Maritime History

Christmas on the River Bride for merchant sailing vessels

Christmas on the River Bride for merchant sailing vessels

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

This brief article recalls past times between 1903 and 1920 when some merchant sailing vessels, chiefly from England, had to spend Christmas Day up the River Bride in west County Waterford, far from their family and loved ones.

On the 15th of December 1903 at 3pm the Progress of Wicklow passed up through the swivel opening of Camphire Bridge to sail up the River Bride in west County Waterford.[1] The identity of this vessel is not clear. The full description given in the Bride Bridge log book is “Progress of Wicklow, port of Dublin”. The latest online edition of Lloyd’s Register, 1899 does not list any vessel that would fit that description.[2] The Youghal Harbour records are of little help. It appears the Progress came up the Bride with no cargo and as such is not mentioned in the import books. The exports books simply say that the Progress left Youghal on 15th January 1904 with pit-props with no other details.[3] The Bride Bridge records say that the Progress of Wicklow left the River Bride at 10.30am on 5th January 1904.[4]

On the 22nd of December 1903 the New Design No. 2 of Bridgwater sailed up the River Bride, through the swivel opening of Camphire Bridge at 2pm.[5] The New Design No. 2 was built at Bridgwater in 1874 by Carver. Her dimensions were 84.1ft X 20.7 X 9.1 and her original tonnage was 75 tons gross. J. Exon was her master in 1883 and Symons of Bridgwater, her owner. The New Design No. 2 began life with a schooner rigging.[6] The firm of Clifford Symons was involved in the brick and tile making business.[7]

The rigging of the New Design No. 2 was later changed to that of a ketch and her tonnage was reduced to 50 tons net. In 1935 she was owned by Colthurst Symons of Bridgwater. She was later sold to Henry Nash of Bristol and was broken up at Bristol in 1952.[8] The New Design No. 2 stayed up the River Bride until 10th January 1904 when she passed down through Camphire Bridge at 11am.[9] The stay over by the New Design No. 2 on the River Bride in Christmas 1903 was not to be the only occasion when this happened.

On 6th December 1907 the New Design No. 2 sailed up the River Bride at 10.30am. She stayed the Christmas of 1907 on the river before leaving on 27th December at 1.30pm for a destination unknown.[10]

On 16th December 1905 at 8.30am the Harvest Home of Preston sailed up the River Bride.[11] The Harvest Home was a vessel of 79 tons and Captain Doyle was her master.[12] The Harvest Home was built by Dawson of Liverpool in 1866. Up to 1883 she was owned by C. Boden of Runcorn and mastered by C. Boden. In 1883 the Harvest Home was purchased by T. Thomas of St. Ives who also became her master. Her dimensions in 1883 were 80.2ft X 20.8 X 10.7 with 100 gross tons and 86 net tons.[13] After spending the Christmas of 1905 on the River Bride the Harvest Home left on 9th January 1906 at 7.30am – an early start on a cold dark winter’s morning.[14]

On 20th December 1907 the Baltic of Liverpool sailed up the River Bride.[15] The Baltic stayed on the Bride for Christmas 1907 before sailing down river on 6th January 1908 at 11.30am.[16]

It is customary for all work to cease on Christmas Day with shops, factories and offices closed. Some necessary work does continue like feeding animals down on the farm or emergency services standing by, hoping for no call out. In 1909 Christmas Day on the River Bride was no quiet and peaceful day – there was plenty of work to be done. At 3pm on Christmas Day 1909 the Hannah of Gloucester sailed up through Camphire Bridge and onto the River Bride. A half hour later, at 3.30pm, the Cesina Lucia of Dublin sailed up the River Bride.[17] The Hannah left the River Bride on 2nd January 1910 while the Cesina Lucia left of 22nd January 1910.[18]

IMG_0002

The old swivel iron Bride Bridge was between the

thatched house and the modern Camphire bridge 

The busy Christmas Day of 1909 may have upset the dinner and rest of Mrs. Joyce, who lived in a thatched house beside Camphire Bridge and turned the handle which opened and closed the swivel mechanism of the Bridge, but she had some blessing after as no further vessels stayed over on the River Bride until 1913. On 20th December 1913 the Kate of Barrow sailed up through Camphire Bridge and onto the River Bride.[19] The Kate was built in 1874 by White of Ulverston at 104 gross tons and 75 net tons. Her dimensions were 82.8ft X 20.8 X 9.7 and she was a two mast schooner. She was later fitted with an auxiliary engine. In 1911 Captain Hugh Shaw purchased the Kate and sailed her for many years across the Irish Sea.[20] The Kate left the River Bride on 5th January 1914 but would return in December 1916 to spend another Christmas Day up river and far from home and again on Christmas Day 1920.[21]

The Kate avoided spending Christmas Day in Youghal in December 1914 by being alert to a favourable wind and having the courage to know the sea. By the winter of 1914 most of the young able-bodied seamen in the merchant fleet joined the Royal Navy and the coastal sailing merchant vessels were left with their maters and a few old crew members. Captain Shaw had no crew left and had to get the help of his seventy year old father. While at Youghal in December 1914 Captain Shaw recruited a local lad as a crew member but the father of the lad died and the boy could no longer sail with Shaw for England. Captain Shaw had a cargo of oats for Bristol but no crew and no wind. The other schooner captains took the lack of wind as reason to stay at home with their families for Christmas.

About 4pm on Christmas Eve the wind changed to a westerly. Captain Shaw was anxious to get home and with his old father they raised the anchor with difficulty and were gone. Two days later they reached Bristol. When the Youghal merchants saw that the Kate had left with only two crew members, they lambasted the other sea captains for not sailing with six crew members. The captains thus raised their sails and left Youghal but they were late. The favourable westerly changed and the vessels had to pull in at Passage East on the Suir Estuary where they had to spend Christmas away from their families.[22]

On 22nd December 1913 the Claggan of Barrow went up the River Bride but her stay up river on Christmas Day was not a time of sadness at being away from family.[23] The Claggan was a local vessel, owned by David O’Keeffe of Tallow, a town on the River Bride.

David O’Keeffe began his working life as a draper’s assistant in Youghal. He subsequently moved to Tallow on his marriage to Josephine Carey and assisted in the business there of his father-in-law, William Carey. In little time David O’Keeffe took over the drapery business and expanded as a coal, grain and timber merchant. By the 1880s he was one of the leading merchants of Tallow. In September 1912 David O’Keeffe purchased the Claggan. After trading for a few years he sold her in 1916.[24]

The Claggan was built in 1876 by Gough of Bridgwater and was owned by J. Fisher & Co. of Barrow in 1893. Her dimensions were 76.8ft X 20.7 X 8.6 with a schooner rig. Captain J. Latham was her master. She was 84 gross tons in 1893 but this was later reduced to 75 tons.[25]

One hundred years ago, the Red Tail of Runcorn spent Christmas Day 1914 up the River Bride. She had arrived on 18th December and did not leave until 4th January 1915.[26] The schooner Red Tail was built in 1867 by Blundell and Mason of Runcorn for William Rigby of Runcorn. By 1916 she was owned by William Cooper of Runcorn.[27] She was torpedoed off Dieppe in 1916 with a cargo of coal. Her captain at the time, William Durepaire, was buried at Dieppe.[28]

christmas-nativity-scene-20141220101702-5494dc1e060a4

 

On Christmas Day 1916 there were three vessels docked up the River Bride in west County Waterford, namely; the Kate of Barrow (previously noted), along with the Oliver of Gloucester and the Anne of Gloucester.[29]

On Christmas Day 1920 the Kate of Barrow was up the River Bride (arrived 12th December, left 28th December) and she was joined by the Kate Farrell of Bideford. The Kate Farrell arrived on the River Bride on 23rd December 1920 and sailed on 12th January 1921.[30] Christmas time in Ireland of 1920 was far from peaceful. The War of Independence was ongoing since January 1919 and would only end in July 1921 with a truce.

On 1st November 1920 a major military engagement between the British army and the Irish rebel army took place at Piltown near the eastern side of Youghal Harbour. The Irish had attacked the police barracks at Ardmore and the nearby marine coast guard station to draw the army out of Youghal and into an ambush. Their plan worked and the British army of 35 soldiers drove straight into the ambush. The driver of the army truck was one of the first casualties and a general engagement began. At a lull in the British fire, the Irish charged their positions and the British surrendered. The Irish took all the military hardware and sent the soldiers walking back to Youghal.[31]

It is not known if other vessels spent Christmas on the River Bride after December 1920 as the surviving records stop on 7th December 1922 and do not resume until May 1929.

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End of post

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[1] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 3 verso

[2] http://www.archive.org/stream/lloydsregisters97unkngoog#page/n118/mode/1up accessed on 23 December 2014

[3] Cork City and County Archives, Youghal Port Records, U138 exports 1904

[4] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 4

[5] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 3 verso

[6] Lloyd’s Register, 1883

[7] Michael Bouquet, Westcountry Sail: Merchant Shipping 1840-1960 (David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1971), p. 55

[8] Richard J. Scott, Irish Sea Schooner Twilight: The Last Years of the Western Seas Traders (Black Dwarf Publications, Lydney, 2012), p. 157

[9] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 4

[10] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 19 and f19 verso

[11] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 9

[12] Niall O’Brien, Blackwater and Bride: Navigation and Trade, 7000 BC to 2007 (Niall O’Brien Publishing, Ballyduff, 2008), p. 412

[13] Lloyd’s Register, 1883

[14] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 10

[15] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 19

[16] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 20

[17] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 22 and f22 verso

[18] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 23

[19] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 36

[20] Niall O’Brien, Blackwater and Bride: Navigation and Trade, 7000 BC to 2007 (Niall O’Brien Publishing, Ballyduff, 2008), pp. 273, 420

[21] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 36; Bride Bridge Log Book, 1915-1922, folio 1 & f13

[22] Niall O’Brien, Blackwater and Bride: Navigation and Trade, 7000 BC to 2007, pp. 274, 275

[23] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 36

[24] Niall O’Brien, Blackwater and Bride: Navigation and Trade, 7000 BC to 2007, p. 270, 283, 397

[25] Lloyd’s Register, 1893

[26] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1902-1915, folio 40

[27] http://www.benjidog.co.uk/Tower%20Hill/WW1%20Red%20Tail%20to%20Resto.html accessed 23 December 2014

[28] http://www.swmaritime.org.uk/forums/thread.php?threadid=713 accessed 23 December 2014

[29] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1915-1922, folio 4 & f5

[30] Bride Bridge Log Book, 1915-1922, folio 13

[31] Sean and Sile Murphy, The Comeraghs: “Gunfire & Civil War”: The Story of the Deise Brigade IRA 1914-24 (Comeragh Publications, Kilmacthomas, 2003), p. 181

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