The National Folklore Collection.1937-38. U.C.D. Belfield

The School’s Scheme of 1837-8 represented one of the greatest drives ever undertaken in the field of folklore collecting. Almost 100,000 children, aged eleven to fourteen, in 5,000 primary schools were involved. According to guidelines laid down by the Irish Folklore Commission and under the direction of the teachers, the children collected this material, mainly from their parents and grandparents and other older members of the local community or school district.

The result of the School’s Scheme was the School’s Manuscripts Collection, a body of material which extends to more than 500,000 manuscript pages. A substantial part of this collection is bound and paginated in 1128 volumes; the remainder is contained in a large collection of the school copybooks in which the bulk of the raw material was originally taken down by the children. The Schools Manuscripts Collection is now preserved in the Department of Irish Folklore at University College Dublin.

  •  Item 1.

Ceann Helphick they called Helvick Head in Irish. We used to have lots of Coastguards down at the station. They were Irish and English. The people liked them because they were friendly, nice and charitable.

Written by Ciaran Bairead from recollections of Michael O’Coincheanainn. Ref.MS1862  Page 12

  • Item 2.

During the wars of Napoleon smuggling was very much carried on on the South coast of Ireland. The smuggling vessel used come regularly to Dirk Cove and unload a cargo of tobacco, wine, brandy ad silk which was purchased at a low price. The family of local gentry named Galways were the principal smugglers in the district and they amassed great wealth. When they used take the tobacco they used draw it inland and sell it through the country. When the Napoleon wars ended the British Government brought military and Coastguards into the country and stationed them on the coast, and this put an end to the smuggling.

Written by Jeremiah Calnan, Ballylibert.    M.317. Page 206.

  • Item 3.

Away back in the year 1800 or thereabout when England was at war with France there was a Coastguard shot on a wild remote part of Kerry on the Northern shore of dingle Bay called Minard. This place is situated 3 miles west of Annascaul. The Coastguards were housed in Minard castle which still stands at this spot overlooking dingle Bay. At a later date a new station was built and continued in occupation by the Coastguards down to the years 1908 or 1909.

At the time my story commenced the French and Spanish smugglers haunted the coasts of Ireland. They were to be found in every creek and crevice in the western sea-board of Kerry, I might say safely, actually lived in Dingle. At the corner of Green Street and Main Street, stood an old house which was known as “the Spanish House”. Outside Dingle Bay in the Ventry cliffs is a large cavern known as “An Nanny Brown’s Parlour”. In this place many a cargo of contraband was landed. Well now, although it was the Coastguards duty to watch and prevent this smuggling on the Irish coast. Their pay was coming from the English Government so irregular that they closed their eyes on the smugglers, and very often made a bit of money by taking a hand in their work. This was the case of the Coastguards of Minard. The Government received information regarding the smuggling activities of the Minard Coastguards. Special measures were taken, in order that a proper enquiry could be made. The Coastguards heard that they had been reported, and were being spied on. They thought it better to get out of the station before they would be caught. One night the entire lot of Coastguards , six in number, left the station. They removed all their equipment and out-fits and went on board of a smuggling ship. They were not seen anymore and left the station deserted.

A few years afterwards, a fast sailing “Smuggler” ran into Tralee Bay in the dusk of the evening. She cast anchor underneath Kilgobbin near the little village of Camp in Co.Kerry. She was a French boat and was loaded with smuggled goods. A party of ‘Longshore boys’ were waiting to receive her. With their boats they took off the cargo, and hid it away in their eaves in Gleann na Galt and Glendine, near Camp.

While the foreshore boys were taking off the cargo from the French ship they informed the Captain that a spy was watching them at Fenit. He remained some time on watch and eventually got the spy and shot him. But not before the spy had succeeded in sending a message to a Revenue cutter that was lying at anchor at Tarbot on the Shannon.. After shooting the spy the Captain returned to his ship under Kulgobbin, got up a sail and put out to sea. He meant to get out between Brandon Head and Kerry head, just as he was off the Maharee Sound, and steer for the open sea. The captain of the cutter foresaw the move. The gunboat too fast for him and she got between him and the sound. The gunboat opened fire on the smuggler with her guns. The smuggler returned, a fierce battle was fought in a small bay in the Maharee Island. This bay is known as Cuas an Ore or the Cove of the gold.

After putting up a fierce fight the smuggler was badly damaged by gunfire of the Revenue ship, and one of her guns was put out of action. Yet she fought on till fire broke out, and she received two shots at water level, afer this she was sinking fast. The crew of the smuggler took to the boats as she was going down, and got safe to the Maharee Islands. In leaving the ship the crew dismantled the heavy deck gun, known as the “Bow-chaser”. They brought this ashore and also some powder and balls. The gun they set up on one of the sand hills, intending to open fire on the gunboat. The idea of forming a shore battery did not prove successful, for the deck guns of the gun-boat was too hot for them, and the gun had to be abandoned, and it remains in the same place, to this day, but it is covered by sand storms. The old people in Maharees used say that about six foot of its muzzle was exposed for years.

Years after the sunken ship of the Smugglers could be seen at the bottom of the little bay, by the fishermen passing in their canoes. It is hidden deep in the sands today with all its hidden treasure.

(Extract) A short time after the sinking of the smugglers ship, a strange personage appeared wandering around the village of Castlegregory. This man had a small wooden box slung over his shoulder by a leather strap. The people came to the conclusion that he was a wandering pedlar. He had a few drinks in a public house in Castlegregory and then went off in the Brandon direction – The pedlar called into a house occupied by O’Donnells and got a meal from them, then proceeding on to cross the mountains. On the side of a lake he came to a house lived in by two brothers named O’Sullivans. These men were notorious thieves and poachers, and it is said they used to rob people. He agreed to stay the night - while having a smoke with them at the side of the lake they noticed that he was so careful of his box. The idea occurred to them that he might have valuables. Later they murdered the pedlar and then dumped him in the lake. Next day they were seen drunk in the village with the box in their possession. They were arrested by the police. The police opened the box which was empty except for half a golden ring. The robbers tore a hole in the thatched roof of the barracks and disappeared.

After 8 or 9 days the body was found. The news of the foul deed was widespread. A certain Mary Farrell living in Annascaul hearing the story of the murdered pedlar and the ring, with two friends took a horse and cart and came all the way to Castlegregory. She was given permission to look at the body and was also shown the ring. She produced the other half of the ring and recognised the murdered pedlar as one of the Coastguards who had deserted Minard station years before and went off on board a Smuggler and was making his way back to her in Annascaul again. She waited to see her sailor boy buried and laid to rest for ever. She returned home and after a short time she commenced to pine of a slow illness and died of a broken heart.

There is another story told about the Smuggling ship that when the ship sank the smugglers ran inland. Tradition also says that some of the crew remained hidden around the district of Castlegregory and settled down and lived there. The rest disappeared.

Reference; National Folklore Collection MS 782. p.175-187.Co.Kerry.

Written by a P.O.Sulivan  from a storyteller who lived near Castlegregory.

  • Item. 4.

 I was going down the river wan night and there was a terrible gale blowing in from the sea. You’d think that a boat couldn’t  travel at all. Well she went like a steamer. The devil must be in her that night. I picked up a man the same night and he had no head on him.

He was lost off the ‘Brother Jonathan’ or the ‘Kate Kearney’ – I don’t know which. He was from Cork. Every one on the boat got lost. The next night a light was seen go from the place he was across to Cullenstown graveyard, where he is buried. I suppose the poor fellow was at rest.

Reference; National Folklore Collection. M54. p.281. South Wexford (Bargy)

William Cox. Duncormick  30 March 1835.

  • Item 5. 

A Smuggling Story.

Smuggling was carried on to a great extent in my district in the past times. One of the most famous smugglers was Daniel Coughlan, brother of the Admiral. He used to go to foreign countries and bring with him wine, whisky, silks and other things. Once he went to Amsterdam in Holland and got a cargo of tobacco and brandy and sails back for Crookhaven. On the way a Revenue cutter chased him. He ran under the Old Head of Kinsale and put out his lights. He then went ashore in a small boat and put a light on the rock. The English men stopped watching him as they thought it was the ship that was ashore. In the meantime he sailed for Crookhaven without any lights and unloaded his cargo.

Another time Coughlan was coming to Crookhaven with a cargo of contraband brandy. On the route an English man-of-war captured him and took his vessel into Queenstown harbour and stopped watching her. Coughlan became very friendly with the English crew and one night he took some of his brandy on board her. He gave it to the crew to drink. When he had them all drunk he left the ship and went into his own boat and set sail for Crookhaven unknown to the English boat. Thus he escaped prison.

Mr.John Sullivan, Arduslough, Crookhaven. Co.Cork. Aged 60 years.

Reference. National Folklore Collection. M287. p.6-7.

  • Item. 6.

 A ship named ‘Columbus’ was lost in 1856 at a place called Kiloggan Bay near the Tower of Hook, South Wexford. The crew were saved. Bill Lindsay’s father who would be about 110 years of age was a spectator on shore at the rescue. So Bill told Brian Lacy who in turn told me. And the peculiar thing about the rescue was that an eclipse of the moon took place just as the crew were being rescued. The cargo was wheat and palm oil for Liverpool from ‘Frisco’.

Reference; National Folklore Collection.  M591. p.135.  South Wexford.

  • Item. 7. 

The ‘Lady Charlet’

The ‘Lady Charlet’ sailed from Lima in 1844 and was wrecked on the “Barrell Rocks” about two miles west of the mouth of Schull Harbour. Her owners were john Fisher & Co, Glasgow and her captain was John Mac Gill, a Scotsman. Her cargo consisted of gold and silver, wool, hides and bark(cutch). Fisher and Co. sent a diver and diving apparatus to the place of the wreck in a tow boat to recover the cargo. Most of the cargo was recovered but the diver pretended he found no trace of the gold below. He left the gold beneath in order that he could come back for it later himself. Later he chartered a small schooner and with three companions he sailed to Castletownsend where he anchored the boat. Proceeding to Crookhaven by land he and his men brought a diving suit and hired a yawl (small fishing boat). The diver had taken landmarks when he had dived before and soon he had the boat near the spot where the gold lay. They dropped anchor as if fishing. The diver had quickly brought up the gold and they sailed for the nearest part of the land. They purchased a number of empty bee-hives and two hives containing bees. Putting the gold into the hives they shut up the bottoms and put them into a country cart they had hired. The driver had orders that on his way to Castletownsend if the police should come near him to prod the hives containing the bees to make them buzz in order to deceive the police. When they arrived at Castletownsend they put the gold on board the schooner, paid the man two days hire, gave him plenty drink, and the two hives of bees and sailed off with the treasure.

I got the foregoing from James Cotter (75 years) Coosheen, Schull, Co.Cork

Reference; National Folklore Collection.  M.107. p.111

  • Item 8.

The Disappeared.

About a hundred years ago there used to be a lot of smuggling goin’ on in Bannow an’ Blackhall. Wan evenin’ a vessel came into Barrow bay an’ the captain came in in a small boat an’ said he was lookin’ for a cargo of spuds (potatoes) He made no attempt to bring the vessel in used to come in every day himself an’ after a week or so he was very grate with the people an’ the Coastguard. Wan day he invited a lot of people to a big supper in the vessel that night, he asked the Coastguard too but he didn’t go but his son and daughter did and the whole party that went amounted to thirty. When mornin’ came there was no sign of the ship an’ a few days after thirty dead bodies were washed up on the strand between Bannow Church an’ Bannow Island.

Story told by a 77 year old in Co.Wexford.

Reference; National Folklore Collection.  M. 481. p.334.

  • Item 9.

Buried Sailors.

Long time ago a vessel was wrecked down at Ballyteigue and all the hands were lost. The ship was carrying a cargo of rum. Some time after several barrels of rum were washed in on the strand, on the Burrow, And I believe the drinking bet (beat) all while it lasted. Fellows came there and they drank the rum out of hard hats and every damn thing.

There are 14 sailors buried there. They were Norweigan sailors.

Reference; National Folklore Collection. M.514. p.211.   Burrow, Co.Wexford.

  • Item 10.


The ‘Aratouse’ ship was wrecked under Ballymadder. Other ships that were wrecked were the ‘King Arthur’ the ‘Flower Rack’ and the ‘Co??onden Castle’

The sea is very rough along this coast in bad weather. I often saw it when a terrible gale would be blowing in off the sea and you’d see spray going nearly a hundred and fifty feet in the air.

Reference; National Folklore Collection. M.107. p.111.   April 1935. Bannow Wexford

1 Comment · 14113 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 18 2007


#1 | devondumpling on 19/05/2007 14:09:26
Have not read them all but item no. three is worth it all on its own!!

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