Coastguard Cutter

The Coastguard Cutter 2.25

-> Tony on March 31 2018
E33. THE LAST ROCKET RESCUE AT BRAY.

A Coast Life-saving service was established in Greystones in the nineteenth century under the British Government, and when Independence for the Twenty-six Counties was won in 1922, this Service was taken over and continued by the Department of Industry and Commerce in the newly established Irish Free State. All the volunteers who had previously enrolled under the British board of Trade re-enrolled under the Irish Government without any exception. Most had joined the Service in their early twenties and many served in the Station for over 40 years. The details of these members are as follows:

Name Birth Date Enrolment Year Residence Distance from Station
Osborne Spurling 1858 1887 Laburnham Cott. 100yds
James Darcy 1879 1901 Grove Cottage 1/2 mile
George Archer 1881 1902 Burlington House 200yds
James Lawless 1865 1886 Greystones 200yds
William Spurling 1888 1910 Laburnham Cott. 100yds
Charles Evans 1866 1886 Seaview House 300yds
Edmund Evans 1883 1903 Norman Lodge 300yds
Michael Keddy 1878 1903 Strand Cottage 400yds
Edward Archer 1865 1886 Burlington House 200yds
John Spurling 1890 1913 Laburnum Cott. 100yds
Andrew Martin 1862 1886 Greystones 1/4 mile
Michael Whiston 1869 1901 Strand Cottage 500yds
John Evans 1862 1890 Sweet Briar Cott. 150yds
Albert Archer 1888 1912 Kenmare Cottage 100yds
Henry Evans 1878 1916 Eden Cottage 150yds


Osborne Spurling, James Lawless, Charles Evans, Edward Archer and Andrew Archer were awarded coveted and distinguished long-service medals. The Number One man in charge was Osborne Spurling, and his son, William, became Number Two. The Inspector of the Station was Tom Casement, who was so proud of his patriot brother Roger, that he would not permit his name to be spoken in a public house. Both went to school in Bray.

Instructions and drill-exercises were held every three or four months under the critical eye of the Inspector who commended the men for their speed and efficiency. His remarks entered in the Station log-book, read for the most part "drill very good 10 minutes" and "drill v.g. as usual, rocket fired 9 minutes"

The variety of stores in stock was immense and varied; the list included over 150 essential items, all most necessary for the saving of life at sea. The most important items were the rockets and flares of which there was a total of 38. With the help of these the volunteers were able to get a line on to the vessel and effect rescue with a breeches buoy. This was done by firing a large rocket to which was attached a light line. The line would be taken by the boat's crew who were in peril, and then they would take in a heavier line which was attached to the light one. This heavy line enabled a harness (breeches buoy) to be pulled aboard and each man would take turns to be pulled ashore by their rescuers.

It was a dreadful night on January 30th.1926, when force eight gales created havoc with shipping in the Irish Sea. The driving force of the sleet and rain, in freezing temperatures, stung the faces of the poor sailors like so many needles. All through the following day the storm raged and lashed the coast. It was impossible to walk Bray Promenade without being consumed by the hungry sea. The south-east wind screeched and howled like a thousand banshees. It was a fisherman in one of the small cottages in Dock Terrace, just beside the Harbour Bar, who saw a small ketch aground just north of the estuary. It was most fortunate that the vessel was noticed, as night had fallen quickly and it was soon as dark as the devil's soul. Word was sent by telephone at 18.45 pm. To Greystones, where the alarm was raised at the Watch Station by one of the volunteers on duty who immediately sent up a maroon flare to summon the rest of the service, who were at prayer in church. The equipment wagon left the rocket house, when all the crew were assemblerd, at 9.15 and departed for Bray, arriving there at 20.20. when the gear was immediately set up. At 20.30. the rockets had been fired and contact made with the stricken vessel.The crew of the'Mary Celine', nearly two days out of Drogheda, were lifted ashore by breeches buoy and comforted by all those present on the harbour wall beneath the Lighthouse, long after blown into the sea by another fierce storm.

The wretched survivors were most pitiful to behold and Mr.Spurling, who was in charge of the whole operation, asked the Superintendent of the Civic Guards, who were present, to open the Harbour Bar's facilities for the brave assembly. The Super informed them that he had not the authority to open a licenced premises as it was against the law, it being after hours. Spurling in a loud and imperious voice explained "I have the authority and I'm ordering you to have the facilities of the famous hostelry placed at our disposal. I'm giving you carte blanche to open the premises" The doors were soon unlocked and the steadily growing multitude were comfortably installed inside. The rescued and rescuers were soon warmed and cheered by the quality and quantity of the liquid refreshment and nourishment provided.

This heroic rescue, three quarters of a century ago, was the last time that a rescue rocket and breeches buoy was used in Bray.

The Coastal Life Saving Service that continued till the founding of our infant state, no longer exists.
Reference; "Old Bray and its Neighbourhood" by Francis Loughrey.

G204. Sunday morning as the pilots were boarding the ‘Arbutus’ off Rehy Hill, Kilrush, the boat capsized, and five of the men were immersed in the sea. Fortunately the ‘Hamilton’ Cutter which was then far astern saw the perilous accident and Captain Triphook most kindly and opportunely bore down on the spot where the strugglers were, and by the greatest exertion succeeded in rescuing the unfortunate men from a watery grave. Reference; Saunders News-Letter 25th September 1840.
F23 In October 1852 the brig 'Fidelity' of Dublin on passage from Troon was dashed to pieces on the rocks at Clogher Head, but Chief Coastguard Officer A.Barnard, by means of a rocket and line apparatus, got the crew safely ashore, braving no small danger himself while directing operations, on the slippery rocks at the waters edge. The Lifeboat Institution granted him a Silver Medal, but only just a fortnight later, on November 11th, in the worst gale of this stormy autumn, he so distinguished himself as to win the award of a second service silver clasp.

At 9.30 am at Clogher Head on the 11th.Novmber 1852 the schooner 'William Pitt', Whitehaven to Dublin with coal, master John French, ran for the little haven under the head but struck a reef of rocks to the north of it, and immediately went down, stern foremost, the crew clinging to wreckage protruding still above the water. Barnard was on the scene at once. He fired six rockets towards the wreck to no avail, so embarked with three men in a boat and brought off the master and crew of four of the schooner.
Reference; "Wreck and Rescue" by John de Courcy Ireland.

G214 Seizure of Smuggled Tobacco. On Saturday last the Coastguards on duty on Lough Swilly Siezed a large quantity of smuggled tobacco, amounting to 186 bales, supposed to have been landed from the schooner ‘Vine’ at present lying at Ramelton. The mate was the only person connected the schooner taken into custody, was brought before the bench of Magistrates at Ramelton on Wednesday. - - The Chief Boatman not being able from his evidence to criminate the prisoner to the satisfaction of the bench was discharged. The other Officers of Customs present during the trial were Lieut. Holland and Mr. Adams, the principal Coast Officer. We understand there are at present to the amount of nearly 5 tons of tobacco in charge of the Constabulary. The greater part of this was discovered concealed in caves along the shore, The schooner, it is understood, will be sent round to Derry.
< Reference; Saunders News-Letter. Tuesday 5th. October 1841
R6. Valentia Island Coastguard Station 1908. HC Deb 25 November 1908 vol 197 c414 Mr.Boland (Kerry S.) I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade which Coastguard stations it is proposed to abolish between Valentia Island and Bantry Bay, and whether it is proposed to leave forty miles of coastline, which is the first land reched by ships crossing the Atlantic without leaving a life-saving station. Mr.Churchill. I understand that under the arrangement announced last spring it is proposed to close during the next few months the redundant Coastguard stations at Ballinskelligs and Ballycrovane, and that pending the consideraton of the general policy relating to the Coastguard no action will be taken in regard to closing any other Coatguard stations between Valentia Island and Bantry Bay. It is not proposed to abolish any life-saving station between the points mentioned. Mr.Joyce (Limerick) Is it within the right hon. Gentleman’s Knowledge that within the last two months the Coastguard by descending a cliff some 400 feet rescued the crew of a shipwrecked Russian vessel? Mr.Churchill. Yes, Sir. Mr.Joyce Then that should be a reason for not abolishing this station. Reference: Hansard, 25 November 1908.
R90. Lives Lost at Wexford.

Wexford, Thursday.

In this day’s Irish Times appears a telegram announcing the wreck of the Aberfaldy, of Greenock, near Blackwater Bank, Mr.Evans, the master, made a declaration this day before the Collector of Customs, in which he states, that his crew consisted of six hands, the cargo of copper ore, and was on her age, to Greenock, from Hucloa. On the 11th. instant’ a strong gale from the south, with tremendous sea, which completely swept over the ship; at two am on the 12th instant shipped a heavy sea, which carried away companion afterhatch, almost all the bulwarks, and broke the two pumps. Did everything possible, but found the ship was foundering ; shipped another heavy sea, which broke mainboom, carried away the rigging, and completely swept the deck .

At about 6 a.m., the ship struck shore, sea going over her; the hands all got on the bowsprit;

Both masts immediately went by the board, one of the crew, John Jones, being at that time drowned; another of the crew , named William Evans, mate, having got hold of a spar, was carried in the direction of the shore, and was saved by the assistance of the coastguards from the shore. Immediately afterward the rocket apparatus was brought from the shore, and a rocket with line attached was cast on board ; that he, the master, immediately got into the water, the ship at the time being completely submerged, and with the aid of a lifebuoy endeavoured to get the line, but was unable to do so, being carried away by the sea , and remembers nothing more until he found himself in the hands of the coastguards. That he is aware that the ship has been a complete, and that services have been rendered by the coastguards and the people on the shore; that he is also aware that the coastguards afterwards fire two rockets a board; and that James Griffiths, one of the seamen was coming ashore with the aid of the rocket line, but was only able to come a short distance from the wreck, and would have lost his life only for the assistance and exertions of a coastguard. Whose name he ascertained to be William Veal, before they reached the shore another heavy sea struck them, both would have been lost only for the aid rendered them by William Harris, chief boatman; also saw Mr.Philips using every possible exertion in superintending the coastguards and saving life. That the loss sustained is about £2,000; that in consequence of the wreck of said ship four lives were lost by being washed overboard, the remaining three being saved.
Reference; The Irish Times. 14th. October 1870
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