When I was a child I used to come to the cottage on the Green on Sundays, long weekends and summer holidays. It was my Grandparents, Tommy and May White’s house and it was always full of cousins, aunts and uncles and lots of gatherings and parties were held there. Grandad had bought it in the 1950’s from “Billy the Green” Doherty who had reared a large family in the house.
The summers were the best because you got to play all day on the Green and be with your friends from morning til night. The village was always busy in the summer months too with fishermen on the quay, coming and going from fishing, mending nets, checking boats. There were always visitors on holidays and people coming to Mac’s for food.
When the cottage was full with cousins Nanny would make up extra beds in the sitting room and we would all pile in. In the mornings the jackdaws in the big open fireplace would waken us with their squawking and flapping wings.
My favourite place to sleep though, was in the small back bedroom. We were told this was an old ships cabin from a ship that had been wrecked in the harbour many years before. This room had a low wooden ceiling with some iron rivets across it in places. There was a small skylight which was then closed in place but could have been opened in the past to allow fresh, if salty air into the cabin on a ship that crossed the Atlantic for her trade. It was a cosy room and often too hot on a warm summer evening. It was only years later that I learned that the cabin came from an American ship called the Alfred D Snow.
The Alfred D Snow was a three masted fully rigged all timber ship which was built in the Samuel Watts shipbuilding yard in Maine USA. She was 232 feet long with a beam of 42 feet and was built in 1877.
|image courtesy of Andrew Kelly|
She left San Francisco on Aug 30th 1887 bound for Liverpool with a cargo of wheat under Captain William J Wiley. She had fair weather on the trip, including the rounding of Cape Horn but as she came up towards the Irish Sea a south east gale blew up and the captain found that evasive measures were required. The crew battled bravely but the storm grew in force and they were forced to call into Waterford Estuary to try find some shelter. Sails were dropped, leaving her without much helm and they tried to inch the ship in under the hook peninsula that would have given them some shelter. However the ship struck the sand close to Broomhill and got stuck fast. Heeling over, the waves crashing over, the ships boats were launched with some difficulty and one managed to make it away but it was swamped and all aboard were drowned. The others took to the rigging in the hopes of salvation.
On land the people were helpless to give direct assistance. The Dunmore East lifeboat was called but didn’t respond until much later, which was a matter of controversy at the time. The tug Dauntless did try to respond. She was sheltering at Passage East but as she approached one of her paddles broke and she drifted helplessly away back up the harbour. As the gale continued to roar and the seas continued to pound, the ship started to break up and the remaining crew were washed away and they too were drowned.
In total all 29 crew men died. Mostly American but also men from England, France, Germany, Norway and Russia. There was an Irish crew man named Michael O Sullivan but I haven’t found out where he came from. However in researching this piece I did learn that there was a survivor; the ships dog, a sheepdog, managed to swim to shore and climbed up the rocks to safety.
During the days that followed the Captains body was recovered and was shipped home for burial in a lead lined, brandy filled casket, (I wonder did he like a drink?). Other crew men were interred in Ballyhack, but most were never found. Pieces of the wreck floated in all along the harbour. These were secured by the Coastguard apparently and were auctioned off. That’s one possibility for how it arrived in Cheekpoint.
|A model with the cabin behind the foremast
image courtesy of Andrew Kelly
Locally, it is said that it came to Cheekpoint quay and using rollers was brought up the village and the backroad and then down behind the cottage and put in place. The Boreen wasn’t wide enough apparently. It remained as it was until a few years back when my cousin renovated the house, so that in total the shipwrights at Samuel Watts yard created a cabin that lasted over 130 years.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to sleep in the cabin, but I don’t know if I would have slept so soundly had I known the whole history of the ship at that time.
Deena Bible 23/8/2014
Piece first read at the Heritage Week event in Reading Room Cheekpoint
With thanks to Andrew Kelly for further information.
John Power – A Maritime History of County Wexford Vol 1(2011)