The Coastguard Cutter Vol2 No3

March 2004
Vol. 2 - No.3.

The "Lady Margaret"

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Valentia/Knightstown C.G. Station
Lease 1862. Six cottages of 4 rooms each for Chief Boatman and crew, all in one row. Privies and wash houses to each. Boat-house and watch-house over a detached building.

"Jacks Hole"
Houses for Chief Boatman and 3 men, Watch-room, boat-house, slip and rocket cart-house, erected by the Crown in 1892 at an estimated cost of £2,380 including £169 for rocket cart-house.


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


During the First World War (1914-1918) a Naval station operated at Valentia. Among the vessels stationed there was the 875 ton converted trawler 'Safeguard' acting as a Coastguard vessel. The 'Safeguard' had been built at Summers, Southampton in 1914 and was armed with two 3 pounder guns. She went on the rocks at Portmagee and overturned. On the 13th.February 1920 the Admiralty sold the 'Safeguard' to Ensors of Cork. They raised her and renamed her the 'Safeguarder'. The 160 foot ship was used by the Salvage firm of Ensors for some years. (3)



The Great Famine 1846.

Some relief arrived at Valentia Island, Co.Kerry, 129 tons of potatoes were forwarded by Mr. Dombrain, Head of coastguards. In March 1846 a list of coastguard stations where supplies of Indian Corn were available for sale included Valentia. Indian Corn was not a very acceptable form of food to the majority of Irish in distress. The Quaker records show that the recipients did not know how to cook it; they had no ovens to bake it and often were too weak to build up fires to cook it in pans for long periods. Those who ate it raw became ill. (2)

Dear Friend,

Welcome to the March '04 edition of  "The Coastguard Cutter".

Many of the Coastguard Stations after 1922 with the leaving of British Administration fell into disrepair and ruins. A number were given a new lease of life from the 1930's on by becoming Youth Hostels founded by An Oige (Youth) an Irish Organisation.

Others became sea-side residences that enabled city dwellers to enjoy weekends in tranquil surroundings. One that catered to the less well-off children of Dublin is Ballincarrig, Co. Wicklow which is one of the "Sunshine Homes" run by St. Vincent de Paul, a charitable organisation, offering holidays to brighten up the lives of the young.



The Newsletter of March 26th. Reported a daring raid of armed men on the Coastguard station of Ballincarrig about six miles south of Wicklow in search of arms and ammunition. The coastguards on duty were surprised and locked into the store-room while a search took place. No arms were found but the raiders took away a quantity of powder and a signalling apparatus. The raid was conducted in a courteous manner, and when departing the raiders released their captives. (1)

"The Revenue Cutter"
from Smugglers and Smuggling - a series of 50.

"The idea of chasing smugglers with cutters was a good one. The smack cutters of the 18th.Century are described on card no. 3. In those early days, through false economy, an unsatisfactory type of vessel was used. The Revenue Cutters of the early 19th.Century were very fine ships with a single tall mast very like the naval cutters used for carrying despatches. Often the Government (very wisely) went to the yards famous for building fast Smugglers. Some of the cutters with their huge sail- area were very fast and sufficiently well armed to tackle any smuggler".


The coastguards were an early influence on the Island and were already having their children baptized in the Church of Ireland in 1826.Many of them were members of one or other of the Low Churches but would have had no facilities and so their Baptisms and Marriages took place in the Church of Ireland. Those recorded include William Cox of Laharn and his wife Sarah (1828), Edward and Lydia Pound (1875) and names like Rae, Hawker, Reed, Starke, Ward, and Bickford.

 Very often coastguards were ex-British Navy boatmen and came from English sea-ports. One such was James Haffinden who was stationed at Knightstown in 1901. He came from Eastbourne in Sussex and his wife from Norfolk. The coastguards were moved very often. Haffindens children were born in Weybourne and Huntstanton. The Chief Officer at this period was Charles Geeve, who gave Jersey, Channel Isles as the place of his birth; his wife was from Wiltshire but his child was born in Co. Kerry. William Hammans was English with a Canadian wife and children born in Mayo and Donegal. Almost all the coastguards in 1901 were Protestant, either Church of Ireland, Church of England or Wesleyan. By 1911 about half were Catholic and William Young, Bartolomew Flahavin and John Bready were Irish born.

The coastguards seem to have been on reasonably good terms with the local population. The fishermen took them in their boats on fishing trips and gave them part of their catch, often in return for tobacco. Their efforts at potato culture provided local amusement. One man who asked for advice when his potato crop was poor, was discovered to have peeled the seed potatoes before planting. When asked if he had left an "eye" in each "Scollan" or seed section, he replied "Bugger me eyes; I never knew there were eyes in a spud".

Sometimes the children of coastguards intermarried with the local population and there were tales of daughters who run off with someone’s husband. It is also remembered that the wife of one coastguard was a great nurse, better than any doctor. (2)


Rescue RocketThe rocket life-saving apparatus is worked by the Coastguard, assisted by local volunteer companies. The entire apparatus is stowed in a light cart supplied for the purpose, so that it can be run over rough ground where horse traction is unavailable. The main object, in aiming the rocket, which carries a very light line made of cocoanut fibre, is to ensure it passing just above and slightly to windward the wreck, so that the line may fall across it. The men on board instantly seize the line and haul off the block of an endless whip, which they make fast as high as they conveniently can; and, as soon as this is done, the people on shore , by means of the whip, haul off a hawser, the end of which is also made fast on board, just above the whip-block. That done, the people on shore, haul off the "travelling life-buoy", or as it is usually called, the "breeches buoy", into which one of the shipwrecked crew places himself, and is immediately hauled ashore, the operation being repeated till all are landed. Amongst the first things sent off to a wreck , by means of the rocket-line, is a set of instructions printed in several languages. (4)

References :
  1. Wicklow Historical Society. Vol. 2. May 1998.
  2. "Valentia, A Different Irish Island " by Nellie O'Cleirigh.
  3. "Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast" Vol. 2 by Edward Bourke.
  4. ‘The Navy and Army Illustrated’ July 6th 1901.

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0 Comments · 11989 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 17 2007


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