The Coastguard has its 'Troubles'

It was found out after the attack that the occupants of the first house across the bridge - the nearest to the Coastguard Station - had been held prisoner during the attack. There is no doubt that an attack on the Coastguard Station was intended but called off at the last minute, owing presumably to the failure to fire the pier and stop my men, and, their dislike of the 4-in. guns being fired. The rebels left three shot guns behind, and a collar and tie were found smeared .with blood, so it is probable they had a casualty. None of my men was hit though all came under fire on their way to the Coastguard Station.
Lieutenant-Commander Hughes asked for more men because, out of the crew of eighteen, there were twelve available for guard at the coastguard station, working the searchlight, extra sentry duty and work on the ship. 'I am unable to land a party strong enough to round up the rebels in an attack'.

There is no record to show if the extra men were provided but, when Commander Hughes' report reached the Admiralty the C-in-C was 'requested by their Lordships to convey to Lieutenant-Commander Hughes an expression of their Lordships' satisfaction at the manner in which he carried out his duties'. The evacuation of some Coastguard Stations which could not be defended, proved to be no simple matter. The closing of Glen Bay Station, twelve miles over the mountain road from Teelin the nearest available harbour was a case in point.

On 17lli June, Malinmore Coastguard Station which was the outlying Signal hut for Glen Bay Station was burned, and the main Coastguard Station was considered to be in danger of attack. An armed party under Lieutenant C. W. V. T. S. Lepper, R.N. was landed on I9th June from H.M.S. Serene, to guard the Station.

Many attempts to evacuate the Station by sea were made but the coast was unsuitable for the embarkation of furniture and stores. An attempt was then made to evacuate by road on 31st July, the military having lent two large lorries with an officer and small guard of soldiers. One of the lorries sank through the road surface, and the other got into a bog some miles from Glen Bay. An armed party was landed from H.M.S. Valkyrie and went by car from Killybegs to help protect the lorries, as they were some miles apart and the army guard was too small to watch both.

The Station was eventually cleared with the loss of some minor Government stores, by a light lorry under military guard. Throughout two days this vehicle travelled over the mountain road between Glen Bay and Ticlin, carrying the stores and Coastguardsmen's furniture which were embarked in H.M. Trawler Alexander Palmer.

Before the evacuation the party at Glen Bay were strictly boycotted by the local inhabitants, and could only receive their food supplies from Killybegs - twenty miles away over the mountains. One local man, Mr A. Struthers, helped out by hiring his car for carrying the rations, in spite of continuous ducats, but in the end even this method of communication failed because the rebels blocked the roads, and the Glen Bay Station was on very short rations for the last week before evacuation.

Evacuation of BELDERIG: coastguard station.

H.M. Trawler ‘Thomas Johns’ arrived at 8.15 a.m. and the embarkation was completed at 9.40 p.m.

As the steep descent to the beach precluded the use of vehicles, six men were hired at ten shillings each for the day, and two boys at 2/6d for the half day to assist in carrying furniture. The crew with their personal belongings were taken to Blacksod in the trawler and disembarked at 9 a.m. A caretaker was found to look after the Station building.

'During the evening of the evacuation a crowd assembled from around the countryside and got rather ugly. There were several attempts to loot one cottage and it was necessary to keep them off with a pistol. Had the evacuation lasted until after dark there would almost certainly have been an attack made on the crew,' said the official report.

The Station was fired during that night destroying the lodge and one house. The doors were stolen from the other houses.

On 11th September 1920 the Torr head Coastguard Station and War Signal Station was raided by about fifty disguised, armed men who stole five revolvers, 280 rounds of ammunition, rockets, portfires, four telescopes, two binoculars, the heliograph, and the G.P.O. telephone. The' Chief Officer George Timblick later reported that the raid was well planned. The raiders wore rubber on their boots and succeeded in getting five or six men at each door before knocking. They trapped each member of the crew separately.

'I had just retired and I went down at once and asked who was there. I heard someone say "Demand all arms", so I would not open the door but went to the watchroom telephone to report "raided" to the District Officer and to call the watchmen at the War Signal Station, but could get no reply because the wires were cut. I immediately shifted the confidential books, putting them under the table and covering them with signal pads, and succeeded in saving them intact. By then my back door was being burst open. I went down and asked again who was there. Leading Boatman Thomas Hammond replied, " Hammond, Sir, we can do nothing, there are too many of them covering me and will fire if you don't open the door."

'I thought it best to comply and was immediately ordered to put my hands up, and found myself covered by six revolvers.

'Their leader informed me to offer no resistance and they would burn nothing nor interfere with the women and children or private effects. I tried to impress on them that I had nothing of value to them, but they insisted on searching the house, storeroom, watchroom and WSS. They made me go to the WSS with them. 'On returning with them I found they had left three men in each house guarding the men. Coastguardsman Morgan was handcuffed but was released on orders of the leader who apologized for keeping them on him so long.

'The leader then ordered everyone to remain in their houses, withdrew his men and informed me that he had taken steps to keep anyone from going to Ballycastle to report the raid.

'The four women and five children were very upset and frightened but were not interfered with in any way, and the leader apologized for causing them inconvenience. He informed me they were soldiers of the Republican Army and their quarrel was with the Government. They seemed well informed as to what they would find at the Station, and several seemed to be men in good position by their talk and dress'.

9 Comments · 17481 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

Post Comment

Please Login to Post a Comment.