Irish Ships and Shipping

Woman at Sea

Its not only in the recent past that women have made their mark on Irish ships, The contribution that Irish women have made to the history of the maritime industry over the years has yet to be told. Stories of women like Josephine Carr from Cork the first WREN (Women's Royal Naval Service) to die on active service, She lost her life in Dublin bay along with 500 other's when the mail ship R.M.S. Leinster was torpedoed in 1918. 

One of the first to change the norm and make her mark was Mrs. Linda Hayes (Linda Purdy) of the Irish ferries vessel M.V.Ulysses.


She was in 1987, along with Ms. Rosemary Docherty the first woman purser in the 150 year history of the B+I Line.
Today Mrs. Hayes is a senior purser onboard the largest passenger car ferry in the world and following her lead the management team of ten onboard the ship now has 5 women pursers.
Also in 1987 the first women officer on a B+I ship Ms.Caroline Meaney, joined the M.V.Tipperary. 



Capt. Mike McKenna and Chief Engineer Bridget Gavin --- MV. Ulysses September 2008

A young mother-of-one has conquered the high seas after being appointed the first ever female chief engineer of the world's largest car ferry. Bridget Gavin was promoted to the senior post on the huge Ulysses ferry after rising through the ranks as a maritime engineer while juggling motherhood and romance.

The 31-year-old, who hails from Leenane, Co Galway, said weeks and months spent away from her loved ones are extremely tough. "It is difficult on the heart," she said. "When I was working for BP at deep sea, I would be gone for months at a time. "So I would come home and my daughter wouldn't recognise me anymore."

Romance blossomed for Bridget and her Donegal-born boyfriend, Gerard, who she met while working at sea on a BP ship two years ago. A relationship with a fellow seafarer takes constant effort -- but it's all worth it.

"You have to be very committed. But it helps that Gerard is very easygoing and I try not to take life so seriously!"

Her new schedule on board the Irish Ferries' vessel Ulysses is more family-friendly than sailing the deep sea, as she works two weeks on and two off as opposed to months on end. But Bridget said she would be lost without the support of her family, particularly her parents Martina and Martin, and the close knit local community.

"Grainne just started school the day before I left for my two week shift, so that's hard too.''

But Grainne is her mum's greatest fan -- even coining a nickname for her friends at sea.

"She calls them salty dogs!" laughed Bridget. "And she's already dying to see the ship."

Bridget has responsibility for ensuring the four engines of the 51,000 tonne ship have all the power they need to carry up to 2,000 passengers and crew and 1,342 cars or 240 articulated trucks on any given day.

Her decision to study maritime engineering at Cork Institute of Technology took many people by surprise.

"My family were definitely shocked and also upset because I'd be gone from home so much," she said.

"It takes a certain type of person to go out on the deep sea. "You can feel very isolated and you're very dependent on the other people on board, so you need to get along well." She is just one of two Irish women to hold the all-important Chief Engineer Class 1 Certificate of Competence which laid the foundation for her successful career.

"I would recommend it as a career to other young women because it's a great job, very secure with good money. I absolutely love it."

© Irish Independent -Claudine Ledwidge-O'Reilly

 September 22 2008


IRISH SHIPPING LTD.(1941-84) had a number of women crew members including the first women officer on an Irish ship Marilyn Stockwell from Tuam, Co. Galway. Marilyn sailed on the Irish Maple in 1973 as the junior radio officer. In 1974 the first women deckhand on Irish Shipping Ltd. Miss rosemary Daulton joined the Irish Oak. 1977 saw the first woman cadet in Irish shipping ltd. Ms. Ann Parry.



Lorraine Byrne (left) and Phyllis Moran pictured at the I.S.L. Staff Dinner Dance.

Article from the companies Signal newsletter 1978.

Back in November, 1973, Marilyn Stockwell of Galway, now Mrs. O'Malley, became the first lady to serve as a crew member on board an Irish Shipping vessel. She sailed as Junior Radio Officer on the "Irish Maple" and to-day, as a fully qualified Radio Officer, Mrs. O'Malley regularly serves on ships of our fleet, ships on which her husband Kevin also serves as Bosun.

It was in the following summer that Rosemary Daulton of Dun Laoghaire became the first of the fair sex to serve as deck hand on an I.S.L. vessel. Rosemary had obtained her Efficient Deck Hand's Certificate in March 1973 and it was as E.D.H. that she joined the "Irish Oak". Already this young lady had managed to pack much seafaring experience into her chosen career including shipwreck while serving on a small coaster, the "Tralee Trader", when the vessel sank off Lands End in December 1971. Although she is at present employed in a shore-based posi­tion, Rosemary still maintains her keen interest in ships through her membership of the Maritime Institute of Ireland.

Ann Parry from Shannon, Co. Clare, our first Lady Cadet who has already completed her first round the world voyage on the "Irish Oak" and enjoyed the trip very much. Ann is keen to get her certificates and become the first lady Deck Officer in the Fleet. 

As might be expected, it is in the Catering Department that most of our seagoing ladies have chosen to make their careers. Mary Gowan of Tanknock Farm near Youghal was the first girl to become an Assistant Steward with Irish Shipping when she joined the "Irish Stardust" in that capacity in June 1975. Since then we have had Anita Bond, Phyllis Moran, Helen Calthorpe, Gillian Sanderson and Lorraine Byrne. All of these girls have had some seagoing ex­perience before joining I.S.L.

Phyllis Moran from The Curragh, Co. Kildare, spent three years serving on the "Saint Patrick" as Cashier and for some time, as Chief Stewardess before she joined the "Pine" in January 1977. She sailed sub­sequently on the "Cedar" and recently obtained Part I of her Chief Cook's Certificate. She has adapted very well to the longer voyages of the cargo ships and likes the life at sea. Helen Calthorpe of Sandycove, Co. Dublin also joined in January 1977 when she became Assistant Steward on the "Irish Oak". She has since sailed on the "Rowan” and is at present serving on that ship.

Mary Gowan is now Assistant Steward on the "Irish Larch" and Lorraine Byrne is serving on the "Maple".


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