The Coastguard Cutter Vol4 No10

October 2006
Vol. 4 - No. 10.



The Wreck of the ‘Pomona’ Singular Fatality.

It will be remembered that among the cabin passengers of the unfortunate ‘Pomona’ there were a Mrs. Paxton, Master T. Paxton and the Misses Harriett Paxton and Lizzie Paxton. These all perished in the ‘Pomona’, but their bodies were afterwards washed ashore, and , of course, interred respectably, a large amount of money having been found on the person of Mrs. Paxton. Mrs. Paxton was the wife of Captain Paxton, of the Savannah ship ‘Coonawatee’ and she and her family were going to New York to meet Captain Paxton, but the morning that beheld the wreck of the ‘Pomona’ and the fate of Mrs. Paxton and her family ushered in the day when Mr. Paxton died. His ship was lying at Calcutta and he died there the same day as his wife and family perished off this coast. This one entire family – the head of which was in India, the remainder in Ireland – died on the same day. (2)

Wit & Wisdom of Ireland.

May the Lord keep you in his hand and never close his fist too tight on you.

(Old Irish Proverb)


Military Research.

Liam Dodd in the Commissioners of Irish Lights, Dun Laoghaire, is researching members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who served in the Boer War 1899-1901 and the Great War 1914-18. If anyone had a family member who was in this Irish Regiment and have any information on them would they please contact Liam at 01 2805736. He has also set up a website to honour the men of the regiment which was disbanded in 1922.

Coming in November Edition

The Coastguard station that had its heart torn asunder.

Dear Friend,

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

The sinking of the "Pomona" was another terrible disaster involving the loss of a ship with a large number of emigrants seeking a new life in a new country. Tales of honesty emerged and also the tragic deaths of members of one family occurring thousands of miles apart on the same day.
A full account of this tragedy is told in "The Tales of the Wexford Coast" by Richard Roche. When the first lifeboat with 17 crewmembers and 4 others landed, the crew members "departed instantly", except for one man who waited to see if the second boat got safely ashore, but it overturned and only 2 of the 6 occupants reached the shore"


Pomona Figurehead
Pomona Figurehead

Sinking of the ‘Pomona’ 1859.

The emigrant ship ‘Pomona’ (1181 tons) was wrecked on a sandbank off Ballyconigar on the 28/4/1859. A large number of passengers for America were aboard. She left Liverpool for New York on the 27th. But was off course when the following morning she struck a sandbank seven miles off Ballyconiger. The captain had failed to sight the Tuskar light and ran on the Blackwater Bank. The gale prevented launching boats that night. In the morning her masts were cut away and another vain attempt to launch boats was made. No help came from the shore. Just before dark the ship began to slip off the sandbank. The bower anchor did not hold and the pumps were inadequate. The crew abandoned ship in a whaler. The ‘Pomona’ sank after a short time with the loss of 388 persons including Captain Merrihew. Meanwhile the whaler with 18 crew and three passengers reached the coast and raised the alarm. The steam tug ‘Erin’ set out from Wexford but was too late. Tombs of the victims are in graveyards along a thirty mile stretch of the Wexford coast.

Inquest on body of man washed up the day before.

Dennis Connor, Sworn; I am a boatman in the Coast Guards at Curracloe station; at Sarlie Gap I saw the body of a man on the beach; it was ebb tide and the water was about it; it was about half-past eight o’clock yesterday morning; I was on duty at the time; When I first saw the body there was no person on shore near it; I made a complete search of the mans person at the time; while searching him two people came up; they stood a respectable distance from me and did not make any search to my knowledge; I found a large clasp knife, a small pen-knife, a ring of keys, a watch key, a small belt, papers one of which was the ship’s articles, in a sealed bundle, the ships clearance and printed form of desertions from the ship and other papers which I did not examine; a 1000 dollar note, a gold ring on the third finger of the left hand, with two hearts, I believe on it. I took possession of all of these articles and went immediately and gave them into the safe keeping of Lieutenant Thomas; I afterwards on the same day by direction of Lieutenant Thomas went to Wexford and gave everything into the hands of the Collector of Customs; before I went to town I made another search of the body and found nothing.

There being no further evidence the jury returned the following verdict, - We find that the same man was found drowned and we are of the opinion that Dennis Connor, Boatman at Curracloe Coastguard station acted most properly in making a very efficient search of deceased’s body and in taking care of all the property found on it..

From an examination of the clothing found on the body it was generally assumed to be that of the Captain. The 1000 Dollar bill is dated 1840 and will probably be found to be of no value. (3)

Honesty of the People – ‘The Pomona’.

On Sunday Morning last, at the early hour of 4 o’clock, two men of the Curracloe district, Charles Connors and Anthony King, found the dead body of a man – one of the unhappy sufferers of the ‘Pomona’ lying on the beach with one-hundred and sixty-two pounds, seven shillings fastened in a part of his dress, all of which they could have appropriated to their own use without fear of detection, if they kept each others secret – but they forthwith proceeded to the Coastguard station and gave it up for the representatives of the deceased. No words can express our appreciation of the merit of these upright and honest man. They have nobly sustained the character of their order and given an example to all classes that should be written in letters of gold. The Coast Guards found another body the same day, at Brandy’s Gap, with 13 sovereigns on the person – the Collector William Coughlan, Esq. took the sums mentioned into his custody, until the parties entitled to them should present themselves. (4)

The Affair of the ‘Pomona’

Yet, for all the grim details that were revealed at the inquests, worse was to come when a team of divers, employed by the underwriters to salvage the ‘Pomona’s’ cargo, arrived from Liverpool, later in May and went down to the wreck. They discovered the lifeless bodies of numbers of passengers trapped in the hull. Among the first corpses which they sent to the surface were those of three young females, one of whom had six shillings in her pocket along with a passage ticket in the name of Mary O’Brien (18) from Co. Cork.

The divers callously allowed the three bodies to float away as they got on with their grisly task – a procedure condemned as ‘barbarous’ and cruel in the local ‘Wexford Independent’ of 14th.May. After that the police were notified. They obtained a boat and a supply of coffins and stood by at the wreck while the divers worked. There is one particularly gruesome story related to the coffining of victims of the wreck. The body of a very tall man which was washed ashore would not fit in to any of the coffins available. The folk-tale says that the mans head was chopped off with a spade and the trunk and head were then placed in a coffin.


R e v e n u e  F l e e t  N e w s


Early on Monday morning last, as the schooner Uxbridge, Douglas captain, was running for the harbour at Innislyre, Westport Bay, she ran ashore on the island of Innisgurth at the back of the Light-house. The weather was so thick that the light could not be seen at the time. Immediately on the circumstance being made known, the boats belonging to the Chance and Hawk, Revenue Cruisers and the Coast Guard boat at Innislyre proceeded to her assistance, when the former boat with much difficulty, reached the vessel, and succeeded in rescuing the whole of her crew from a watery grave. The vessel from Glasgow, bound for Westport and laden with coals and metal ware, and neither vessel or cargo was insured. It is feared from the boisterous state of the weather that the vessel will become a total wreck.
(Mayo Constitution) (5)
Chase of Smugglers.

On Wednesday last, three merchant vessels passed outside Kilkee Bay, one of which hovered so close to land between Dunliky Bay and Goleen Bay, as to excite suspicion, and she was apparently watching the favourable moment to run a contraband cargo into one of the deep inlets so numerous on the Western coast. Between 3 and 4 p.m. the ‘Desmond’ Revenue Cutter, was seen in full sail after the stranger, who immediately crowded up all her canvas and turned out to sea, the Cutter in eager pursuit, but it is believed without eventually coming up to her. They were both out of sight in less than 2 hours. (6) (Clare Journal.)


References :
  1. “Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast” by Edward J.Bourke. Vol. 1.
  2. Wexford Independent Saturday 9th.July 1859.
  3. Wexford Independent Saturday 4th.June 1859.
  4. Wexford Independent Saturday 2nd.July 1859.
  5. Evening Freeman Saturday 2nd.March 1835.
  6. Daily Express Saturday 20th.August 1853.
  7. “Tales of the Wexford Coast” by Richard Roche.

© 2001-2006 [coastguards of yesteryear]

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