Coastguard Cutter

The Coastguard Cutter 2.13

-> Tony on March 04 2016
G156.Wrecking. (From a Correspondent)

At the Arklow sessions on Thursday last, Robert Hempenstall and Patrick McDonnell were fined in the mitigated penalty of £1 each or One months imprisonment, and Charles Kinsella £2 or two months imprisonment for unlawfully carrying away and secreting a quantity of spirits, the same being wreck of the sea. Much credit is due to the Board of Trade, and to Mr.Gardiner, the receiver of wreck for the district, on account of the very prompt and efficient manner in which these offenders were brought to justice. It is much to be regretted that the system of wrecking still prevails on this part of the coast. We had hoped that as a result of the merciful lenience with which the government acted towards some of the Arklow people when convicted for a similar offence last year that it would have induced them to abandon a practice so disgraceful. We are however satisfied from the vigilance and activity displayed by Mr.Rea, the officer in charge of that part of the coast, and by the men of the Coastguard that the system of wrecking will ultimately be put down. Much praise is due to them for the patience, coolness and forbearance with which they acted towards the misguided people, who having drunk freely of the ardent spirits which were washed ashore, were much disposed to be turbulent and quarrelsome on the occasion.

Reference; Saunders News Letter Monday 11th.January 1858.


The Coastguard Service was regarded as being a comfortable billet for elderly officers who were surplus to RN requirements and, on these stations, the work and discipline was very unsatisfactory. In 1833 a Coastguard Memorandum said; ‘Several instances have recently occurred of Chief Officers making entries in their journals of the duties performed by themselves and of the conference said to have been held with their crews on their guard during the night which, on examination, have been proved to be false, and such conduct being disgraceful and unbecoming the character of an officer, I have to call the attention of Inspecting Commanders and Chief Officers to this subject. In order to prevent a recurrence of this nature it is directed that in future the Chief Officers do assemble their whole crews at on of the periods fixed on for signing the journal each day and read to them the remarks of the preceding day as well as the number of the guard each person had, the number of patrols visited by the Chief Officer, the guard who was on at the time and the hour and the subject of the conference; that at the end of each journal the Chief Officer, Chief Boatmen and all the Commissioned Boatmen are to certify that this memorandum has been complied with. And as the Inspecting Commanders will be held responsible for the due execution of this order, they are, on the inspection of the stations under their command, to ascertain that the whole crew are satisfied that the entries are correct’. The order was highly unpopular and strongly resented but, in spite of repeated petitions to have it rescinded, it remained in force for the next 90 years. There was no Trade Union to represent Coastguard grievances in those days. If there had been it is not difficult to imagine the shop stewards calling the men out on strike as a protest against the slight on their honour and integrity.
Reference; “Coastguard” by William Webb.

G175.Seizure of Tobacco.
On Wednesday morning the 4th.inst. a hogshead of tobacco was found floating on the sea off the Connemara coast, and was towed by four boatmen into the Port of Roundstone. The hogshead was so much damaged that it could not be removed; and to prevent plunder, it was immediately taken in charge by the Roundstone Police. A party of the Coast Guards headed by Lieut.Hunter, was in prompt attendance and had the tobacco safely conveyed in cars, wheelbarrows etc. to the station at Innislacken where it awaits the instruction of the proper authorities. (Galway Advertiser)

Reference: Saunders News-Letter Tuesday 18th.March 1834.

G186. The landlord, smuggling and the Coastguard

In his excellent book, Portavo, Peter Carr names several local people who have family memories of smuggling at Orlock. Such activity was common place all round the Irish coast in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but it is rare for there to be archival evidence of a district magistrate and large land owner strenuously obstructing the Revenue in their attempts to curb smuggling as appears to have been the case with David Ker, the landlord of Portavo in the early 1800s. When the Coastguard was being set up in the 1820s Mr. Ker successfully blocked the building of a station on the Copeland Islands. In a Customs Outport Establishment book of the time a double page was prepared with the heading Copeland Isl. written in immaculate script. This has been carelessly scribbled out and Donaghadee inelegantly scratched in as though by an irritated clerk. A small vessel in which the men lived was afterwards moored off the island, but Mr. Ker would not suffer it to remain there and only agreed the islands be visited twice a month by the Donaghadee station. As a contemporary report noted, this did not prevent the smuggling of tobacco, rum brandy etc to a considerable extent for the islands afforded a convenient receptacle for illicit goods, from which they could be transported at leisure to the mainland. Ten years later Mr Ker tried to frustrate the Customs once more in their plans to establish a station at Orlock Point. This time the Customs
were more determined and following an inquisition of 1833 the Customs were put in possession of half an acre of land. David Ker was so incensed he refused to accept the £5 annual rent and after his father’s death Richard Ker claimed back rent of £60 from the Customs. The coastguard cottages were built by 1837 and stand today on the ridge of the raised beach with a commanding view of the Copeland Islands.

Reference; The Bell Online


We have often had occasion to direct the attention of our readers to the meritorious conduct of Officers of the Coast Guard; and we shall not be deterred from the expression of our admiration of the zeal and gallantry of Mr. Robert K. Thompson, of Clogherhead, near Dundalk, by the fact that he is a civilian Chief Officer in that service. In the course of a 17 years probation in the Coast Guard Mr. Thompson has been the means of saving 27 lives from various shipwrecks together with property in shipping, in merchandise to the amount of £70,000. He has received three medals, one of gold and two of silver from the Royal National Shipwreck Institute and numerous testimonials of the most flattering description; among others the Freedom of Drogheda in a gold box. Considering that a regulation has been made since he first entered the service, which gives to mates 9s. a day for performing the duty which he performs for 5s.6d. his case is surely entitled to some favour at the hands of the Lords of the Treasury, for were he a less efficient officer than he is, he ought not to suffer by an ex post facto rule made after his entry into the service. (U.S.Gazette)

Reference; Saunders News-Letter Tuesday 3rd.March 1838.

G213.Smuggler Seized. Seizure of a Smuggler.- Killalla.

I beg to inform you that the barque ‘Spring Hill’ laden with timber from Quebec, Matthew Hall, master, arrived off this port on the 19th.ult. and was boarded by the Coast Guards, who, from a strong suspicion that contraband goods were concealed on board, kept strict watch on her. The mate finding he could not evade the vigilance of the Coast Guard to get the tobacco on shore, gave information to the Collector of Customs at Ballina, who went on board and seized the vessel. The Coast Guard found about 14 hundred-weight of tobacco secreted under the timber, and they secured the Captain, mate and crew in all 14 persons. Too much praise cannot be given to Captain Sterne R.N. Inspecting Commander, and all the officers and men under his orders, for their exertions in frustrating the intentions of these persons to defraud the Revenue, as well as the fair trader.
Reference; Saunders News-Letter 5th. August 1841.

G222. Shipwreck.

During the prevalence of a dense fog on Saturday night, the barque ‘Royal Albert’ (872 tons register), captain Gillis, from Liverpool to Ichaboe, struck on the Blackwater Bank, and having unshipped her rudder and making a great quantity of water, was abandoned by the crew. At an early hour on Sunday morning, the Coastguards of Curracloe station, and numerous shore boats boarded her and the pumps being vigorously plied, and the mizzen head cut away, she floated off the bank. During the day the pumps were kept going, but the leak, notwithstanding, increasing. It was resolved to run for the beach, and at the top of high water, having previously cut the main mast away also, she was stranded nearly opposite Curracloe Station-house, in about 15 feet of water. The Captain and crew landed without any accident, although a heavy sea was running at the time about eight miles North of the vessel. This is the third wreck, a total loss, of large and splendid outward bound Liverpool ships on this coast within seven weeks. To remark on the obvious and imperious necessity of having a light placed off this dangerous and fatal locality would be superfluous.

Insurance Companies are, it is true, the heaviest sufferers from the loss of property: but humanity shudders at the loss of life which this want of a light has often caused, and still superinduces, and for which nothing can compensate. To let this place remain another season as it has been up to this, bespeaks a barbarity of feeling which no weight of national wealth can efface. More property has been lost in two years than would erect a tower of bronze, and still it has not even a floating light; and many a hard toiling seaman has heaved his last breath on its surface in desperation for the fond and destitute ones whom he has left to lament his and their own fate. (Wexford Conservative)

Reference; Saunders News-Letter 3rd.January 1845


On Friday last the Revenue steam vessel, on its return to Mulroy, met the schooner ‘Hazelwood’. M’Donagh, master, with a valuable cargo from Sligo to Liverpool, close on shore making signals of distress. The ‘Warrior’ having bore down upon her, Capt. M’Kellar, was enabled to get two hawsers attached to her,and succeeded after much difficulty, owing to the very heavy swell, in towing her over the bar in safety. The ‘Warrior’ carried away her starboard timber heads in performing this service. Great praise is due to Captain M’Kellar for his human and anxious exertions to aid vessels in distress upon this dangerous coast. (Derry Standard)

Reference; Saunders News-Letter 31st.January 1845.


Station after station was burned by the Republicans, one unfortunate District Officer having had no less than seven stations burned over his head and finishing up with furniture consisting of a Wolseley valise, a Tate cube sugar box as a table, and a case of small arm ammunition as a chair, light being supplied by a candle stuck on a block of wood.

Needless to say, all the women and children had been evacuated from the Irish stations long before affairs reached this pitch, although there were many coastguard's wives who made every effort to stay beside their menfolk and to share their dangers.

Reference: "His Majesty's Coastguard" by Frank Bowen

70E Melancholy Shipwreck with loss of lives

We regret to have to announce the total loss of the Unity, schooner, of New Ross, Andrew Power, Master, on Thursday last, at 1 o'clock p.m. a very short distance to the west of Dunmore Pier. She was laden with coals from Cardiff, and bound for Ross. The master and 3 of the crew perished within a short distance of the shore, where, notwithstanding the most unceasing exertions of the people and Waterguards, they were unable, in consequence of the tremendous sea, to render them the least assistance. A young man, one of the crew, climbed to the top of the mast and remained there till lines were thrown out to him from the cliff, which he fastened round his body, and was then drawn ashore by the people.

A man named John Cain was particularly active in endeavouring to rescue the poor fellows from a watery grave. All exertions proved unsuccessful with the solitary exception we have mentioned.

Reference; Dublin Evening Mail. Wednesday 8th.December 1830
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