The wreck of the SS Hermoine

There was plenty of drama along the Irish coast in the First World War, some of which was directly played out in the harbour, whilst others eventually washed up, or in this case was towed into, the harbour.  One such story is of the SS Hermione, a saga that continued to create problems long after the savagery of war had passed
The S.S. Hermione, originally called the Yarrawonga was almost 360 feet long, 4,011 tons and was  launched in 1891 by J.L. Thompson and Sons, Sunderland. She was purchased from the Blue Anchor Line by R.P. Houston & Company, (The British & South American Steam Navigation Co) Liverpool in 1903, renamed and used for transatlantic trade between Liverpool and the Argentine carrying frozen meat.
SS Hermione in better days.  Brendan Grogan collection
The Hermione was requisitioned by the British Admiralty in WW1. Whilst sailing from Liverpool to Buenos Aries in April of 1917, carrying general cargo including 57 horses, she became another statistic of the war.  She was badly damaged approx. 1½ miles south of the Coningbeg rocks, off Co. Wexford, by a mine which was laid by the German submarine, UC33.  Three sailors lost their lives, but I’m not clear as yet whether it was because of the mine, or her foundering (presumably the former).
She was towed into Waterford Harbour by an escort ship, HMS Daffodil and was anchored off Ardnamult Head (Ard na Moilt) above Dunmore East.  Whilst there she sank on 14th April 1917. But this was not before in a very capable act of seamanship, Captain Spillane of the Clyde ship SS Arklow (previously SS Dunbrody of the Waterford Steamship Co) managed to come alongside in hazardous sea conditions and remove the horses.* 
HMS Daffodil © IWM (FL 9965)
It would appear the wreck caused immediate problems for shipping and navigation (and was probably not a great help to fishermen either). An article in the local papers of July 1917 stated that Mr Watt of the Clyde Shipping Co had complaints from the masters of their steamers about the position of the wreck and claimed it was a hazard to shipping.  The Harbour Commissioners obviously agreed, as they were in the process of placing a whistling and lighted buoy over the wreck, having secured it from the Commissioners for Irish Lights.  In November that same year ads appear in several papers looking for a salvage operator to remove the impediment to shipping.(1)  
SS Hermione at her final resting place.  Brendan Grogan collection 
It turned into a long running saga however. A follow up court case of 1935 taken by the Harbour Commissioners against the British & South American Steam Navigation Co seeks a settlement of almost £6000 for marking the wreck and salvage costs.(2)  We learn of a number of failed efforts to get a salvor for the wreck including a contract in 1925 which ended when the contractor died. A follow up contract secured in 1928(3) we read was successful.  However, payment was outstanding to Waterford Harbour Commissioners, and from what I have read thus far, it appears it may have remained so.
An advert from 1917 (4)
As an interesting aside the Munster Express carried a report of the opening of a new maritime Museum in Waterford in December 1978.  One of the exhibits at Central Hall on Parade Quay was described as “2 wooden spoked wheels six feet in diameter from the SS Hermione salvaged in 1932 and donated by the Waterford Harbour Commissioners”(5) What I wouldn’t give to still have a Maritime Museum with us here in our area!

(1) Waterford News & Star Friday 20th July 1917 page 2
(2) The Waterford Standard Saturday 3rd August 1935 page 11
(3) I did find advertisements in the papers of 1928, however Brendan Grogan has his grandfather’s diaries which show a date 1932 for the break up and removal. 
(4) The Belfast Newsletter 24th Nov 1917 page 1
(5) Munster Express 29th December 1978 page 15
* added following publication 20/9/2018 from The Clyde Shipping Company. Frank P Murphy. Decises #38 Summer 1988 p29 
I got the initial information about the SS Hermione from a post by Brendan Grogan on the Waterford Maritime History facebook page which sent me off looking for more background to the story.  I’m indebted to Brendan for the ship photos and his ongoing support.

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The twice sunk schooner Cintra

Those who have looked on the photos depicting the bustling trade on Waterford and New Ross quays in the 19th Century must wonder at the safety aspect of so many ships in close proximity.  Indeed the risks associated with this golden age of sea travel have made for many epic stories of heroism and tragedy.  A story that perhaps is not so dramatic, but none the less indicative, if not more common, is that of the Clyde Shipping’s SS Pladda and the schooner Cintra.  The Cintra however sank not just once, but twice in the Waterford harbour area.
SS Pladda Image courtesy of Andy Kelly
According to the then Cork Examiner(1) Arklow owned Cintra* was en route to New Ross on Friday 4th October 1901 with a cargo of coal from Cardiff. Her master that evening was Captain John D Kearons, and she was piloted by a Dunmore East man Philip Boucher (or Bouchier) It was 8pm on a foggy night** and under darkness she was heading towards the river Barrow.  The Railway bridge had yet to start construction, which would eventually give us a century of incidents, so one must think the pilot had little to concern him at that point apart from the fishing weirs.
Heading into Waterford at the same time was the SS Pladda en route from Glasgow on her normal weekly run under Captain McLeod. She was a ship of the Clyde Shipping company. Passing Cheekpoint there was an almighty crash and measures were taken to reduce way and come about, the engines were reversed and the ships boat was dropped.

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The schooner had been struck broadside (abaft of the main hold) and she healed over but righted again. Sinking fast the Captain ordered all hands to abandon ship and the four crew and the pilot took to the tender and made it safely away, but with no personal possessions. The Cintra was sunk in minutes and the crew headed under oar power towards the shore.
Schooner B I, to give a sense of the Cintra
Photo from William Doherty courtesy of Pat O’Gorman 
Meanwhile the rescue crew from the Pladda arrived and seeing that that the Cintra crew were safe, hung a light from the mast of the schooner which was still to be seen over the surface.  Returning to their ship, they resumed the journey to the city.  No casualties were reported from either ship.  The Pladda would continue with the company until 1907 when she was resold and eventually she too got  a watery grave in 1942.
At a meeting of the Harbour Commissioners Quay Committee of the 9th October(2) the wreck was discussed as a hazard to navigation. Lying in seven fathom of water near the channel it was considered imperative to have it moved. However the owners of the Cintra, seven brothers and sisters from an Arklow family (presumably all the Kearon family had shares in the craft, and have a proud nautical tradition from information kindly sent by Arklow Maritime Museum) had written to say they could not afford to have the wreck removed and asked that the commissioners salvage what they could and that the owners get whatever was left over after costs were covered.
A further news report 3) stated that Messers Eason of Queenstown (Cobh) had quoted a fee of £340 to lift the wreck or £120 to blow her up leaving nothing 8ft above the river bed.  Both prices were agreed to be far in excess of what the Commissioners were willing to pay. The Harbour Master, Captain Parle, thought that explosives was the most cost effective manner of disposal and that his own staff could successfully carry this out.  It was decided that work would commence immediately.  
Cheekpoint, where the incident occured, note no Barrow Bridge spanning the Barrow
Photo from NLI AH Poole Collection circa 1899

Presumably the work was a success as the the final mention of the incident, perhaps not surprisingly was court! The Board of Trade inquiry found both ships at fault in the case, and further civil actions followed including one on behalf of Philip Boucher, the pilot, who it would appear was badly hurt in jumping aboard the the schooners tender.

The strangest part to the whole story of course is that this was the second time the Cintra had sunk in the harbour!  In 1899 (Thursday morning 16th November to be exact) the schooner departed New Ross without a pilot under Captain Fitzpatrick. She was carrying 1000 barrels of Oats for a Mr Reville of the town.  At the Lucy Rock, about five miles from the port she grounded and keeled over on the ebbing tide.  The flood tide later that day totally sank her.  No mention is made of salvage, but she obviously lived to fight another day.  The age of sail was coming to a close, but it would be several decades yet before their beauty was lost to the harbour.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
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Thanks to both James Doherty and Arklow Maritime Museum for extra information

Dear reader, if you have any further information, particularly a photo or image of the Cintra that I could include I would love to hear it via comments or by email to tidesntales@irelandmail.com

*

Built   
(registration
number)
Fate
Arklow owners
Dimension/Tonnage
Rig/Engine
1851 by Gowan, Berwick
(23983)
Lost at Cheek Point, Waterford estuary, 4 October 1901 en route
Swansea-New Ross.
George Kearon
Richard Kearon
78’ x 19.2’ x 10’
62 tons
Schooner
Produced with thanks from Arklow Maritime Museum

**in two other newspaper accounts the weather is described as crisp and clear with stars shining in the sky, and a blustery dark night!

***sourced from two accounts, Wicklow People 18/11/1899 & Wicklow Newsletter and County Advertiser 25/11/1899

(1) Irish Examiner 7/10/1901 P.5
(2) Munster Express 26/10/1901 P.7
(3) Waterford Standard 13/11/1901 P3.

S.S. Macuto: The Dunmore East connections. A recollection from the summer of 1960

I offer a platform for anyone who wants to write about Waterford harbour on the last Friday of each month.  This month David Carroll joins us with a tale of ships and people from the port in 1960 and his experience of the impounded vessel the SS Macuto and how it featured in his life at the time.  I hope you enjoy it.

An image spotted while recently looking through Michael Power’s interesting book ‘Tales from the River Suir’, brought back memories of the S.S. Macuto, a ship that became famous, or maybe that should read ‘infamous’, in the Port of Waterford during my summer school holidays in 1960.

For the months of July and August in that year, the S.S. Macuto became a big news story in Waterford and further afield. For most of that time, the ship was under arrest, with a writ nailed to her mast. Port and pilot dues were owing to Waterford Harbour Commissioners. The crew had not received payment for several weeks and a cargo of maize for R. & H. Hall Ltd., Ferrybank was in dispute due to damage from a leaking oil or water pipe on its voyage from Chicago, through the Great Lakes and arriving in Waterford on July 2nd 1960.
In Dunmore East, we listened for the gossip emanating from the city and we read the local papers avidly each week to update ourselves on the progress of the various legal difficulties being resolved. The ship was later to play a part in the enjoyment of my summer holidays and the operation of one of Dunmore’s leading hotels but to learn about these stories; you will need to continue reading.
Meanwhile, the S.S. Macuto became almost a tourist attraction, as the old-fashioned steamer remained moored on her berth in Waterford. Many people wondered as to how this ‘old rust bucket’ had successfully got through the Great Lakes and crossed the Atlantic let alone sailed up the River Suir to Waterford Port. The S.S. Macuto was built in 1918 in Oakland, California. Governor John Lind was the original name and was 3,431 tons. The ship had a succession of different names and changes of ownership until finally sold in 1960 to the Seaforth Navigation Corporation and renamed S.S. Macuto.
The voyage to Waterford was her first voyage under this name and new owners and the first-time sailing under the flag of Panama. This was very much a ‘flag of convenience’ as a small number of countries such as Panama did not adhere to normal shipping regulations with abuses very prevalent. The aged and decrepit S.S. Macuto was therefore ‘always and accident waiting to happen’. The crew of 23 were all Greek nationals and despite being owed wages by the owners, managed the have a good time during their stay in Waterford. The Munster Express later described the members of the crew as ‘becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves’.
On arrival, following the initial arrest and legal wrangles, Captain Trimis seemed puzzled and was reported to have said, “I do not know how this happened, it my first visit to Ireland”. Interestingly, the Munster Express reported later in the middle of August that the same Captain Trimis, driving a hired-car, was involved in a minor road accident in Tramore where luckily no one was injured, only a small amount of damage caused to the two cars.
S.S. Macuto at Waterford port, 8th August 1960: Shortall Collection © A.Kelly
Wednesday August 24th 1960, the night that the ship finally left port, has become the stuff of legends. At this stage, the legal matters had been more or less determined. The outcome was an order that the ship be sold and to set sail for Cork, where it was to be fitted with a new compass before final departure to La Speiza in Italy to be scrapped. Even in 1971, eleven years after her final voyage from Waterford, the Munster Express shipping correspondent recalled the scene: He reported: “The night of her departure was one of the most exciting ever witnessed in the port. After much delay and lofty voluntaries on the steam siren the crew were shepherded aboard – one finally made it at Dunmore or did he have to go by car to Cobh where she sailed to have her compass adjusted? At one point, Pilot Tom Furlong left the bridge to consult ashore with Captain Farrell on the advisability of sailing – time, tide and the pilot’s patience had all been running out.”
I’ve written previously about Dunmore East being a wonderful place to grow up in the 1950s and early 1960s. There were endless games of tennis, cricket and soccer in the park apart from the brilliant natural facilities that the harbour and all the small coves and beaches provided for swimming, sailing, rowing and fishing. Summer school holidays were a brilliant time and the best day of all, in my opinion, was the annual Regatta Day. Regatta Day was a day on which visiting families to Dunmore, who came each year to stay and enjoy the facilities that the village offered, and local fishermen who made their living from the sea came together with the entire community for a day of competition and fun. A large gathering of spectators would take place on the ‘Island’, a rocky outcrop that was part of the harbour in those days, which was accessed by an archway from the end of Island Lane.
The regatta was a very traditional event, like ones held in other coastal communities. Bob Desmond of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society kindly gave me a press cutting from 1962, which was the centenary celebration of the Dunmore East Regatta. That would make 1960 to be the 98th one held. Apart from sailing, swimming, rowing and outboard motor races, there was also a series of novelty events such as ‘the duck hunt’, ‘greasy-pole’, model yacht race and the one that I always liked the best, the fancy dress parade. On Regatta Day, the national flag was flown on the flagpole in our garden at the harbour and all yachts in the harbour would be dressed with flags for the occasion.
For the 1960 regatta, it was real ‘no-brainer’ as far as I was concerned, I would enter the fancy dress parade as ‘S.S. Macuto’. A fair bit of imagination was required to make my small yellow-painted rowing boat ‘Turmoil’ resemble anything like the decrepit old steamer that was in Waterford all summer. However, with help from John Murphy, we set about the task. Fish boxes, painted brown, were a great source of material to make the upper hull and bridge. The flag of Panama was made from cardboard, red and blue paint. I still await, all these years later for this flag to come up in a Table Quiz! Paint tin lids were used to make the portholes and an empty paint tin formed the top of the funnel, where there would be real smoke. We found that old fishing net burned really well and gave off lots of smoke, which we believed would give us an edge on the day over other competitors. Dress rehearsals went very well, with plenty of smoke coming from practice sessions on dry land. Unfortunately, on the day, things did go quite as well. The old netting probably got a bit damp and not too much smoke was seen around the harbour, much to our disappointment. However, as they say, the taking part matters. We certainly had lots of fun dressing up as Greek sailors and pretending to be the S.S. Macuto.
Incidentally, August 1960 must have had some nasty bad weather as the regatta was finally held on Thursday August 25th, (the day after the S.S. Macuto set sail from Waterford) after three earlier cancellations. Thursday was the traditional half-day in Waterford and holding the regatta on that day would have been the best alternative to a Sunday. After that, there were just a few short days remaining for me before it was time to pack my school bag and start my secondary school education in Waterford.
The Haven Hotel in the 1960s with thanks to Waterford Co Museum

The Dunmore East Regatta was not the only Dunmore connection to the S.S. Macuto. Dick Ballintine and his wife Honor were still owners and successfully managing The Haven Hotel in Dunmore in 1960. The Kelly family did not arrive until a few years later. The Haven had originally been called Villa Marina (that name can still be seen on the wall at the entrance with steps opposite the park) and was one time the summer residence of the Malcolmson family of the Portlaw Cotton Industry and Shipbuilding fame in Waterford. The Ballintines had bought the property in the late 1940’s and turned it into a thriving and popular hotel. Dick Ballintine was an innovative person, a man before his time and saw a terrific opportunity in pre-twitter times to publicise his hotel.

He managed, somehow, to get a painter, or maybe a group of them to paint “Drop anchor at the Haven Hotel” in large white letters on the side of the ship when it was finally berthed near the Mall. Unfortunately, someone rumbled the plan and the Customs Officers stepped in and disallowed the project. For a brief period, the words “Anchor a…” appeared on the side of the ship before being blanked out by black paint and being another chapter in the story of the S.S. Macuto on her stay of notoriety in Waterford.
Finally, returning to the Dunmore East Regatta of 1960, there is a lovely connection with the events of last August (2017) when Dunmore East celebrated Friend or Foe in brilliant fashion. This event commemorated the brave rescue by three young fishermen, Jack McGrath and the brothers Tom and Patsy Power of Kapitan Kurt Tebbenjohanns, commander and only survivor from German mine-laying submarine UC44 that sank in Waterford Harbour in August 1917.
A flavor of the scene; Regatta day Dunmore East 25th August 1938, © Brendan Grogan

The record of winners from the Regatta of the various events as listed in the Munster Express of August 26th1960, show that Thomas McGrath won the Model Yacht Race. Thomas was a nephew of Jack McGrath and John Martin, a nephew of the Power Brothers, won the Open Pair-Oar Rowing Race, rowing with Billy Power. Another successful contestant in the various rowing races was John Aylward, who later went on to become a well-known figure in the Waterford licenced trade.

I would like to thank Andrew for his invitation to me to contribute to Waterford Harbour Tide ‘n’ Tales again. It is a privilege to be a small part of Andrew’s mission to celebrate and preserve the rich maritime heritage of Waterford Harbour. Gratitude is also due to Andy Kelly for his kind permission to use the image of the S.S. Macuto and to the library staff at the Central Library, Lady Lane in Waterford for allowing access to old copies of the Munster Express on-line. I also received valuable assistance form Brian Ellis, Honorary Librarian at National Maritime Museum of Ireland, Dun Laoghaire.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales