Irish Ships and Shipping

      Famous Irish Mariners

Mariner and Polar explorer

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Sir Ernest Shackleton


Ernest Henry Shackleton was born at Kilkee, Co. Clare, Ireland in 1874 and completed his formal education in London before he joined the British Merchant Service. Although his early career was spent in the merchant services his interest in exploration and adventure prompted him to volunteer for Scott's Antarctic Expedition in 1901. He sailed in the "Discovery" but was forced to return home in the following year due to illness.


In 1908 Shackleton sailed from New Zealand in the "Nimrod" to lead his own expedition to the South Pole. He succeeded in reaching a point about 97 miles from the South Pole and it was on his return from this venture that he received his knighthood in recognition of his achievement and his contribution to the cause of scientific discovery.

In this, his bid to reach the Pole, Shackleton brought with him some Manchurian ponies to pull the sledges over the frozen wastes. He penetrated to 80- 23" seconds south and pioneered the route to be followed by subsequent explorers by way of Beardmore Glacier . Three years later his old comrade, Capt. Scott, was to reach the South Pole along this route only to find that the famous Norwegian explorer, Ronald Amundsen, had reached the coveted goal on 14th December, 1911, one month prior to Scott's arrival. On the following 12th November, Scott and his four companions were found dead in their tent from exposure and ex­haustion.

In 1914 Shackleton again set forth to reach the South Pole and this third expedition in the "Endurance" was undoubtedly his most famous exploit and proved one of the most heroic struggles for survival in the annals of exploration. Indeed his ship was well named.

Endurance caught in the ice

In the voyage to Antarctica the expeditionary ship "Endurance" got caught in the frozen ice pack which the vessel encountered in the Weddell Sea , the largest sea in the Antarctic region. For nine long months the ship and its crew of twenty seven men were bound helplessly in the ice. The order to abandon ship was given by Shackleton on 27th October, 1915 , and by then the party knew that the vessel was doomed. Having endured the three months of night which the polar winter brings, the hoped-for break-up of the icepack which would release the ship never came but instead larger floes of ice piled up against her side to create intolerable pressure.

Although the "Endurance" was probably the strongest wooden ship ever built with her hull in places two and a half feet thick, she eventually buckled under the strain and all essential gear was taken off as well as three lifeboats and the expedition's 49 dogs. Thus the expedition's twenty seven members, under the command of Shackleton, were marooned on the frozen wasteland of the Weddell Sea , midway between the South Pole and the nearest outpost of humanity, 1200 miles away. They were 210 miles from the nearest known land, the Palmer Peninsula and this was uninhabited. With no radio transmitter and no contact with the outside world they were entirely on their own and if they were to get out they would have to get themselves out. Even if their plight was known to the outside world it is doubtful if they could have been rescued.

Shackleton looking over the side of the Endurance as the ice starts to crush her.

Shackleton had already decided that they would march over the frozen ocean towards Paulet Island , a tiny spot of land 346 miles to the north east, where stores of food were known to be laid up. Eventually he felt certain they would come to open water so they dragged the three lifeboats with them on sledges. The men who faced this prodigious task could hardly have been a more varied collection of individuals. They ranged from Cambridge University dons to Yorkshire fishermen and included one stowaway who had slipped aboard at Buenos Aires . But sharing the long polar night aboard the "Endurance" had welded them into a cheerful close-knit unit. Although they were now camped above 2,000 fathoms of water, on a piece of ice barely six feet thick there was a remarkable lack of discouragement. It was quite enough just then merely to be alive.

Shackleton, too, appeared cheerful and resolute for he was an explorer in the classic model — utterly self- reliant, romantic, and a little swash­buckling. He was now forty years old, a stocky, iron - jawed man who thoroughly believed the motto of his family "By endurance we conquer".

After they had spent 36 hours on the ice Shackleton called all hands to­gether and talked about the journey that lay ahead. It was imperative, he explained gravely, that all weight be reduced to the barest minimum. Each man would be allowed a minimum of clothing, a pound of tobacco and two pounds of personal gear. When he had finished speaking, he reached under his coat and took out a gold cigarette case and several gold sovereigns and threw them into the snow at his feet. Then he opened the Bible that Queen Alexandra, the Queen Mother, had given the expedition and whipped out the fly leaf containing her in­scription which read "may the Lord help you to do your duty and guide you through all dangers by land and sea." Then he laid the Bible on the snow and walked away.

It was a dramatic gesture but a calculated one and as the afternoon wore on it appeared that Shackleton's example had been effective. The amount of nonessentials dumped in the centre of the tent grew steadily. Shackleton also ordered the four puppies among the sledge dogs to be killed as there was only food for those who could pull their weight.

Next day, 30th October, they started off with Shackleton and the pioneering party leading the way to search for the most level route. The dog teams came next pulling heavily laden sledges and then under the command of Frank Worsley who had been Captain of the "Endurance", came the last and most difficult operation moving the boats. This was a killing job with the boats, drawn one at a time by fifteen men harnessed in traces, weighing over a ton each. They sank deeply into the snow and to move them the men had to strain forward in their traces until they were at times leaning almost parallel with the ground. Every few hundred yards they had to chop a miniature mountain path through pres­sure ridges and on particularly high ridges a ramp of ice and snow had to be built up one side and down the other.

During the first day they covered a distance of one mile and it snowed heavily that night so that next day progress was even less. Shackleton decided that it was not worthwhile going on. They were then camped on an unusually strong floe 10 feet deep and a third of a mile in diameter and Shackleton announced to all hands that they would stay there until the drift of the ice carried them closer to land. The dog teams were dispatched to the original camp a mile and three-quarters back to bring up all the food, clothing and gear possible. A party of six men was also sent back to the ship to salvage whatever of value they could. They found her bow shoved far down into the ice, her main mast broken and her rigging so entangled that every step aboard was a danger. But by hacking a hold through the galley roof they were able to get at the stores and for several days they continued to salvage supplies and sledge them to Ocean Camp as the present bivouac was eventually called.

On 21st November the "Endurance" sank and so everything depended on the drift of the ice pack which might continue to go north-west carrying them towards their goal, Paulet Island .

They remained at Ocean Camp for almost two months crammed together in an inadequate tent with little to place between their sleeping bags and the bar ice. Eventually on 21st December Shackleton called all hands to­gether and informed them that they would start trekking across the ice in two days hence. They intended to travel mostly at night when tempera­tures would be lower and the ice surface firmer. Furthermore he said, since they would be on the trail over Christmas they would observe the holidays before leaving and all hands could now eat everything they wanted. A great deal of food would have to be left behind anyway.

The Christmas feast began immediately and lasted almost all the next day as well. At five-thirty the following morning they started over the ice and many of the floes were rotten and saturated. The frozen snow-covered surface, however, appeared deceptively sturdy. At each step it would seem capable of sup­porting a man but just as he shifted his weight entirely he would burst through the crust. The men pulling the boat sledges could take only about 200 yards of such punishment at a time. After five days during which they advanced 9 miles , Shackleton decided that it was hopeless to continue. Many of the men had reached a point of complete exhaustion.

Their position if anything was worse than it had been for they had aban­doned a good quantity of food stores in moving and they were now camped on a waterlogged and unreliable floe. For three and a half months, with starvation threatening, they were doomed to stay on this bit of ice aptly named Patience Camp. As the weary vigil dragged on, Shackleton ordered the ration to be reduced to one warm beverage a day — a helping of hot powdered milk at breakfast. But provi­dence never failed them altogether. They always managed to kill enough seals to maintain a bare subsistence ration and on 19th February thousands of migrating penguins suddenly ap­peared on the floe. During the next three days the men were able to kill some six hundred of them for the camp larder.

Late in January a gale blew up from the south and carried them 84 miles in six days, towards their destination. On 9th March they felt the swell the unmistakable rise and fall of the open ocean. Everyone was satisfied that it lay at most 30 miles away. Shackleton alone seemed to sense from the presence of the swell a new and far more dangerous threat than almost any they had faced till then. The one situation from which he knew there would be no escape was for the swell to increase while the pack remained closed. The action of the sea would then crack and break the floes and ultimately grind the ice to bits on which they could not camp while the boats would be crushed instantly if launched. To make matters worse, the problem of food was becoming acute.

All the dogs except two teams had now been shot. The meager amount of blubber provided by the penguins was nearly gone and on 16th March the last of their flour was used up. On the morning of 23rd March, Shackleton, who was up early, saw a black object far in the distance. It was one of the tiny Danger Islands , near the tip of Palmer Penin­sula , identifiable by its table top bluffs rising steeply out of the water. It lay exactly forty two miles away in a westerly direction. If the ice opened they could land there in a day but the pack showed no disposition to open and enable them to launch the boat. Consequently the sight of land was but another reminder of their helplessness.

The truth was that there was precious little land left that they had any chance of reaching. They had drifted to the absolute cliff of the Palmer Peninsula and the possibility of reaching land there was now hopeless. Thus, be­tween them and the open seas, the most storm-torn ocean on the globe, all that remained were two lonely, sentinel-like outposts of the Antartic Continent — Clarence and Elephant Islands, about 110 miles to the north. Beyond these there was nothing.

In the afternoon of 9th April the ice broke and they were able to launch their boats. Five days later after battling against high seas and a never-slackening gale the entire party landed on Elephant Island . For the first time in 497 days they were on land. However, the place was un­inhabited with the exception of seals and penguins which the party used for much needed food. All along the coast, hostile cliffs rose like an enormous wall thrown up against the sea. After their third day on the Island

Shackleton announced that he would take a party of five men and set sail in one of their boats, the "Caird", for South Georgia some 800 miles away to bring relief from one of the whaling stations there. On 24th April they set off leaving twenty two of their party behind and running before almost gale force winds they logged 128 miles in two days. They were in the Drake Passage . Here the waves some­times exceed 90 feet and their speed reached 30 knots but nine days out from Elephant Island the wind dropped to a breeze and they found themselves midway to South Georgia . A very real danger existed in the possibility of miscalculation for the Island was only 15 miles wide at its widest point and to miss it would mean being lost in the South Atlantic Ocean in a void of 3,000 desolate miles. However on 10th May 1916 the "Caird's" keel ground against the shore of the South Georgia Island .

Unfortunately they were on the wrong side of the Island and the four whaling stations and the only inhabitants were on the opposite coast. By sea it was some 160 miles away and the "Caird" was now hardly equal to the journey. That left only one alternative — to cross the island overland. Although in distance it was only 19 miles , the interior of South Georgia has been described by one expert as "a saw-toothed trust through the tortured upheaval of mountain and glacier that falls into the northern sea". Nobody had ever cros­sed it. Shackleton told the party that he and Worsley, his navigator, and another member of the team would make the attempt. 
After nine days during which they recuperated from the boat trip the three set out on 19th May. Thirty-six hours later they reached the other coast achieving what no man has ever been able to do again by that route though some have tried. At the whaling Station Shackleton obtained a large wooden whaler, the "Southern Sky" in which to return to
Elephant Island and to rescue the twenty-two castaways there. In the meantime Worsley boarded a whaler and set out for the other side of the Island to pick up the three men they had left behind on the island.

Three days out the "Southern Sky" en­countered ice and although Shackleton tried desperately to find a way through they never approached Elephant Island closer than seventy miles. Shortage of fuel forced them to return to the Falkland Island . Shackleton made two more abortive attempts, first in a small ship supplied by Uruguay , then in a vessel obtained in Chile . On 25th August he set out in the "Yelcho", an aged tug lent by the Chilean government. This time the ice was willing and on the 30th August the twenty-two men were taken on board and once more the party was com­plete. The rescued men who had been waiting four months and five days since the "Caird" set out were in surprisingly good condition.

They had improvised a hut by upturning the two boats and had subsisted primarily on penguins most of their other supplies such as powdered milk, nut food and tobacco had run out. But morale had remained high. There had been no serious quarrels and the only major incident was the amputation of five toes which had been frozen on the foot of the one stowaway in the party. The men had nearly given up all hope of rescue however and were then making plans to reach civilisation on their own.

Schackleton's feat in saving every man in his expedition is the most extraordinary in the annals of polar exploration. Indeed polar historians agree that what Shackleton set out to do which was to cross the Antarctic Continent on foot was far surpassed by what he did instead.

Undaunted Shackleton set out on a further expedition in 1921 in "The Quest" but early in 1921 off South Georgia Island he died aboard ship and was buried on the Island . 

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"Signal" magazine 
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica 
Jonathan Shackleton & John MacKenna (2002).
The Lilliput Press, Dublin, Ireland.

ISBN-10: 184351009X

ISBN-13: 978-1843510093







































 William Browne 

Founder of the Argentine Navy 

Admiral William Browne 

William Browne was born in Foxford, Co. Mayo, in 1777. At the age of nine he was taken to Philadelphia, and on his father's death, went to sea as a cabin boy on an American ship. 
He worked his way up from fo'castle to quarter deck and 
arrived in Buenos Aires in the year 1812 as captain of his own ship. 

For the next two years he carried on trading ventures there. In 1814 the Patriot Government asked him to fit out his squadron to fight the Spanish Navy which was then in complete mastery of the seas of South America. Arming three old whaling ships he surprised and defeated a Spanish Squadron of nine vessels and then, reinforced by three other armed merchant ships, he forced the main Spanish Fleet of thirteen warships into action. He sank or captured them and returned to seal 
the fate of Montevideo, the last stronghold of Spain on the Atlantic seaboard. 
Subsequently he organised and commanded the Navy of the infant Republic of the Argentine. Working in close co-ope- ration with General San Martin, the Liberator of the Argentine, Chile and Peru, he routed the naval forces of the enemy in the Pacific as well as in the Atlantic, while San Martin defeated their forces on land. 

These two, San Martin and Brown, established, by their 
victories, the liberty of Argentina. After his defeat of the Spanish Fleet in Rio de la Plata, he brought his ship around Cape Horn to the Pacific Coast where he bombarded Callao and captured several Spanish ships off the coast of Peru. 
He attacked the fortified sea port of Guayaquil almost single 
handed and it was here his ship went aground and he was boarded by Spanish Infantry. Brown, however sat over his powder magazine with a lighted torch in his hand and gave the Spanish a choice of going shoreward or skyward. The Spaniards took the safer course and Brown got away safely. 
In 1826 the Republic was threatened by Brazil, and Brown won the decisive battle of Juncal against heavy odds. He broke the Brazilian blockade of Buenos Aires and destroyed the enemy in the Harbour of Montevideo with only two ships. He entered the Harbour of Rio de Janiero and disorganised the enemy defences and shipping.
In 1842 in the war between Argentina and Uruguay Brown, now over sixty years of age, destroyed the enemy's navy. It was during this battle that he destroyed a naval detachment at Costa Brava, commanded by Garibaldi, who afterwards won fame in Italy. 
For nearly forty years he kept the flag of Argentina flying, winning notable victories for his adopted country both in 1826 and 1842. In his old age he paid a visit to his birthplace in Foxford, and to the home in which he was born. William Browne died in Argentina in 1857 and was buried in the Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires.

Click here for Photos of the National ceremony held in Dublin 
on the 22nd. June 2007

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 Irish Mariners



John Barry, son of Catherine and John Barry of Tacumshane, Co.Wexford was born in 1745 and received no formal education. He went to sea as a cabin boy at a very early age and on a voyage to New England he decided to remain there. He settled in Philadelphia in 1760 and as master of a merchant ship he acquired considerable wealth. He was thus fully involved in the life of his adopted country and when the revolution broke out he offered his services to Congress.

In February, 1776 he was appointed to command the'Lexington', a brig armed with sixteen 4-pounder guns and on April 17th he chanced to meet the English tender 'Edward' off the coast of Virginia. The 'Edward', which was only nominally a man-of-war, was poorly equipped for the purpose of suppressing smuggling and was inadequately armed to take any effective action against the attack of the Lexington'. She was overcome by Barry and the 'Edward" became the first ship of war in American Annals to be captured by the American Navy.

In 1777, while awaiting the completion of the 'Effingham' Barry, at the head of four boats captured an enemy man-of-war schooner in the Delaware after a courageous action. Finding that the ice on the river and bay was preventing sailing and being unwilling to remain inactive, he joined the army and fora short period he served as aide-de-camp to General Cadwalader and rendered outstanding service in army action around Trenton.

Barry's success was rewarded by his appointment as commander of the twenty-eight guns frigate, 'Effingham'. The frigate was then being built at Philadelphia and was burned by the English in May 1778 before she was ready to put to sea.

A few months later Barry was assigned to the 'Raleigh' which had thirty-two guns and sailed from Boston on 25th September. He was almost at once sighted by the 50-gun ship 'Experiment' under the command of Sir James Wallace. Under pressure from the enemy Barry was obliged to run his ship ashore in Penobscot Bay.
The English took possession of the 'Raleigh' and added her to the British Navy in which the name has been perpetuated to the present time. 

Early in 1781 he was appointed to the 'Alliance', a frigate of
thirty-two guns, which had just returned from a very remarkable voyage round the coast of Great Britain as one of the squadron of ships under the command of Paul Jones.
Barry sailed for France carrying on board Col. Henry Laurens of South Carolina, the new representative of the United States at the Court of Versailles. On the return journey the 'Alliance' left Lorient on 31st March and engaged in a fierce battle with the English privateer 'Atalanta' and her consort, the Trespassy'.

In the encounter Barry was severely wounded in the shoulder from a burst of grapeshot. On his return to America Barry received a hero's welcome as he brought with him the two enemy vessels which he had captured. 
On 21st December of the same year he sailed again in the 'Alliance' from Boston, with the Marquis de Lafayette and the Comte de Noailles on board, both of whom were returning to France on important public business. On the return voyage Barry captured a number of enemy vessels including a vessel of the same size as the 'Alliance' but this was re-taken by an English force of superior strength.

Barry continued to serve with distinction during the war and he is reputed to have rejected the most tempting offers from the British Government and refused to turn traitor to the cause of his adopted country. After the cessation of hostilities he was employed by the United States Government to superintend the building of the frigate 'United States'. He retained command of this vessel until after the accession of Mr. Thomas Jefferson to the office of President when the 'United States' was laid-up.

When, in 1794 the American Navy was reorganised on something like its present footing, Barry was placed at the head of the fleet as commodore, a position which he held until his death at Philadelphia on 13th September, 1803.

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Captain Robert Halpin


One of the most famous ships of all time was the "Great Eastern", a vessel which, for fifty years after her launching on 31st January 1858, was the largest ship in the world. Forever associated with that famous vessel and with the historic laying of world wide telegraphic cables is the name of Robert Halpin of Wicklow. At present a number of souvenirs of the "Great Eastern" and Captain Halpin are in the safe keeping of the Maritime Institute of Ireland and included in these is his uniform.

Great Eastern at north wall Dublin 1886. Captain Halpin's uniform

Robert Halpin was born in Wicklow on 17th March, 1836 and went to sea at the very tender age of 10. Just twelve years later he was made master of a Belfast-built steamship, "The Circassion". 
Six years later, in 1864, he was appointed first mate of the
"Great Eastern". This huge vessel was built at the Isle of Dogs on the Thames. She was 692 feet long, had two sets of engines with a strength of eleven thousand horse power and was designed to carry 4,000 passengers. She was described by some of the writers of her day as "The Wonder of the Seas".

She had six masts and carried 6,500 sq. yards of sail in addition to two 58 foot paddle wheels. As a passenger ship she was a complete failure but she was subsequently to become a very successful cable-laying vessel and laid the first cable between Valentia, Co. Kerry and Newfoundland in 1866. 

In 1869 Robert Halpin was appointed master of the "Great Eastern" and laid cables from Brest to Newfoundland and from Bombay to Aden and Suez. In the years 1873 and 1874 Captain Halpin made two further Atlantic cable voyages and connected Madeira with Brazil. Subsequently he sailed south and laid cable linking Australia, New Zealand and the Dutch East Indies. 

Robert Halpin was a small man, but was nevertheless very powerful and weighed 15 stone. He was very popular with his crew and was very concerned for their welfare. On one occasion in 1866 on board the vessel a sailor coming down from a high mast in a gale became terrified as he gazed down on the open paddle engine hatch. He was 80 feet aloft and Halpin called out "Hold on, I'm coming up". He climbed up the stay and clinging with arm and leg placed the man's legs around his neck and brought him safely down to the deck.
As master of the "Great Eastern" he showed exceptional qualities of courage and seamanship and gained for himself the respect and admiration of his fellow mariners and of some of the leading figures of his day.

Among these was Jules Verne, who sailed with him on board the "Great Eastern" in 1867. Verne described Halpin as "a skilful, energetic seaman; he gave orders in a clear, decided tone, the bosun repeating them with a voice like the roaring of a lion". Apart from the great writer many other contemporaries were generous in their praise of the Wicklow seafarer and today in his home town a monument stands to remind its citizens of the great achievement of Robert Halpin and of the honour he brought to his place of birth.

During his career as an ocean cable layer. Captain Halpin was responsible for the laying of 26,000 miles of cable and when in 1874 the Telegraph Construction Company launched a specially built cable-ship, "The Faraday", the "Great Eastern" became obsolete. It was decided that the huge ship should be laid up at Milford Haven and Captain Halpin was in command on her final voyage from London to Milford Haven, a trip which took three days. There, for the last time, Robert Halpin walked down the "Great Eastern's" ladder and ended a partnership which had made shipping history.

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John Philip Holland was born in Co.Clare Ireland in 1841.

Having survived the famine he joined the Christian Brothers in 1858, at the age of 17. There he met a monk who was already working on a way to propel submarines by electricity. In early 1873 Holland left the Christian Brothers and sailed to America. Arriving in Boston he met with Irish Americans and secured funding for his submarine known as the Fenian Ram. Powered by an internal combustion engine and armed with a single missile tube the trials were very successful. Unfortunately some of his backers thought that the U.S. government were about to claim it, (and without telling Holland) and in an attempt to hide it from them they damaged her and she never sailed again. Holland decided to start building submarine torpedo boats for the U.S. navy. After nearly 15 years of planning and different designs the navy bought his sixth one in 1900.
Named Holland VI it was judged to be the Worlds first successful submarine. Holland died in 1914.


The Fenian Ram
Holland II
The Fenian Ram at
the New York

State Marine School
US Navy Photo
The USS Holland
Holland VI
The USS Holland
Holland VI
The USS Holland
Holland VI
The USS Holland
Holland VI

John Holland’s First Submarine


14 feet 6 inches


3 feet 0 inches


2 feet 6 inches


2.25 tons

 Holland I



Holland I Model 

Drawn from memory by William Dunkerly

Published in the Paterson Sunday Chronicle in 1916 


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To learn more about John Philip Holland please click here:



































Thomas Charles James Wright

founder of the Ecuadorian naval school

He was an officer in Simón Bolívar's army and founder of the Ecuadorian naval school, was born on 26 January 1799 in Queensborough, Drogheda , County Louth , the son of Thomas Wright and Mary Montgomery. In 1810 Thomas was sent to the naval college at Portsmouth , and two years later joined the H.M.S. Newcastle under the command of George Stewart. He sailed in that vessel to serve with the squadron under Borlase Warren, engaged in blockading the Atlantic coast of the United States . He was promoted and went home on leave in 1817. Dating from that time Thomas Wright seems to have been under the influence of the same radical and republican ideas that had inspired the French Revolution.

In November 1817 Wright enlisted as officer in the British Legion of Bolívar. He sailed on the brigantine Dowson with 200 other volunteers and valuable ammunition, and after a series of delays, dangers, and adventures landed on Margarita Island off the Venezuelan coast on 3 April 1818 . Nine years later, Wright and another Irishman, Harris, were the only survivors of the thirty-two officers who had left on the Dowson.

At Angostura (present-day Ciudad Bolívar), Wright first met Simón Bolívar, for whom he quickly developed boundless admiration. His first action was at Trapiche de Gamarra on 27 March 1819 . His victory there inspired Bolívar to undertake his audacious New Granada campaign and the march across the Andes .

Wright played important roles in the battles of Pantano de Vargas and Gamesa in July 1819, and in the decisive victory at Boyacá in August of the same year, after which he was promoted to captain. In 1820 he was sent back with his Rifles regiment to the coastal plain to operate in the jungle east of the Magdalena against the Spanish forces based on Santa Marta . The battle at Ciénaga de Santa Marta on 10 November 1820 resulted in the fall of this town. Conveyed by sea to Maracaibo ,

the Rifles participated on 21 June 1821 in Bolívar's decisive victory at Carabobo. Cartagena was taken and the Rifles were brought in boats up the Magdalena en route to Popayán. They formed part of the contingent led by Bolívar in the second of his legendary Andean campaigns. After winning the battle at Bomboná on 7 April 1822 , Wright was twice mentioned in Bolívar's order of the day for his exceptional skill and courage. From February 1822 Wright was acting lieutenant-colonel, a rank which was confirmed early in 1823, when he was serving under Sucre , who joined forces with Bolívar at Quito , Ecuador .

Wright was sent to Guayaquil in order to improvise a naval force and patrol northwards between that Ecuadorian city and Panamá. In September 1824, after Bolívar's great victory at Junín and Sucre 's at Ayacucho, the Spanish made their last bid to turn the tide and sent a fleet to break the republican blockade in the Peruvian stronghold of Callao . Wright had had a busy year assuring supplies by sea for Bolívar's and Sucre 's armies. He had greatly impressed Bolívar, who had appointed him commodore of the Pacific squadron that joined the patriot naval force off Callao . Trying to force their way out, the royalist ships became closely engaged with the blockaders.

The brigantine Chimborazo sustained three water-line hits and was in collision with the ship of the line Asia , but by virtue of his consummate skill Wright manoeuvred himself free and avoided being driven ashore. In January 1826 Callao capitulated and Spanish rule in South America was ended. Meanwhile Wright on the Chimborazo had ferried Bolívar from port to port all along the liberated Pacific coast as far as the Chilean border.

Thomas Wright settled in Guayaquil in 1826, and founded the nautical school that is still functioning there. In 1828 the Peruvian government sent the corvette Libertad to blockade Guayaquil . Wright had studied intimately the unique swells and currents of the Gulf of Guayaquil and he used his knowledge to drive off the Libertad. Wright's Guayaquileña suffered sixty casualties out of the ninety-six men onboard.

Wright took part at sea and land in the fighting that ended with the delimitation of the Ecuador-Peru boundary, and he was specially commended by Sucre after the victory at Portada de Tarqui. Ecuador achieved independence on 8 August 1830 , and Wright became one of the new republic's leading citizens.

He married María de
los Angeles Victoria Rico, the niece of Vicente Rocafuerte, president of Ecuador in 1835-1839 and 1843-1845. Wright converted to Roman Catholicism before the wedding. After María's death, Wright took her sister Pepita as his second wife. He was then commander of the Ecuadorian navy and governor of Guayaquil . His courage during a yellow fever epidemic in 1840 was remarkable.

A military plot in 1845 overthrew the liberal regime supported by Wright and he went into exile in Chile for fifteen years. In Chile he met and exerted a great influence upon the Ecuadorian exile Eloy Alfaro, who would be president in 1897-1913. Wright returned to Ecuador in 1860 and was involved in various liberal conspiracies against the despot Moreno . With his house still surrounded by police, Thomas Wright died on 10 December 1868 .

Edmundo Murray 2006

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Peter Campbell


naval officer and founder of the Uruguayan navy

naval officer and founder of the Uruguayan navy, was born in Ireland in 1780. Little is known about Campbell 's early years in Ireland , except that he was probably apprenticed as a tanner. He enlisted in the 71st Highland Regiment, one of the divisions that in July 1805 sailed for the Cape of Good Hope . In 1806 these troops invaded Buenos Aires under William Carr Beresford. After the British campaigns failed in their attempt and the regiment withdrew, Campbell was one of the soldiers who managed to remain in the River Plate. He joined the patriot ranks as a guerrilla leader, harassing Spanish forces both on land and on the Paraná river .

He was notorious for his dexterity in gaucho-style duel, wielding a long knife in one hand and using a poncho wrapped around the other arm as a protective measure. He carried two riding pistols, a sabre, and a large knife in a leather sheath for his personal protection, and was assisted by a Tipperary-born gaucho known as 'Don Eduardo'.

Campbell rose to prominence as a superb guerrilla fighter, serving under José Artigas, the caudillo of a region which encompassed the present-day Argentine provinces of Entre Ríos and Corrientes , and much of Uruguay , a man regarded as one of Uruguay 's founding fathers. Peter Campbell played a prominent role in the affairs of Corrientes province, and for a period after 1819 acted as its deputy governor. He had a notable influence on the tactics employed by the local military forces, first against the Spaniards during the War of Independence, and later against Buenos Aires in the civil wars that followed Argentine sovereignty.

Peter Campbell was responsible for establishing a regiment of mounted Tapé indigenous people, who were feared both as a cavalry and infantry force because their tactics were so difficult to counteract. Armed with rifles with long bayonets attached to them, his indigenous force was trained to charge the enemy on horseback at great speed before dismounting and opening fire with their rifles. Campbell 's military prowess and organisational ability were not confined to terra firma. In 1814 he began putting together a squadron of river vessels to support Artigas on the Paraná. In 1818 Peter Campbell took charge of the second squadron of the Uruguayan naval forces, based in Goya and Esquina.

He became naval commander-in-chief of the region and the scourge of the Paraguayan dictator Francia's river fleet. On 21 August 1818 Artigas appointed Campbell as the first naval commander of the patriot fleet. It is on the basis of this appointment that the Irishman is acknowledged as the founder of the Uruguayan navy. In September 1818 Peter Campbell managed to seize two vessels carrying arms for the Paraguayan army. Between January and March 1819, together with the land forces of governor López, Campbell besieged the town of Capilla del Rosario . On 10 March 1919 the Uruguayan army won the Battle of Barrancas against the army of Buenos Aires . Advancing on the Argentine city, the combined federalist forces defeated the porteños at Cepeda ( 1 February 1820 ) and San Nicolás ( 13 February 1820 ).

However, in the final naval battle against Monteverde on 30 July 1820 , Artigas was defeated by Ramírez, a rival warlord from Entre Ríos province. Campbell, who initially succeeded in escaping, was captured and banished in shackles to Paraguay . The dictator Francia, instead of putting his former foe to death, spared Campbell 's life, possibly out of respect for his adversary's courage and military prowess. Peter Campbell was allowed to settle in the Paraguayan town of Neembucú , where he returned to his former trade of tanner. There is disagreement over the location and date of his death, which occurred around 1832. After his burial place in Villa del Pilar was discovered in 1961, his remains were handed over to Uruguay for reinterment in Montevideo on 18 May 1961 , as befitted the founder of that country's navy.

Edmundo Murray 2006

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Sir Frances Beaufort (1774 - 1857)

Francis Beaufort was born in 1774 in County Meath to the Rector of Navan the Reverend Daniel Augustus Beaufort. At the age of 13yrs he began his career at sea by joining the British Navy as a cabin boy. Three years later he recognised the value of being weather wise and started to keep weather comments in his journals this he did until his death in 1857. In 1805 Beaufort was given his first command HMS Woolwich and ordered to carry out a hydrographic survey of the Rio de la Plata area of South America . It was during these years he developed his Wind Force Scale and Weather Notation coding, which he used in his journals.

In 1811 Beaufort captained HMS Fredrikssteen on a hydrographic and patrol cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean . It was here in 1812 that a shore party engaged in astronomical observations had to be rescued, Beaufort lead the rescue party and on the way back to the ship was hit in the groin by a musket ball. This effectively ended his seafaring career but he remained in the navy until he was 81yrs old. 1829 saw Beaufort appointed "Hydrographer to the Admiralty".

From this position, he planned hydrographic studies for numerous Navy expeditions including the famous H.M.S. Beagle, commanded by Robert Fitzroy. In 1838 Beaufort's Wind Force Scale was introduced by the British Navy for all log entries, adding to Beaufort's Weather Notation, which was introduced in 1833.
Beaufort was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1846 by the Admiralty. Bestowed the title Knight Commander of the
Bath in 1848. Only in 1855 after 68 years before the flag, Sir Francis Beaufort retired from the Admiralty. He died in 1857, yet his work of a life times achievements continued to receive the honours and recognition they deserve up to the present day. 

Beaufort Scale of Wind





 Sea                                                                                  Wave height





Sea like mirror



Light air




0.1  (0.1)


Light breeze



Small wavelets

0.2 (0.3)


Gentle breeze



Large wavelets, crests begin to break

0.6 (1)


Moderate breeze



Small waves becoming longer, frequent white horses

1 (1.5)


Fresh breeze



Moderate waves, many white horses, chance of spray

2 (2.5)


Strong breeze



Large waves, white foam crests, probably some spray

3 (4)


Near gale



Sea heaps up, streaks of white foam

4 (5.5)





Moderately high waves of greater length

5.5 (7.5)


Strong gale



High waves, dense streaks of foam,






spray may reduce visibility

7 (10)





Very high waves, long overhanging crests,






visibility affected

9 (12.5)


Violent storm



Exceptionally high waves, long white foam patches






cover sea

11.5 (16)




117& over

Air filled with foam and spray, sea completely white

14 (-)







'Speed = mean speed at a standard height of 10 meters.

'Wave height is only intended as a guide to what may be expected in the open sea.
Bracketed figures indicate the probable maximum wave height.

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Bartholomew Hayden, (1792-1857)


Hayden, Bartholomew (1792-1857), navy officer in Brazil, was born in County Tipperary on 22 February 1792, the son of John and Joanna Hayden. Like many young men of his age, Hayden joined the armed forces of King George III of Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars and served in the Royal Navy as a Midshipman for twelve years, from 1803 to 1815. Following the British victory over Napoleon, the Royal Navy was demobilised and reduced to a fraction of its former strength. There were jobs available for just 15 per cent of its former officers, but Hayden was one of the fortunate ones. In 1817, he was appointed senior Midshipman to the frigate HMS Andromache which was sent to South America as part of the squadron defending British interests during the wars of independence from Spain which were commencing in the Pacific.

In February 1821, Hayden moved to the HMS Conway, commanded by Captain Basil Hall FRS, as Second Master (that is,, Assistant Navigating Officer) when the two ships were in Peru. Hall was an enterprising and scientifically minded officer who on his return published a popular two-volume book detailing the Conway's activities in South America. 

Hayden never did return home. Knowing that he lacked the necessary 'pull' to secure a further appointment in the navy, he resigned and, with the help of friends, purchased a brig called the Colonel Allen to pursue a career as a trader. Fortuitously, when Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane, following his victories over the Spanish as Vice Admiral of Chile, was looking for a ship to take him to Brazil, Colonel Allen was the vessel he chose. The Brazilian war of independence against Portugal was then reaching a climax. The Prince Regent, Dom Pedro, had raised the standard of revolt against Portugal and been proclaimed Emperor a year earlier,

but enemy garrisons still occupied half of the country, and unless Brazil's newly formed navy could seize command of the sea, chances of success looked bleak. The Brazilian Government was desperately seeking ships and experienced officers and Hayden offered his services. His ship was purchased, converted into a man-of-war and renamed Bahia, while Hayden himself was appointed to the Brazilian Navy with the rank of Commander (Capitão-Tenente).

In that capacity, Hayden served with Cochrane, by now commander-in-chief of the Brazilian Navy, in his successful campaign against Portugal. Hayden was present when the enemy were driven from their principal base of Bahia in 1823 and back to Portugal, and he was active in the suppression of the dangerous republican rebellion in the north-east the following year. In command of the brig Pirajá during Brazil's two year war against Buenos Aires from 1826 to 1828, Hayden captured the Argentine privateer Libertad del Sur and was promoted to Captain of Frigate as a consequence.

Then, transferring to the corvette Liberal in the inshore squadron blockading Buenos Aires, he took part in the minor battles of Quilmes and Monte Santiago, both of which inflicted serious damage on the Argentine naval forces led by a fellow Irishman, Commodore William Brown. With the termination of the War, Hayden was posted to the corvette Animo Grande as commander of the Brazilian Naval Division of the East, which was deployed off Angola with orders to help suppress the slave trade.

In June 1829, Hayden married Anna da Fonseca Costa in Rio de Janeiro, a marriage which produced five children. However the achievement of external peace was balanced by a sequence of internal rebellions within Brazil. In an optimistic moment following independence, the power of the central government had been deliberately weakened. Now, only the loyalty of the armed forces kept the country united. As commander of the frigates Imperatriz and Campista, Hayden was prominent in the suppression of the 'Cabanos' rebellion which afflicted Pará in 1835-1836.

As a reward, he was promoted to full Captain (Capitão-de-Mar-e-Guerra) in October 1836. In 1839, Hayden was given leave of absence from the navy to join a steam packet company as commander of the paddle steamer Maranhão. He returned to the navy in 1840 in command of the training ship Campista. He formally retired from service in 1842. 

The spat of regional rebellions which had afflicted Brazil during the 1830s had, however, convinced the young Emperor Pedro II that a strong central government was needed and that an efficient and modern navy was vital to Brazil's internal security. Hayden's technical expertise was obviously valuable at a time when the Brazilian navy was taking on the challenges of steam power and new advances in weaponry. In 1849,

he was therefore restored to the Active List in the rank of Commodore (Chef-de-Divisão) and in 1851 became a member of the influential Naval Armaments Commission. Now aged sixty-six, Hayden's health began to deteriorate. He was granted sick leave to return to Europe temporarily in 1856 but was unable to return, dying at Portsmouth in southern England on 17 September 1857.

©Brian Vale 2006 

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