Tempests Annual 1908
In Dundalk Bay, April, 1858. In attempting to rescue the crew, Captain James Joseph Kelly and others were drowned.
IT is now just fifty years since the greatest storm known in Dundalk or indeed in these seas in living memory. It raged with unabated violence for five days, and in those days of tempest, cold and rain, sixty or seventy men of this district showed what heroism is, and long may the people of the town be proud of it. To many of the younger generation, the monument in Roden Place is only one of the many things built by "the men of old times", but the procession headed by the O'Mahony Band on the Sunday in April last, which listened reverently to the funeral march under the shadow of the monument, may have stirred their curiosity in some small way. To keep green the memory, not only of those who lost their lives in the attempt to save the shipwrecked crew, but of those who also risked and might have lost them, we record here in this Jubilee Annual, the jubilee of heroic deeds.
Tuesday, April 6th, 1858, saw the good steamer Enterprise win her way in a great gale from Liverpool to Dundalk Bay. The look-out cried "ship in distress!" Capt. Johnson, true to the traditions of the sea, brought his vessel near the barque, - the Mary Stoddart of Scarborough from whose masthead the signals were flying. Six hours he stood by her, till, seeing her anchored in apparent safety he put into port. The gale still blew next morning. Word had gone round the town of a ship in peril. The Independence, sister packet to the Enterprise, with her Captain Henry Byrne, on the bridge, accompanied by his colleague Captain Johnson and the following Directors of the Company:- Messrs. Peter Russell, E.H. Macardle, P.J. Carroll, Bernard Finegan and others, found the barque still safely anchored. The wind was a south-west one. Capt. Johnson in a small boat braved the waves to reach the ship, and was taken on board by her master, Capt. Every Hill. An apprentice of 20 years of age heard them consulting, and records the fact that in his opinion if Capt. Johnson's advice had been taken, the ship would have been saved and nine men's lives with it. However that may be, Capt. Johnson decided to stay on board, and signalled to the Independence to stand by for the present. The latter steamed in the teeth of the gale towards Liverpool for five and a half hours and returned to find the Mary Stoddart had broken loose and dragged her anchor to a point nearly opposite Blackrock, where she had grounded, with her decks two or three feet below the level of high tide. The crew had to take to the rigging, and a bitter night they spent, drenched, numb and helpless, with the food giving out and water all gone. The apprentices, not inured to the ordinary hardships of the sea, suffered most. John Baptiste (the black cook) and Capt. Hill were specially kind to them, and tied them for safety to the masts. The morning of Thursday, the third day, broke on a raging sea, a helpless boat, a piercing gale, and a group of cramped frozen men and boys in the rigging. When the tide ebbed, Capt. Johnson made an awning of sail-cloth in the stern to afford some shelter from the dashing seas.
On land, all were agog to rescue Capt. Johnson and his comrades. Mr. Peter Russell, Mr. John Connick - then the Agent of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Society - and our public men - all honour to them - organised relief. A boat - rash bravery, but there were lives at stake - put out from the Soldier's Point, manned by Patrick Finnegan (a pilot), Patrick Callan, and John and Patrick Lamb. In vain; the wind would not tolerate their open boat and drove it back.
Mr. John Connick, seeing that the best way would be to try from the south, drove to Blackrock, and there with the help of George Elphinstone was able to man two yawls and set out, himself and Elphinstone in charge of one and gallant James Crosbey in charge of the other. The two crews of six men worked with a will, and the cold was bitter. Mr. Connick was bailing with a can and a bucket incessantly.
They won their way to within half a mile of the wreck, but the tide carried them past it. Three hours of the hardest labour and they regained shore. Again George Elphinstone took his yawl out, bearing so as to let the tide carry him to the barque, but just at the critical time the tide began to turn. After him came Capt. Kelly, of the Pride of Erin, who had come out from Dundalk to try to save the Captain of the rival Steam Packet Company. He fared no better, and had to put back; and still the storm continued.
At eight o'clock that evening the local directors of the Dundalk and Midland Steam-Packet Company resolved to send out the Independence, and two lifeboats in tow of the steam tug at the earliest moment that the bar could be crossed. Mr. Peter Russell drove to Blackrock to bring in Elphinstone and Crosbey to act as pilots to the Dundalk boats. The call was for volunteers, and Capt. Kelly carne forward with John Lamb, Thomas McArdle, Patrick Callan, Gerald or "Garrett" Hughes, James Murphy, and Patrick Crosbey. By his side was Capt. Hinds, of the Venture, with Thomas Hamill, Patrick McArdle, Owen Finegan, George Elphinstone, Patrick Lamb, James Moran, and Michael McArdle. They arranged to start at four o'clock in the morning of the next day (Friday).
As the day dawned again on the stranded wreck there were fewer cold hands clasping the rigging, and two pairs of even these were lifeless. The negro was no longer there to help the frozen boys. He had fallen from the rigging, and one apprentice had been washed overboard. Hunger and Cold sat in the rigging with their fellow torturer -Thirst. Can we imagine, as we sit by our fires, these men, who probably had warmed themselves by their own hearths not long before, who had now been nearly three nights and three days drenched and frozen, starved and parched, within sight of land on three sides of them? And still no help was to come for another day, no hope but the tantalising visions of open boats almost within jumping distance of men too weak to try the leap.
On land at four o'clock Captains Byrne and Williams of the Steam-packets and Capt. Gaussen of the Coastguards met at the Soldiers' Point. Theirs to decide if the bar could be crossed, - if the Independence should go out, or an open boat. We may be sure they considered carefully and anxiously, and that it was with heavy hearts that they agreed that no steamer could cross the bar. "To the Tug then!" was the cry, but the willing hands of engineers and stokers could not make the Tug respond; her engines were out of order. Had she been ready, there had been no aching hearts in Dundalk that night.
Capt. Kelly and Capt. Hinds now called up their crews. The former took the ordinary boat of his ship, The Pride of Erin, as it was more easily rowed, putting the corks and air bags of his lifeboat into it, and rowed down to the Point. Capt. Hinds husbanded his men's strength by walking them to the same place and towing the boat from the land. At Soldiers' Point Capt. Kelly replaced an oar which had broken on the way down, and both boats rowed to the Lighthouse. The waves were so terrific as they crossed the "West Bank" that Michael McArdle was pitched right out of Capt. Hinds' boat, and James Moran was only just saved. In rescuing McArdle, an oar was lost. At the Lighthouse a consultation took place with the light-houseman, as to the best time to make the attempt, but no watch was to be had, and the clock in the Lighthouse had stopped. "In God's name let us go on," cried Capt. Kelly, and the boats made their way, buffeted and beaten, to the lee of the Mary Stoddart. The two boats were close together as near to the vessel as possible, but the crew and Capt. Johnson were too exhausted to jump into them. A huge wave rounding the barque's stern nearly sank both the boats, and they were compelled to draw off. The gale was too high for a shout to be heard. A great wave broke down upon Capt. Hinds, whose crew seeing it coming, rowed might and main against it, and it passed, filling the boat which, but for the air chambers, would have sunk. It rushed on the open boat behind. Capt. Kelly's crew did their best, but the boat slid stern first with the wave and in the trough turned right over, sending all into the sea. In a minute all were holding on to the keel. Meanwhile the lifeboat was in almost as bad a state, bailing for dear life. Along came another wave and righted Capt. Kelly's boat, and the crew clambered into her as well as her practically water-logged condition would let them. All but Capt. Kelly. He had come out in a long heavy overcoat and heavy sea boots up above his knees, and, powerful man though he was, they bore him down. Ten yards off he was seen to throw up his hands, and the last words the horror-struck survivors thought they heard on the wind were "Lord have mercy on me! Look out for yourselves, boys," as he disappeared. The Enterprise's lifeboat was too far off to afford any help, and the brave and capable Captain perished before the eyes of his crew, who drifted oarless and helpless with the gunwales level with the water.
As soon as Capt. Hinds saw their plight, with great danger and difficulty he got to them, and one by one the men in an almost dying condition were got out; how it was done heaven alone knows, for the plunging boat stove in her own bows against the stern of the lifeboat. All were got out but one - James Murphy, who had already followed his Captain at the call of duty. Gerald Hughes was conscious, but dying, while James Crosbey had such a "death-hold" on the seat of the smashed boat that it was only with the greatest exertions that his unconscious hands were relaxed. The ill-fated boat was taken in tow, and the doubly loaded lifeboat lacking one oar began its mournful and painful return. Gerald Hughes succumbed before Blackrock was reached, and Crosbey died in Mrs. Cockshots house ashore. Although only twenty-five, he and George Elphinstone had already two years before rescued the crew of two English ships wrecked in the bay. When the boats reached shore the men were all so exhausted and helpless that many of them stood "staring wildly like men in a fit, and when they tried to speak, no one could understand their mutterings." Cars were at hand and all were driven in to Dundalk and carefully tended.
At ten o'clock the same morning the lifeboat of the Enterprise was taken out from Blackrock by Mr. Lewis, the mate of the Earl of Erne, with Mr. Gilmore, mate of The Pride of Erin, some of the crew of the Independence, and some Blackrock fishermen. After making a mile in an hour's hard pulling, they had to return.
Still another attempt was made, this time from the opposite shore. At one o'clock in the day a boat carrying Owen Rice, James O'Neill, Michael Rice, Michael Rice, jun., Patrick and John Rice, Patrick Byrne, and Charles O'Neill, was launched from Tipping's Quay opposite Soldiers' Point. In spite of repeated breakings of the thole-pins, they rowed, holding the oars on the gunwales with their hands, first to the lighthouse where they were advised to put back, and then to the wreck, but to no purpose. The wrecked were too weak to swim, and no boat could live alongside the barque, no voice could carry in the gale. After being nearly drowned this boat's crew had also to return.
Still the unfortunates on the wreck clung on. Capt. Johnson, feeling the knees of two men behind him in the rigging pressing in his back the whole night and turning to speak to them, found them both dead.
By five o'clock in the evening the wind had abated somewhat, but the sea still was raging, when Robert Shankey, the chief officer of the Coastguard at Gyles' Quay, whose son, Mr. Robert Shankey of Mountain View is still happily with us, launched a boat from that place, with Patk. Barry (coastguard), Thos. Gallagher, John Connor, Owen Hanlon (fishermen) as a crew. They reached the Mary Stoddart and took off Capt. Johnston and six of the crew, Capt. Hill and the other three men heroically refusing to risk the lives of the rest by overloading the boat. The lives of rescued and rescuers were many times in jeopardy on the way home, from the waves racing down behind them. Capt. Johnson was so numbed and exhausted that he lay comatose at the bottom of the boat. At eight o'clock on that Friday evening the seven men were landed, amid universal thanksgiving, at the Soldiers' Point.
The wind and sea were too strong against them for Robert Shankey's boat to think of rowing back to the wreck, so they actually walked round by road and set out in the early hours of the Saturday morning in another boat, with Owen Gallagher and Owen Connor, replacing Barry and Hanlon who were worn out. They safely reached the vessel, took off Capt. Hill and the remaining men and landed them at George's Quay, Dundalk, shortly afterwards.
Such is the grand and honourable story of the Wreck of the Mary Stoddart and the rescue of her crew, of the heroism of crew after crew of Louth men, and of the glorious deaths of Captain James Joseph Kelly and his three fellow-rescuers. Well may we honour the memory of all, and hope that should another such test of manhood unhappily occur, the men of the present generation would take their places in the boats, if need be, as those of fifty years ago.
The rescued consisted of Every Hill (captain), Arch. Hogg (mate), John Davis (2nd mate), George Banner (carpenter). Charles Strong, George McDonnell, and James Birch (seamen), John Marks, Richard Wray, and P.J. Walshe (14 years old), apprentices. Those who perished were John Baptiste (black seaman), John Coll (cook), Thomas Ashwood (steward), Wm. Morris (mate), and Percival Mann (apprentice); of these the only man now surviving as far as we can trace is the "Richard Wray, apprentice", who after seventy years of the sea is living in a Seaman's Home in Scarborough. We give a verbatim report of an interview with him and a portrait.
Of the rescuers, there are now living in Dundalk Patrick McArdle (still as pilot, whose portrait we give and whose name should be inscribed on the Monument in Roden Place), and Patrick Byrne, now a retired Captain, of Barrack Street. Owen Finegan and one other, we believe, are alive in America, but all the rest are gone where their bravery will be rewarded.
Capt. Kelly's body was not recovered till two months later, when it was washed ashore. The remains were taken on his ship, The Pride of Erin, from Soldiers' Point to the Steam-packet Quay, from whence it was followed one evening to Seatown graveyard by the largest gathering of mourners of all classes and from all parts which was ever known in Dundalk. He left an aged mother to mourn his loss.
It will be understood that such an episode was not allowed to pass without some permanent memorial both to Capt. Kelly, not only respected as a captain, popular and beloved as a man, but known wherever men go down to the sea in ships by his able writings on the duties of a ship's officers. but also to his gallant helpers one of whom left a wife and many small children to struggle through life alone. How well these have carried on their fatherís name may be seen by the fact that one of them, Mr. Arthur Hughes is now our capable and genial Harbour Master. Not alone in sea-craft was Capt. Kelly versed, but he was an astronomer and mathematician of no mean order, and showed his many sided culture in the study of poetry, history and science. Only a few years before, with four men, he had launched a boat in a mid-channel hurricane from his steamer, The Dundalk and rescued the captain and four men from a disabled brig.
Committees were formed and funds raised for the relief of those bereaved and the raising of some memorial. The sum of £700 was, according to a local paper, subscribed, £40 being given by the soldiers then quartered in the barracks. Of this sum £325 was given among the nearest relatives of the drowned and £160 divided among the 63 men who had been out in the various boats. This left about £200, with which some proposed to erect a watch-tower on Dairy Hill (Red Barns). There was considerable heart-burning at the time over the rivalries of the two Steam-packet Companies, and unfortunately this seems to have raised dissensions in the matter; it was not till 1879, twenty years later, that the present handsome monument was erected in Roden Place. The matter was brought up at this time by Mr. Henry Kelly of Tullydrum. There was then found to be £300 collected and £114 more promised. The work cost £400. It was designed by Mr. Robert McArdle, and built by Mr. Pettigrew of Navan. The inscription reads reads: -
IN MEMORY OF CAPTAIN
JAMES JOSEPH KELLY, GERALD HUGHES,
JAMES CROSBEY, AND JAMES MURPHY,
who lost their lives in a noble and
humane effort to rescue the
crew of the barque Mary Stoddart,
wrecked in Dundalk Bay,
on the 9th of April, 1858.
Erected by Voluntary Subscription 1879
In commemoration also of the gallant
services of Volunteers of the rescuing
party, John Lamb, Patrick Callan and
Thomas Mc Ardle, who after a heroic
struggle to succour their ill-fated
comrades, reached shore in a state of exhaustion.
In conclusion, surely this story of the voluntary repeated, but useless efforts of Dundalk men in rowing boats to rescue the shipwrecked sailors of a strange barque should make it incumbent, nay, absolutely binding on the town of Dundalk, to support liberally the Lifeboat Association, of which Mr. C. S. Whitworth, of Blackrock, is local Secretary. The Association has built and keeps up, not only the two large und seaworthy modern lifeboats at Blackrock and Gyles' Quay, upon which strangers and our own men depend for their lives, but many other boats in ports where some Dundalk vessel may find them some day the salvation of its crew. It is a voluntarily supported Society, and if a port like Dundalk does not do its share, we may well hang our heads.
At the Dundalk Show of 1908 Rev. E. Clarke went to great trouble collecting a number of interesting mementos of Capt. Kelly and the Mary Stoddart. These comprised model of Captain Kelly's ship, "The Dundalk" and his telescope, kindly lent by Mr. Redmond Magrath: his watch, by Mrs. Young, Dundalk; hat-brush, Miss A. J. Hughes, Dublin Street Dundalk; hat-box, Mr. T. Hughes, Castle Road, Dundalk; ship's bell, Mr. John McGee, Philipstown, Dundalk; barometer, Mr. Thos. Connick, jun., Seatown Place, Dundalk; deck-light, Mr. John Carroll, sen., Blackrock, Dundalk; panel from cabin, Mr. James MacGuigan, Blackrock, Dundalk, &c.
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