History of Port of Cork Steam Navigation.
by William J. Barry (Council Member)
(Continued from Vol. XXIII., page 199.)
(During the war, for obvious reasons, the following details could not be published. The interregnum, however, enabled the writer to extend the history to the end of 1918.)
“Glengariff,” 1893: 487 tons; built a Newcastle-on-Tyne by messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd., for the city of Cork Stream Packet Company, Ltd. Length 275 feet, breath 35 feet, and depth 17 feet. This steamer has been continually running during the whole period of war, and her immunity from distruction, by mine or torpedo on her numerous voyages through the English and Irish Channels, is remarkable.
“Lestris” 1895; 732 tons; and “Tadora,” 1896;725 tons. Built for the Cork Steam Packet Company, Ltd., by Messrs. Wigham Richardson and Co., Ltd., Newcastle. Both ships were subsequently sold.
“Kenmare,”1985; 565 tons; built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., for the city of Cork Steam Packet company, Ltd., Length 264.5 feet, breath 35.6 feet, depth 16.9 feet.
She was Torpedoed in the Irish Channel on Saturday, 2nd March 1918, between Holyhead and Rockabill Light, on a voyage to Cork, under the command of Captain P. Blackrock, and a crew numbering 33 all told.
The torpedo struck her amidships without warning, the force of the explosion being terrific, and she at once commenced to got down by the stern. Captain Black rock gave orders to launch the boats, and succeeded, with portion of the crew, in getting into one of them, but within two minutes the “Kenmare” went down carrying with her the boat and its occupants, who subsequently came to the surface, struggling for life amidst the wreckage which floated about. Mr. Evans, the chief officer, and timothy O’Brien succeeded in getting into another, and as the “Kenmare” went down they floated off, and seeing the donkey man, James Barry (he was 22 years in the ship) they pulled him on board, and a little later on came upon another capsized Lifeboat, from which they rescued the steward, James Wright. He was found with his head sticking out from the upturned boat, they had great difficulty in extracting him from his perilous position, as he could not assist himself owing to one of his arms being fractured. They also subsequently rescued the gunner, J. Brougham, and the carpenter, A. Philips, who were floating amongst the floating wreckage. At this time the cries of the drowning men t were piteous, but owing to the darkness, it was impossible to locate them, and after the cries had gradually died away, they had reluctantly to abandon the search.
At 8.00 a.m. the following morning the survivors were picked up by the SS. “Glenside” and landed at the north wall , Dublin. The following were lost:- Captain P. Blackrock, R. Johnson, 2nd officer; Thomas Murphy, 1st engineer; L. Ogle, 2nd engineer; A. Shaw, 3rd engineer; J. Keehan and P. Corcoran, greasers; Wm. Lyons, J. Driscoll and Michael Coleman; James Fitzgerald and Michael Ahern, Trimmers; Geoffrey Grant, s. Bowen, quartermasters; R. McLaughlin, John Keeffe, M. Delea, P. Fennessy, P. McCartie, Wm. J. Good, Seaman; O. Kemp, cook; A. E. Aston, R. McAuley, gunners; E. McNamara, D. Sullivan and Wm. Hartnet, cattlemen. Total 27
The names of the saved were:- William Evans, chief officer; Jas. Barry, donkey man; T. O’Brien, fireman; A. Philips, carpenter; Jas. Wright, steward; and J. Brougham, gunner.
The “Kenmare” narrowly escaped destruction by submarine on two previous occasions. On Sunday 7th June, 1915, she was attacked by gunfire off Youghal, but fortunately escaped with slight damage; and on the second occasion in January, 1918, when about seven miles off Hollyhead, bound from Liverpool to Cork, a torpedo just missed striking her, having passed only a few feet astern, right under the log line trailing from the taffrail.
“Inisfallen,” 1986; 598 tons; built at Newcastle for the city of Cork Steam Packet Company Ltd., by Messrs. Wigham Richardson, Ltd., length 272 feet, breath 35.5 feet, depth 16.9 feet.
Sunk by German submarine at 10.30 am on Thursday, 23rd May 1918, between the Skerries and the Kish lightship, just as the Irish land was sighted. She was on a voyage from Liverpool to Cork with general cargo, under the command of Captain Albert Cole.
Mr. Wilkinson, second officer, was on the bridge, when the look out man called his attention to a torpedo coming in the direction of the ship. He instantly ordered the helm hard to port, jumped across the bridge to help the man at the wheel to do so, but only succeeded in getting it over a few spokes when the torpedo struck the ship right abreast of the boilers and engine room. The impact was terrible, and the scene which followed was appalling, the boilers burst, scattered death and destruction around, and many were killed outright by falling debris.
Captain Cole at once gave orders to lower the lifeboats, but as the “Innisfallen” was rapidly sinking (she went down in a few minutes) it was only possible to launch one of them, her occupants being;- Captain Cole, J. B Mullins, 1st officer; J. Wilkinson, 2nd officer; and W. J. Collister, 1st engineer.
The lifeboat was also doomed to destruction, as the rigging of the sinking steamer fouled her, capsized and smashed it, leaving them struggling. Fortunately they saw another of the lifeboats which floated off the “Inisfallen” as she went down, and they succeeded in getting into her.
Mr. Robert King, the 3rd engineer, gives the following thrilling account of the disaster: “When the explosion occurred I was asleep in one of the state rooms, and was completely knocked out of my bunk, being thrown onto the floor. I then saw that the floor of the room has been burst up and the room all wreaked. I crawled out on my hands an knees, and when got on deck saw a raft. The “Inishfallen” was at this time nearly submerged, the afterdeck being awash. After some time I reached the raft, on which I found the chief steward, a sailor and a gunner, and Just as I climbed on to it I saw the “Inishfallen” go under.”
Another survivor, J. C. Twomey, A. B. States:- “Several of us managed to get hold of lifebelts, but I could not get mine on before the boilers exploded. Some of the boats were smashed and eleven of us succeeded in getting into a boat which afterwards capsized, and we were all flung into the water. I then grasped the keel of an upturned boat and got astride it, and after some time I saw other survivors in another boat and hailed then, and soon afterwards they hauled me aboard.
“While I was clinging to the capsized boat, the submarine came to the surface quite close. She was a very large one, camouflaged all over with different coloured stripes, and about thirty of her crew were on deck, who in the most callous manner were looking on, jeering and laughing, until smoke was seem on the horizon, when she suddenly submerged and made off”.
This proves to be H.M. destroyer “Kestrel,” which arrived on the scene shortly after “Inishfallen" went down and ultimately rescued twenty-four survivors from the rafts and boats. The destroyer dropped several depth charges to destroy the submarine, but whether they were successful or not is not known. The destroyer searched around on the scene of the calamity in the hope of finding other survivors, but nothing was seen except floating wreckage. She then proceeded to Dublin and landed the survivors at the North wall. The 2nd officer and a fireman was detained in Hospital in Dublin owing to injuries received.
Eleven were lost, viz.:-L.F. Raybould, 2nd officer, 3rd Engineer; S. Creevy, J. Keown greasers; D. Cronin, gunner; one passenger (a soldier); F. Gallagher, cattlemen; and five coloured firemen.
The saved were:- Captain Albert Cole, J.B. Millins, 1st officer; S.Wilkinson 2nd officer; W.T. Collister, 1st engineer; R. King, 2nd engineer; Jas. Ryan, donkey man, J. Tate, carpenter; H. Morgan, quartermaster; Jas. Fuger, quartermaster; A. Finch, A.B.; Thomas Donoghue, A.B.; J.C. Twomey, A.B.; Patrick Donovan, A.B.; Thomas Connor, A.B.; J. Todd, Michael Walsh, steward; W.H. Brophy, H. Stewart, gunners; D.J. Butler, cattlemen and five coloured firemen. Total –24.
“Bittern,” 1987; 383 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd., Built at Dundee by the Caledon Shipbuilding Company, Ltd., and subsequently sold.
“Whimbrel,” 1987;378 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd., Built at Dundee by the Caledon Shipbuilding Company Sold to the Limerick Steam Ship Company and renamed “Doonas.”
“Umbre,” 1898; 715 toms; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd., built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd., Stranded 20th February, 1899, on the Cronish Coast, and became a total wreck.
“Jabiru,” 1899; 696 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd., built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Coo. And sequently sold to the Limerick steam Ship co. and renamed “Trevoe.”
Latter company sold her in 1916 to a London company, who renamed her “Galicia.”
“Shielddrake,” 1899; 690 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle my Messr. Wigham Richardson & Co. sunk in English Channel, after a collision, April 1905.
“Cormorant,” 1900; 806 tons; Cork Steam Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd.,
Sunk by mine October, 1914. Crew Saved.
“Avocet,”; 1900;688 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd.
This steamer had a marvellous escape from destruction on the 30th October 1915. I am indebted to the “Liverpool Journal commerce” for the following particulars:-
“At about 11.15 a.m. she was attacked by aeroplanes in the North Sea, off the north and west Hinder Lightships, on a voyage from Rotterdam to Liverpool, under the command of Fredrick F. Brennell. One was a large Battle plane, which dropped 36 bombs, some of which fell within 7 feet of the “Avocet.”
“They then took up a position off the port beam and opened fire on the bridge with machine guns, the ship’s side and decks being struck by bullets. The Battle Plane attacked with great skill, from a height of from 800 to 1,000 feet, flew ahead of the steamer, suddenly turned, and came end on to meet her. When parallel bombs were dropped so as to make sure of a hit.
“Captain Bernnell ordered the helm to be put hard to starboard and as she swung round to port, three bombs just missed the starboard bow and three the port quarter. Had the vessel continued her course the bombs would have rained on her, dropping on the forecastle and poop deck as the aeroplanes passed over her.
“Seeing the ship was unhurt they opened rifle fire. The action lasted 35 minutes, and then they flew away.
“An examination of the ship was made, when it was found that the decks were littered with shrapnel, but otherwise she was uninjured. The man on the lookout actually remained at his post during the attack, and reported a floating mine right ahead while the bombs were bursting around him. ”Harelda,” 1901; 651 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd.
“Ousel,” 1901; 648 tons; Cork Steam ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messr.s Wigham Richardson & Company, Ltd.
Lost 14th September, 1917 in collision with H.M. Light Cruiser, “Active,” in the Straits of Dover, Five members of the crew being drowned.
“Fulmar,” 1902; 641 tons; Cork Steam ship company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigwam Richardson & Co., Ltd.
Sunk by mine March 1916; one drowned.
“Rissa,” 1902; 829 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd.
Sunk in river Mersey, after collision, November, 1913.
“Inniscarra,” 1903; 600 tons; City of cork Steam Packet Company, Ltd. Built by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd. Newcastle. Length 280.5 feet, breath 38.2 feet, depth 17.0 feet.
She was commanded (until his retirement in March 1918) by captain Henry Hore. He entered the service of the company as far back as 1872, and during his long and successful career in connection with it, earned for himself the respect and esteem of the directors and travelling public, who fully appreciated his many qualities as a typical sailor, and who at al times displayed marked ability in the discharge of his onerous duties, while in command of various steamers belonging to the company, but especially as Captain of the “Inniscarra.” She was the finest ship owned by the City of Cork Steam Package Company, and her record under his command was a remarkable one.
She practically crossed the Irish Channel every night during the four years of war, year in year out, on her voyages to and from Fishguard, almost with the regularity of a railway train, in the face of untold perils from mines and submarine.
On Captain Hore’s retirement Captain P.F. Kelly (who was, as I will show later on, in command of the “Bandon” when she was torpedoed) was appointed Captain of the “Inniscarra” and she continued on the Fishguard service until, without a moments warning, was sent to her doom by a German submarine.
Through the courtesy of Captain Kelly I am enable to give full details of the disaster, and I cannot do better then quote his own words:-
“The Inniscarra,” sailed from Fishguard, 915 p.m. Saturday, 11th May 1918, for cork, with 90 tons of general cargo, and a crew numbering thirty-six. The weather was clear, with strong north-westerly winds. After being well clear of the channel at midnight, we shaped a course for cork harbour, which we expected to reach early on Sunday morning.
“Face to face with the dangers which surrounded us, I was practically on the bridge from the time we sailed till we passed Mine Head, on the Waterford coast at 4.20 a.m. (summertime) , when the “Inniscarra” was struck by a torpedo on the post side forward between numbers one and two hatched, causing a terrible explosion which blew up the hatches and everything at the fore end of the ship. I immediately stopped the engines and gave five short blasts of the whistle, which was the pre-arranges signal for all hands to come on deck. Mr. Steward F, Swan, chief officer, at the same time brought the box of rockets from the wheel-house and commenced firing them as distress signals, indicating we wanted help.
“Number one and number four lifeboats were already swung outboard ready for lowering (they were carried in this manner each voyage) and the other four boats were in the chocks, clear of the grips ready to float off.
“Mr. Swan was in charge of the lowering of number one lifeboat, and Mr. Evens, second officer, number four boat. I told them not to put the boats in the water at once, but to lower a little, as the “Inniscarra” had too much way on(when torpedoed her speed was sixteen knots), as it would be impossible to lower the boats completely, without rendering the useless, or losing them altogether.
“Soon after I saw from the bridge that the ship was doomed and going down by the head rapidly, taking a list to port, afterwards righted. I called to the crew to lower away the boats, to get into them, and any of those who could not succeed in doing so to follow me to the raft on the fore deck, and just as the bow was going under I jumped from the bridge to the fore deck, followed by Mr. Swan, and grasped the raft, at the same time pulled one of the cattle men on to it. The ship then took her final plunge, and disappeared at an angle of about 50 degrees, three minutes after the torpedo struck her.
“As the raft floated off the sinking ship, it was struck by an uprish of water from number two hold, and was flung with great violence against the bridge, crushing by leg badly, and at the same time washing the cattleman and myself off the raft. I was in the water for about five minutes when I heard Mr. Swan say to Bird that they were the only tow left. I then swam towards the raft and was helped on to it again, but there was no trace of the cattleman, and we never saw him again.
“At this time a considerable number of crew were struggling for life amidst the wreckage, and were piteously crying aloud for help, when fortunately an empty lifeboat (number two) drifted alongside the raft. We transferred to her (she was full of water) in the hope of rescuing them, and as we were about to do so, saw the submarine coming thought the wreckage towards us.
“Her Lieutenant at one ordered us alongside saying, ‘Ah there you are, you swine! ‘ and asked us ‘where is the captain,’ I replied he was lost. Then he asked for the fist officer, gunners and marconi operators. I replied that they were all drowned. During the time he was questioning us, he was continually firing with a revolver over our heads. The Commander the came down from the platform around the conning tower, where were stationed about a dozen of his crew who covered our lifeboat with their rifles. He ordered the quartermaster, J. Bird, abroad the submarine and asked him who was on board the boat and their rank. Bird replied ‘two sailor and a steward.’ (I had previously instructed those in the boat to reply thus in the event of being questioned.).”The Lieutenant then ordered Mr. Swam and the Steward on board, leaving me alone in the boat. He demanded the name of the ship, where from and where bound, cargo, & c. The commander spoke English fluently. The Lieutenant was in a most excited state, and behaved like a maniac. He gave some letters to the steward to post when he reached shore. These proved to be from the Captains of ships he had sunk who were prisoners on board the submarine, and also one addressed to ‘Mr. Lloyd George, Prime Minister, downing Street, London.’ It stated, “We have been having a nice and interesting time in the Irish Sea. All we have missed is some of your speeches to laugh over.’ The letter was signed ‘Hun, Barbarian, and Baby-killer.’
“The commander then ordered the men back to the lifeboat, apparently satisfied that none of the officers of the ‘Inniscarra had survived.
“ The submarine then made off at great speed in an easterly direction, and in doing nearly capsized our boat. During the time we were alongside the submarine the pitiful cries of our luckless shipmates could be heard on all sides, but the crew of the submarine paid little attention to them, displaying the most indifference to their awful fate, and had it not been for the time that we were delayed by the submarine, we could have saved several of our drowning crew.
“After her departure we cruised around, but the poor fellows had all disappeared, victims to ‘German Culture!’ I call it murder.
“Just then, as the day was breaking, we saw one of our lifeboats, and hailing her, were answered by Daniel Warren, A.B., her sole occupant. As his boat was in good condition, and also had a sail, we went on board her and rowed round the vicinity for a while, in the forlorn hope of picking up survivors, but our quest was in vain.
“We then made sail towards the land and headed about North, North-east, and at nine a.m. our position being then about seven miles off Mine Head, we were rescued by H.M. Trawler “Rodney” from whom we received every care and attention. The officers and crew spared no pains to make us comfortable, supplying us with dry clothes, & c. Before being rescued we suffered considerably from cold, and in order to circulate the blood in our bodies, I rowed and also made my fellow survivors do so. When taken aboard the trawler I gave the Captain the position where the ‘Inniscarra’ was sunk. He proceeded to the locality, but only found an empty lifeboat, some wreckage, and the raft (the latter subsequently drifted ashore at Fethard, Co Waterford, and on it was found my pocket book, which was duly forwarded to me).
“The ‘Rodney’ then proceeded for home, towing out two lifeboats, and we duly arrived a Queenstown at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday. On our Arrival we were met by Brennan of the Clyde Shipping Co., Captain Henry Blanchard, Harbour Master, sir James Long and Dr. O’Connor, who attended to our injuries These gentlemen treated us with great kindness and consideration.
“Ambulances and mortor cars, also awaited our arrival, and Mr.Brennan accompanied us to our homes in Cork.
“Mr. Swan’s left arm was injured; J. Bird’s shoulder and arm being crushed, and steward J. Keane has his Jaw and mouth injured. We also suffered from cramp.
“I cannot speak too highly of the bravery of the entire crew from the moment the ship was torpedoed, and can only say that they upheld the high tradition of the sailors of our port and counrty, obeying to the last. I have also to place on record the gallentry of the two gunners, A. Page (Northhampton) and A. Tucker (Swansea). They stood by their gun to the last, ready to fire on the submarine should she have appeared, and lost their lives through devotion to duty”
The saved were:- Capt. Kelly, Chief Officer Swan, Steward keane, Quartermaster J. Bird and D. Warren, sailor.
Those drowned were:- Second mate, W. Evans; first Engineer, W. Neill; Second Engineer, R. J. Peters; J. Mullane, cook; A. Attridge, carpenter; M. Ford, quartermaster; M. Murphy, G. Clarke,D. Driscoll, N. O’Sullivan, sailors;W. Ryan, donkeyman; R. Hayes and M. O’Hehir, greasers; S. Buckley, J. O’Connell, L. O’Connell, J. Harris, J. Harrington, P. Cox, D. O’Mahony, M. Geary, D. O’Shea and J. O’Brien, firemen; gunners Page and Tucker; Richard Donovan, Richard Hallissey, Patrick Curran, cattlemen.
“Nyroca,” 1903;634 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Wigham Richardson & Co., Ltd.
“Egret,” 1903;691 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
“Pylades,” 1903; 275 tons. Built at Workington. Purchased by the City of Cork Steam Packet Co., Ltd., and subsequently sold.
“Dotterel,” 1904;818 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messers. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
She was attacked in the North Sea by German Aeroplanes in 4 Nov.,1915 on a voyage from Liverpool tp Rotterdam, under the comand of Captain P. Kelly.
The Aeroplanes were right over the ship dropping bombs and firing from maxim guns. The crew replied by firing rifles with a view to put the aeroplanes out of action. Captain Kelly meanwhile steered a zig-zag course, and ordered the engineers to give the vessel all the speed they could, and in this way managed to dodge the falling bombs. Rockets were also sent up, and after a while the Germans seeing that the “Dotterel” was making such a gallant fight, gave up the contest and beat a hasty retreat.
On their departure ans examination was made, when it was found that the hull of the ship, a steam pipe, one of the lifeboats and a ventilator were more or less damages by bullets from the maxims.
She was subsequently sunk by a mine off the French coast on 29th November, 1915, five lives being lost.
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool presided over a meeting in Liverlpool Town Hall in 31st January,1916, and presented to Captain Frederick F. Brennell of the “Avocet” and Capt. Patrick Kelly of the “Dotterel” cheques for 100 guineas, which had been awarded by the Liverpool and London War Risks Association, in recognition of their courage and seamanlike ability in fighting and finally evading German Aircraft. Sir Norman Hill said: “That many presentations were made during the war in recognition of the gallentry and ability with which seamen had overcome the murderous attacks of submarines, but he ventured to think that in no cases had greater gallentry been shown that in those of the “Avocet” and Dotterel.”
The Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd., also made awards to the officers and crews of both ships.
“Pandion,” 1904; 592 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Sunk in the English Channel 15th March, 1917, after a collision.
“Lestris,” 1905; 675 tons; Cork Steam Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle ny Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Captured by German Destroyers in North Sea, 5th July, 1916, and taken to Zeebrugee. Afterwards sunk in Burges Canel, on the evacuation of Bruges by Germans in October, 1918.
“Serula,” 1905; 671 tons; cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Torpedoed and sunk in Cardigan Bay, 16th September, 1918. Eighteen lives were lost.
“Lismore,” 1905; 630 tons; built for the Cork Steam Packet Company, Ltd. By Messrs. Gourlay Bros., Ltd. Dundee; length 260 feet, breath 35.6 feet, depth 17.2 feet.
This vessel was sunk by a German submarine at 8 p.m. on April, 1917, while on a voyage from Havre to the Bristol Channel in ballast, under the command of Captain Henry Blanchard, who has given me the following graphic account og the terrible disaster.
“I had just come off the bridge leaving the second officer, Mr. Fluery, in charge, and has only reashed my room with the chief officer, Mr. H. Hore, when we were startled by a fearful explosion which jamed the door, and it looked as if our means of exit was cut off. However, after out combined efforts we succeeded in forcing it open, and stepping out we found water up to out waists, ans a scene of the most awful devestation met our eyes, the engine room shylight being a mass of twisted iron and broken glass, the steam escaping from the engine room in dense clouds.
“I realised at ones that the “Lismore” was doomed, and immediately we set to work to lower away the after starboard lifeboat. As we did so the ship took a heave list to starboard and commenced to go down by the head, thus adding to the difficulty and danger of lowering the boat,and at the same time the position of the ship caused the lowering falls to foul, but fortunately a heavy sea lifted the lifeboat and when she rose on it automatically freed the falls; then she drifted aft, the steamers stern being out of the water, with the propellor rapidly revolving over our heads. In fact we thought our last moment had come. We even felt our faces fanned by the breeze caused by it, but we miraculously drifted clear, and in about four minutes the ship went down. We then rowed about amidst the debris, and hearing cries around us, succeeded in picking up five of our crew who were struggling in the water.
“Immediately after this the submarine came to the surface quite close, with postionn of her crew on deck armed with rifles.
“She then approached, threw a line ordering us to make it fast to our boat. We did so, and the submarine steadied us, heas on to the sea. Her commander questioned us as to the cargo, identity of the ship, where we were bound for etc. When he learned that we were not carrying any cargo, he became quite angry, evidently because the result of his action did not cause the loss of a crago-laden steamer.
“The submarine then commenced to tow us, with her deck partly awash. She had the towing rope made fast to a revolving drum on her deck, and was slowly drawing us on to her partly submerged deck. Seeing this I passed the word along to slip the rope, but the chanceof doing this so unobserved did not occur. The result was that we were towed right on until we struck the submarine, when we let go and drifted clear.
“On seeing this the u-boat came full speed astern, and striking us on the port bow damaged four planks. We immediately hailed them , that our boat was badly holed, in a sinking condition, and very likely we would be drowned before we reached the shore. The submarine then disapeared for a while, but shortly re-appeared, and the officer in charge asked us: ‘were we really sinking?’ We answered in the affirmative, and he ironically said ‘Good-bye’ and disappeared in the darkness.
“After waiting some time to ascertain if ther were any other survivors and that the submarine had really taken her departure, we set sail onour boat and with a Favourable breeze, set a course for the land, until we made out the **** on Cap* Antifer Lighthouse, on the French coast, when we were fortunatly seen and picked up by a British Patrol Boat and taken into Havre.
“We were treated with great kindness by the British Admiralty and the officials of the British and Foreign sailors’ Society. Seven of our crew who were wounded when the torpedo struck the ship, received every care and attention tha medical science could afford during their stay at Havre.”
The saved were:- Captain Henry Balnchard, richard Hore, Chief officer, R. King, 2nd engineer; A. Grant, J, O’Sullivan, P. Collins, W. Moore, T. O’Brien, sailors; M. Walsh, steward; J. White, cook; J. curtain, J. O’Driscoll, M. Ahern, H. Gould, J. McGurie, A. Higgins, J. Murphy, J. Fenton, A. Power, fishermen and 2 gunners. Total-21.
Those Drowned were:- H. Fluery, second officer; J. Barrie, 1st engineer; J. Crone and W. O’Brien, sailors; and H. Scriven, carpenter. Total –5.
“Kittiwake,” 1906; 912 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson.
Torpedoed and sunk in North Sea, April, 1917, seven of her crew being killed.
“Whimprel,” 1907; 848 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & wigham Richardson.
“Merganser,” 1908 921 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd.Built by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Sunk by gunfire from submarine in Mediterranian, November 1915. The whole of the crew were saved.
“Ardmore,” 1909;609 tons; City of Cork Steam Packet Company, Ltd. Built by Messrs. W. B. Thompson & Co., Ltd., Dundee. Length 260 feet, breath 36 feet, and depth 17.2 feet.
The illustration shows sir Henry O’Shea, Lord Mayor, accompanied by the Corporation of Cork and a large party of guests, “Throwing the Dart” from the bridge of the “Ardmore” on the 31st July 1914, when the steamer had reached an imaginary line between Poor Head and Cork Head.
The “Ardmore” siled from London for cork under the command of Captain Richard Murray, on 11th November, 1917, with general cargo. All went well going down the English Channel, although during that week several ship were sunk there.
In accordance with instructions she called at Milford Haven, leaving shortly after, in order to cross the Irish Channel during the darkness of night. At 10 p.m. on the 13th November, when about 6 miles off the Conninhbeg Light Vessel, on the Wexford coast, a challenge was flashed out by morse signal asking: “What ship is that, where bound, & c., &c.?” Captain Murray, in accordance with sailing instructions ordering him to answer challenges, replied: “Ardmore, London to Cork.” The night being hazy, it was difficult to see objects at very great distance, sometimes the haze developed into a dence fog, and although the outline of the vessel indicated a patrol boat, it seems beyond question that it was the submarine which shortly atfer sent the “Ardmore” to her doom.
At about 10.30 p.m. Captain Murray was on the bridge with Mr. Jogoe, chief officier; the carpenter Griffiths, and two seamen, when an appalling explosion occurred on the starboard side forward of the bridge, shaking the ship from stem to stern, at the same time reducing all the glass in the wheel-house to powder.The Captain ordered the boats to be launched immediately, and with the chief officer assisted to lower the forward starboard lifeboat, some of the crew being already in it. The “Ardmore” reamined upright for a very short time, then suddenly plunged head foremost into the depths of the sea, taking everything and all on board down with her. On coming to the surface Captain Murray caught hold of a piece of wreakage, to which he clung for some time. Subsequently hearing voices in the distance, he shouted loudly, and in response was answered by T. Murphy, one of the sailors: 2We are in a lifeboat full of water.” The Captain continued shouting at intervals, and was responded to each time, the fog being then very dense. Atfer clinging to the wreakage for about an hour, he was picked up by those in the lifeboat, in a very exhauisted state (he had on his heavy boots and bridge overcoat).
The lifeboat was badly damaged, either by the explosion or by striking against the ship’s side. Shortly after the weather cleared, and the Conningbeg light vessel could be again seen to the eastward, just on the horizon. They then commenced to row, and headed the water-logged boat for the light, but made little progress. The cold was intence, in addition to which they were waist-high in the water. It was a terrible time for the survivors, as the waves frequently rolled into the boat,drenching them again and again.
About midnight, in the darkness, a steamer’s hull came into view, and as she passed close, they hailed her, and those onboard answered. (They also could hear her engines going full speed astern).
Just then the fog enveloped everything, and she passed out of sight, and was never seen again.(It was afterwards learned that this steamer rescued Walsh the cook.) Those in the lifeboat had an anxious time during that awful night, waiting for dawn. When it came not a vestige of a vessel was to be seen, and their chance of rescue seemed hopeless, when suddenly, away to the southward, they saw smoke on the horizon, and later the masts and funnels of a steamer. On and on she came, heading for the lifeboat, and in a short time arrived on the scene and rescued them at 8 a.m.
The rescuing vessel proved to be the H.M. Patrol Boat “Au Breitia,” Commander Beswick.
After the rescue a red flare was senn, towards which the “Au Breitia” preceeded, and on coming up with it ,saw a lifeboat with a man standing in it,who turned out to be Mr. Johnson, second officer of the “Ardmore,” whom they also rescured. (As I have shown he was subsequently drowned in the “Kenmare,” when that vessel was torpedoed.)
The “Au Breitia” then proceeded to Queenstown and duly landed the survivors, in a pitiable condition : their lips blue, their limbs numbed, and a considerable time elapsed before circulation was brought about.
Michael Walsh, the cook (also in the “Lismore” and “innisfallen” when torpedoed had a marvellous escape. At the time of the explosion he jumped overboard and went down in the vortex caused by the sinking steamer, but being a good swimmer he managed to keep afloat. It was with great difficulty he was able to do so at all, owing to the intence cold water, and was practically exhausted until fortunately he came across a piece of wreakage (a cattle board) to which he clung. Poor fellow, he had a bad time swimming about in thick oil, part of the cargo carried on barrels which were smashed at the time of the exlposion. About 1 a.m. he dimly saw a steamer amidst the darkness, and loudly hailed her. After a time they succeeded in locating him and lowering a rope over the side to which a lifebouy was attached, he grasped it and was hauled on board in a state of collapse. She proved to be the American Steamer, “I.H. Lookingback.” He was treated with great kindness while on board, to which the steamer deviated form her course in order to put to Queenstown, where he was duly landed.
The saved were:- Captain Richard Murray, Robert Johnson, second officer ; J. Mason, and engineer ; Michael Dorney, Thomas Murphy, John Good, seaman; Michael Walsh, cook; H. Taylor, gunner. Total –8.
Those lost were:- Richard Jagoe, 1st officer; Michael J. O’Sullivan, 1st engineer; T. Twomey, James Healy, J. Twomey, Daniel Ahern, Michael Leahy, Jas. Walsh, Firemen; patrick Barry, D. O’Herlihy, trimmers; Michael Good, John Best, quarter masters; John Horgan, Michael Tobin, D. Collins, seamen; H. Griffiths, carpenter; P. Twomey, steward; and T. Smith, gunner. Total –19.
"Bandon," 1910; 668 Tons ;City of Cork Steam Packet Company Ltd. Built at New Castle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wighan Richardson, Ltd. Length 266 feet, Breath 37.2 feet, Depth 17.4 feet.
She sailed from Liverpool for Cork on the 12th April 1917, under the command of Captain P.F. Kelly (As I have shown he was also in command of the Inniscarra when Torpedoed) with a crew numbering 32 in all told. He was on the bridge all that night and until 4 p.m. the following day. Being tired after his long and anxious vigil, he decided to go to his room for a short rest, leaving the second officer, Mr. O Brien, in charge. The "Bandon" was off Mine Head. After a short time, as he was changing into his shore clothes, and in the act of buttoning his waistcoat, the ship was struck by a torpedo on the port side, abreast of the engine room, and immediately began to sink. On opening the door of his room, he stepped right into the water, knee-deep, and proceeded to the bridge and ordering the helm hard to port, so as to head the ship to land. Fearing the boilers would explode he endeavoured to make his way aft, but in the space of a minute the ship sank from under his, flames and sparks issuing from her funnel and engine room. Just as she was sinking he made an attempt to get hold of the stern of one of the life-boats on deck (her bow was flung inwards by the force of the explosion) but missed her and was carried down with the ship. As she sank the main stay caught him across the back, but he managed after what seemed a long time to clear himself, and came to the surface. When he was being dragged down in the vortex, he saw the chief officer, Mr. Ferne, and some of the crew on the after deck house, near one of the life-boats, but when he (Captain Kelly) came to the surface, they had all disappeared, having gone down with the ship.
After a short time, while swimming about amidst the wreckage, he saw the third engineer, Mr. Mercer, clinging to one of the life-saving collapsible deck-seats, which floated off the "Bandon's" deck, and grasped it, when it capsized. He then swam round to its end and opening it out it became more buoyant. In addition to Captain Kelly and Mr. Mercer the following members of the ill-fated ship were holding on the seat viz., J. OKeeffe, fireman, and the carpenter, also J. McCarthy, A.B. (who afterwards became exhausted, lost his hold of the raft, and was drowned), and a fireman named Walsh.
After 6 p.m. they described a boat in the offing, which proved to be a motor launch (M.L. boat) which speedily came on to the scene (she had been order to go th their rescue by telegram for Mine Head Lighthouse) and picked up four survivors, after being 2 1/2 hours in the water. The fifth man, Walsh, in letting go of the raft grasped the large rope fender of the motor launch, but just as he did so she took a heavy roll, with the result. he lost his grasp and was drowned.
Nothing could exceed the kindness of the crew of the launch. The survivors were given hot tea, coffee, warm blankets, & c.
They arrived at Dungarvan about 9 p.m., and were met by the local doctor and others, who took them to the Devonshire Arms Hotel. Captain Kelly at once sent a telegram to the Company at Cork, Advising the loss of the ship and also the names of the survivors.
They were:- Captain P.F. Kelly, H. Mercer, 3rd Engineer; Kewley the carpenter, and John O'Keeffe, fireman.
The Lost were:- Edward Ferne, chief officer; M. J. O'Brien, second officer; R. Mercer, first engineer; M. Dowling, second engineer; Charles Bird, A.b.; Patrick O'Keeffe, Richard O'Keeffe, Bartholmew Collins, Jeremiah Long, and Charles E. Martin, Firemen; John Courtenay, Quarter master (his body was picked up warm by another M.L.; artificial respiration was tried, but it proved useless, as he was quite dead. His body was landed in Dungarvan and brought to cork withe the survivors on the next day) ; Caleb Crone, cook; John O'Callaghan, Fireman; John Wafer, A.B. ; Simon Louro, Quartermaster; Jeremiah Leahy, and George O'Mahony, Greasers; Joseph Geo. Thompson, Jeremiah McCarthy, and John O'Sullivan, A.B.'s; Charles McCashin, Steward; Wrixan and Sullivan, cattlemen; two gunners; Walsh, Fireman; and the donkeyman.
“Tadorna,” 1910;831 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd.,Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Lost on 15th Nov., 1911, having gone ashore at ballycrennan, in Ballycotton Bay, on a voyage from Rotterdam to Cork and Liverpool with general cargo, portion of which was salved and brought round to Cork.
“Jabiru,” 1911; 872 tons; Cork Steam Ship company, Ltd., Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
“Bittern,” 1912; 962 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Sunk by gunfire from submarine, August 1915. the whole of the crew being saved.
“Vanellus,” 1912; 960 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
She struck a mine on 1st October, 1916, in the Harve Roads, and in the Twinkling of an eye the cargo of petrol she was carrying burst into flames, the fire spreading so rapidly that it became impossible to launch lifeboats, except one boat on the port side, into which portion of the crew scrambled and other junped into the sea.
The successful launching of the boat was due to a daring act of bravery on the part of Mr. Joseph Connolly (a Cork man), third engineer, for which he was decorated by his majesty the King.
Nothwithstanding the danger of being swallowed up by the flames the added risk of being drowned, he returned to his post in the engine room and stopped the engines, which enabled the lifeboat to be successfully launched.
The vessel was subsequently beached, but became a total wreck, three of the crew being drowned.
“Tringa,” 1913; 1185 tons; Cork Steam Ship company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Sunk by gunfire from submarine in Mediterranean, 26th November, 1915; three lives lost.
“Imber,” 1914; 1185 tons; Cork Steam ship Company, ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Torpedoed in Mediterranean, July 1918, but was safely brought into port and repaired in an Italian port.
The crew were all saved.
“Rallus,” 1915; 941 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Sunk by gunfire from submarine in Mediterranean, September 1916. The crew were all saved.
“Dafila,” 1917; 870 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Torpodoed in the Atlantic, July 1917. Two of the crew were lost.
“Clangula,” 1917; 870 tons; Cork Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Built at Newcastle by Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.
Torpedoed in Bristol channel, November 1917. fifteen of the crew missing.
In the early portion of the history I have given particulars of severla steamships which sailed from our port, but were destined never to return, having met destruction on many a rock on our iorn-bound coasts. But where were the crews? Their struggle has long since been over; their bones whitened in the caverns of the deep. Silence in oblivion, like the waves, have closed over them, and sad indeed beyond telling is the story of their end. Yet we must not forget that these brave sailors were the pioneers of our cross-channel and other trades, and were in the early days of steamships face to face with the many difficulties, as the risk of the engines, etc., now breaking down has almost disappeared, the machinery of the modern steamship being brought to a state of perfection which a former generation did not possibly anticipate.
But coming down to this our day, who shall measure the bravery and daring of the sailors of the mercantile marine, particularly those belonging to our port? Do we fully realize the awful realities of the late terrible submarine method of warfare. In normal times a sailors life is a hazardous and anxious one, but during the fours years’ of war it was more than perilous, and, as I have shown, death and destruction came swiftly ans suddenly.
Many a brave sailor has been stricken in his strength, and indeed ther is no more touching or pathetic spectacle. It reminds one of some noble forest tree, some mightly oak, which for long years had weathered the elements at their worst, and still stands to all appearance staunch and strong, when suddenly it falls to the ground, bringing with it, not only the young branches and tender shoots, but also the ivy which has grown around it.
So it is with the brave sailor who perished with his ship. His wife, his family, his dependants, all were stricken when his last cry of human anguish mingled with the roar of the waves was silenced for ever. But oh, the aftermath of the deep tragic sorrow of the widows and orphans of those who perished in the “Inniscarra,” “Ardmore,” “Lismore,” “Bandon,” and “Kenmare,” and the various steamers of the Cork Steamship Company, Ltd., they will for evermore be face to face with unfathomable poignant sorrow- the widows for their husbands and the children for their fathers whom they shall never see more, who were sent to their doom without a moment’s warning by a cruel and relentless enemy, whose inhuman method of maritime warfare was without parallel since the dawn of civilization, leaving them alone to face the storm and stress of life, blighted in their days of hope and happiness, and living links almost wrenched by sorrow from the immense chain of the human family.