Irish Ships and Shipping
Articles and News
Jack O'Leary Maritime Journalist
These articles are taken from the Wexford Free Press which I
have researched and written over a good number of years
and I hope are both informative and interesting to you.
A tale of
hardship and deprivation
The Voyage of the
THE LOSS OF THE WEXFORD BARQUE “SALTEE”
The Loss of the “Lismore”
Wexford’s last deep -sea sailing vessel
WEXFORD SHIP ATTACKED BY PRIVATEERS.
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ARKLOW MAN’S HARROWING EXPERIENCE
Yet another tale of hardship ,recalling, as the story
above, the tales of Robinson
Crusoe and The Rhymes of the Ancient Mariner came to light with the saga of the
crew of the Glasgow four masted
barque “Dundonald “ . The “Dundonald
“ had sailed from Cardiff two years
before( 1906) with a cargo of coal
and left Sydney ,New South Wales homeward bound on the 17th of
February 1907. They met continuous head winds and due to the absence of sun were
forced to navigate by dead reckoning. On the 6th of March the captain
reckoned that they should be about forty miles
At once she began to settle by the head ,with her masts leaning towards the shore. White water broke all around them and with the noise of the hull breaking up and gear falling down on them it was every man for him. Some went back aft with the captain, others got up into the rigging ,while more , fearing the masts would give in the storm , tried to get shelter under the fo’castle head. The latter group were soon washed around ,as the ships bow was now settling into the water .Then a mighty sea broke over the decks and before any of them could gain a secure hand hold they were all washed over the side.
As daylight came there were ten men left clinging on to one of the yards , three more that had managed to climb from the jigger mast to the cliff top and a further two half way up the cliff on a ledge ,unable either to get back onto the ship or climb any higher up the cliff because of a great overhang that stopped them from progressing any further. Of the captain and the men who had gone aft with him, there was no sign. A line was made fast from the foretop’sl yard to the cliff and one by one, hand over hand, over a sixty foot drop in awful weather ,all the men on the ship got ashore. Once they were safe they lowered a rope to the men on the ledge and hauled them up too. The ship quickly vanished into the water.
The cliffs were about 300 feet high but fortunately for the
stranded men there was a slope just above where they were , making it relatively
easy for them to get to the main part of the island. They were on
The men had no means of lighting a fire and were forced to
live off the raw flesh of the many seabirds that lived on the island. There was
fresh water but it was brackish and not really drinkable. At night they slept in
holes in the ground, as the violent gales prevalent in the area would have
destroyed any standing structure, covering themselves with old sail cloths
retrieved from the wreck. It was fortunate for them that at least they had come
ashore in “summertime” , as they would not have survived being landed there in
winter. Then they had a stroke of luck. One of them found he had eleven wax
vestas and another found half as box of matches’ .These were laid out and
carefully dried. But despite being careful and sparing them , they could not
last forever . The last one was used to light a bunch of dried grass and this
fire was kept burning throughout the remainder of their time there. It was of
the utmost importance that he fire be kept lit and so it was tended and watched
twenty four hours a day ,every day . They once sighted a ship and a great fire
was made but they weren’t
seen . The unusual diet and the bitter cold began to take effect on the men and
after only twenty days ,the mate Jabez Peters died.
(Peters was a
After five months the castaways decided that they had to
get to the main island or else die where they were. They could not expect the
birds and seals to stay around
provide them with food forever. The problem was that the main island was six
miles away through very stormy seas and they had no way of getting there . Some
wood was found and somehow shaped into a boat and the men then unpicked their
cloths and stretched them over the boat to form a skin. So, on the first calm
day three men headed out for the main island. They reached the island but could
find nothing there to aid them and returned to their comrades, disappointed no
doubt. Two months later they tried again. Once again they reached the main
island, but this time their makeshift boat was smashed in bits. Worse than that
though, was that a fire that they had brought across with them, in a sod, went
out. But, these intrepid men were luckier than the previous expedition, for they
did find the cache of food and the boat left there for shipwrecked seamen.
However, they were stuck on the main island for a week, when the weather changed
again. But they did get back and on the 16th of October all on
Later the men
returned to the island, unearthed the remains of Mr. Peters, put him in a coffin
and gave him a decent burial at
The survivors included two Irish sailors, John Grattan of
Arklow and Walter Judge of Passage West,
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More people than
normal for a summer’s morning crowded the quays of Wexford on
A tale of hardship and deprivation.
A tale of hardship and deprivation recalling the stories of “The Rhymes of the Ancient Mariner “ and of “Robinson Crusoe” was told by Donald Morison ,second mate of the Norwegian barque “ Alexander Oubis” who was landed at Southampton by the Royal Mail steamer “”Orinoco” on the 27th of December 1907.
“Alexander Oubis”, a sixteen hundred tonner arrived at
Mr. Morrison takes up the tale.” I joined the craft at this point .On reaching Newcastle N.S.W. , we took on coal and with twenty hands all told we set sail for Panama on November 26th .For about two months we had good weather and favourable winds. Then we entered a period of calm, out of which we could never extricate ourselves .We started to drift towards the Equator and each day’s bearings only the fear that we were daily getting out of the route of traffic. As the weeks went by our movement became more sluggish, in consequence of the great growth of barnacles below the waterline. The keel became so foul that it would have needed a pretty stiff breeze to put us under weigh ,but months passed by without a puff of wind coming our way ,and never once did we sight any kind of craft. “
“At the end of four
months our situation was ugly in the extreme. Food was giving out and water was
getting unpleasant. The captain gave orders that the ship was to be put on half
rations, the first official signal of some distress. Every day, almost every
minute we scanned but it always told the same dispiriting tale, and left us
feeling lonelier than ever. For a month we lived, or rather eked out an
existence, on the half allowance of food and were then transported into a wild
delirium of the wildest enthusiasm by catching sight of land. We all joined in a
conference near the place where the captain stored his charts and made out that
we were approaching the
“We decided that we
should try and reach
ten days the battle against a strong contrary current continued, and at last we
neared a forbidding looking island .It was both barren and deserted and as it
was obviously no use in trying to land there we altered our course, heading as
we imagined, for
“At the end of the eleventh day from quitting the barque we found ourselves opposite a small bay, in which the sea was lashing itself into a fury over an ugly array of half-sunken reefs. We steered our course through successfully and reached land. Many of the crew was unable to walk in consequence of the cramped positions they had been forced into so long.”
“We got clear of the water, and immediately went in search of something to drink. The island was about as uninviting as anything I have ever seen in my thirty six years of seafaring life. The centre, some miles inland, was occupied by a mountain whose slopes were quiet bleak, probably from streams of lava. Except at the coastline, the place was thickly covered with leafless, thorny shrub. There were a few trees of sparse foliage and an immense variety of cacti .All this was apparent at first glance and as may be well imagined did not lend us much encouragement.”
“Fresh water however was what we most urgently needed, and there was no sign of it anywhere, but the captain’s resourcefulness came to our aid. Slicing up leaves from a large cactus tree, he distributed portions around, and I shall never forget the delight of tasting the cool juice. Thus refreshed, we formed ourselves into small parties and set out to gather dry wood for a fire. We had sixteen matches between us –of which we still had nine when we left the island and we treasured them as if they were the most precious things on earth. We lighted our fire just before daylight was dying, and stretching ourselves on the ground we watched for a while the unceasing circling of the carrion buzzard above us, then sought respite from our sufferings in repose.”
“Early the next morning we were astir, and much benefited from the rest, we again formed ourselves into search parties. I went to the right in the direction of a volcanic eminence , which gave a view of a considerable portion of the coast line. We had all resolve to follow any track which might suggest the presence of natives, but nothing of the sort could be found , and when we came to compare the conformation of the coast with our map ,we were plunged into despair by the discovery that we were on Indefatigable Island which for centuries had been shunned even by the natives of the Archipelago.”
“While we were still wondering what we should do news arrived that enormous turtles were disporting themselves on a beach close at hand. Arming ourselves with clubs cut from the branches, we crept over the rocks on either side of the bay, and cutting off the turtles retreat we beat them to death. They measured about 5 feet long by 4 feet broad, and it required four men to haul them along the ground. We slaked our thirst with the blood and had a hearty meal of turtle’s flesh, the first real meal we had in nearly a month. “
“A suggestion was made
that we should again take to the boat and try to find
“For four or five days we hunted for water without finding any. We felt pretty certain that if only we could make our way to the foot of the mountains, which seemed to frown on us, we would find a stream. We tried to cut our way inland, but after hewing a path through the brushwood for nearly two miles, we found it an impossible task and gave it up. On the journey we came across what looked like crab-apples , and carried them home in triumph, but shortly after eating them we all suffered from violent sickness and acute pain. In that we escaped death from poisoning I think we had much to be thankful for.
“In a cave we at last came across water. It was somewhat brackish but to us it seemed delicious. I made some canvas bags and we carried a good supply to the camp. That night we had our first turtle soup, and at last began to feel that the period of starvation was at an end.
The turtles however, were not always to be caught napping .Instead of coming on to the beach they took to remaining in the bay, where they browsed on a vivid kind of green growth on the bottom. There they thought perhaps they were safe from interference, but it was a case of turtle’s instinct versus the artifice of desperate and hungry men and we won. There was a half submerged reef at the entrance of the bay, and as steadily as possible some of the crew took up their position at it. As soon as they were ready, I as the best swimmer in the company dived into the sea and rounded up the turtles in the direction of the reef. Once within reach the men turned the fugitives on their backs and so rendered them powerless to resist capture. But even this ruse failed in time and we had to look elsewhere for our food “
Later they found some gigantic tortoises inland and captured one .He goes on to describe them and how they were cooked.
“They had thick legs, suggesting the elephant and were strong enough to carry a man. The shell encasing their body was solid and so hard that we had to use a chisel to get access to the flesh. The tortoise was a trifle larger than the sea turtle, but they were more difficult to find and were not such good eating.
“We boiled it slowly and we boiled it to shreds; we fried it, we roasted it, and in fact subjected it to every form of preparation our limited means would allow, and we frequently had attacks of nausea. From some of the small holes in the rocks we found a deposit of salt, left by long years of sea water action and this helped to make the flesh food more palatable.”
“Later we found the haunt of the sea-lion or bear seal. Never having been disturbed, the seal used to swim into shallow water at high tide, allow the sea to ebb out and bask for hours in the sun. This made them easy prey. They showed fight to begin with, and belabouring them about the head we had a rough job to gain the mastery, but we soon ascertained that the end of the nose was the vulnerable spot.”
“Each day however, increased the wariness of the seal, and a shortage forced us to fall upon the land lizard, a loathsome looking quadruped about five feet in length and a foot in circumference, with a row of spikes extending from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. The lizards were extremely timid, and would, if startled, dart into any crevice that happened to be near. They appeared entirely unconcerned about the fact they left their tails exposed to their pursuers. It so happened that the tail part was the one part we desired to possess and consequently we did not trouble to haul the lizard from his lair; we simply chopped his tail off and continued with the hunt. Occasionally we were lucky enough to catch a few crayfish, but there was nothing else on the island that was eatable.
“By the end of the first month we were heartily sick of it all. The cook was reduced to a dead level of impotency. We had to fall back on turtle soup more frequently than anything else.
“But what we craved for most of all was bread. We looked high and low for something which could be ground into flour, but nothing presented itself. The captain suggested that we should kill some birds and bleach the bones and make biscuits, but the process was an utter failure.
“So far our researches around the coast had been limited because of the precipitous character of some of the cliffs which rose from the water’s edge at low tide. The jungles of thorny shrub held us in check overland at these points, and the only course open to us was to swim the bays and try our luck in that way. A party of four set out on this venture, and after a perilous and exciting journey returned to camp with news that they had found fresh water at the western end of the island. We decided to change our headquarters, for there was more chance of being picked up from the western point.”
REFUSED TO GO.
“The American, however, refused to budge .He pleaded that we were all bound to perish, sooner or later and that he was content to stay and die in the old camp. No amount of persuasion would shake him and reluctantly we left him there. I understand that a search party is still looking for him, but I should imagine that he has long since paid the penalty for his obstinacy. We cut a very sorry figure as we set out for the new camp, three days journey off. We had practically no clothing left , and our shoes had long since been cut to shreds climbing over the lava rocks, which cut like knives.“ Most of us wore improvised boots made of sealskin, while the captain wore a pair of turtle flippers on his feet.
“On reaching the western camp we sought shelter from the rain by taking cover in the brushwood, but the place swarmed with mosquitoes and sand ants, and we elected to sleep out in the open again The solitude of the situation was beginning to have it’s effect, more particularly in my case, because there was no else in the camp who could speak English .The deadly silence of the whole place added to the gloominess of the outlook ,and the gradually dwindling hope of rescue drove us almost frantic . The captain lost his reason and his mind remained unhinged for five weeks. The German ,Shaffer ,rashly went out on a quest in search of food , and clutching at a bush to help him out of the bay, he had just crossed he missed his hold and disappeared .We organized a search party a few days afterwards and discovered his bones picked clean by birds and bleached by the sun. We buried the bones with all reverence.”
“Our one luxury was a solitary pipe which we took in turns to smoke – if you can use that word of dried leaves and bark with which we filled it.”
“Months passed by and the torture of our predicament grew more acute. Our diet of flesh unrelieved produced weakness and a degree of blindness . The constant staring out to sea helped us to see unreal images in the day and lights at night , and we abandoned ourselves to despair to the belief that no one would ever see our signal of distress ,which was flying from the top of a pole, when ,on October 29, a sloop which had been specially sent out from Iquique appeared on the horizon .It turned out the other boat from the “Alexandra Oubis” had reached the mainland and had given information of our disappearance “.
“I cannot even attempt to depict the frenzied joy we felt. But for the dispatching of the sloop I don’t think we should ever have been taken off ,and I feel we must have perished if we had remained much longer in that wretched island with it’s accumulation of horrors “
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The voyage of the “STATESMAN” 1834.
Roche kept a log and part of it tells the story of
a meeting with Spanish pirates on the high seas. The pertinent section begins on
The early morning was clear and seas were calm, but later came a heavy thunderstorm, which was welcomed by the crew, as by this time in the voyage water must have been scarce. About the lookout spotted a sail about 8 miles ahead on the starboard bow. By she was more westerly and bearing down on them. The captain of the “Statesman” raised the British ensign but there was no acknowledgement from the approaching ship. Captain Quillan of the British ship kept the approaching ship under close observation through his telescope, as he considered her to be suspicious. He noticed a number of black people on deck, which lead him to think that she was a slaver. Her foremast was shattered and her sails were in tatters from gunshot. But, what must have been of greater concern was that she appeared to be very well armed, with a swivel of ten large guns. Captain Quillen gave the order for his guns (four in number) to be got ready and within minutes they were unlashed and pointed to their portholes.
Still the strange ship continued to bear down on them and orders were given to fire a shot. Continuing on her course towards the British ship, the stranger hoisted her colours, which showed her to be Spanish. Capt. Quillan ordered all the ships small arms to be brought up and loaded. The ship’s boat was then lowered and Coughlan, the mate , was dispatched to reconnoitre the Spanish vessel. Coughlan took his boat alongside the Spanish ship, which was still about a mile away from the “Statesman” whose crew waited anxiously to see what would transpire. About half a hour later the boat returned and reported that the Spaniard was a dangerous customer, called the “Formidable”, a prize taken by the “Buzzard”, man o’war, of Fernando Po and that her crew were from the “Buzzard” and bound for Sierra Leone. She had been carrying 500 slaves, but was now reduced to about 300, many in need of medical assistance. A surgeon was urgently required to look after the wounded.
They also claimed to have been struck by lightening which damaged their chronometer but shortly afterwards contradicted themselves by saying it had gone out by not having been wound. This and other contradictory statements did nothing to allay the captain’s suspicion of them.
Coughlan had offered whatever help he could but told them to stay off his ship. The Spaniard replied that they were not in need of anything and tried to persuade Coughlan and his men to come aboard the ship. When Coughlan declined their offer they became abusive and complained at their treatment at the hands of the British ship. Still the “Formidable” continued on her course towards the “Statesman”, as fast as the little wind would bring her .He told the captain of the Spanish ship that unless she bore off the “Statesman, which was well armed and ready, was under orders to open fire on her as soon as he (Coughlan) was clear. The Spanish captain ignored him and said that he would go along side directly, giving orders for his guns to be loaded. The men on the “Statesman’s boat heard the guns being loaded and asked if they intended to fire on an unarmed boat. Just then a young Englishman put his head out of a porthole, indicating to them to pull away, which they did, heading back to the “Statesman”, expecting at any minute to be halted by a shot from one of the Spanish guns.
After the boat arrived back to make its report to
Captain Quillan a boat with an officer and four men onboard was seen leaving the
Captain Quillan immediately ordered
a fresh crew into his boat and set out to meet them. His though must have been
to keep them away from his vessel so that they could not determine the strength
of his crew or armaments. He met them half way and ordered them off, but told
them that he would give any help he could and would send it by boat. Again the
other ship’s men were upset by this, insisting that they would board the
“Statesman”. Quiller lied to them and told them he had part of the 50th
Regiment on board, bound for
Quiller’s bluff worked as shortly after the Spaniard was seen to alter course and sail away from the “Statesman”. Later in the day they spotted three sails in the distance but could not distinguish if either was the Spanish ship. The wind increased and shortly after the sails disappeared from sight. Now, Captain’s Quiller’s claim that there were some of the 50th Regiment onboard was not totally a bluff; for there was actually one member of the regiment on the “Statesman”, a Captain Bartley!
Later in the voyage Gaffney
was sent ashore in a boat, somewhere near what we now call
It was never determined if the crew of the “Formidable” actually were what they claimed to be, a prize crew taking their capture to a friendly port. In fact, it was never stated that they actually were Spaniards as their ensign claimed them to be. There were inconsistencies in the story told by the “Spanish” captain. For instance, had she been taken as a prize as he claimed, surely any wounded from the engagement would have been seen to by their “mother” ship before sending them to Sierra Leone? There also appeared to be English and some Black men among the crew, not what you would expect in a Spanish vessel of the time.
It was obvious that she had
recently been in a battle of some kind but seemed more likely to the captain of
the “Statesman” that she had escaped from her opponent off
I have often wondered about the demise of the
Gaffney name in Wexford shipping. The company ended up in the control of three
females, Mary, Angela, and Catherine Gaffney, all I think, were either widows or
unmarried ladies. Perhaps the unfortunate John, the son of Timothy, was the last
in the male line. Timothy Gaffney owned many ships over the years. The ownership
was then transferred to Cecilia Gaffney, (his widow and mother of John?), then
to the above named trio (daughters of Timothy and Cecilia?). The three ladies
their holdings, consisting of three sailing ships and a
coal yard, in 1896 and retired from business. And that was the last of the
Gaffney ship owning family in Wexford maritime
Messrs. Wm Hutchinson and Harold Owens bought the
coal yard for the sum of £380. The ships went to John E. Barry who bought the
65-ton, “Glynn”for £185 and the 76
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Arriving at the bar the “Saltee” had her fore and aft sails set. About 8.30 the squalls hit and it appeared that the tug was unable to keep the ships head to the marks, and she (the “Saltee”) took to the south side, struck the ground and banked heavily. The tug stayed alongside her for some time, but realising that there was nothing more they could do for her, they left. At 3ft of water was found in her hold. Signals were made for the lifeboat, which arrived and brought the crew of 9 men ashore. The “Saltee” was lost.
A Board of Trade Inquiry that was held in Wexford Courthouse on the of May 1888, before Colonel Miller R.M. and Captains Bragg and Washington, Naval Assessors.
Mr. Huggard appeared on behalf of The Board of Trade, Mr. Elgee for the Harbour Commissioners, Mr. Cooper for the captain of the “Saltee” , Mr. O’Flaherty, for Lambert and Walsh, the owners and Mr. Taylor on behalf of The Pilots Association of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Huggard stated that” The pilot attributed the loss of the ship to the tug not being able to keep her head to the marks owing to the squall coming on, whereas the master of the “Saltee” attributed it to not being able to keep her in the fairway. But, the tug master said there was no want of power on the part of the tug. There were 11 pilots and a boy at the fort and they were assisted by 4 Hbr. pilots who take vessels down the harbour. On account of the bar constantly shifting after storms Captain Cogley, Pilot Master takes soundings and he will explain how this is done”. (Captain Cogley was not in charge at the time of the incident with the “Saltee”.) In addition to the signals mentioned there is a danger one; but the pilots are left to exercise their own judgement when this is up. The high water is the same here as Llanelly unless there is a S.S.W. or E. when it is a little longer. On this day the signals were in charge of Captain Cogley’s son, a boy of 16; but Captain Cogley says he is perfectly competent to undertake the duties, and that he was often in charge of them before.2
The cause of Captain Cogley’s absence was that he was sent by the Harbour
“It was ordered that all witnesses, unless holding Board Of Trade Certs should leave the court.”
Mr. James Stafford, examined by Mr. Huggard said he was acting as manager of the “Saltee”; she was not insured, her cargo was insured for £425 and her freight for £163.
his evidence Captain John Smith told the court that he
was the master of the “Saltee”, and that she had a
registered tonnage of 265 tons. He said that she left
He told the court that he was a native of Wexford but had
not sailed out of the port for some time and that he had shipped out of
Robert Breen , the pilot who had charge of the “Saltee” attributed the loss to the tug not being able to her head to the marks, owing to the squall coming on. He said that the vessel was steered by his directions and that it was no part of the masters duty to interfere with this unless he saw something wrong. “I blame the squall for the casualty . Vessels come in with from 6 to 10 ins less than their draft when water is smooth”. He said he calculated by the Manx Almanac that the vessel was too deep for’ard to come into the harbour without being lightened. He also maintained that it was not usual for a ship to draw more water for’ard than aft. It was usual for a large vessel to strike as she comes over the bar. He did not mention this to Captain Smith as it was not the practice to tell Wexford masters, as they already knew this.
To reach their conclusion the Board had to ask themselves the following questions.
1. What was the cause of the stranding of the vessel ?
2. Whether on the morning of the 16th of March the guage at the signal station correctly registered the water on the bar?
3. Whether Robert Breen the pilot informed the master of the “Saltee” as to the extent the vessel needed to be lightened, and whether on that morning the vessel was lightened sufficiently to enable her to cross the bar, if the depth of water was as signalled ( Breen informed the master on going aboard that he wanted her lightened to 12ft 9ins or 12 ft 10. This was done but she was not lightened enough to get her over Wexford Bar, even if the water there was as signalled.)
4. What was the condition of the weather and the sea on the bar at the time?
5. Whether , having regard to the “Saltee’s” draft the pilot was justified in attempting to cross the bar?
6. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper, seaman like care?
7. Whether the master is at fault and whether any blame attached to the pilot?
The inquiry found that the wreck was caused by trying to get over the bar on a falling tide and with insufficient draft. They were unable to state, from the evidence given, that the tide gauge at the station correctly registered the water on the bar . The sea was moderate at the bar that morning, blowing N.N.E. to N.E., with a squall and a moderate sea, but rising.
Having regard to the draft of the vessel the court concluded that the pilot was not justified in trying to bring her over the bar and that the ship was not navigated in a proper and seamanlike condition. As to the question of whether the master was in default and if any blame attached to the pilot, the inquiry concluded that considering that the pilot told the master to lighten the ship to 12ft 10ins , he( the pilot) must have known the ships draft and the master, knowing that the signals at the station were for 13ft only, was not justified in allowing the pilot to attempt crossing the bar.
Breen ,the pilot was deemed mainly to blame for the casualty. They made no judgement regarding costs.
On the same date Brady, who was the Acting Pilot Master in the absence of Captain Cogley, was suspended for two weeks for leaving the station without a qualified pilot.(Captain Cogley’s son who manned the signals on the day of the loss was not employed by the Commissioners.)
Captain Blake, Tug Master, had stated to the inquiry that he had doubts about the manouvere the pilot was undertaking but did not communicate these doubts to the pilot. For not informing the pilot of his reservations he was censured by the Committee. (This did not have any detrimental effect his career as since the loss of the “Saltee” and before he was censured he was appointed both Pilot Master and Tug Master.)
Of Captain Smyth, I have no idea. He would almost certainly, be censured by The Board of Trade or some other official body. But if he was, and what the censure was, I have no idea.
“Saltee”, a three masted barque, was built in
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The Loss of the “Lismore”
In July 1924 Wexford town was shocked by the news of the
loss of the “Lismore”, 16 miles off Hook Head. Any disaster off our coast
aroused a great deal of concern and sympathy for the victims, particularly if
local seamen were involved. In the case of the “Lismore” there were three
Wexford seamen on board. They were Charles Cullen ,of The Faythe, Nicholas
was a new ship, built earlier that year in
The raft was taken back and forth by the tides, once or twice he came
close to land
only to be brought back out again by the tide. At one period he came
close to the
“Lismore gone; John safe”The next morning he arose about and set out to relay the news of the loss of the “Lismore”. Mr Fortune of Fethard , the local representative of The Shipwrecked Mariners Society arranged for him to be sent home from Ballycullane by
train, but before he left for the station he sent a
telegram to his wife in Wexford which said “Lismore gone; John safe,” The
arrival of the telegram in Wexford was the first indication that anything was
amiss with the ”Lismore”. There were rumours around town that
she hadn’t reached
The search was fruitless, no one was found. Some days later
sheep carcasses along with shattered
cases bearing the Ford of Cork logo were washed up in various parts of the Hook
area but of survivors there were none.
A large crowd assembled in
Despite his horrendous experience it has to be said that
John Carley was a very lucky and also a very resourceful man. For this
was not his first brush with death. He had survived
a torpedo attack in the 1st. World War and two years previous
to his experience on the “Lismore” he had survived being washed overboard in bad
weather. It happened when he was on the “Elsie Annie” of Wexford,
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WEXFORD SHIP ATTACKED BY PRIVATEERS. 1777
On the 31st.
of May 1777 the Wexford ship “Elizabeth”, under her master Peter Byrne, was in
the Caribbean near the island of Martinique.(
Martinico as it was known then)
Between seven and eight o’clock that
two sails were spotted
way off to the north. Some time later the “
In the meantime the approaching Wexford men prepared for
battle. As they neared the attacker he took down the English Jack and raised the
American flag, dispelling any doubt they may have had about his nationality. The
privateer was to the windward and bore down fast on the “
The fight cannot have lasted for very long.
The Wexford ship crew were badly outnumbered and
outgunned. The privateer carried a complement of 104, 60 of them Marines, this
compared to the “
KILLED AND WOUNDED.
In the ensuing fight three of the Wexford ships crew were killed and at least fifteen wounded, including Captain Byrne. He had engaged one of the attackers with a cutlass. The attacker too was armed with a cutlass and made a strike at Captain Byrne’s head. As he attempted to fend of the blow the privateer’s blade went through the guard of Byrne’s cutlass, cleaving his hand in two, another blow injured his right arm. Captain Byrne was later told that his rough treatment was because of his “impudence” in not striking his flag but persisting to fight.
privateers were “almost all Negroes or mulattos” only one other person on the
ship, beside the captain, could speak English and he was the captain’s clerk.
The captain’s name was Palmer and it seems that he was there only, to, as it was
put, “Carry out the Congress Commission” which, I take to mean that although the
ship was fitted out in “Martinico” (Martinique) and
crewed by French officers and West Indian crew, she
was in fact, an American privateer and was commissioned so by Congress.
crew (and ship? I doubt it.) were landed in
The three killed were, Mr. Davies, 2nd.
Cousins, Steward, Michael Rowe, Apprentice. Among the
wounded were, Dugald Campbell, Owen Meany, and
Alex. Bailey, Daniel M’Rever, John Campbell, Samuel
Hales, John M’Millan, Denis Keaton, Robert. Strong.
Those mentioned above were the badly wounded and were
Byrne’s letter home was published in “Stuart’s Wexford Chronicle” or “The
Impartial Register of News, Politics and Literary Entertainment.” Of
Thursday August 21st.
1777.It was dated June 5th.
And written in
. I have no idea who the owner of this vessel was
or indeed what kind of vessel the “
“It gives me great uneasiness to date from hence the account of particulars as underneath.
On the 31st of last month between seven and eight in the morning in latitude 16; 30 longitude , 57 degrees west, discovered two sail to the northwest of us, which we came up with, and by hoisting our colours found that they were Danish. Immediately after saw two other vessels bearing right down on us. In less than an hour found one of them ,by his near approach to be a privateer ,upon which we immediately got ready to engage, the before mentioned vessels being ahead of us, she choose rather than go to these first ,and brought them to by firing a gun and hoisting an English jack ; by this time we were pretty near them, he then took down the English jack and hoisted American colours and being to windward ,bore right down on us ,upon which we immediately hoisted our colours and fired at him a whole broadside when he immediately received his fire; we then perceived he had no other intention but to board us ; by having such a superior force of people and small arms; he then came under our storm chasers and was soon up along the starboard quarters; we had nothing to depend on except our small arms and pikes and at the time many of our men were wounded; our boats, by throwing of powder flasks ,were all on fire ; likewise in this fire and confusion nine of our people were blown up by the before mentioned flasks and in the smoak (sic) they boarded and severely wounded me, by splitting my right hand in two; this happened by guarding the strike of a cutlass that was aimed at my head, but thank God it did not fracture my scull and another on my right arm.”
“This abuse was for my impudence , they said, in not striking but persisting to fight the privateer. My hand is in very bad condition and am afraid shall never have the right use of it again.”
All I have here to add, the ship’s crew behaved very well but 104 to 39 were great odds, 60 of them marines that kept up a constant fire with small arms, with 16 carriage guns, 6 pounders and 18 swivels .
I only add, I am clear I have done my duty in every respect; from your most humble servant ,
Peter Byrne. “
“ PS. I have sent an account of killed and wounded. Killed 2nd Mate Mr Davies, Thomas Cousins, alias Steward, Michael Rowe ,apprentice. Wounded, Dugald Campbell, Owen Meany, Alex Bailey, Dan M’Revor, John Campbell, Sam Hales, John McMillan, Denis Keaton, Robert Strong. In the hospital six more slightly wounded and out of danger.
The men belonging to the privateer were almost negroes and mulattos ,for there was but one besides the captain who could speak a word of English , which was his clerk. The captain’s name is Palmer. They were fitted out from Martinico by a Frenchman who had all degrees of French officers aboard , even captains all others besides, Palmer only went out with them by way of carrying out the Congress Commission , for when it was over he durst hardly say one word amongst them . “
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