The Coastguard Cutter Vol1 No1

January 2003
Vol 1 - No.1.

The "Lady Margaret"

 |M@il Me | Visit the Website |



New Station Photos;

Killough, Co. Down



Kilmichael, Co. Wexford







 The early Coastguard Stations  were described by the English satirical magazine 'Punch' as   "Castles of idleness, where able-bodied men spent their time looking through long glasses for imaginary smugglers."







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Dear Friend,

I would like to wish you a Cead Mile Failte (One thousand welcomes) aboard the New(s) Coastguard Cutter "The Lady Margaret". I would have liked to christen it with a bottle of Moet Chandon but will have to make do with a bottle of Coke. I hope to send our 'Coastguard Cutter' all around the old Coastguard Stations of Ireland, now unmanned and derelict in some cases, and collect any items which may be of interest to anyone researching how and where their Coastguard ancestors lived. I would be glad to receive any coastguard information and pass it on in our readers and hope to be able to send out the newsletter on a regular basis.



The Office of Public Works (O.P.W.) upgraded some 170 Coastguard installations during the Famine years, and during the 1850s over sixty new stations were completed. The National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin, have a collection of O.P.W.l ease files, property registers, and Contract drawings of the Public Schools, Post Offices, Police Barracks and Coastguard Stations built by them in Ireland. The Contract drawings relate only to 26 Counties of Ireland but I intend to note some details of leases, dates of building of stations etc. with the new station photos.


Here we see one of those who keep watch and ward round our shores, a man of the Coastguard Service, which would supply the first Reserve for the fleet in the event of war. He is shown off duty, on board one of the vessels of the First Reserve Squadron, one of the eleven coastguard ships which are stationed at certain ports in various parts of Great Britain and Ireland. Our force of coastguards has been styled by high authority " the cream of the Navy" and the phrase is strictly accurate. It is a strictly-selected body of men, a large proportion of whom, indeed, have held petty officer’s ratings on board ship in the Channel, Mediterranean, and elsewhere. That our coast-guardsmen are the very pick of the Naval Service is shown by the stringency of the terms on which men are admitted. No petty officer or man of doubtful or indifferent character can get transferred to shore duty, the Admiralty requiring that every man must have the recommendation of his commanding officer, and must be trained either as a gunner or as a torpedo man , and he must also possess at least one good conduct badge. Our coastguardsmen at present number 4,200; if there were three times that strength it would undoubtedly be better for the Naval position which we now hold. (1)

Or was he a mixture of both?

The Coastguard, from the 1830s in reality was a trained Royal Navy man who opted for a family shore based locality and lost some promotion prospects by so doing.Life at sea was harsh and primitive with very little prospect of shore leave. The transfer to shore-based Coastguard duty was only sanctioned by his Commanding Officer to men of merit with clean records and Naval skills.
His duties were onerous and did not endear him to locals as he was authorised to take away their "God given" rights to plunder and pillage any ship driven ashore by accident. Discipline on shore was more relaxed, except when smuggling or life-saving duties arose.  Then he was "the cream of the Navy" as stated by the "Navy and Army" article.

The Coastguard Service composed of Royal Navy officers and men departed from 26 of the 32 Counties of Ireland in 1922 when they became the Irish Republic. The 6 Counties of Northern Ireland are still part of the U.K. Coastguard.

The Republic of Ireland reformed a Coast Guard Service 10 years ago. Here is a description of that force;

"What is the Coastguard?.

  • The Irish Coast Guard is the Republic’s marine emergency organisation.
  • Responsibilities include search and rescue, pollution control, salvage and wreck, and safety awareness.
  • About 65 full-time staff are at four locations; Dublin, Malin Head, Valentia and Cork. There are also 683 Volunteer staff in 52 coastal coast guard units.
  • The North of Ireland has 30 full-time coast guard staff with Her Majesty’s Coast Guard. There are 13 units.
  • The service operates two civilian Sikorski S61N SAR helicopters out of Shannon and Dublin airports. (2)


Ireland had always been an unpopular posting for Coastguard personnel. Accommodation was poor, especially for men with wives and families. Facilities for education and recreation left much to be desired. Stations were isolated and it was difficult to get the sons and daughters the education that they needed. The poorer towns offered little in the way of amusement and Coastguards and their families were thrown very much together in lonely communities. There were very few Irishmen who had elected to join the Coastguards and this meant that Englishmen had to be posted away from their homes to what many regarded a foreign land.

On top of everything else the Coastguard was unpopular with the Irish population. He was regarded as just another arm of the law sent to watch over them and prevent them from enjoying their traditional rights, such as the plundering of wrecks thrown up on the shore and the making of whiskey in illicit stills. Any man wearing a uniform was unpopular in this climate.

Although the Coastguards were prepared to be friendly in the traditional attitude of the British sailor, the native population would have none of them. Extra duties which the Coastguards were forced to perform made this understandable. One of these was to assist the police, in discovering illicit stills. Even when evidence was obtained and the ‘moonshiners’ caught red-handed, the authorities would throw out the charge on political grounds. It was an identical situation faced by the early Coastguards in Kent and Sussex where the authorities were on the side of the smugglers and often let them go free when an indisputable case was presented.



For U.K. researchers the best source is the PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE. At Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, England.
Record Leaflets of HM Coastguards are on the Internet at
All Royal Navy Coastguard records were taken by the Admiralty when the coastguards left Ireland in 1922.
IRISH RESEARCH  (some suggestions);
National Library of Ireland. Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. Has large number of British NAVY LISTs from 1838 to 1924 where you can trace Navy Officers postings.
National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin 8, Ireland. Selection of Office of Public Works Lease books, Station building plans etc. Also 1901 and 1911 Census Returns for thirty-two Counties of Ireland.Plus some Church of Ireland records on Micro-film.
R.C.B.L. Representative church Body of Ireland. Braemor Park Churchtown, Dublin 14. Have many original Church of Ireland Baptismal, Marriage and Burial records containing Coastguard family entries. 

References : (1) - ‘The Navy and Army Illustrated’ Feb. 4th. 1898.
                    (2) -
The Irish Times, Friday March 10th 2001.

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0 Comments · 5744 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 17 2007


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