Ballyheigue Graveyard, St.James Church Co.Kerry

There is a section of the north-west corner of the graveyard devoted to the families of the coastguard, and there is one striking memorial to a man named John Haswell late a Commissioned Boatman in the coastguard. who died on the 15th of September 1877, in the County of Kerry at the great age of 85. He was one of the few remaining survivors of Trafalgar. Deceased entered the Navy in 1803 at Chatham. Later he served under Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar when he was on board the Revenge, under Captain Sir Robert Moorsom., Revenge was stationed eighth in the leeward column commanded by Admiral Collingwood, between HMS Polyphemus and HMS Swiftsure, but was signalled to sail forward in support of HMS Royal Sovereign and because of her speed she broke into the enemy column earlier than most of the other ships. She became entangled in the bowsprit of the French ship L'Aigle (74 guns), and discharged two carefully measured broadsides into her before she broke free. She received a tremendous fire and was run on board by one of the largest ships present, the Spanish Principe de Asturias (112 guns) which placed her bow across the stern of Revenge to try and board her by the bowsprit.

The attack was repelled by the marines and fire from the carronade on the poop, which discharged canister shot that exploded in a hail of musket balls. In addition she had three French ships on her until HMS Dreadnought and HMS Thunderer came to her relief.Also he took part in the capture of four French frigates off Rochfort; Basque Roads; destruction of two French frigates at Lahogue; the expedition to Flushing and The Battle of TrafalgarWalcherein; the siege of Cadiz and the blockading of Venice.He also served in the American squadron and was finally paid off at Chatham in 1817. After some years spent in the merchant and transport service he joined the Revenue crusers, afterwards entering the Coastguard, and received an injury to his right hand in an affray with smugglers during the execution of his duty at Lulworth Station, Dorset. He served his country in the naval and revenue service for upwards of 40 years.

He failed to get a medal for Trafalgar, in consequence of his late application his claim was not admitted. He wrote a petition on behalf of his son in 1871, requesting a position in the navy for him: “ I humbly lay my case before Admiral Heathcote trusting that he will take a “Sailor” of the old times into his kind consideration and place his poor boy into that position which would gladden the heart of one of Nelson’s British tars.” He lived on the Green in a house with an expansive view over his beloved ocean. “It was a pleasure for one to spend an hour in his company in his house at Ballyheigue,” went his obituary in the Kerry Evening Post, “which is as neat as any man-o-war, and Colonel Crosbie of the Castle and members of his family constantly visited him.”

He was interred on Tuesday the 18th.ult, in Ballyheigue Churchyard. The Coastguard from the neighbouring station decorated his coffin with the flag under which he had served for the greater part of his life.

Reference: Bryan MacMahon of Stillorgan, Co.Dublin.

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