The Coastguard Cutter Vol7 No2

The Coastguard Cutter
February 09 Edition
Vol 7 No. 2.

"The Lady Margaret"



Hello Friend,

On the 17th May 1915, the 'Lusitania' neared the coast of Ireland. At 2.10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U20 slammed into her side. Within 18 minutes the great ship slipped beneath the waves. 1,924 aboard died.



The most famous wreck off Kinsale, Co.Cork, is the 750 foot, 30,000 ton Cunard liner "Lusitania". She sailed from New York on 1-5-1915 for Liverpool. Though fitted as an auxiliary cruiser during construction the gun turrets had not been placed on the rings on the deck. The cargo included explosives and shells. An escort was due to meet her but despite the sinking of the Centurion and Candidate nearby no destroyers materialized. At lunchtime on the 7-5-1915 a torpedo from U-20 struck the Lusitania. A further explosion rent the ship and she sank in two hours with the loss of 1,200 lives. Despite the proximity of vessels at Queenstown and Kinsale confusion among the Naval authorities hampered the rescue and only a few hundred were saved mostly by local fishermen. The wreck lies in 100 metres 11.8 miles south of the Old head of Kinsale. (there are further details of efforts to salvage her in later years.)

Ref: Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast. Volume 1. by Edward .Bourke.

Market House, Kinsale

Market House Kinsale, now a museum,  where Coroners Court was held.

Coroners Enquiry. 8 May 1915.

The first of the enquiries took place on the day following the tragedy. Fishing boats from both Queenstown and Kinsale had come to the rescue of the survivors. The latter town jealously guarded its anchient privileges as an independent authority. When he discovered that five bodies had been landed there by Kinsale boats, the town's coroner, John Horgan, a local solicitor whose families were close allies of John Redmond, the leader of the parliamentary wing of the Irish Nationalist Party, moved speedily to convene an inquest. He went over to Queenstown on the morning of 8 May and subpoenaed Turner and a number of survivors to appear before him. Shrewdly suspecting that the higher authority might forestall him, he opened hearings that afternoon in the historic Market House of Kinsale before a coroner's jury of local merchants and fishermen. In his memoirs Horgan described Captain Turner, who appeared before him on the morning of 10 May as 'clad in a badly fitting old suit....suffering from the strain of his experience'. Despite his mental condition, with no lawyers on hand to coach or restrain him as in the later proceedings, Turner gave evidence in a confident manner.

He convincingly answered questions put to him. In the light of the subsequent controversy, Turner’s response to questioning on whether the liner should have been escorted is enlightening.

Jury foreman; In the face of the warnings at New York that the Lusitania would be torpedoed, did you make an application to the Admiralty for an escort?

Captain Turner;  No. I left that to them. It is their business, not mine. I simply had to carry out my orders to go – and I would do it again.

Horgan; I am glad to hear you say so, Captain.

It was only when Horgan condoled with him and with Cunard of the loss of his ship that, clearly overwrought, he collapsed in tears.

The jury brought in the verdict; ‘this appalling crime was contrary to international law – and charge the officers of the submarine and the German Emperor under whose orders they acted, of willful and wholescale murder.’

Half an hour after the verdict was announced orders arrived from the Admiralty to stop the inquest and prevent Captain Turner from giving evidence.

Moved by the tragedy and realizing how vulnerable were those who ventured on the seas, John Horgan would devote much of his time to serving as a reserve officer in the Coastguard.

Ref: "Lusitania Saga and Myth" by David Ramsay. First published 2001 by Chatham Publishing.

Pirates on the Irish Coast. 1865.

A correspondent writing from Westport under date of May 26, says:-

"Captain Cumming, of the schooner Elizabeth Maclire, of Garvin, arrived here yesterday from Liverpool, reports that at 10p.m. on Tuesday, the 22nd inst. While the vessel was lying becalmed off the Island of Inniskea, some 16 canoes, and one boat coming off. The united crews numbered about 50 men, who boarded the vessel, and took from 18 to 20 tons of the cargo (maize) out of her, as well as ropes and many other loose articles. They formed on deck, at the time threatening, if resisted, they would cut away the masts. They remained on board till 1 o’clock next morning when they left. Shortly afterwards a light breeze sprang up, and the schooner was able to proceed on her voyage, with the cargo in danger of shifting"

The  Shipping Gazette of Tuesday remarks on the foregoing : "At first sight one is inclined to think it strange that such an occurrence as this should take place on a line of coast where Coastguard stations are frequent, and where the local police abound. But it must be remembered that the Inniskea Islands  lie at a considerable distance from the mainland, and that the alleged outrage was committed under the shelter of darkness. Such practice is a disgrace to the Irish peasantry, and the offenders, we should hope, will meet with no sympathy from those whom they deliberately involve in disrepute." Manchester Examiner

Ref: The Times London 2 June 1865.


Rewards for Gallantry at Howth.

A meeting of the Howth Lifeboat Committee was held on Tuesday evening at the Lifeboat House, East Pier.

On the invitation of the Lifeboat Institution, Captain Church, District Captain of Coastguards, Kingstown, attended as representative of the Admiralty, and in a congratulatory speech presented the Lifeboat Institution’s medals for Gallantry to Coastguard Petty Officer Charles Slater and Mr. Patrick Rickard of Howth.

The awards were made for their action on the 18th May last in endeavouring to rescue a soldier who fell over a dangerous part of Howth cliff, near the Bailey Lighthouse, at a place where it would be only possible to reach him from the water. The Lifeboat Institution, on being notified, immediately sent Mr. McConkey’s motor launch, in charge of his two sons, with Coastguard Slater and Patrick Rickard. There was a rough sea breaking on the rocks at the scene of the accident, and the boat could not be brought alongside. Slater and Rickard swam ashore at very considerable risk, and found the soldier, who was, unfortunately, killed by the fall. The Institution also granted monetary rewards to William and Laurence McConkey for their promptness and help in the attempted rescue.

Ref: The Irish Times 21 August 1919.

Dont see what you hear
Dont hear what you hear
And if you're asked
Say you dont know.
Three things come without asking: fear, jealousy, and love.

When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ship would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest look-out platform on a ship came to be known as the crow's nest.
According to sailor's lore, Davy Jones is an evil spirit in the sea. His locker was the ocean where he received dead sailors.

UK CG NewsCoastguard News from England

"Abby Langdon" Enquiry. 1858.

An inquiry by the Board of Trade into the circumstances concerned with the loss of the Abby Langdon, Captain Hall, took place at Southampton on Saturday. The principal matter for investigation was a charge made by Lieutenant Gould, Chief Officer of the Coastguard at Brook, Isle of Wight, against Mr.Philip  Bright, Lloyds agent for the western part of the island. The evidence went to show that Lieutenant Gould and his men, 11 in number, had been engaged by Captain Hall to assist his vessel off the shore, and while so engaged Mr.Bright went on board and endeavoured to persuade the Captain to dismiss him, saying that If Gould got the vessel off he would make an exorbitant claim, and punish him in the same way that he had punished other captains of vessels. He also said that Gould was “a lamb in wolf’s clothing,”  and that if he was the  lieutenant of the Coastguard his place was on shore looking after smugglers, and otherwise behaved in a very discourteous manner. Mr.Bright admitted having used somewhat intemperate language towards Lieutenant Gould, but said that he had been irritated to do so by some remarks made by that gentleman. After the examination of several witnesses, etc. the magistrates were of the opinion that all that could be done by the Coastguards to get the ship of the shore had been done. It also appeared to them that Mr. Bright, Lloyd’s agent, had not acted with that degree of courtesy and civility towards Lieutenant Gould to which his position under the circumstances entitled him; and that, taking into consideration the great value of co-operation between the Coastguard and Lloyd’s agents, they could not too strongly recommend such co-operation in future.

Ref: The Times London 13 September 1858.

The Lighthouse Focus -Lighthouse Focus [Vol 8]



Melancholy Accident. 1859

On Wednesday  an accident of a very deplorable nature occurred on the Lough near Carrickfergus by which no fewer than 12 lives were lost. It appears that a gig belonging to the cutter now receiving recruits for the Royal Navy at this port left our quays with 16 young men who had enlisted for Her Majesty’s Service, and three of the cutters crew, on their way to where the cutter is moored near the Carrickfergus shore. When a little below Whitehouse a squall upset the gig, and before assistance could be rendered, 12 of the poor fellows unfortunately perished. A boat was instantly put out from the lighthouse and succeeded in picking up the remaining six.

Ref: The Irish Times. 24 June 1859.

Fire on the Bass Rock. 1913.

Alarm of the Solan Geese. A fire has occurred on the Bass Rock, the rocky islet in the Firth of Forth, near Dunbar, at one time used as a fortress and later as a prison for the Covenantors. The fire is supposed to have broken out late on Monday night or early yesterday morning, and it is believed to have been caused by a rocket fired over the island from a passing passenger steamer to make the solan geese, which inhabit the rock in great numbers, to rise from their nesting places. The efforts of the Lighthouse keepers on the island to extinguish the fire proved unavailing, and many acres of sun-dried grass and herbage burned fiercely during the day.

Bass Rock

Thousands of solan geese and other sea-birds rose from their lairs and soared about the island screaming frantically from time to time. Large numbers of rabbits also infest the island, and these in very large numbers have been destroyed by the fire, which could be seen over the Lothians, Fife, and Berwickshire for a distance of fully 30 miles.

In the course of the afternoon, with the destruction of all vegetable matter on the island, the fire spent itself. The south side of the Rock presents nothing but an extensive blackened mass of waste. The new lighthouse, which stands on the lower shelf of the rock, below the scene of the outbreak, received no damage.

Ref: The Times London 6 August 1913.


 Coming in March Edition.

The Preventive Waterguard attack well known Smuggling vessel.







With more and more people enjoying the beach and sea, the RNLI has never been busier - rescuing an average of 22 people every day. It now costs over £330,000 a day to run this essential service - to train their volunteers and maintain their craft and equipment. So however you choose to support them, every penny really counts.

To donate to the RNLI, simply call 0800 543210 or visit
(for Republic of Ireland call (01) 800 789 589 or visit

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