The Coastguard Cutter Vol2 No4

April 2004
Vol. 2 - No.4.

The "Lady Margaret"

†| Visit the Website | Forum | Links |


Chief Officers house. 3 stores, 3 sitting rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, 1 pantry, 1 store room.

1 coal house. Boat-house at bottom of garden with Watch-room and store-room above.

Lease 1852. Hill Street.

Six houses lease 1863 Kildare Street.

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


In an assessment of the Coastguard in 1838 agreed to changes in the Service. In a general Memorandum date 21st. January 1839 the Admiralty 'desired' that no more landsmen either for general service or for particular ships were to be entered by the officers of the coastguard, and a week later another memorandum instructed officers of the coastguard engaged in raising men for the Navy only to enter Able Seamen in future unless there was an opportunity of sending men direct by a tender or revenue cruiser to the flagship to which they were destined.† (4)


Of Interest to Coastguard Family researchers

We hope to publish shortly in our website a complete List of Coastguards in Ireland extracted from the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland.
†In all 205 Coastguard Stations and 1,950 entries of Officers and men. On request names of family members can be obtained from this site.

Dear Friend,

Welcome to the April edition of† "The Coastguard Cutter".

Coastguard Roots

Before the Coastguards were formed there were other organisations dealing with Custom evasion and smuggling. The Custom and Excise combined with Riding Officers were in operation in Ireland at an early date. Later on the Preventive Water Guard, many of whom continued their career in the Royal Navy organised Coastguard. After the Coastguard left Ireland in 1922 a mixture of small rescue units continued their lifesaving work. Now we have our own Irish Coast Guard to watch our coasts.


Early Nineteenth Century Custom and Excise Workers.

GAUGERS : To ascertain the quantity of liquors and other commodities on exportation or importation.

COASTWAITERS : To examine and deliver goods carried coastwise.

TIMBER MEASURERS : To measure timber imported.

INSPECTORS OF THE RIVER : To superintend the tidesurveyors, tidewaiters etc.

TIDESURVEYORS : To visit and examine cargoes and vessels on their arrival and departure, and to superintend the conduct of tidewaiters.

TIDEWAITERS : Officers placed on board vessels on their arrival, in order that no part of the cargo may be landed without the proper documents.

WEIGHERS : To weigh goods when necessary, for the purpose of ascertaining the duties.


To combat the violence of the smugglers along the coast Parliament authorised the setting up of the Preventive Waterguard in 1809. The Waterguard was to supplement the work of the revenue cruisers and riding officers, and was under the direction of the Board of Customs, with the revenue cruisers included in its establishment. Naval captains were appointed Inspecting Captains and were issued with tenders in which they were to sail up and down the coast of their district, checking that the ships under their command were carrying out their allotted duties.

Smugglers & Smuggling Series' (N0. 32)

(Text from back of card) The advantages of specially designed Coastguard Stations soon became apparent, and during the eighteen-thirties many were built in spots round the coast where smuggling was to be expected. Each man had a comfortable cottage for himself and his family, with a rather larger one for the officer, and a watch room. Only in Ireland were they made defensible. Everything had to be as clean as on shipboard, and naval discipline was maintained, with necessary modifications. For instance, a man whose wife quarrelled with her neighbours could be moved to another station at his own expense.


Smuggling was carried on along the coast of Lecale, Co. Antrim well into the 19th.century. Contraband, chiefly tobacco, rum and brandy, came largely from the Island of Man.

Ardglass was then the principal port with this island. As time went on the illicit trade traffic increased. So the Revenue authorities became more vigilant. The conspirators then changed their venue to the little harbours about Guns Island and Killard. Hither at night came small boats from the large yawls lying off to land their cargo and conceal it in the adjacent caves, from which it was transferred by road later to merchants in distant towns.

Some people in the neighbourhood were tempted to join the conspiracy. For them it was a tragedy. They made nothing and in many cases lost everything. Strong drink was their ruin, while the merchants accumulated large fortunes. Some joined for the joy of adventure and the sport of outwitting the armed coastguards and excisemen. Such a one was Tom McCullaghan, with his black mare.

Many stories are told of his daring, his name is now a legend in the countryside. For nights before these secret plans were carried out, men draped in white sheets, lurked about the roads. So ghosts were said to be walking abroad. Many told of hairbreadth escapes. The people were frightened and dreaded going out when darkness set in.

It was to be the lot of Jackie Mullen to end this reign of terror. He was spoken of as a quiet, fearless man. These traits, like threads, were woven into the fabric of a decent, honest labouring man who worked in the grain store at Ballyhornan and fished in his spare time. He was appointed as an extra coast watcher.

One dark night when on his round he was warned that if he went on to Killard warren he would be shot. He went, and sitting down on the bank he struck his flint to light his pipe, when an answering flash came from the little harbour below.

He rushed down towards the light and challenged. A voice replied," You're not the right man", and before him standing in a boat was one of the smugglers with a pistol in his hand. Jackie felled him with a single blow. The boat drew off to sea. Jackie signalled to the coastguards at Portaferry, who launched their boat and picking him up, went in pursuit. Fortunately they sighted a revenue cutter in the Channel on her way to Bangor and persuaded the Captain to change his course and give chase.

Next morning the smuggler's yawl was caught among the fishing fleet in Port Erin. They were tried in Dublin and heavily sentenced. Jackie was the principal witness. The reign of terror was over. He returned home and quietly went on with his job. The Government afterwards awarded him with a small pension.

Coastguards in Ireland before 1922.


This organisation was formed under the control of the Board of Customs in 1819. Officers were required "to search and strictly rummage all suspicious vessels". When a wreck occurred the Preventive water Guard were to afford every assistance for the purpose of saving the lives of the persons on board, and also the cargo.

This restriction on gathering flotsam and jetsam was resented by local people on the scene who felt that this harvest, of a sort was sent by God and was their due.

The Waterguard was now absorbed into the Coastguards in the middle 1830ís and now were under Royal Navy control. The "Navy List" for 1831 is the first which gives a list of Coastguards. The chief officers in that year were all lieutenants, in later years they were selected from the ranks.

About 200 Stations were set up around the coast of Ireland. In early years accommodation for boatmen, Chief officers etc. was confined to small groups of low single storied cottages.

By the 1860ís the Board of Works embarked on the construction of barrack type buildings for these Royal Navy coastguard members. Some of the Irish stations had gun slits at the sides of windows for protection due to Fenian political unrest in the 1870ís.

Ireland was not a popular posting for Coastguard personnel due to isolation of stations. Only a small proportion of these men were Irish and so the English families felt at a loss for company and recreation.

Travel was limited due to extremely bad roads and costly transport charges. Family furniture was transported from station to station by small Royal Navy supply ships and a lot of family belongings, carried on the deck in all weathers, suffered severe damage.

In spite of all these drawbacks many families enjoyed their term of duty in Ireland. Many Coastguards married local girls and the records show a considerable number of intermarriages between members of C.G. families.

AFTER 1922.

By the Autumn of 1922 the Coastguards and their families had been evacuated to Britain. An attempt by Tom Casement, brother of Sir Roger, to re-establish the Coastguard under the new Government was not successful because it was felt the force had been too much a part of the former regime. Instead, Tom Casement assisted in the setting up of what was called the Coast Life Saving Service. Some continuity was provided by members of the Volunteer Life Saving teams, who formerly operated under the Coastguard and who now enrolled to serve under the new Irish organisation. Specialised training in cliff rescue resulted in the organisation being renamed the Coast and Cliff Rescue Service and subsequently, as modernisation continued under Captain Peter Brown and Captain Liam Kirwan, it became known as the Irish Marine Emergency Service. Eventually in the Millennium year 2000, the service once more became the Coastguard- this time the Irish Coast Guard. Thus, after almost 80 years, our coasts are again watched over and protected by the Coast Guard, using motorised equipment, state of the art communications and helicopters. But a link with the old force remains. In many places their boat-houses and rocket-cart houses are still being used by the modern Irish Coast Guard to store life-saving equipment and for communications. Indeed as late as the 1970's some of the old Coastguard rocket-carts were still in use here.

In 1925 responsibility for the Coastguard Service in Britain was at last transferred from the Admiralty to the Board of Trade. Today the reorganised service there and its counterpart in the Republic work together to carry out and co-ordinate all marine rescue in these islands.

References :
  1. Jim Lane, Cork
  2. "Shipminder" by Bernard Scarlett.
  3. "'Down Recorder' (Internet)
  4. "Shipminder" by Bernard Scarlett.
  5. 'The Coastguards in Ireland' by Edmond P.Symes.
    [ The Irish Sword, Vol.XXIII (no. 92), p.201]

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0 Comments · 6313 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 17 2007


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