On Saturday morning, 30th October 1875 the schooner Mino of Cheekpoint, Co Waterford was run ashore on the Wexford shore by her captain and crew. Aground on the sandy shoreline the first wave to break over her stern carried the timbers away and this was quickly followed by her afterdeck. As locals rushed to the scene, the crew who were huddled in the bow, were assisted ashore with the help of ropes and cared for in local homes. The crew of the Mino were fortunate to have survived, but was this a case of bad weather, poor seamanship or something more sinister?
The Mino, was a 180 ton, two masted schooner, built in Prince Edward Island in 1858. The schooner was advertised for sale in Liverpool in May of 1862 and was subsquently bought by Captain Thomas White of Cheekpoint, Co Waterford for £229. In an advert of the time the Mino was described as “…a most remarkable vessel; carries 140 tons, on 9 feet water; sails without ballast; takes the ground; is well found in stores, and quite ready for immediate employment. This vessel is admirably adapted for the coasting trade, and sold in consequence of being too small for present owner’s use. Dimensions: Length 73 feet, breadth 20 feet , depth 9 feet ”
White became the vessels master and used the ship in the coastal trade that she was so suited to, carrying cargo such as wheat and pit props from Waterford and returning with such staples as coal. In 1872 it would appear that White stood down from his position and Captain Pat Brien of Wexford took command, followed by Captain Crotty, Captain Michael Barry of Cheekpoint and lastly, Whites brother in Law, Edward Kavanagh.
According to Kavanagh the Mino departed Waterford (20th September 1875) for Cardiff with pit props and then to Newport to take on a 125 tons of coal. The departure was delayed for sometime due to weather and eventually they sailed on the 16th October for their stated destination, Cheekpoint, Co Waterford. They put into Milford Haven on the 23rd due to “stress of weather”. When they again set sail on the 29th October they again ran into heavy weather off the Smalls. The Mino started to take water and although two pumps were manned, the water gained on them and the ship became unmanageable. At 5am on the morning of the 30th October Kavanagh ran the Mino ashore on Ballyhealy strand. Thanks to local assistance, himself and his crew were saved.
Later that morning the scene was visited by William Coughlan the Collector of Taxes and Reciever of Wrecks at Wexford. Members of the coastguard were also present and the condition of the wreck was immediately obvious to them. The Mino had practically fallen apart and it would seem that Coughlan was determined to get to the bottom of it. A shipwright from the Board of Trade was summoned and from the 6th-7th of November Robert Bell surveyed the wreck. He confirmed what most onlookers could determine for themselves, that many of the Mino’s timbers were in a rotten state.
The wreck was eventually auctioned off but I could find no reference to the cargo of coal which was destined originally for a Mr Davis of Waterford. If the schooners owner, Captain White, was feeling the loss of his ship and income, things were only going to go from bad to worse.
Just after Christmas 1875 Captain White was summoned to appear at a preliminary hearing at the Callaghane Petty Sessions to explain why he should not be prosecuted under a charge of sending men to sea in an unseaworthy ship. The shipowner faced stiff questioning before the presiding magistrates—Hon Dudley Fortescue, chairman ; Sir R J Paul, Bart: Capt Armstrong, Capt Coughlan, P Fitzgerald, Esq, and G I Goold, Esq, R.M 
It was decided that White had questions to answer and in March 1876 he appeared before Judge Barry in the Waterford Azzies where over two days he was tried by a jury of his peers. The evidence was overwhelmingly against the man. Both the coastguard and Receiver of Wrecks were clear as to the condition of the craft, his ex captain, Michael Barry explained how a Board of Trade official in Wales had cautioned of the ships unseaworthiness and that he had communicated this to White, prior to leaving the ship. The master of the Mino Edward Kavanagh deposed that he thought the ship was fine up to the storm in the Irish Sea, but his evidience was undermined when it was revealed that he was a brother in law to White. Two other crew, the mate Michael Power, and a sailor named John Milton, stated they were unaware of any issues as regards the craft. Their evidence was all the more strange because arguably the most convincing prosecution evidence shown in court was parts of the ships timbers.
In his own defence White gave a good account of himself, stating that he had skippered the ship up to four years previously when ill health caused him to withdraw. He had regularly had the ship overhauled on the Penrose Graving Bank in Waterford and had spent large sums to maintain the ship. However, he could only provide three receipts for small repairs totalling £12 for the years 1873/4. And he could offer no witnesses to vouch for the claimed work, despite the fact that they were supposed to take place in the city. The judge, perhaps in frustration, asked White if he had a bad memory to which White replied “A very bad one”! Two local businessmen spoke up on Whites behalf; Shipping agent Downey and corn merchant Thomas Quigley!
The jury retired but quickly returned with a guilty verdict. Judge Barry sentenced Captain White to two months in jail and was reported to have stated that the Mino was as rotten a ship as ever put to sea!. The irony was that if Kavanagh had not managed to ground the ship and save his crew, White would probably have never been prosecuted. The Mino would be just another statistic of wrecks on the Wexford shore.
But that is not the end to my story. I grew up with stories of Captain White and his extended family who lived in Dobbyn’s House, Cheekpoint. The family had a strong connection with the sea, and as is often the case, were no strangers to tragedy. For example I was told that a son of the family died at Cheekpoint quay following a fall from a mast of their ship. I can’t say that this was Thomas Whites son, or that the fall was from the Mino. I have yet to find any proof. But I did find one very sad and curious event that might change the readers opinion of this account. For four years previously, a twenty year old sailor on the Mino was drowned in the Barrow following a boating accident. His name was John White and he was described as the Captain of the Mino’s son.  In the court case White stated that he had stood down as Captain four years before. Was this event the cause of his retirement as master? Ultimately was this the reason for his ill health? In the modern era such an event would be considered important as regards the Captains mental health, and would almost certainly be used in his defence as a contributory factor.
Thanks for dropping by and reading. If you have any observations, questions or extra information I would be delighted to recieve them, in the comments section below or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I publish a new story on the maritime heritage of Waterford harbour on the last Friday of each month. I also post daily updates on Facebook and Twitter. Andrew Doherty