On this day in 1870 the great and the good of the harbour area and beyond gathered to enjoy the sport of sailing and racing at the Hook Regatta. In this guest blog post David Carroll shares the spectacle and many of the characters who took part.
The Standard and Waterford Conservative Gazette of Wednesday, August 10th, 1870 carried a most colourful report on the Hook Regatta, that had been held at Loftus Hall, under the patronage of the Marquis of Ely, on the previous Saturday, August 6th. We learn that tenants of the Ely estate in Wexford, fishermen from the coastal communities of Waterford Harbour, and citizens of Waterford all rubbed shoulders with members of the gentry and nobility as they came together to enjoy a magnificent day of aquatic events. The report began as follows:
“Hall Bay, Saturday – This annual event came off today in Hall Bay, under the most favourable circumstances, before several thousand spectators. Loftus Hall Bay – as most of your readers are aware- is situated at the very entrance of the Waterford harbour, one of the promontories leading into it being Hook, noted for its Tower, well-known to navigators. No more suitable spot could be selected for contests between yachts and sailing yawls, as the bay is very expansive, while, even in the calm of mid-summer, a good breeze from the Channel is sure to be encountered, accompanied necessarily by a strong swell on the water. This annual event was first originated by the present young Marquis of Ely some three years ago- its object being chiefly to afford a source of amusement to the tenants on his estate, and to fishermen residing in the vicinity of Waterford harbour. He gives annually all the prizes, and defrays all expenses connected with carrying it out, which is evident from the very great interest that the inhabitants of the Ely estate, and residents of Dunmore, Duncannon, Passage, Ballyhack, Fethard, and other parts of the harbour take in the proceedings – many hundreds from each of the places mentioned crowding yearly to enjoys the day’s amusement. The weather was all that could be desired for aquatic sports. From an early hour in the morning, a strong breeze from the SE blew across the bay, causing a strong swell on the waters, giving yachts, and sailing yawls every possible opportunity of showing their sailing qualities to advantage. The distance for yawls, as will be seen by the programme subjoined, was about nine miles, and for yachts about eighteen, and it is very creditable to the competitors to state that the sailing was of the very best description and would have done credit to many of the crack aquatic sportsmen. The yacht race was a very interesting one, the sailing on the whole good. As a matter of course the bay was crowded by crafts of various descriptions from all parts of the harbour. It is also right to state that the Marquis of Ely chartered the steam-tug William Wallace to convey a select party from Waterford. Captain Kelly of Passage, commander of his lordship’s yacht “Mystery” acted as commodore and his very excellent arrangements and his decisions gave unbounded satisfaction. His lordship and the Earl of Huntingdon exerted themselves in assisting Captain Kelly to carry out the programme. “Standard and Waterford Conservative Gazette, Wednesday, August 10th, 1870
A reader might be forgiven for thinking that the hosting of an event such as the Regatta by the Marquis was indicative of harmonious relations between the Ely estate and the tenants. This was definitely not the case. Rather it was one of discontent.
Pat Hare, land agent for the Ely estate is remembered as a cruel, bigoted, and an unjust agent. When he died, he was replaced by his nephew, Godfrey Lovelace Taylor and he has been described as every bit as cruel and unforgiving. The Land League was founded by Michael Davitt in 1879 and it was no surprise that very soon after, a branch of the Land League for the Ely tenants was formed and was generally referred to as ‘the Hook 200’. In the report of the Hook Regatta carried in the Waterford News of August 12th, 1870, both Hare and Taylor are listed as stewards for the event, along with Captain Kennedy and a Mr Lethbridge.
Loftus Hall had originally been called Redmond Hall, named after the family, that lived there until the 1650s when it was given to the Loftus family, who were English planters as part of the Cromwellian conquest. It became the principal residence of the Loftus Family in 1666 when Henry Loftus, son of Nicholas Loftus took up residence in the Hall.
James Henry Loftus, the 3rd Marquis had died, aged forty-three, in 1857. His son, John Henry Wellington Graham Loftus, the 4th Marquis of Ely was only twenty years old at the time of the Hook Regatta in 1870. He had been born on November 22nd, 1849. His twenty-first birthday was still some months away. On November 25th, 1870, The Waterford News reported as follows:
“The Coming of Age of the Marquis of Ely- The coming of age of the Marquis of Ely, which happy event took place on Tuesday last was made the occasion of festive rejoicings at Passage same evening amongst his lordships tenantry, who are devotedly and deservedly attached to their good and popular landlord. Bonfires blazed on several points, fireworks illuminated the firmament, 4 and refreshments were supplied abundantly to the people who cheered again and again for the youthful Marquis and his respected mother. The entire féte was admirably organised and supervised in its progress by Captain William Kelly, the experienced commander of his lordship’s yacht, and all passe off most happily.”The Waterford News, November 25th, 1870
His mother, Lady Jane Loftus, Marchioness of Ely (née Hope-Vere) was an interesting person. Born in 1821, she was appointed as Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria from 1851 until 1889 and became a close friend. The Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of a lady-in-waiting holding the official position of personal attendant on a British queen or princess. The position is traditionally held by a female member of a noble family. Through her mother she was a cousin of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. She developed friendships with Queen Sophie of the Netherlands and Empress Eugénie in France.
The Loftus Hall building that exists today was heavily renovated in 1872 by the Marquis, under the guidance of his mother. They undertook the extensive rebuilding of the entire mansion, adding the magnificent grand staircase and features that had not been seen previously in houses in Ireland. A lot of the inspiration was said to have been taken from Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer residence on the Isle of Wight.
All this work was believed to have been undertaken to facilitate a visit from her majesty, Queen Victoria. The Dowager Marchioness of Ely felt that a visit by her good friend and Royal Highness, Queen Victoria would raise both the stature and esteem of the Loftus family. Unfortunately for the family, Queen Victoria never set foot in Loftus Hall and the Loftus’ were left with a massive debt following all the works.
Interestingly, Queen Victoria had been in Waterford Harbour on August 4th 1849, when the Royal Yacht lay at anchor on a voyage from Cork to Kingstown, when the Queen felt ill. One wonders if she had viewed Loftus Hall as the Royal Yacht entered or departed from Waterford Harbour? There is a certain irony in the fact that many years later, she played an unwitting part in the demise of the landed estate.
In addition, the family never got to fully enjoy the house, with the 4th Marquis dying at a young age on April 3rd, 1889, without issue and leaving it to his cousin, who eventually elected to place the bankrupt estate on the market. Lady Jane died a year later, on June 11th, 1890, and is buried at Kensal Green cemetery in London, next to her husband.
The Hook Regatta programme included two races for yawls. The first was confined to tenants of the Ely estate and was won by the Hero, owned by M Fortune. The second yawl race was open to boats from all of Waterford Harbour. This race was keenly contested and was won by Kate of Duncannon (R Butler), followed by Kate of Woodstown (Captain Coughlan). Redwing was the winner of a race for hookers, confined to tenants of the Ely estate. Mr Fortune was named as the owner, so it looks as if the same person won both the yawl and hooker races for the Ely estate.
The third race on the Regatta programme was one for yachts. This event was very much the preserve of the gentry and nobility. Three boats raced for a cup which the ‘The Standard and Waterford Conservative Gazette’ valued at twenty sovereigns but ‘The Waterford News’, dated August 12th, 1870, put the value of the cup at ten pounds. One thing that the newspapers agreed upon was that the winner was the Emetic, owned by Mr Samuel Perry.
But for the bravery of the Dungarvan Lifeboat during September 1869, the Emetic, or indeed, Mr Perry, might not have been present, to participate in the Hook Regatta.
The south coast of Ireland was buffeted by bad weather at the end of September 1869. On September 26th, a fine American clipper called Electric Spark from Boston was wrecked on the Wexford coast near Blackwater, having earlier struck a rock near the Saltees and was in a sinking condition. The crew of twenty-one and the master’s wife were rescued by the Wexford Lifeboat. Two days later, the Cork Examiner reported in an edition dated October 4th, 1869 “an act of great and timely gallantry was performed on Tuesday last by the coxswain and crew of the Ballinacourty Lifeboat, Dungarvan.”
The rescue involved the yacht Emetic of Dunmore East. The report continued:
“Shortly after noon on that day, William Daly, the coxswain, saw a small vessel in the Pool, with the Union Jack at half-mast. Shortly after she hauled down the Jack and hoisted the Ensign, with the Union down as a signal of distress. Daly observing that the craft had dragged her anchors and was drifting helpless towards the shore, before a strong gale from the S.W., at once summoned his mates and manning the lifeboat at the station, the brave crew under the officer of the Ballinacourty Coast Guard Station, Mr. Brockman, dashed to the assistance of the imperiled vessel. They succeeded in getting safely alongside, when they found the craft was the yacht Emetic, the property of Mr. Samuel Perry, of Dunmore. The coxswain and three of the lifeboat crew instantly boarded the yacht, got her underway under a storm-topsail and reefed foresail and brought her and crew safely to land. Had it not been for the prompt and energetic action of the lifeboat men, sad consequences might have resulted, and their conduct in the affair deserves recognition.”Cork Examiner. October 4th, 1869
Samuel Perry, a retired officer of the 12th Lancers, was a wealthy landowner and keen huntsman who lived at Woodrooffe House, near Clonmel, Co Tipperary. He was a Deputy Lieutenant (DL) of the county. This estate was in the possession of the Perry family from the beginning of the 18th century. In the 1870s, Samuel Perry owned 2,768 acres. 
During the Civil War, the house was destroyed in February 1923 as were many other large houses in the county.  In 1867, Samuel Perry was married by his grace, the Archbishop of Armagh to Mary Power, daughter of John Power of Gurteen, the late MP for Waterford in a very fashionable wedding at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, in London. The bride was given away by her brother, Edmond de la Poer, also known as 1st Count de la Poer, the Liberal MP for Waterford at that time. 
A branch of the Perry family lived in Newtown House, New Park, Stillorgan in Dublin. From a related genealogy website, we learn that Samuel’s father called William, also a Deputy Lieutenant, used to holiday at Queenstown (Cobh), Dunmore East, and Kingstown. This must have been the beginning of the ‘Dunmore’ connection. Samuel’s firstborn, a son also called William, later to become Major William Perry, D.C., was born on February 19th, 1869. Samuel’s father died in the same year on July 13th. Together, with the rescue of his yacht during the month of September, the year 1869 was an eventful one for Samuel Perry. He died in 1908. His son, Major William Perry, died in 1948.
Sir Robert Paul, Bart., owner of Sappho, the yacht that came second in the yacht race was a prominent and well-documented figure in agricultural life and civic society in County Waterford and further afield. In County Waterford, Sir Robert lived in the beautifully situated Ballyglan House, at Woodstown, overlooking Waterford Harbour. The bulk of the Paul estate at that time was in County Carlow where they had an estate at Paulville, near Tullow. In the 1870s, Sir Robert owned 1401 acres in County Carlow, 707 acres in County Kerry and 243 acres in County Waterford.
Sir Robert is remembered for the part that he played in bringing a RNLI lifeboat to Waterford Harbour. As far back as 1862, he had canvassed Waterford Harbour Commissioners to use their good offices to have a lifeboat stationed in Waterford Harbour.  A lifeboat was stationed in Duncannon in 1869 and in 1884, when Dunmore East received its first RNLI lifeboat Henry Dodd, Sir Robert became President of the Lifeboat Committee.
Sir Robert Joshua Paul, 3rd Baronet (1820-1898) is fondly remembered at St Andrew’s Church in Dunmore East where a beautiful stained-glass window honours his memory.
The third competitor in the yacht race with his yacht Fairy was Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Haines. As one newspaper reported: The Fairy got a bad start, was never in the race, and only went the course once.
Haines was born in Kidford, Sussex into a military family. His younger brother was Field Marshal Sir Frederick Paul Haines, who like his brother, was also famous in India for outstanding military service. He gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Honourable East India Company Service. A street named ‘Haines Street’ still survives in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) called after Gregory.
In India in 1840, Lieutenant Colonel Haines married the Honourable Jane Eliza Mona Gough, daughter of Field Marshal Hugh Gough, later to become 1st Viscount Gough. Field Marshal Gough was said to have commanded in more general actions than any British officer except the Duke of Wellington. However, in Ireland, he is best remembered as the man on the horse, whose statue erected at the entrance to the Phoenix Park in 1880, was blown up by the IRA in 1957. Gough died in 1869 at his home St. Helen’s in Booterstown, Dublin, now the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel.
His son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Haines, and his wife had nine children. When he died in 1874, aged sixty-five, his will gives his address as Dunmore East. His house or where he may have stayed at the time still needs to be established. What we do know is that a memorial in his memory is still to be seen in St Andrew’s Church.
We must also remember the various fishermen and seafarers from the Hook Peninsula and coastal communities of Waterford Harbour, who took part in the Hook Regatta in 1870. They may not have had fancy titles before or after their names but their contribution to the rich maritime heritage of Waterford Harbour is immeasurable. They were custodians of a proud maritime tradition handed down to them. They possessed innate skills as regards boat building, fishing, locating fishing grounds, sailing, seamanship, navigation, and knowledge of every inch of the rugged coastline around the Hook and its place names. They also observed the sacrosanct practice of helping other seafarers in distress or danger. It has been said that the small area of Churchtown, close to the Hook, produced no fewer than seven sea captains, down through the years. Gratitude is due to these people for handing on their skills, knowledge, and respect for the sea to subsequent generations. It is also pleasing to know that water-based sports are still being extensively enjoyed on the Hook Peninsula and in the Harbour.
A search of local newspapers in subsequent years does not reveal any further reporting of the Hook Regatta, which would suggest that the event lapsed after 1870. A successful Dunmore East Regatta was held in 1871 and the Marquis of Ely, Sir Robert Paul and Lieutenant Colonel Haines are all listed as stewards for the event. 
Many thanks to Dr Pat McCarthy, Pat Bracken, Liam Ryan, Andrew Doherty, Michael Farrell, Eddie Stewart-Liberty, Dave Gunn and Brendan Grogan for assistance with this piece.
- Colfer, Billy ‘The Hook Peninsula’, Cork University Press, 2004. Page 170.
- ‘On the Hook’, 2021 Annual ‘Godfrey and Gahan. Gone but not Forgotten’ by Liam Ryan.
- Colfer, Page 171.
- Firmament – this word means ‘sky’ – an archaic word.
- Waterford News, July 5th, 1867.
- Carroll, David ‘Dauntless Courage ’DVF Print and Graphic Solutions, 2020. Page 20.
- Waterford News, September 1st, 1871.