Carrick to Cheekpoint by traditional punt -Mayday Mile 2023

To support our local lifeboat station at Dunmore East my brother Robert and I rowed the river Suir this year – an estimated 25 miles. If you would like to support our efforts here’s the link to make a financial contribution. All donations go to the RNLI. When I wrote the first day’s account and published the blog update, we stood at €490. But before we set off on Sunday the donations were flowing in and as this update goes to print we have just over €800 online. We have postal and hand-delivered envelopes still arriving to add to our bucket collection, and Brian Power in the Cheekpoint Stores asked us to leave the sponsorship card in the shop until later this week, so we will update here once we have the full figure. – Update as of 17/5/2023 Just updated the online with bucket collection which incl postal donations and sales of strawberry plants by Robert. This came to €336. Update 18/5/2023. We just updated the site with the generous sponsorship from Powers Shop Cheekpoint – the figure raised there was €320. Thank you one and all. The figure now stands at €1,476. Update of June 2nd 2023. We reached the grand total of €1,571. While team Dunmore made the combined total €5,124. What a great achievement by the whole team. Many thanks to all who sponsored the events…Here’s to next year.

It’s terrible to be getting old. For the past two years, we completed the Mayday Mile by walking from Cheekpoint to Dunmore by cliff and shore. But as we both now have problems with arthritis, this year we thought a boat trip might be easier – on our joints I mean.

Now rowing a boat provides a two-fold challenge. As a person, It takes a certain amount of skill, knowledge, and resilience. But more importantly, you are also at the mercy of the river and the weather. The notion of this appeals to me. People talk about respecting the water – which to some simply means wearing a life jacket. But the river is a living entity, it breathes life, it changes in an instant and its tides and currents ebb and flow on their agenda – an agenda set down by natural rhythms, cosmic forces, and weather. There are also rocks, mud banks, sand bars, and man-made impediments. With motor power you can bend the river to your will…when you row, you must show it the utmost respect and attention in order to reach your destination. So we are channeling the spirits of all the past generations of river folk, fishermen, and lightermen who worked these waters and had a deep connection with it.

What follows is a photo diary of the journey. Day one was a glorious sunny day, very warm, but we battled a strong breeze that was against us until we got to Mount Congreve. Day two was cooler, with a northerly breeze, that helped us no end.

Carrick from the Old Bridge looking downriver, this was taken on Friday after we took the punt up by road. We launched from Carrick Beg and I enjoyed a row around especially admiring the “May Blobs” as one of my favourite authors and Carrick Beg native describes them in his book Full Tide – the great Michael Coady
L-R Conor, Brian, Robert and Maurice. Maurice has been a great help to me for several years now, always great advice, a source of photos and connections. he even contributed a guest blog on William O’Callaghan, the last barge operator at Carrick
Maurice insisted I get my head in…I try to avoid that as much as possible for obvious reasons 🙂
Setting out with a cheer from our brother Chris, his wife Sabrina and children Carragh and Cathal
Ormond Castle from the River…something I’d always wanted to see since reading a guest blog of the castle including a water gate by the wonderful Carrick legend Patsy Travers Mullins.
Another long time goal…to use the navigation cut that I have written about several times. One most recent blog which quoted the evidence of J Ernest Grubb to a Royal Commission stated that the Suir Steam Navigation Co (SSNCo) was established as an incorporated company in 1836 by an act of parliament. This company was charged with “improving and maintaining the navigation of the River Suir…” and for the construction of a “ship canal” at Carrick On Suir.  It was funded from a levy of 1d per ton on seagoing craft above Grannagh.  This canal was made by cutting a channel through limestone rock on the south side of the river just below Carrick On Suir allowing “ocean-going craft drawing 10 or 11 feet of water” to reach the town 
Conor Power photo
Two great guides are Conor and Brian…each was a fountain of knowledge on many aspects of the river. I think this was Riordan’s Gap (on the left) where a police officer waited to pounce on cot men who were pooching
Another goal – Roches Quay or Tinhalla. Apparently, the croppies and other prisoners were shipped out from here for transportation to Van Diemens land. Billy explained how before the canal cut, the lighters could only reach this quay, the cargo then being carried by road to Carrick. Conor is after pulling a few favours and we hope to visit by land soon. Although not in the photo, there was a very interesting house on the property which I later found to date from circa 1700
Had a big chat with the lads about the 15th century Tower House called Tybroughney Castle, a lot of history here to be explored by me at some future date. Apparently, it’s an air B&B…how bad. Coal Quay was another point of interest that I must return to, located in the foreground
According to the lads there’s a lime kiln here in the undergrowth – but no obvious landing area for a lighter to unload…these local guides are worth their weight in gold
The wind is freshening now as we head further down, ebb tide starting to run. Photo courtesy of Brian White
Slievenamon fades into the distance as we continue down the Suir. The Mountain of women…according to Wikipedia “The origin of the mountain’s name is explained in Irish mythology…, the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill was sought after by many young women. Fionn stood atop the mountain and declared that whichever woman won a footrace to the top would be his wife. Since Fionn and Gráinne were in love, he had shown her a short-cut and she duly won the race.[1][4] The mountain was also known by the longer name Sliabh na mBan bhFionn, “mountain of the fair women”.” Its getting time for our guides to leave. Their company will be missed, but its time to bend our backs to the task.
Morris Oil terminal and the third bridge we have passed today, Fiddown.
Rocketts Castle on the Waterford shore. Its been a tough row with the wind against us. Not much time for the camera since Fiddown. It took us almost an hour since passing Fiddown to reach this spot.
Passing down Polerone Quay where we had a great cheer from the shore from Catherine and another page follower Paul Cuddihy. Certainly helped our spirits and was much appreciated.
Finally a bit of shelter close to Kilmeaden Castle on the Greenway. We finally got a break here for a bit of grub and a cuppa tea. Mount Congreve is in sight now. And the dreaded Long Wretch – just have to keep focused on Grannagh. Didn’t get a photo at Congreve as the currents were erratic – I had been warned about this but it still came as a surprise. Got a lovely cheer from the shore from Carol O’Shaughnessy amongst others and even our brother-in-law Maurice dropped down for a chat…all helps with the motivation.
The old jetty at the now closed Paper Mills…our father worked there for several years, and I remember him bringing home comics that he had lifted from a shipload of magazines that were unloaded from a chip here for recycling.
Spotted this as we passed…as I explained to a very underwhelmed brother this looks like the remains of a small quay. Sure enough, I found it later on the OSI…although there was no road marked for it so more digging as to its purpose is required on my part
The Historic maps are a national treasure. The G here is for Gracedieu…Looking forward to trying to see if I can get anything further on this feature
Grannagh Castle…a welcome sight at this hour of the evening
T F Meagher bridge
Blackwater River or Pill…I’m working on a blog about this important location…well when I say working on thinking about it and plan a trip up it this summer
The Red Iron – or the Suir Railway Bridge…we are sore all over at this point, but I am enjoying the scenery now, even if there is a distinct whiff of urban industrial decay….and some clowns are burning a tyre ashore! Robert actually asked me about the bridge – and I tried not to go off on one, but I probably told him more than was necessary.
Industrial heritage building! Gouldings fertiliser plant
Finally..our last bridge of the day, Rice Bridge Waterford and almost home for the evening. 18.46pm a heck of a long day
Our last stop of the evening, a welcome beverage and an even more welcome last 15 minutes of the Leinster V Munster match…what a result Munster!!! Looking forward to a shower and bed now. Next phase tomorrow

Day two – a cooler day with northerly winds. We said we would wait until 3pm to depart as it gave the rain a chance to clear and the ebb tide to start flowing. We had a lovely send off from the city pontoons, with family and friends. Although our minds are willing our bodies are aching – so the encouragement is all the more welcome. A darker day, so although I had more time for photos, I didn’t get as many.

And away we go, with shouts of encouragement from Catherine, Geoff, Carmel and others from the Plaza. Photo courtesy of our cousin Jim Doherty
A good ebb tide flowing, but cold in the wind. Photo Jim Doherty
The entrance to Johns Pill or Johns River, I’ve been working on a blog for some time now – but it turned into a chapter of a book after I walked along it with Cian Manning, and now I probably have enough for a new book. I’m also thinking of doing a walking tour of it over the summer – although I don’t know that there would be that much interest in it. I’m well aware that my interests attract a niche audience.
Heading out of the city now, and on the Kilkenny side, this navigation light is an area known on an old chart as Smeltinghouse Point. I’ve promised myself to find out more about this placename
The Cove – a popular pooching spot for Cheekpoint drift netters back in the day
Now coming down the Ford channel between Little Island and Co Kilkenny- as I explained to Robert, dynamited and excavated on at least 3 occasions to ease access to the old Port of Waterford. I’ve a blog drafted, but never got round to completing it. You can see the ebb tide running a fair knots strong on the port navigation bouy. On the Kilkenny shore we would have Prospect House on the left and Springfield House on the right.
Fitzgeralds Castle on the Island.
The end of the Ford channel (it is marked as Queens Channel on some charts, but we never called it that, so I won’t be changing any time soon) O Brien Cement works mark the upper end of the new port, the area here was and is known as Belview after the house of the same name. It translates as the Beautiful View. It certainly was in the old days no doubt, but progress has turned it into an industrial site now, albeit with great views
The ruins of Bellevue House. It features in my walks around Faithlegg, because of the Power family connection
Looking across the Ford now to the Guide Bank Navigation light, the Ballycanvan estate in the background, the old house now in ruins. The area is close to Jack Meades, the occupied Woodlands House is in the trees.
Belview, Port of Waterford, and the Arklow Coast is coming alongside. We have to hold on here, as we don’t want to interfere with shipping. After about five minutes we realise it is not coming up any further and we can resume our row. Never, ever, get in the way of shipping. Drilled into us as children, but I saw a chap in a pleasure boat block the channel below Cheekpoint last year as he came upriver – seemingly totally unaware that a container ship was behind him – despite the loud blasts of the ship’s horn
You might just make us out on this photo just off O’Briens. Our journey has taken us from Waterford today down the Kilkenny side of the Island and we are only two miles from home at this point. Thanks to Alison Flannery for the photo.
Tied up now, and I think that is Seamus Healy supervising from the wharf. He’s retiring today (Sunday 14th May) from the Port. He has taken some great videos in recent years of the Port activities
Glasshouse, Co Kilkenny and the lower end of the port, for now. Plans are afoot to expand down. There was an old quay here, the remains of some fine steps are still on the shoreline, beyond is the ruins of Glasshouse Mill or Kennedy’s Mill and behind that is the belching chimney of Smartply
Close to home now, the Minaun and Deerpark sweeping down to the river, the Faithlegg Marsh at its feet.
Wilson Avonmouth inbound, again we had to stay close to shore to stay out of its way.
Another feature to be avoided in the lower Suir, an old ebb weir, now just a sad collection of rotting timber poles, but once a vibrant fishing “fixed engine”. I think we called this the Mill Weir, as it is located just off the old mill race. Just below it lies Snow Hill Weir, also derelict, but a few poles still stand
Home sweet home – the meeting of the three sister rivers, the Suir we have seen, the Barrow and Nore flow under the Barrow Railway Bridge. Maybe we might explore those next year if we are alive. Photo – Alison Flannery
Thank God for that…Arrived safely at the new Cheekpoint Pontoon.
Photos courtesy of Carol McGeary
The shore team 🙂 L-R Deena, me, Mam (who had just put away the rosary beads), him, Ciara his better half and Kate our sister who had a homecoming planned but we got there too early. The closest we came to a wetting over the weekend was when she doused us in holy water before we headed to Carrick.
Thanks to Carmel Jacob for the photo above and below
with Mam, cousin Michael Murphy, and my godmother Elsie Murphy. We asked the two ladies if they wanted a row out “we did enough of that in our youth” they replied

I’m indebted to my brother Robert for helping me with this…I can’t think of anyone else who would be up to the task or have the patience to listen to me. Thanks to Conor Power of Carrick for the assistance and support, and in particular his knowledge of the snap net fishery. Brian White for the wonderful discussion about placenames, history, and nature. To Maurice Power who helped me arrange the Carrick layover and was so generous with his advice on the trip and our itinerary. My thanks to Brian and Daniel Power who allowed us to put a sponsorship card in the local shop, and Bridgid who went out of her way too to promote it. To Carol McGeary who helped with the online donation page and so much more to help to promote the fundraiser. Thanks to Johhny Codd at Waterford for looking after us on the layover. To David Carroll who provided two guest blogs to promote the row, and the Mayday Mile. To Pat Moran, with who we would not have made it at all. He helped to get the punt out of the water and towed it to Carrick for the trip. Finally to everyone who sponsored the trip, which although a personal challenge, it was really about raising money for the RNLI. We owe the lifeboats a great deal, this is our small contribution to such a worthy cause. Much obliged to you all.

Pat bringing us up to Cheekpoint.

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.

Our RNLI May Day Mile sponsored walk

Sunday 30th May 2021 dawned bright and breezy, a perfect day for my rescheduled fundraising walk to Dunmore East on behalf of the local RNLI lifeboat. The plan was simple enough in principle, to walk from Cheekpoint to Dunmore East, but as near to the water as possible. To make it more enjoyable I planned a few stops along the way with friends and acquaintances to learn something of the rich heritage of the area. And so, paying heed to the tides, I departed at a very late hour (for me) of 11.30am. Six hours later we walked into Dunmore East. Here’s a flavour of the trip.

Dunmore welcome – thanks to all at the lifeboat station and to Neville Murphy for the image

My wife Deena was to provide the vehicle support and she also had some tips for fundraising including a bucket into which people who were minded could deposit a few quid. And although I had my doubts I thought it at least worth a go. Funds had already come in online, as I had planned to go the previous Sunday, but rain had put paid to that idea.
At the Crossroads at Cheekpoint a nice surprise awaited as my younger , bigger, brother Robert had decided he was going to join me. And lo and behold we had only started out and someone (Mrs Jacqui Power) stopped in a car and gave us €10 and then some walkers gave what cash they carried, and some man who follows me on twitter popped €50 into the bucket. Deena was right again!

Stepping out on the Russianside Road

Deena and her Dad and Mam were waiting at Faithlegg School to step a bit of the road with us, and soon after we met Damien McLellan who was my first organised guest of the day as we walked the Coolbunnia Rd and over the Hurthill/Hurtle/Whortle.

Vic and Eileen Bible, saying farewell from the viewing point.

Several others made contributions as we wandered over the Hurthill, which was beautiful under foot and lovely and cool under the trees. As we walked down towards Passage a chap on a bicycle passed and doubled back to give a donation too. We turned off the road to head up over the Hill of Passage, from where we could look across to Ballyhack, where the Church of St James was on the hill. Medieval pilgrimage was an important aspect of local life and to know more check out Damien’s fine blog in History Ireland.

The views were spectacular in the sunshine off the hill, and visibe to the right in the photo below is St. Anne’s (Church of Ireland) Passage East. It was built in 1740’s on the site of an older church founded by the Knights Templar I believe. It was deconsecrated and sold in 1970’s. Now a private residence. I would have loved to have gone down the steps here to Passage and along the strand. But we were keen to go through Crooke.

Next stop was the ruins of Crooke Church and associated castle which has had an amazing history, built by the Knights Templars initially, taken over by the Hospitaller’s and I’m guessing wrecked after the arrival of Cromwell. Its reputedly the burial place of the Croppy boy – Geneva Barracks is only a field or two away. The iconic lancet windows still give a sense of its previous importance.

Breda Murphy joined us at Crooke where discussion turned to the landing of Henry II and a heated dispute as to different theories. I imagine Breda is thinking – what about the Cockle Pickers that I am supposed to be talking about?, while Damien on the right is wondering perhaps that he has come so far, its too late to turn back. I know exactly what Robert is thinking – lets get the feck on with the walk!

It was all sand and beach for the next few miles. And it was pleasent walking, as Breda managed to put the dispute about Henry to one side and regale us with stories of the Cockle Pickers, her parents and what it was like growing up in such a beautiful area and also raising her own children on the strand. Almost everyone on the Crooke Road and along the Barrack Strand gave us a donation and the walking was just grand under foot. A mile along we bumped into my sister Kate and her husband Ber and the way was lightened a bit more.

Woodstown Beach was very busy on the day and I’m sure we must have looked a strange bunch to all those children running around and parents cooking BBQs. According to Canon Power from his famous Placenames of the Deises says: Woodstown in Irish is “Tráig Mhílis – “Myles’s Strand” He elsewhere refers to Myles as an unknown but important man, possibly legendary (what I take to mean located in some of the old works like the legends of the four masters etc) As we approached the 12 KM mark, and the heat intensified, I’m not sure anyone was listening to me about Myles. But they were online, because as I went along and posted to Facebook and Twitter people kept on donating. A gentleman out walking the beach stopped us to put money in the bucket and to explain that he always supports the RNLI as they saved his life in the English Channel in 1978. As we approached Knockaveelish or Cnoc Mhílis – Myles’ Hill related to the man we mentioned previously, I was relieved to see Deena approaching, with a cheery wave and a flask of tea. And she also had some extra motivation as the teens and twenty-somethings decided to join in.

Breda and Damien have decided to keep on going and we had a pleasant stop with Brendan Grogan and Jean as we climbed up Knockaveelish. Brendan Grogan photo
Energy levels on the rise as we lurn left and head down towards Fornaght beach or Fórnacht – Again according to Canon Power from a Completely Bare (Hill).
Although Michael Farrell had come along to tell us about the Ladies Land Leauge he ended up answering so many other questions and telling yarns, the topic was overlooked. But shur we can return, Heading up towards Killea now, and as the sun beats down and the heat rises in the shelter of the high hedges the tarmac road starts to take a toll on my feet.
Killea or Cill Aodha – Aodh’s Church. The present Holy Cross catholic church is from the early 19th century and what a view

At Killea I kneel in the shade of the wall as I try to text ahead to let the troops in Dunmore know that we are nearly there. (The biggest challenge was actually trying to see the phone screen all day with the blinding sun) Apologies and many thanks to the kind lady who came over and asked about my health. I must have looked disheveled 🙂 The poor woman must have thought I was for the graveyard. A few steps down towards the village and Deena again approached us…cheery wave but no tea this time. But at least I knew we had a lift home.

Although the plan was now to meet Conor Donegan in the village to hear about the activities off the coast of Waterford in WWI, the crowds were such that we just had to keep on moving. Although by a lucky chance we happened to bump into the infamous Bob Desmond who told us all about what a wonderful place Cork is. We were delighted to get some shade and a break in the park while Aine Whelan gave us a short talk about the Great Auk, caught off the local coast in 1834. The bird is now preserved in Trinity College and represents the last recorded sighting of this flightless bird in Ireland. The species became extinct when the last known individuals were killed on a small island off Iceland in 1844.

Aine with a keen audiece for her talk. And some welcome shade

And so into Dunmore and the lifeboat station. Due to Covid we needed to stay outside but it was with a real satisfaction and I must admit a fair bit of relief that we made it. 22 KM over 6 hours, although that included a lot of stops. The bucket had over €400 in it when counted, and online the figure was almost €900 and with the many others that made up Team Dunmore had managed to raise a really impressive €5,800

You can check out the team here. And if you enjoyed this virtual tour you can still contibute for another few hours. May is not over for a few hours yet. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to make the walk such a success, many thanks to all who made donations, who chatted to us along the way, and well done to all my team mates in Team Dunmore East. But ultimately many thanks to the fundraising committee of the Dunmore East RNLI and to the crew who do the real hard work. A walk on a sunny sunday is a meer walk in the park in comparison.

Here’s a few map ideas of the route

Im afraid I forgot to turn off the map maker. We stopped in Dunmore and then drove two km before I realised.
Cheekpoint, the Hurthill, up to the hill of Passage, over through Crooke and down Johnny’s lane to the Strand
And finally along the West Banks, Barrack Strand, Woondstown, over Knockavelish, Fornaught, up to Killea and down to Dunmore

Ardmore’s Fr O’Shea to the Rescue

A guest blog by David Carroll

In 2024, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution will be celebrating two hundred years of saving lives of sea.  The Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded in London on March 4th, 1824 by Sir William Hillary. On October 5th, 1854, the name was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the RNLI – as it is still known today and still adhering rigidly to the same noble principles since 1824.

In 1924, there were eight men alive who had received Gold Medals in the first century of the Institution for gallantry and conspicuous service in saving life from shipwreck. Of the eight, five of them were English, two Irish and one Welsh. The eight were invited to attend the Centenary Dinner and other celebrations in London, as the guests of the Institution. Seven of the eight were able to attend. The one person unable to attend, due to ill health, was Reverend Father John O’Shea, who was at time was a curate serving in the parish of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. Father O’Shea was from Lismore, County Waterford. He was educated at Mount Melleray Abbey, on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains, near Cappoquin. His census returns in 1911 showed that he had been born in Australia.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17th, 1911, the wind freshened from the South East and soon it was blowing a full gale. Teaser, a schooner, registered in Montrose, Scotland of 79 tons register, owned by a Mr. John Hewitt of Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, North Wales, left Swansea on Tuesday, March 14th, 1911. She was bound for Killorglin in Dingle Bay with a cargo of coal and called in at Milford Haven which she left on Thursday, 16th, March. The Teaser had been built at Perth in Scotland in 1864.  She carried a crew of three: Master Thomas Hughes, from Connah’s Quay, a mate called Fox and an ordinary seaman Walsh.

Photo of Fr O’Shea courtesy of

On Saturday morning, March 18th, Teaser got into difficulties and was unable to shorten sail and was soon driven ashore on the Black Rocks at Curragh (to the east of the village of Ardmore, Co Waterford).

The Gold Medal of the RNLI, which is a much-coveted distinction, only bestowed for deeds of exceptional valour, was awarded to the Reverend Father John M O’Shea, curate at Ardmore, who, with others, made a noble attempt to save the crew of the ill-fated Teaser. Attempts were promptly made to summon the nearest lifeboat, stationed at Helvick but owing to the storm the telephonic communication failed, and by the time the boat reached the scene all that was possible had been done by a gallant band of men at Ardmore.

As soon as the local Coastguard observed the vessel, the rocket apparatus was dispatched to the nearest spot. The coastguards, with skill, succeeded in throwing rocket lines over the wrecked vessel. The crew were, however, so exhausted by exposure and so numbed with cold that they could not make use of the lines.

Seeing that the unfortunate men were unable to help themselves, Petty Officer Richard Barry, and Alexander Neal, of the Coastguard, regardless of the danger which they ran, plunged into the icy sea, and attempted to swim to the vessel, but the heavy seas were too much for them, and they were beaten back to the shore.

The Teaser on her beam end after the tragedy. Photo courtesy of Andy Kelly.

It was then that Father O’Shea, seeing that their efforts were unavailing, remembered that there was a fisherman’s open boat nearly a mile away. He gathered a willing band of volunteers, who with him went for the boat, and by dint of great exertions, they got it to the scene of the wreck.  

Father O’Shea put on a lifebelt and called to the crowd for a crew. The men of Ardmore answered the call without hesitation, knowing that to get into an open boat in such appalling weather would have daunted the bravest man.  But these gallant men had answered many a call and this was to be no exception. Coastguards Barry and Neal, Constable Daniel Lawton of the Royal Irish Constabulary, William Harris, keeper of the Ardmore Hotel, Patrick Power, a farmer, John O’Brien, a boatman and Cornelius O’Brien, another local farmer, formed a crew.

With the crew of seven men and Father O’Shea in command, the little boat put to sea. These brave men were at very great risk – the risk on one hand of the heavy sea running and the rocks, and on the other of being dashed against the ship – but they succeeded in boarding the Teaser. Two of the crew were, however, beyond all aid, and the other man succumbed soon afterwards despite everything possible being done for him, both on board the wreck and later ashore. Father O’Shea administered the last rites to them. Whilst the men were on board the vessel, Coastguard Neal collapsed from exhaustion, and artificial respiration had to be used to restore him.

Unfortunately, the gallant and heroic efforts of the men of Ardmore failed as the crew of the Teaser died before they could get them ashore. Doctor Foley and many willing hands onshore did all that was humanly possible for the crew but without avail.

The Lifeboat, journal of the RNLI, Volume XX1, No. 241, August 1st, 1911 reported as follows:

“The efforts made on this occasion were characterised by exceptional courage, and the Committee of the Institution were satisfied that the gallant and continued attempts at rescue were due to the noble example and initiative displayed by Father O’Shea. They therefore decided to award him the Gold Medal of the Institution and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. They also granted the following awards— To Richard Barry, Petty Officer Coastguard, and to Alexander Neal, Leading Boatman Coastguard, who attempted to swim off to the vessel, and afterwards boarded her at great risk, the Silver Medal and £5 each and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. To Mr. William Harris, who boarded the vessel at great risk, a binocular glass, and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. To Constable Law, R.I.C. who also boarded the wreck at great risk, £5 and a copy of the Vote of Thanks on vellum. To Pat Power, Con O’Brien, and John O’Brien, who went out in the boat but did not board the wreck, £7- 10s. each.

When the decision of the Committee of Management was made known, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Aberdeen, very kindly consented to present the various rewards.

Arrangements were made for the men to travel to Dublin, and at Ballsbridge, where an exhibition was in progress, his Excellency, accompanied by Lady Aberdeen, made the presentation in the presence of many hundreds of people. His Excellency, who was cordially received, said they had met there that day to render honour where honour was most assuredly due. To celebrate a deed of valour and heroism was something worthy, and beneficial not only to those to whom homage was offered, but also to those who took part in such proceedings. The story of the event which had brought them there had already been narrated, but they could not too often be reminded of the splendid achievement and the noble efforts which they were there to commemorate and to acclaim. That deed furnished a noble example. But they must remember that such deeds meant more than courage and determination now. They meant that there was the quality and the attitude of the brain, and the good principles of life which were tested in time of emergency. These men were not found wanting but covered themselves with glory and distinction. Those brave rescuers had already been honoured by the King, but they who were assembled there that day were behind none in the heartiness with which they saluted them and asked them to accept the tokens offered by the RNLI as a lasting memento of the feelings of appreciation and grateful thanks for the example and the encouragement given to all those present, who would be stimulated by the admirable conduct of these men. (Applause.)

His Excellency then presented the awards, and her Excellency pinned the medals on the breasts of the recipients. The Rev. Father O’Shea, having expressed deep gratitude on behalf of himself and his companions, paid a high tribute to the men who had assisted him. Lieutenant W. G. Rigg, R.N., as representative of the Institution, cordially thanked Lord and Lady Aberdeen for their kindness, and the ceremony terminated.”

The medal presentation ceremony took place on Monday, May 29th, 1911 at the ‘Uí Breasail’ Exhibition, which was held in Ballsbridge, Dublin from May 24th to June 7th. It was attended during that time by 170,000 people. The Exhibition, with a sub-title of “The Great Health, Industrial and Agricultural Show’ was strongly supported by Lady Aberdeen. The title ‘Uí Breasail’ was taken from a poem by Gerald Griffin of the same name, meaning the ‘Isle of the Blest’. The poem speaks of a wonderful mythical island seen by St Brendan on one of his voyages.

Earlier on May 2nd, 1911, Father O’Shea and the party of Ardmore men were decorated by King George V at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace when he presented them with the Silver Medal for gallantry awarded by the Board of Trade.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Trust awarded its highest award – a Gold Watch to Father O’Shea.

On December 12th,1912, less than two years later, the steel barque Maréchal de Noailles of Nantes in France, departed from Glasgow for New Caledonia, a French Penal Island in the South Pacific, with a cargo of coal, coke, limestone, and railway materials.  It was an eventful start to the voyage, with delays and bad weather, and on January 15th, 1913, the vessel was close to Ballycotton, Co Cork, when the wind strengthened. The Master, Captain Huet, fired distress signals; eventually the ship was blown ashore three hundred yards west of Mine Head in County Waterford, not far from Ardmore.  Father O’Shea was very much to the fore in the safe rescue of the entire crew by means of Breeches Buoy from the shore. The following month, a letter of appreciation, written by Captain Huet from Morlaix in France was received in Ardmore by Father O’Shea.

At the ceremony held at Buckingham Palace on June 30th, 1924, King George V awarded the honour of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.)  on each of the seven men present and the absent Father O’Shea.

The King expressed his great regret that Father O’Shea was prevented by illness from being present and handed his medal to Sir Godfrey Baring, a member of the management committee of the RNLI for thirty-three years.

The citation said:

” For his example and initiative in leading very gallant attempts, by means of a small boat, to save the lives of the crew of the schooner Teaser, which was lost, with her crew of three in Ardmore Bay on the 18th, March 1911, during a whole S.E. gale with a very heavy sea.”

From Carrick-on-Suir, Father O’Shea was appointed Parish Priest of Ballyporeen, County Tipperary.  The George Cross was instituted by King George VI on September 24th, 1940 and on October 31st, 1941, Father O’Shea was requested to surrender his Empire Gallantry Medal and attend a function at Buckingham Palace on November 25th, 1941 to receive the George Cross in its place. Due to failing health, Father O’Shea could not attend.

Father O’Shea passed away on September 11th, 1942 in Clogheen, Co Tipperary, aged seventy-one.  In accordance with his will, he was laid to rest at the back of the Cross of Calvary in Ballyporeen Churchyard.  His George Cross, RNLI Gold Medal and Board of Trade Medals were left to the Cistercian Monks at Mount Melleray Abbey in County Waterford.


Wilson, John      THE WRECK OF THE TEASER– A GOLD MEDAL RESCUE.                         The Life Saving Awards Research Society, Journal No. 30, June 1997.

Walsh, Donal    AN ACCOUNT OF THE LOSS OF THE ‘TEASER’ IN 1911 and THE ‘MARÉCHAL DE NOAILLES’ IN 1912 OFF THE WATERFORD COAST.                                                Decies XX1, Old Waterford Society, September 1982.

‘Introducing How a Group of Ardmore Men Became Guaranteed Heroes Overnight.’ – Ardmore Grange Heritage Group    

The Lifeboat – Journal of RNLI, Volume XX1, No 241 August 1911

The Lifeboat – Journal of RNLI, Volume XXV, No 282 November 1924

1911 Census

Details of the Teaser may be found in this archive. The owner is listed as John Hewitt and not Ferguson as recorded in other accounts of the shipwreck.

My thanks to David for this fascinating account of Fr O’Shea and indeed the people of Ardmore in the efforts to assist on both occasions. For a fantastic photo collection of the event take a look at the Ardmore Grange post:

Saving the stricken St Declan

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

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

Dunmore Fishing Crew Saved from Certain Death

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

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

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

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

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

Falskirt on a calm day. Photo Neville Murphy

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

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

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

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

R.N.L.I. Awards for Rescue in Gale

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

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

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

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

Get David Carrolls new book on the
history of the Dunmore East RNLI, Dauntless Courage now!

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