Captain Richard J. (Dick) Farrell 1897 – 1993

In our first guest blog 2018, Brendan Grogan brings us this wonderful summary of the life and maritime career of Captain Richard Farrell. Captain Farrell, as I always heard him referred to, was highly respected in his role as Harbour Master, but then again having seen it all and done it all as a seafarer he had a unique perspective on what it takes to run a port safely and efficiently.

Captain Richard Farrell became Waterford Harbour Master in 1941 at the age of 44 on the retirement of his uncle, Walter J. Farrell who had held the position since 1903. He was the youngest child of eight children and only son of Richard Farrell (1869 – 1939), a shipbroker in Waterford. His first wife Frances Harbison whom he married in 1919 was a nurse, she died in 1953. In 1963 he married Maeve Kenny and they lived at ‘Trade Winds’ on John’s Hill. Maeve passed away in 2017 in her 104th year.
He was the only surviving Irish man to hold a Master’s Foreign Seagoing Certificate ticket for both Sail and Steam when he passed away in 1993 aged 94. He had sailed the world’s oceans on many ships between 1913 and 1941, namely:- 
S.S. Medic, Steamer, 1913-1915 as Deck boy. 
S.S. Jordanhill, four masted Barque, 1915-1917 as Able Seaman 
S.S. Killoran, four masted Barque, 1918-1919 as 2nd Mate 
S.S. Zaydo, 3 masted Barquentine, for nine months, as 2nd Mate 
S.S. Largo Law, Steamer, 1920-1927, as 2nd Mate and 1st Mate 
S.S. Gogovale, Steamer, 1928-1941, as 1st Mate and Master 1930-1941 
At the age of sixteen his uncle Walter secured a berth for Richard on the Harland & Wolff built steamship, White Star Liner S.S. Medic, out of Liverpool on which he served for a year and a half. His seafaring life had begun…… 
In an interview with Tom McSweeney for Seascapes, Captain Farrell at age 95 gave chilling accounts of his voyages around Cape Horn in four masted Barques and also of his involvement landing the Munster Fusiliers at Suvla Bay during WW1. 
Some excerpts from his log from 1915…… 
I had a mind to join a sailing ship and secured a berth as Ordinary Seaman on the S.S. Jordanhill, a steel sailing vessel built in 1892. This four masted square rigged barque was to be my home for this my first voyage around the world and so on 22nd of August 1915, the S.S. Jordanhill sailed for Port Arthur, Texas where we were to load case oil for Adelaide in South Australia. The ship was laden with 1,000 tons of clay ballast to provide stability for the voyage across the South Atlantic Ocean which lasted 42 days. 
On arrival at Port Arthur, the ballast was removed; this exercise took three weeks. The ship was then towed to the oil berth to commence loading the cargo of cased paraffin oil which was destined for the gold mining areas of South Australia such as Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. 
The route from Port Arthur took the ship south out of the Gulf of Mexico towards the Equator and onwards east around the Horn of Africa. After one hundred and forty eventful days at sea, the Jordanhill arrived at Adelaide, Australia on the 10th of June 1916. After the cargo was discharged, clay ballast was again taken on for the next leg of the voyage. It took ten days to sail to Melbourne where the ship was to take on a cargo of wheat and then head east round Cape Horn and head for home. The ballast was again unloaded and a full cargo of wheat in bags was loaded to the Jordanhill. She was again down to her plimsoll marks. 
We were towed out to Hobson’s Bay the 10th August 1916 with instructions to head for Falmouth for further orders. On the 1st November, 83 days out, one of the hands working on the main royal yard sighted a steamer coming up from astern. It was my watch on deck and we were told to get the lifeboat ready for putting over the side. When the steamer got near, the Captain ordered the signal ‘we are short of provisions’ to be hoisted. The steamer was the S.S. Alkaid of Rotterdam bound from Rosario with grain for her home port. She hove near us and the 2ndmate, three others and myself manned the boat and set out towards the ship. The 2nd mate informed the Captain of the Alkaid of the items that we were in short supply of. We made two trips back and forth with bags of coal, sacks of flour and other provisions including a small keg of claret and cigars for Captain Roberts. The Captain of the Alkaid allowed us on board for a drink. I did not drink at the time but the temptation was too great and I in common with the others got a very liberal tot of schnapps. After thanking the Captain again, we all went on board our own boat again. Our boat was full up with sacks of coal and flour and going down the rope ladder I felt very elated, not being used to liquor. I stepped on to the bags, staggered and fell over the side much to the amusement of the Dutchmen looking over the steamer’s rail. The others pulled me in again quickly as sharks abounded in those waters. Later the Old Man (Captain Roberts) called all hands aft and gave them a small glass of the claret. He and the officers were smoking cigars for the next few days. 
At about seven p.m. one evening, the wind shifted to the North West in a heavy squall. It continued to blow a whole gale and the sea became very confused. She shopped one heavy sea forward and stove in the forward deck house which was made from teak and the same sea caught a young Dane name Hansen and before he could grab the lifeline he was taken overboard and never seen again. He was only twenty-one years of age. 
We soon picked up the North East Trades and set everything, royals, flying jib, staysails, spanker and gaff topsail, sailing ‘full and bye’, that is about half point or so from the wind. This was really exhilarating, sailing with the Jordanhill leaning over like a yacht with all sails drawing and doing about ten knots. 
S.S. Jordan hill, steel barque, built 1892 by Russell & Co., Glasgow, 2291 GRT.
Getting nearer the English Channel, we were getting a bit anxious about German submarines, as when leaving Melbourne, we had heard that they were getting very active. We had no means of knowing how the war was going. On 23rd of December we sighted the Lizard Light in Cornwall. We ran up our numbers and reported to the Light House. They signalled back ‘You are to proceed to Le Havre, your cargo is for the French Government’. On Christmas Eve, we sighted the Casquets Light on the French coast. At daylight, a French destroyer came close to us and threw us some French papers. On Christmas Day we were tacking very hard every four hours, next day we had lost sight of land but picked it up again in the morning under short sail. On the 28th December, a light cruiser (D19) took us in tow using a brand new 3 1/2inch hawser. She was indeed powerful and we were towing at about ten knots and everything held. When we got into Le Havre the cruiser let us go and we dropped anchor. The following day we were taken to our berth after 141 days at sea. The whole voyage had taken some seventeen months. 
Richard Farrell, 2nd mate S.S. Killoran 1918, age 21 yrs. 
S.S. Killoran, built 1900 at Ailsa Shipbuilding,Troon. 
S.S. Gogovale, built 1927, 4586 GRT, anchored off Algiers 1935. 
Captain Richard Farrell, Master S.S. Gogovale

Regatta Day Waterford c.1963. Captain Richard Farrell & wife Maeve, with Grogan family. 
 L-r. Paddy Hearne, Michael Walsh, Pat Rogers, Willie Walsh, Captain Farrell, John Walsh and Willie Hearne. The occasion is the retirement of Captain Farrell and a presentation by the river pilots of a piece of Waterford Crystal.
Photo via Trish Last Cluney originally featured in the Munster Express Friday 8th Aug 1975. 

I’d like to thank Brendan for sharing this amazing written and pictorial account of the life of Captain Farrell.  Our next guest blog will feature a maritime story from Tony Hennessey.  If you would like to contribute a guest blog, which is published on the last Friday of each month, please get in touch by email to

Tom McSweeny’s book, Seascapes . 

Previous blog on Walter J. Farrell

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Walter J. Farrell 1862-1944, Master Mariner and Harbour Master Waterford Port

Today’s guest blog, is from one of my earliest supporters and sources of encouragement, Brendan Grogan. Brendan has worked in the background and supplying photos, information and advice on my online mission to celebrate Waterford Harbours maritime tradition. This week he steps into the limelight, so to speak, by sharing the life and times of his grandfather Walter J Farrell; his early life growing up in Waterford, his going to sea at 16 where he rises to Master Mariner and his role as harbour master in the port of Waterford from 1904-1941. Walter’s diary entries depict a life of hardship and adventure, that was replicated by thousands, if not tens of thousands of harbour men down the generations.  I’d like to thank Brendan and his family for entrusting us to read it.  
I never knew my grandfather, In fact all four of my
grandparents had passed away before I was born. However, my mother’s father
left a lasting legacy. The account of his many voyages and stories of sea, live
on in his diaries, photographs and other paraphernalia of his life on the ocean

Walter Farrell in Harbour Master’s uniform c. 1935.
Walter Joseph Farrell was born on 16th July 1862 at 10 Sion
Row, Ferrybank. He was the third child and eldest son of thirteen children born
to Richard and Mary Farrell. His father, Richard Farrell was a ship broker, married
to Mary Monica Downey, daughter of Michael Downey, agent for the Clyde Shipping Company and Great Western Railway Steamers
He attended school at Mount Sion and later at Father Joe Phelan’s School
in Stephen’s Street.  In 1877 the family
moved to 57 High Street where his mother had set up a provision store.
SS Lodestar of London 1890
Walter served as bosun and later 2nd mate
Walter took to sea life in 1878 at the age of 16 when he
joined the barque Queen of the Northof the London firm of Ms. George
Lidgett & Sons, under Capt. P. Nolan (from Slieverue).  In May 1878 he sailed to Madras in India,
arriving back in London in May 1879 after a 12 month voyage without ever
touching dry land.  His second voyage
took him to Mauritius and Rangoon, onwards to Conception Bay Newfoundland  and back to Fleetwood after a voyage which
had lasted 19 months.  Subsequent voyages
as an Able Seaman brought him to Imbatuba in Brazil and home via San Francisco, Bombay, Buenos Aires Argentina,
Iquique Northern Chile, and many other ports around the globe.
One of his favourite stories to my mother as a child, was to
recount how the sailors slept in their clothes to try and keep warm. In the
night while sleeping, rats would gnaw on the buttons of their tunics which were
made from bone.
The following are extracts from the log which details his
many voyages:-
Extract from his 4th voyage in 1882:
“1882, Oct. 20th. I again joined the brig ‘Lorriane’ as A.B,
at Workington and sailed 20th Oct. with Captain Nolan for Bombay where we
arrived at the end of January 1883, discharged our cargo and loaded linseed for
Amsterdam arriving September 26th after an eleven month voyage. I left
‘Lorriane’ and went to London to study at Captain Maxwells’s Potters Academy in
Tower Hill where there was a wild lot of young sea men. I spent a fair share of
my money on amusement, Music Halls, Theatres etc. and not enough time on study,
failed exam for 1st Mate and came home to Waterford. I had a fancy to do a
little coasting”
Extract from his 8th voyage 1886:
“February 11th 1886, I sailed in ‘Lodestar’ again as Bosun heading
for San Francisco where we arrived some 17 weeks later having had very bad
weather rounding the Horn. The captain’s wife Mrs. Nolan and their two sons
John and William were on board making the voyage. This time I met many
Waterford people in San Francisco, A Mr. Dillon, Cadogans, Thorntons and an old
school mate Eddy Cummins and his brother , both sons of Mr. Cummins the
hardware and hotel  business now occupied
by Hearne and Co. the Quay. After we discharged our cargo, we took in ballast
and lay out in the bay for 2 months. Eventually we got orders to proceed to
Portland Oregon. On the return voyage, in bad weather rounding the Horn, we
lost an A.B.  off the mizzen topsail
yard, too much sea to launch a boat. Coming up for the Equator, little John Nolan
died. He was well coffined and carried to Queenstown where we arrived in 1887.
John Nolan was buried in the family grave in Ferrybank”
Extract from his 9th voyage 1887:
“August  1887, I
joined the Lodestar as 2nd Mate,  Captain
Nolan in charge and sailed for Bombay, discharged the cargo, loaded part cargo
of salt for Calcutta.  After discharging
the salt we loaded wheat for London arriving there 3rd October 1888 after a 14
month voyage. Captain Nolan went home leaving me by the ship”
SS Ardnamult unloading coal at Le Havre 1899

Walter eventually passed his exam for 1st Mate at John Merrifield’s Navigation School in Plymouth in 1889 and subsequently his
Master’s ticket for steam in 1891.
In 1892 after eleven 
voyages, some lasting as long as 19 months, over a period of 14 years,
to all corners of the globe, Walter with his Master’s Ticket for steam ships
joined Waterford Steamship Company as 2nd Mate on the SS Comeragh which worked
Tenby, Bristol and Wexford. He was subsequently, in 1895 placed in charge of
the SS Creaden which had the honour of bringing the first cargo of continental
sugar to Fenit and Limerick. He was appointed Master of the SS Ardnamult owned
by Limerick Steamship Company in 1896 and plied this and other steamships
between Hamburg and Ireland for nine years.
At sea on the SS Ardnamult 1899 doing his washing.
Walter was appointed Harbour Master or Pier Master of
Waterford Harbour on the 14th January 1904 at the age of 42, by the Southern
and Western Railway Company who had taken responsibility for Waterford Port,
later to be succeeded by Waterford Harbour Commissioners.  He had sailed the seven seas as boy and man
and now it was time to bid farewell to sea life.
Everyday duties included the management of all vessels
berthing at Waterford Port and responsibility for the Pilots who guided vessels
safely up the Suir Estuary to port. Captain Walter Farrell remained as Harbour
Master until his retirement in 1941. He lived a very active life, was married
to Bridget Lawlor from Sallypark who bore him three children and later, on her
death, married Mary Murphy from Mount Neil with whom he produced a daughter, my
mother, Maureen Farrell (Grogan). He passed away aged 82 in 1944. Maureen Grogan passed away
in 2014 in her 102nd year.
His successor was his nephew Richard Farrell who took the
reins as Harbour Master in 1941. Captain Richard (Dick) Farrell retired in 1975
and passed away in 1993 aged 95. Dick’s widow Maeve passed away this February
in her 104th year, she had been living at Havenwood Retirement Home for the
past seven years where she was looked after with great care and respect.
© Brendan Grogan
This is our fourth guest blog. The intention is to offer a
platform to others who are interested in writing about the maritime heritage of Waterford
harbour an opportunity to publish their stories. If you would like to
contribute a piece, please email me at The only criteria
is that it needs to have a maritime connection to the harbour and a maximum
word count of 1200 words. I will format, source the photos if required and add
in the hyperlinks. Guest blogs will be published on the last Friday of each
month. Our next guest blog is scheduled for Friday 28th April, a story about
the lighters that once reigned supreme in the Suir.  The story is brought to us by Leslie Dowley
of Carrick On Suir.

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