The Coastguard Cutter Vol2 No2

February 2004
Vol. 2 - No.2.

The "Lady Margaret"

 | Visit the Website | Forum | Links |

Cranfield C.G. Station
Officers house and 6 cottages lease 1877.


New Section

Coastguard Letters

See Below

I would be glad to receive any coastguard information, stories or general snippets and pass it on in to our readers.

Pigeon Point C.G. Station
Early station closed in 1878 and Coastguards moved to Rosmoney.

O.P.W. Letter 13115/80. From John Barber, Chief Officer. "necessary to give up buildings at Pigeon Point , 1877, and new station then ready."

1877 "The new buildings at Innislyre shall be called Rosmoney, adding the name of Westport, that being the nearest Post Town".

Letter. Coastguards at Pigeon Point. 1878. Old cottages to be surrendered before new station is occupied.



Killybegs Coastguard Station Tower with trap-door.

Sent to me by owner of Killybegs Station in Co. Donegal, still undergoing refurbishment. Trap door said to lead to cellar to hold Arms and ammunition. This is, to my mind, an unusual feature. Can any reader tell of cellars in any other station?.

Full size photo available to view on site in
 "Station Photos"

Dear Friend,

Welcome to the February edition of  "The Coastguard Cutter".


Over the years the movement of coastguards from station to station, county to county, and also transfer to Ireland meant that some had more training at sea than others. This training was meant to keep ship-board skills up to date and increase efficiency.

It had been envisaged for many years that the Coastguard Service had two functions, its Custom duties in peacetime and as Naval reserves in case of war. This was not to be, as was tragically demonstrated at the start of the 1914-18 War.



One blustery Sunday afternoon in February 1866, a vessel hove-to off Cranfield flying signals for a pilot. The small steam tug Sally put out with Henry Coffey, a Lough pilot who owned the vessel, and a crew of six other local men. Off Cranfield Coastguard Station a sudden gust capsizes the 'Sally'; the Coastguards seeing the accident , at once launched their boat to go to the rescue. Two survivors were seen clinging desperately to the upturned keel of the tug, but before the oarsmen could pull through the waves to reach them, they were washed off and lost to sight.


The guardship acted as the depot ship for the tenders and cutters. Most of the cutters had only seven-pounder muzzle loaders as armament and so there was not much opportunity for practice although the men of the cutters were taken on board the guardship from time to time for training. Many men served in the Crimean War in 1854.Partial mobilisation was actually ordered in 1878, 1882 and 1885 resulting from war scares with Russia or France. A test of the efficiency of the Coastguard as a Naval reserve came in 1878 when there was a threat of war with Russia. The Coastguards were embarked in 17 ships and were afloat for 98 days. Although not in action they were rated as having performed their sea-going duties efficiently and there was not one single defaulter on the book of any ship. Their only defect was a tendency to slowness through lack of practice but it was recognised that this could easily be worked up.

When the annual fleet manoeuvres were started in 1885 the Coastguard Squadron was mobilised and went to sea. This was a great improvement on the annual cruises.

1914 - 1918 First World War.

Within hours of Britain declaring war on Germany, in 1914, coastguards travelled by train to crew Naval ships enabling them to put immediately to put to sea. Unfortunately their ships were obsolete. On 20th.December 1914 a single German submarine sank the Cruisers "Cressy", "Aboukir", and "Hogue" off the Thames. The 1,400 drowned included many coastguards. Torpedoes sank "Hawke" in October and "Formidable" in January increasing coastguard deaths.

Ashore coastguard stations were seriously under-manned and men were sent home to re-establish an adequate coast watch against enemy landings. Here their existing skills in signalling, telegraphy and wireless were deployed relaying messages between the Admiralty and Naval ships and monitoring merchant ships. In Ireland they also had to keep a watch out against German spies and arms shipments.

German Mine at Ballycastle

German Mine / Ballycastle.

Caption; Left to Right; Bobby Ferris, John Bradley, Pat McLean (farmer, Carey Mill), Johnny Coyles, 'Gutty' Chamberlain, Archie McCollam (Carey Mill), Francie Quigg, Frank Quigg, Alex Jamison (well known runner). The lady in the background is Nellie Chamberlain, daughter of the Coastguard in the photo.


An important branch of coastguard work during the 1914-1918 War was the disposal of mines washed up around the coast, for these were capable of doing infinite damage to lives and property. In the early part of the war certain coastguards were sent to torpedo training establishments to learn all that was to be known about up-to-date mines. These men would render a mine safe, and leave it to be collected, generally in a Coastguard cutter or some other similar small craft.

The story is told of a coastguard who was hurriedly sent for by a fishing base in England, where a mine had been landed by a trawler which had picked it up in in the nets. When the coastguard arrived, he found that the horns, which are made of lead and are therefore easily bent, but which contain a glass tube of acid which sets off the mine the moment it is allowed to soak through on to the detonating charge, had been broken off.

Naturally he expressed surprise, for it was his job to remove these horns, with the greatest possible care, but the old fisherman just changed his pipe to the other side of his mouth and remarked "Well, Sir, we heard that these were the dangerous parts, so we just broke them off with a boat-hook"

No competent authority has ever explained why the mine did not explode and blow the fishing boat and all her crew to pieces.

There was also the case of a coastguard on the Kentish coast, who was informed by soldiers of a mine in a very awkward position which necessitated his going back to the station to get a rope. He gave careful instructions that the soldiers were not to touch the mine in any circumstances, but on his way back he was stopped by a local military officer who wanted to ask several questions. This delayed him for two or three minutes, which was lucky for him, for the soldiers disobeyed his instructions and started playing with the mine. The result was that it went off and five of them were blown to pieces when he was some hundreds of yards away. Had he not delayed he would have been blown up too.

There is a new section called " Coastguard Letters" regarding Correspondence on Coastguard matters that may be of interest to visitors. We have a few to begin with, if you have a contemporary  personal or official letter regarding Coastguard matters in Ireland and would like to add a copy of it to the collection please send them in.

N.B. As most of the original documents would not be legible enough or of a suitable format for posting on the internet, we will just be transcribing the text of the letter, so we would not need the actual document, just the text.


References :
  1. ‘Shipwrecks of the Ulster Coast’ by Ian Wilson. p. 7
  2. "His Majesty's Coastguard" by Frank Bowen.

To unsubscribe from this Newsletter click here
Change your Details

Copyright © 2004 [coastguards of yesteryear]. All rights reserved.

0 Comments · 10064 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 17 2007


No Comments have been Posted.

Post Comment

Please Login to Post a Comment.