William "Bulldog " Young,
Coastguard and Harbourmaster
at Ardglass, Co. Down
by Ivor Ray
The name 'Bulldog' was applied to William Young most particularly because he was always accompanied by a bulldog, but it could equally be said of him that he was one of the 'Bulldog Breed'. He certainly looked the part and it epitomised the larger than life picture that he presented. But it may also be said of him that he was an 'old salt', as his forbears and family associations show that the salt of the sea was in his blood and never at any time of his life was he far away from it.
He was born on the 5th March 1871 in Donaghadee, the son of John Young from Dublin who was serving as a coastguard there. John met and married Mary Anne Wright, who was the daughter of the Coastguard Chief Officer William Wright. So here we see the first connections with the sea as both his father and his mother's father had presumably served at sea before following the usual pattern of shore jobs with the Coastguard Service.
At this time of course the Coastguards came directly under the authority of the Admiralty and it was a natural avenue to follow for those leaving the sea to seek a career ashore. John Young was later posted back to Dublin and William was educated at Marlborough St. School. Perhaps because of knowing of the uncertainties of life at sea John was fully determined that his boy should not be a victim of the vicissitudes and hardships of a naval (or merchant service) career and made efforts to ensure that he found a safe, secure, pensionable post at home. With this in mind he tried to persuade William to apply for a position as a writer with the Civil Service. But William, now aged 16, had other ideas and ran away to sea on a sailing ship. On his return from his first trip, his father was sure that this experience of the hard life on board would have deterred him from continuing at sea, but when he found that William had so strong a desire to go back he made sure that a proper apprenticeship was entered into with a reputable recognised shipping line and so he entered the merchant service aboard the Alice A. Lee, a sister ship of the Cutty Sark.
He didn't, however, stay with the merchant service and sometime later transferred to the Royal Navy. He saw service on various ships and at shore establishments and it was while he was at Devonport that he met Elizabeth Rich, of Ivybridge in Devon, whom he subsequently married at Holy Trinity Church at Sheerness in Kent. She also had two brothers in the Royal Navy. His duties in those early years in the Navy included Fishery Protection in the North Sea at the end of the century. As his family started to grow he saw that he could more readily accept his domestic responsibilities with a job ashore and so it was in 1.903 that he joined the Coastguard Service. In 1906 he was posted to Clonakilty in Co. Cork and this was the beginning of a series of appointments in Ireland, including Valencia, Wexford, Balbriggan, Ballycastle and Dublin.
As a serving member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve he was recalled for duty for war service between 1914 and 1918 and was for part of that service Chief Quartermaster aboard the Queen Elizabeth during the campaign in the Dardanelles. When the war ended William resumed his Coastguard duties serving in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim and Rush, Co. Dublin. In February 1922 he was appointed Divisional Officer for the Newcastle Division of Co. Down, where his responsibilities covered the coastline from Strangford to Newcastle. He chose to live at the suitable midpoint of Ardglass and took up residence in the Chief Officer's house in Kildare Street, which was at that time vacant.
In 1923 when responsibility for the Coastguards passed from the Admiralty to the Board of Trade, William took his pension and later that year purchased the Castle Shane Hotel (now the Ardglass Arms) and renamed it the St. Alban's Arms Hotel.
Those in the picture above are William Young and his wife Elizabeth and between them on the steps Mr Richard (Dicky) Hughes J.P., a prominent local fish merchant. The others include his daughters Elizabeth, Frances, Dorothy, Mabel and son Dick. On the right is Mr J. Cleland, local garage proprietor (with his taxi alongside), whose father was the local Station Master, and the other gentleman was a German fish buyer by the name of Mr Kupfer. On the retirement in 1924 of the Harbour Master, Mr Robert John Waite (another well-known Ardglass family), William was appointed in his place and during the years that followed became a notable figure in the village. He was always around and about at the harbour as he made it a matter of personal pride that as far as he was able he would ensure that every incoming vessel was properly berthed. At this time Ardglass was at its village, much needed of course in his own hotel where family had all to do their stint of hand pumping from the well to supply all the requirements of the establishment, including the traditional practice of bottling their own Guinness. He was a great supporter of the Church and the Masonic Order.
Stories of him abound and perhaps the most graphic was the occasion on which his faithful bulldog Mick had followed him onto the harbour in most dreadful weather conditions and had been swept into the sea by a mighty wave that had pounded over the harbour wall. William had to be forcefully restrained from going into the sea to rescue the dog and so distraught was he that he immediately offered a reward of Ј5 for the dog's body, which was subsequently washed ashore on Ardtole. Just before his first wife died in 1935 they sold the hotel and lived in a bungalow in Castle Park. His family were by this time well dispersed, his daughters married and his sons at sea. He later remarried and subsequently moved to another bungalow on the Green Road, next door to Dr Mc Comiskey's old dispensary. In later years, when he was again on his own, he was first looked after by his widowed daughter Dorothy and finally by his younger daughter Frances (McClean), who joined him with her recently retired husband Herbie. And it is to Frances that your contributor is so deeply indebted for all the details that enabled him to build this picture of one of the real old characters of Ardglass who enriched the village with his forthright, extroverted, fun loving, but always very proper, personality for almost 40 years from his arrival in 1922 to his death in 1958 at the age of 88.
* It was somewhat unusual for the Coastguards to have (and much more to Mrs Young's liking) private houses rather than the customary barrack type of accommodation. The Chief Officer's house in Ardglass is now better known as Les Wills' butchers shop. The other officers were housed in the three pairs of semi-detached houses at the bottom of Hill Street.
Submitted by Albert Colmer
Photo submitted by norman