thank you to Carol McGeary for the technical support. To David Carroll for such great research and the Geoff Harris of WLR FM for a welcome interview to promote the walk and the fundraiser. And of course, the team who made the day happen. Remember, the Mayday Mile continues for the rest of the month and many of our teammates at Team Dunmore East RNLI would still appreciate your support. Oh and we will still have one further blog to celebrate the lifeboat this coming Friday.

Myself and Conor Donegan plotting the day ahead. Conor is doing the Mayday Mile as another member of Team Dunmore and his page is here. I’m not sure how Damien felt about his holding the bucket this year, but Conor did a great job – he was certainly not shy about reminding people about donating. Conors mam Carol had brought along the RNLI flag which Robert was to carry for the day. Which was actually harder than it looked given the wind.
The Hurthill, looking downriver – sky continuing to lighten thankfully. Photo courtesy of Conor Donegan
Passage East Co Waterford with Arthurstown Co Wexford in the distance
Damien Mclellan gives us a few thoughts on his theories of Medieval Pilgrimage and the Landing of Henry II. Both of which have featured on the blog previously. How much better this photo would be had he remembered his RNLI teeshirt from last year 🙂
Damien concludes with a blessing of the deconsecrated St Annes Church – only joking obviously
After a welcome pit stop at Burkes shop in Crooke, Breda Murphy takes over as guide and shares some stories of the area including the placename of Johnny’s Lane.
And we are away again, at this point Conor and I started talking history, books, publishing, and projects…I completely forgot to take any photos from here to Woodstown!
And magically we are next at our welcome lunch stop at the Saratoga Bar on the beautiful Woodstown Beach. Deena texted to say that we had made the midday news on WLR FM – just a reminder to keep an eye out for us and drop a few bob in the bucket – very supporting and much appreciated
A nice surprise and a bit of craic with the lads from Dunmore East Coast Guard who wished us well on the final leg. Photo courtesy of Ger Condon. Margaret Barry has just checked in on our progress – making some preparations for our arrival at Dunmore East.
A look back over Fornaght beach or Fórnacht – According to Canon Power from a Completely Bare (Hill).
Finally Dunmore East is in view
Passing Killea or Cill Aodha – Aodh’s Church. The present Holy Cross Catholic church is from the early 19th century and what a view…and thankfully downhill too. I must admit although relived to be at this point, I’m finding the going much easier than last year -the weather certainly has helped
A good sign to say I’m not too tired at this point to appreciate the new signage – a bit of class I must say
Sunday Market at the Haven was in full swing – time is moving on, however so we will have to leave it till next time to browse.
Damien admires the view (or taking another rest perhaps) Anyway he has a captive audience -although Ellen has other thoughts it seems. Deena is just about to interject with a point of order!
Finally a lovely welcome after completing the walk for the lads at the Lifeboat Station where a cup of tea, sandwiches and cake was as welcome as a seat to rest on. Photo courtesy of Neville Murphy.
My brother Robert with Margaret Barry and Anne Smyth on the left, hands over the bucket that had been placed in the Coffee Dock of Sanofi this past week and which raised almost €200. Much appreciated it was too and thanks to the company for facilitating it and the staff for the support.
The route as laid out by Conor Donegan
And what a surprise when we got home to receive a lovely gift from Julie at the Cake Dame pop up bakery, the only problem was that the crew had dispersed and I had to eat a lot of it myself 🙂

Will we do it again next year? Watch this space! Oh and please remember you can still donate to Team Dunmore East throughout May and into the first week of June.

Midnight Mercy Mission – Dunmore East Lifeboat 1953

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What became of the SS Corrientes?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Dauntless Courage – public lecture

The lecture was recorded and is available to view here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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