The Coastguard Cutter Vol2 No7

July 2004
Vol. 2 - No.7


Fanad Head CG Station. Co. Donegal

Irish Times Wednesday 8th. September 1920.

Co. Donegal. At 1 a.m. on the 4th.inst Fanad Coastguard Station was attacked by armed men. Revolvers and ammunition of nine men were taken. No other damage was done.


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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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"There were two Lightkeepers and a Fog Signal Man.

As all the Point was walled in for the Keepers' use we had plenty of room for gardens etc.

Outside the Lighthouse premises there was a Coast Guard Station comprising ten families: Chief Officer, Chief Boatman and eight boatmen. Separate from them was a small Post and Telegraphs Office, with Postmaster's and family's residence and two or three pilots' and boatmans' houses, also a very small church and three watch towers (two for the pilots and one for the Coastguard) One of the pilots' towers was taken over later for a Lloyd's Signal Station. The children had to walk to Whitegate, which was three Irish miles away, to go to school. Also all shopping had to be done there."

Diary of Irish Lights Lightkeeper. Ambrose Kennedy (1841-1907)

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J.F.G. Blanchard Service Record

What can be achieved with your Coastguard Ancestor Research. Three things are necessary: Patience, Patience, and more Patience.
There are many Coastguard service records at National Archives, Kew. London. With a little luck you can find out all about ancestors personal characteristics, postings to stations, conduct medals, pensions etc.
Add in a few family photos, letters home, station photos etc. Suddenly the man is alive again and a valuable addition to the members of your Family Tree....

John Frederick George Blanchard: Coastguard and Navyman

Sent to us by his great granddaughter Natasha

CG Letters

Bacon and spuds.

Nanny Water Coastguard Station, Co.Meath. O.P.W. Dublin 10th.May 1872

Sir, The men composing the crew of the Station have applied to erect piggeries at the end of the potato ground at a distance of 218 feet from the houses.

And the Board desire me to enquire whether you have any objections to their doing so.

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

To R.J.Kennedy Esq. North Wall, Drogheda.


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Dear Friend,

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

Fanad Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse Service and Coastguard Service

Two well organised and professional organisations who when lives were at risk during storm and gale conditions collaborated to the utmost of their abilities.




The Lighthouse Service was taken over by the Commissioners of Irish Lights in 1867 by Act of Parliament century to cover all the entire coast of Ireland. All installations, repairs and maintenance is controlled by Irish Lights from its headquarters at 16 Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2.
The Lighthouse service enrolled suitable applicants and posted them to their stations anywhere in the 32 Counties of Ireland. Family accommodation was supplied where necessary, not always adjacent to the Light Station. Flag-signalling was used by the keepers to receive and pass messages to passing ships. Some of the children of the Lighthouse keeper became very adept at sending flag signals to their fathers on duty at the Light.

Melancholy Catastrophe - 5 lives lost.

On the 22nd.ult at the hour of 12 noon, as the market boat, belonging to the Island of Torry, in the employ of the light-house lately erected there, was proceeding from the mainland out to the light-house it was swamped in crossing the bar at Ballyness, and all on board, consisting of a crew of four men, one passenger and both the light-house keepers wives, were precipitated into the deep. Mr. Robinson, who was an eye witness of the melancholy occurrence, immediately repaired to the Coastguard Station, and gave information of the fact, and the boat having been launched with the least possible delay, Mr. Hugh Derraugh, Commissioned Boatman, with 2 of his crew and 2 volunteers put off, and, at imminent risk to their own lives, rescued Bryan and William Doohar, brothers, who were clinging to the bottom of the upset boat, from their perilous situation - 5 of their unhappy companions, however met with a watery grave. The bodies of Mrs. M'Cullough and Pat Deeghan, the pilot have been found: but Mrs. Kelly the second woman, Denis M'Lea, the passenger and another individual are still missing. (Derry Sentinal) (1)

The Puffin Lightvessel.

One hundred years ago the Puffin Lightvessel sank at the Daunt Rock with the loss of all hands. Jim Blaney describes the tragedy.

Thursday the 8th.October 1896 is a date of tragic significance in the Annals of the Irish Light Service, for in the early hours of that morning the Lightship Puffin on the Daunt Rock Station foundered in a south-southwesterly gale with the loss of all her crew of eight. The gale which commenced on the previous evening did not moderate until Thursday afternoon. The vessel was last seen at 4.30 am that morning, when the gale was at its height. She was then riding at her moorings, but labouring heavily in a mountainous sea.

A Coastguard named Cullinan, who was stationed between Robert's Cove and Slaty Quarry, reported that at 4.30 am the wind in a heavy squall of rain shifted to west southwest and blew with hurricane force. At the same time several very heavy seas broke into Robert's Cove, washing away part of the sea wall, and stoving in the doors of two houses in the village. He lost sight of Puffin's light about the same time.

John Whelan, a pilot , with twenty-five years experience stated that on that night that between 3am and 6am the sea was the heaviest he had ever experienced; also the tide rose two feet higher than ever seen before.

At daylight the Puffin had vanished from its station, five miles south-west of Roche's Point at the entrance to Cork Harbour, although the buoy marking the rock was still in position. Telegrams were immediately sent to all Coastguard Stations in the hope that she had broken adrift and would be found before long. It was not to be.

At 2 o'clock on Saturday 10th.October a five oared whale boat with five experienced hands started a series of sweeps of the area with no success. On Sunday a telegram was received from the Coastguards at Helvic Head stating that two oars with the words Daunts Rock Lightship burned on them had been picked up in Dungarvan Bay the previous morning. On Monday a report reached Cobh that three caps like those worn by Irish Lights had been found on the Shore at Poor Head.

On the morning of Tuesday 21st.October a diver discovered the cable of the Puffin, but bad weather stopped operations till the 29th.October when the Lightship was located but there was no trace of the bodies. The mainmast with its heavy iron cage and lantern had broken at its weakest part near the man-hole entrance during the rolling of the vessel during the severe storm. (2)

Tobacco Smuggling

"One evening I saw from the Light-house a boat coming into the harbour filled up with large bales. She got these from a large passenger sailing vessel which was then passing the Island, and was bound from Philadelphia to Derry. She was the 'Minnehaha', the white packages were bales of leaf-tobacco. The bales were carried into a smugglers house. There were twenty bales each weighing 1 cwt. And were worth 20 when 20 bales would be delivered in three days time in Derry. I saw through the telescope a Coastguard boat coming from the mainland under full press of canvas. I told a local man helping in digging my garden and he was off at once as hard as he could run across the Island to alert the smugglers. One by one the bales were carried off on a mans back and quickly reloaded to a boat which when loaded sped off in the direction of the Torrs- a mass of tremendous rocks a mile distant out of sight of the Coastguards rounding the tail of the Island, It was most exciting to us at the Light-house who were watching the two boats.

The Coastguards came on shore, the whole island and every house on it was searched but of course nothing was found. Little did they know that a ton of smuggled tobacco lay within a mile of them. As soon as the Coastguard boat had departed a signal was sent to the tobacco boat and the bales of tobacco were again carried up to the house and were kept there until the time came to bring them to Derry.

The reloaded boat made a start after dusk, there were several Coastguard Stations before them, all of which they passed without being molested. On they went up the whole length of Lough Foyle and on the arrival at the appointed place were met by Captain McLoughlin who had a cart waiting for them.

The tobacco was removed from the boat in a few minutes and driven off to a Tobacconists where its arrival was awaited. Many a ton of tobacco was sunk by the Captains of these passenger vessels off the Island of Inishtrahull and sent to the bottom of the sea, when it would be too stormy for an Island boat to go off to receive it.

The Captain always sent a letter when he had tobacco to land which simply said "I shall be passing the island on or about such a date" When the time arrived a man was kept on look-out day and night and a boat kept in readiness to go off. The Coastguards knew tobacco was frequently landed there, and they suspected it was landed on the occasion which I have described". (3)

References :
  1. Dublin Evening Mail Monday 4th. May 1835.
  2. Extracts from BEAM magazine no.25.
  3. "Life in Donegal, Reminiscences of a Light-house keeper" Edward MacCarron.
  4. "Beam". Vol. 26. 1997-8. Irish Lights Service.
  5. The Dublin Evening Mail Monday 11th.February 1839. Report Greenock Advertiser.

Copyright 2001-2004 [coastguards of yesteryear]. All rights reserved.

0 Comments · 12134 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on June 17 2007


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