The Coastguard has its 'Troubles'

The fore 4-in. gun was loaded with blank, and the aft 4-in. gun was trained on a clear 'space to the left of the Coastguard Station, ready to fire shell. A searchlight was worked continuously throughout the night'.

The Coastguard Station was put in a state of defence and had the windows sandbagged. Commander Hughes set the scene. The pier was connected to the shore by a wooden viaduct sixty yards long and at the far end inshore was the railway station. Beyond that was the Customs House and beyond that again the Coastguard Station, all three on one side of the railway. A bridge crossed the railway and the village was on the other side with the police barracks at the far end about 500 yards from the Coastguard Station.
On the night of the attack it was dark and the weather thick with drizzling rain so that the searchlight was not of much use.

At 03.00 on the 2nd a rocket was seen to be fired on shore and the sentry at once gave the alarm.

A flare was observed followed by much firing and many explosions, but, owing to the thickness of the weather, the exact nature of the attack and the course of events could not be seen from the ship.

'I immediately dispatched the landing party under Leading Seaman Hughes to the Coastguard Station and gave the gunner orders to fire a round of 4-in. blank.

'Owing to the bad visibility I decided not to fire shell but continued firing blank at intervals, which I consider had a moral effect and frightened the rebels. Another party was soon sent under orders of Sub-Lieutenant Wright, with a Lewis-gun and rifles, some Pyrenes, and a signalman. As soon as the first advance party had left the ship and were running along the pier, the inshore end of the pier burst into flames.

'It appears evident that a small party of the rebels were detailed to prevent assistance from the ship by destroying the pier, but my men arrived before they were able to complete their work, and they quickly made off along the foreshore, firing at the men as they went. There was no cover but the men lay down on the pier and returned the fire, but the rebels made good their escape in the dark under cover of the rocks. The men eventually gained the Coastguard Station as ordered.

'The house adjoining the police barracks was now in flames and the police remained in their barracks, firing on the rebels in all directions so that, in the dark and confusion, it was impossible to go to their assistance.

'I had given my men strict injunctions not to fire haphazard or without orders and to keep together. Sub-Lieutenant Wright attempted to reconnoitre with his party of men with the intention of engaging some of the rebels, but he observed that they were encircling the Coastguard Station under cover of walls at a distance, and decided to fall back for defence.

'The rebels appeared to be wonderfully well organized and kept under cover in extended order. Signals were passed by whistle which could be distinctly heard over a large area.

'Orders were also heard but could not be understood. After firing a few shots at indistinct objects, two blasts on the whistle were heard and the rebels made a sudden retreat, so quickly that they must have had cars in rear in readiness. 'At 04.00 the engagement ceased and we proceeded to the police barracks where it was difficult to persuade them to come out. The fire was by now beyond control and dangerous to approach as bombs and ammunition were exploding.

'The sergeant of police was found to be rather badly wounded and two others slightly hurt. I got them to the Coastguard Station and rendered first aid. 'All the wires were found to be cut, and all roads to Tralee thoroughly blocked, so I sent a man in plain clothes on a bicycle to endeavour to reach Tralee to inform the military and the police, and to get a doctor. He overtook a large number of men engaged in blocking the road and was sent back three times. 'At the first sign of attack I called Tralee Military Barracks by W/T but could get no reply, and it appears that no one was looking out after midnight. Had they received the signal I am convinced a patrol could have captured a large number of the rebels in their retreat'.

9 Comments · 17508 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on September 29 2007


#1 | Cakeij on 12/10/2007 19:41:31
A thought provoking article especially for those who are finding it frustrating to track their coastguard ancestors in Ireland during this period. Are the coastguard records also kept in the national archives in Dublin? Perhaps i will be able to find out more about the burning of the station at Kinsale when I return there on 8 Nov
#2 | Tony on 27/10/2007 23:42:21
The National Archives in Dublin do not have any Coastguard service records as they belonged to the Admiralty and the Royal Navy Coastguards left Southern Ireland in 1922. There are a small number of Station Lease books and Contract plans for station buildings Also some letters regarding famine conditions in Ireland in 1846.
Tony daly
#3 | Donal on 24/11/2007 21:44:06
Tony, Do the references in the article on Coast Guard and the Famine, such as RLFC 3/1/93, refer to the National archive and do you by any chance, have reference numbers for the station lease books, etc
#4 | Tony on 25/11/2007 16:09:43
The RLFC 3/1/93 items from the Relief Famine Committe set up during the 1846/7 famine.As part of their paperwork the Coastguard station Officer passed on a lot of information about fishing and harvest conditions in their neighbourhood. These letters showed the difference in severity among various area.
At the National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin Among the O.P.W. (Office of Public Works) in the 4.4.2 OPW 4 are some volumes relating to Coastguard station leases.
The first OPW 4/6/4 contains abstracts of leases and other arrangements by which coastguard stations were held. It is the sole survivor of a set of four volumes and contains the index for all four.
OPW 4/6/12 is a property register of coast guard buildings in Ireland . Details include the name of property (held for one year or more), county, division and district, date of lease, terms, lessor, amount of rent and when payable.
#5 | Donal on 25/11/2007 18:20:37
Thanks Tony,
Are the RLFC items stored in the National Archive, also?
#6 | Tony on 25/11/2007 23:29:18
Hi Donal,
Yes, the Relief Committee Letters are also at National Archives.
I have synopsis of about 100 letters, if you are looking for a particular Coastguard Officer or station.
#7 | Donal on 26/11/2007 22:44:52
Thats very generous, Tony.
My interest is in trying to get some idea of sources for the history of the CG stations around here, (Miltown Malbay) I thought there was just Freagh and Seafield/ Mutton Island but I see Spanish point and Miltown Malbay itself mentioned also in some of the ADM documents. Having references is a big help because I can investigate further on my next visit to Dublin.
#8 | Tim on 16/09/2020 12:56:09
Hi folks, new here, wondering if any one may know where i can find copies of lease/freehold deeds from late 1800's early 1900's between Irish landlords and HM Coastguard, Irish side of the records were destroyed in a fire so need the British side please. Any guidance gratefully received.
Thank you
#9 | Sailorboy2255 on 06/02/2022 17:53:16
Hi Folks. I am new to this forum but am very interested in the subject. My father served in the RN for 16 years from 1910 - 26. He was posted to Corkbeg W/T station in 1920 with his wife and son. They were in the coastguard station when it was attacked in 1921. He and his family were eventually evacuated from Ireland in 1922. I am trying to find out more about his life in Ireland and would love to come over and see what remains of where he lived and worked. Does any of the coastguard station exist now? Was this the same building as the Wireless Station? John

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