The Coastguard Cutter Vol2 No6

June 2004
Vol. 2 - No.6.


Greystones Coastguard Station, Co. Wicklow.

Officers house and 7 cottages erected by Board of Works in 1872.

See "Rival" >>

  • New CG Letters
  • The Brig Named "Gainsborough"
  • Extracts - Serendipity
  • A complete List of Coastguards in Ireland extracted from the 1901 and 1911 Census.

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

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    Due to shortage of human bodies for dissection by Medical men in teaching hospitals a flourishing and lucrative trade was started. It became the practice to disinter corpses lateat night from graveyards by bodies of well armedmen for this gruesome trade. A report in a Dublin newspaper mentions this inhuman practice:


    Between 7 and 8 o'clock on Friday night, a party of Resurrection men , numerous and well armed, were observed approaching the Hospital fields, by one of the workmen employed in the woolen factory at Kilmainham. The workmen interfered to prevent them entering the burial ground , but a discharge of slugs and swan drops, from 10 or a dozen muskets quickly dispersed them. Fortunately no one was hurt. (2)


    Crookhaven, March 1867.

    "We, the Undersigned Masters of Vessels have pleasure in bearing testimony to the admirable manner in which the lives of the Crew of the Barque 'Wolverine' were saved on Sunday, March 17th, 1867 during a furious storm from the S.E. by the exertions of Mr Bridger, Chief Officer of Coastguards, and the men under his command at the Rock Island Station.

    "The Rocket apparatus was managed with great skill and judgement and was the means of saving the lives of the Crew and bringing them all safely ashore at the Crookhaven Lighthouse.

    "Signed J. Stavers Brig 'Durham' J. Cooper Barque 'St. Angelo' August Rudin Ship 'Sverige' A. A. Braburg Barque 'Waino' S. M. Kulints Ship 'Victor Emmanual' Chas Evans Ship 'Her Royal Highness' Isaac Notter Ship Agent, Crookhaven John S. Sloane M.R.I.A. Superintendent of Lighthouse Works etc."

    Thought this might be of interest. Would like to find out more about John Bridger.

    Regards, John Williams.

    P.S. Reference with editor

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    New CG Letters Posted on site;

    1847. Drunken Coastguards.

    To Sir James Dombrain, Inspector General Coastguard. Custom House, Dublin. 8th.July 1847.

    From HM Steamer 'Mymidon' Killybegs.

    Sir, I am directed by Col. H.D. Jones, Chairman of the Board of Works to complain to you of the conduct of the crew of the boat stationed at the entrance of Broadhaven Bay which had been kindly lent to Col. Jones by the officer Mr. Lindsay for the purpose of proceeding to Belmullet on the public service. On leaving Belmullet at about 10 1/2 oc in the evening two of the crew appeared to have drunken too freely one so much as to have acted in a manner calculated to effect the safety of those in the boat by getting up and moving about although the sail was set and it was blowing fresh in squalls. On being remonstrated with he was extremely insolent not only to those in the boat including Col. Jones but to the Coastguard Officer in charge whose efforts to control the crew were wholly ineffectual; - Col. Jones considers it to be his duty to bring this occurrence before you, as had the services of that crew been required further it was quite manifest that they could not have acquitted themselves either to the credit or satisfaction of the authorities.

    I am Sir, your obedient servant. D.Hornsby. Sec.

    Coastguard Letters

    Dear Friend,

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

    1830 Coastguard

    The Dark Side of Life


    The following are aspects of the Dark Side of life for the Coastguards in Ireland. Danger to men, came not only from the forces of nature at sea but also from the men who sailed on it.



    RIVALOn the 15th April the Brig 'Rival' with a cargo of Iron went down off Greystones. The crew of nine escaped by boat. The Coastguard tried to seize all the Spirits and Tobacco that the shipwrecked men had in their boat but it was thrown overboard to thwart the authorities.. A dim view was taken and the crew were refused shelter by the coastguards. They were also unable to get lodgings and were obliged to walk to Bray. They thanked the Captain of the Union for his help with clothing. (1)

    Roches Point

    The story of Rosalie Hart, A well known American Pioneer, Merchant and Autobiographer, whose father Tom Harte was a Coastguard Officer Stationed at Ballymoney, Co. Wexford and then moved on to Roche's Point, Co. Cork.

    "We had lived at the lighthouse about a year, when one of the most horrible incidents occurred that I have ever witnessed. There were only two officers in the station, one of them was to go with so many hours each day, and when his time had expired, the other took his place. One day, during my father's watch, he saw a vessel drifting about in the offing, and as it was his duty to board every vessel that came into the harbor, he ordered the men to man the boats and go on board. He was the first on her deck.

    Oh! God, what sight met his eyes! There on the deck with their hands and feet bound with ropes lay the crew of the vessel dead, and had been so for so long a time that they were perfectly green, and the stench was insupportable. At that time, the kidnappers, as they were called, were at their worst, and there was not a day passed but more or less people were killed by them. They had regular contracts made with the medical colleges in England to furnish corpses for dissection. Their mode of procedure was to go up to a person and put a sticking plaster over his mouth, so that he could not give an alarm, and no one was safe from their attacks.

    In the present instant, the vessel in question was chartered in Dublin to carry a load of dead people to some town in England. They were preserved in rum. The barrels containing the dead bodies were marked water. The captain, when he left port, expected to arrive at his destination in two days, and only took water for that length of time, but according to the old saying, "Man proposes and God disposes" he was disappointed. The weather was so calm the vessel could make no headway and in four or five days the crew suffered so much for water, the ship's carpenter took his adze and broke the end out of one of the barrels marked water, when oh! horror! in place of water, he saw his uncle and his cousin, whom he had left in good health in Dublin only a few days before. Their dead bodies were preserved in rum in the barrel he had opened.

    As soon as the Captain found that the crew had discovered his crime, he told them that unless they would consent to be tied and whipped, he would have every man of them hung from the masthead on arriving in port for mutiny. Thinking to save their lives, they consented. When all were bound and helpless, he took an ax and split their heads open. I do not know how it happened, but the carpenter was only wounded, and when the Captain went to sleep, with the aid of the two little boys whom the Captain spared he was hid under some lumber piled on the deck.

    And the day of the trial, he was able to appear and testify against the Captain as the two boys were so young and had by their care saved the life of the carpenter, the law could do nothing to them, but the Captain was condemned to pass the rest of his miserable existence in a dungeon, with nothing to mitigate his sufferings except the company of his two sons, for a few hours every day. The public thought he should have been hung, but in any opinion, the punishment he received was far worse than death, shut out from light of day, with no light except a candle, and alone with his guilty conscience I cannot conceive any fate more dreadful.

    For weeks every time my father would sit down to the table, he would imagine that he still got the smell of the corpses he had seen on that vessel, and would be compelled to leave the table before taking more than a cup of chocolate, and a piece of bread and butter. When he would try to sleep, as soon as his eyes were closed, he would dream that he was on board vessels and in the presence of the dead; yet he was no coward, he never shrank from doing his duty, nor could personal danger daunt him, but the sufferings of others always made a great impression on his mind".


    The late murder in Achill (from our correspondent) Achill 7th.January 1839.

    I write to give you some particulars of the murder of Mr. Reynolds, Chief Officer of the Coastguard in the Island of Achill, he died last Wednesday; before his death he identified his murderers, two of whom are in Castlebar jail. The Coroner, Mr. Knox, was sent for, but he refused to go to Achill to hold an inquest. The deceased officer was interred on Saturday without any inquest being held. At length the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr. Cruise was written to by Mr. Farrell, Chief Constable of Police in Newport; he went into Achill on Sunday - had the body disinterred - a jury summoned, consisting of the Islanders and a verdict was brought in that the deceased came by his death, in consequence of wounds inflicted on his head by Patrick Lavelle, and Nancy Lavelle, his wife. Some extraordinary circumstances came out on the inquest.

    It appears that there were four persons in the house at the time of the murder - which took place in the night when Mr. Reynolds was returning to his house after visiting, as was his duty, the wreck of a vessel on the shore, Which he and his men were protecting. Two of these are in custody, the other two absconded - they had gone he said, to Father James, to Westport.

    It appears that the man Patrick Lavelle, held the unfortunate deceased while his wife struck him on the head with a gub or two pronged spade used on the island. Of these blows he died, leaving a wife and eight children to deplore his loss.

    The character of poor Reynolds, is attested by all who knew him for humanity and kindness - and the men who served under him almost adored him.- The deceased was a Protestant and a constant attendant at the church in the Achill Protestant Settlement - Mr. Cruise, the Stipendiary Magistrate, came out of his own district to hold the inquest, and nothing could be more praiseworthy and impartial than his conduct. Mr. Cruise is a Roman Catholic. (3)


    We have forborne for the last week from making any mention of the above most melancholy event from a regard to the feelings of the relatives of the unhappy sufferers, in the anxious hope that some intelligence might reach us, but alas in vain. We feel it now our duty to announce the loss of this gallant Cutter in the late storm and her entire crew of 41 men, besides some passengers. Her Commander, Sir John Reid, remained in Liverpool after his last cruise and thus escaped a watery grave. The 'Diligence' was proceeding to the coast of Donegal, under command of the Chief Mate. She came to in Glenarm Bay, on the evening of Sunday, the 6th.inst. and there took on board one of the coastguards, who had been recently promoted, with his wife and family of young children, in order to land them at Donegal.

    It is presumed that the unfortunate Cutter perished somewhere about the Causeway, as some oars, pieces of timber and the stern of a boat, with the Queens mark upon them, were we understand, washed ashore near Ballycastle, in the course of the week. On this is the only certainty of the sad calamity, added to the fact that she has since not been heard of, and the almost impossibility of any craft living in such a sea as must have run about Rathlin, and along that coast, during the hurricane. (4)


    The 'Kite', Revenue Cruiser had set out in search of the missing vessel proceeded to Islay, where she fell in with several articles belonging to the 'Diligence', and among the rest, the Commander, Mr. Titley's desk, and a pair of boots with his name marked inside of them, a hammock marked no. 13 and a bed, and many other things which the crew knew to be part of the wreck. Her crew consisted of 40 seamen, besides a Waterguardsman, his wife and 4 children whom they had taken on board. Of the crew 16 belonged to this town, 8 of whom were married, all of them were able stout men, from 24 to 41 years of age. (5)

    References :
    1. "Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast" Vol. 2. by Edward J.Bourke.
    2. Dublin Evening Mail. 20th.March 1830.
    3. Dublin Evening Mail. Friday, January 11th. 1839.
    4. The Dublin Evening Mail. Friday 25th. January 1839. Report Ulster Times.
    5. The Dublin Evening Mail Monday 11th.February 1839. Report Greenock Advertiser.

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

    0 Comments · 8786 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 17 2007


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