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USS BAYONNE

U.S. WARSHIP LAUNCHED BY KEADUE WOMAN

USS Bayonne was a Tacoma-class patrol frigate, built for escorting supply convoys and for anti-submarine warfare. Commissioned towards the end of World War II, she served also in the Korean War. With twin-screw engines she was fast and manoeuvrable – for her day. Her overall length was 304 ft. (93 m.). With 16 mounted guns of varying calibre, 8 depth-charge projectors and an anti-submarine mortar launcher, she was equipped to do battle with the enemy – in the air, on the surface or submarine. She had a crew of 16 officers and 175 men.

Credits: Wayne Schafer, Mike Green

When USS Bayonne’s keel was laid down in May 1943, German U-boat submarines were daily attacking Allied convoys bringing essential war supplies across the Atlantic to Britain and to Russia. Many ships were sent to the bottom. The U-boats were active all the way to the east coast of America, even to the Caribbean. No one could predict when the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ would end. In fact, it continued until the German surrender of 7 May 1945.

USS Bayonne was built by the American Ship Building Company in Cleveland, on Lake Erie. She was launched on 11 Sept.1943, in the presence of the Mayor of Cleveland, the Deputy Mayor of Bayonne, dignitaries from both cities, federal officials, shipyard management and workers numbering about 1500. The Bayonne city authorities were pleased that, for the first time, a warship was being named for their city. It would enhance the city’s prestige. They resolved to foster a strong bond between the city and the ship.

Graciously, they invited Hannah Gallagher to be the ship’s sponsor, giving her the honour of launching and christening the vessel. Hannah’s husband, Hugh, was foreman at Bayonne’s Department of Public Works. Their sons, John and Bernard, both lieutenants in the Air Corps, had given their lives in the service of their country.

John, aged 28, was one of a crew of six who were killed, on 8 June 1941, when their Douglas B-18 bomber crashed to ground, in a lightning storm,15 miles east of Lyman – a small town in southwest Wyoming. They were about 100 miles out on a 1250 mile flight from Salt Lake City to Chicago. It was the second leg of a three-leg navigation training flight from Boise, Idaho, to New York. John was going home on furlough.

Credit: www. aircraft-in-focus.com

Before taking off, the pilot, Capt. David Motherwell, received reports of a heavy cloud cover and foul weather over the Rockies. He filed a plan to fly ‘on instruments’. Pilots routinely flew ‘on instruments’ when they had no visual contact with the ground below or the horizon. In doing so, they followed Instrument Flying Rules (IFR). Motherwell was rated an excellent pilot, experienced in foul weather flying and trained in IFR. But, in the days before radar and satellite navigation, when aircraft instruments and radio systems were primitive and unreliable by today’s standards, it was not uncommon for pilots, flying on instruments and lacking any visual reference outside their cabins, to become disorientated and stray off course, especially in turbulent air conditions. Aircraft were not then designed to fly above all storms.

An investigation failed to establish the precise cause of the crash. There was evidence that the weather was worse than forecasted, with multiple lightning storms rolling off the Uinta mountains (peak 13,528 ft.). There was speculation that the storm encountered may have been of such intensity it forced the pilot to descend below the cloud ceiling, to seek a visual contact with the ground, and that, in doing so, he had an inadvertent ground collision. An examination of the wreckage showed that the aircraft hit the ground at high speed and at a steep angle. The undercarriage was not lowered and wing-flaps were not extended, indicating that an emergency landing was not being attempted.

Nine months later, on 24 March 1942, Bernard, aged 25, was killed when his primary trainer bi-plane, a Boeing-Stearman PT 13 A, crashed on its approach to the runway at Perrin Field, near Sherman, in northern Texas.

Credit: National Museum of US Air Force

Bernard was a flying instructor. He was on a training flight with Aviation-Cadet Theodore Dimke, who had the controls. They were flying in formation with two other aircraft, at an altitude of 500 ft., and were banking sharply to line up with the runway. Due to a momentary lapse in concentration, Bernard’s plane came dangerously close to the lead plane. There was an abrupt use of the controls, to make a correction. This caused the plane to stall, invert and fall away. Although it was successfully righted before it hit the ground, it had insufficient altitude and speed to avoid a ground collision. It burst into flames on impact.

Eager to serve their country in time of war, John and Bernard volunteered for the Air Corps. John was an acclaimed athlete at Bayonne High School and St Peter’s College, Jersey City. Prior to joining the Air Corps he was an associate of Howard Hughes, the noted movie maker. Bernard was a football star at Bayonne High and St Peter’s. From there he went to George Washington College, Washington D.C. He matriculated for the John Marshall College of Law, Jersey City, but instead of a career in law he chose to join the Air Corps.

Bernard received his commission as a second lieutenant on 07 March 1942, only 17 days before his tragic death. His childhood sweetheart, Jean Mary O Connor, travelled to Texas for his graduation and to become his wife. Following the graduation ceremony the couple were married by Father Brinker. Jean was at the airbase when Bernard lost his life, only days later.

John V. Gallagher
Bernard F. Gallagher
The inscription on the base of the Gallagher gravestone reads:-                                                         1913 John V. 1941; 1878 Hugh 1950; 1917 Bernard F. 1942; 1886 Hannah 1961

The launch of USS Bayonne was an occasion of mixed emotions for the Gallagher family. Hannah struck the champagne bottle against the prow of the ship, saying: “I christen thee Bayonne and may God bless you and bring you safely back to port.” There was a loud cheer as the vessel splashed into the water. The shipyard band struck up ‘Anchors Aweigh’. Among those present was Hannah’s brother, Jimmy Sharkey, a mines inspector from Triadelphia, West Virginia. After the launch, Hannah was reported to have said: “It was a great experience for me. I wasn’t a bit nervous. I only wanted to make sure I broke the bottle and sent the Bayonne off to a perfect start in life.” On the following day, Sunday 12 Sept. 1943, about 2,500 people with marching bands paraded through the streets of Bayonne, watched from the sidewalks by a crowd estimated at 25,000. There were eloquent speeches in support of the war effort.

Hannah at the launch

 

After the launch, USS Bayonne was brought to Baltimore for fitting out. Her crew was trained and sea trials were undertaken. She was commissioned on 14 Feb.1945 and soon afterwards went into service. However, to the regret of her commander, Elmer E. Comstock, she had no encounters with the enemy prior to the German surrender of 7 May 1945.

In the summer of 1945, she steamed through the Panama Canal and north to Alaska. There, a Soviet crew was trained in her operations. On 2 Sept.1945, the day Japan surrendered, she was handed over to the Soviet Navy under ‘Lend-lease’, an international agreement whereby the U.S. loaned war material to the Allies. The Russians returned the ship in 1949 and, when the Korean War broke out in 1950, she was recommissioned in the U.S. Navy.

On 15 Sept.1950, she was one of 261 ships participating in the amphibious landings at Inchon, Korea, where 75,000 United Nations troops went ashore. The invasion was a military success and was followed, two weeks later, by the capture of Seoul, the Korean capital. USS Bayonne was active in Korean and Japanese waters for most of the war and was awarded six battle stars for her service there.

In Jan.1953, she was loaned to the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. They returned her for disposal to the U.S. Navy, in the mid-1960s. In March 1968, seven years after Hannah’s death, she was brought out to sea from a Japanese port and set up as a target. There, she was holed below the water-line and disappeared beneath the waves. She lies forever at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Hannah Gallagher (nee Sharkey) was a native of Keadue, where she was known as ‘Hannah Eoghain Andy’. Her husband, Hugh, was from nearby Glenahilt, where he was known as ‘Hughie John Chonaill’. Both received a primary education at Keadue School. They married in St Mary’s Church, Kincasslagh, on 28 Feb. 1911. The celebrant was Fr. Hugh Maguire and the witnesses were Hannah’s siblings, Edward and Mary Sharkey. The Census of Ireland, taken on 2 April 1911, recorded Hugh and Hannah, married though still residing at their respective parental homes. Soon afterwards they emigrated to Bayonne, where many from West Donegal had settled.

The Gallagher Family circa 1924

In the early 1920s, Hannah made an extended visit to Keadue with her four children – John, Beatrice (‘Delia’), Bernard and Hugh Jnr. During their vacation, the children attended Keadue School, which was next door to the Sharkey home. It would appear that Hugh Snr. joined the family in Donegal, as immigration lists for the Port of New York record all members of the family arriving there, on 14 June 1924, by ‘SS California from Londonderry’.

After the launch, Hugh and Hannah resumed normal living. They continued to mourn the loss of their sons. Hannah, a woman of faith, laid her grief at the altar. Their daughter Delia, a teacher, joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph and took the name ‘Sr. John Bernard’, in memory of her brothers. On 14 Feb. 2001, many years after her parents’ deaths, Sr. John Bernard was guest of honour at a re-enactment of the commissioning of USS Bayonne. The commemoration was organised by the Bayonne Flotilla 2000 Committee. Present were – politicians, city officials, members of the Coast Guard, clergy, surviving Bayonne crew members and members of the Gallagher family. Present also was Hannah’s grand-nephew, Andy Logue of Kincasslagh, who had served with the U.S. forces in Korea.

Andy Logue at DMZ Korea in 1957. Photo: Carol O’Donnell.

Sr. John Bernard (1915-2005) visited Keadue and Glenahilt on a number of occasions, staying at her parents’ ancestral homes. There, she was warmly welcomed by family relations and the local community. At Glenahilt, she enjoyed especially the still beauty of the lakes and morning walks to St. Columba’s Church. Danny Sharkey, her cousin, interviewed her for Highland Radio. Once, when she and Danny were out and about together, they observed a small plane land on Keadue Strand. Sister got talking to the pilot and recalled that her late brother, John, with many happy memories of Keadue, had expressed a desire, never fulfilled, to fly there one day and touch down on the strand.

In the United States, the last Monday of May is designated ‘Memorial Day’. It is a federal holiday, a day when families and associations gather in grateful remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country. On Memorial Day 2018, as is their custom, family relations of John and Bernard gathered for a memorial Mass at North Arlington Cemetery, New Jersey, and there placed the American flag on the Gallagher grave.

Written by John Sharkey August 2018.

Sources:  (1) Wikipedia – USS Bayonne. (2) The Jersey Journal, 12 Sept 1973. (3) Commemorative booklet, ‘USS Bayonne’. (4) U.S. Air Force archival documentation – courtesy Aindriú Ó Searcaigh. (5) Kincasslagh Parish Marriage Register – courtesy Fr. Pat Ward. (6) Census of Ireland, 1911. (7) Family information & photographs – courtesy Mary Yuknis (nee Gallagher), New Jersey. (8) Additional family information – courtesy Danny Sharkey, Burnfoot.

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Owen Boyle and the Fairies

Owen Boyle lived with his mother near Kincasslagh, and worked as a carpenter. One Hallow Eve, on his return home, he found a calf was missing, and went out to look for it. He was told it was behind a stone near the spink of Dunathaid,

and when he got there he saw the calf, but it ran away and disappeared through an opening in the rock.

Owen was at first afraid to follow, but suddenly he was pushed in, and the door closed behind him. He found himself in a company of fairies, and heard them saying: “This is good whisky from O’Donnell’s still. He buried a nine-gallon keg in the bog; it burst, the hoops came off, and the whisky has come to us. “One of the fairies gave Owen a glass, saying he might be useful to them that night. They asked if he would be willing to go with them, and, being anxious to get out of the cave, he at once consented. They all mounted on horses, and away they went through Dungloe, across the hills to Doochary, then to Glenties, and through Mount Charles to Ballyshannon, and thence to Connaught. They came to a house where great preparations were being made for a wedding. The fairies told Owen to go in and dance with any girl who asked him. He was much pleased to see that he was now wearing a good suit of clothes, and gladly joined in the dance. After a time there was a cry that the bride would choose a partner, and the partner she chose was Owen Boyle. They danced until the bride fell down in a faint, and the fairies, who had crept in unseen, bore her away. They mounted their horses and took the bride with them, sometimes one carrying her and sometimes another. They had ridden thus for a time when one of the fairies said to Owen: “You have done well for us to-night.”  “And little I have got for it,” was the reply; “not even a turn of carrying the bride.”  “That you ought to have,” said the fairy, and called out to give the bride to Owen. Owen took her, and, urging his horse, outstripped the fairies. They pursued him, but at Belcruit Strand he drew with a black knife a circle round himself and the bride, which the fairies could not cross.

One of them, however, stretched out a long arm and struck the bride on the face, so that she became deaf and dumb. When the fairies left him, Owen brought the girl to his mother, and in reply to her questions, said he had brought home one to whom all kindness should be shown. They gave her the best seat by the fire; she helped in the housework, but remained speechless.

A year passed, and on Hallow Eve Owen went again to Dunathaid. The door of the cave was open.

 

He entered boldly, and found the fairies enjoying themselves as before. One of them recognised him, and said: “Owen Boyle, you played us a bad trick when you carried off that woman.” “And a pretty woman you left with me! She can neither hear nor speak!” “Oh!” said another, “if she had a taste of this bottle, she could do both!” When Owen heard these words he seized the bottle, ran home with it, and, pouring a little into a glass, gave it to the poor girl to drink. Hearing and speech were at once restored. Owen returned the bottle to the fairies, and, before long, he set out for Connaught, taking the girl with him to restore her to her parents. When he arrived, he asked for a night’s lodging for himself and his companion. The mother, although she said she had little room, admitted them, and soon Owen saw her looking at the girl. “Why are you gazing at my companion?” he asked. “She is so like a daughter of mine who died a twelvemonth ago.” “No,” replied Owen; “she did not die; she was carried off by the fairies, and here she is.” There was great rejoicing, and before long Owen was married to the girl, the former bridegroom having gone away. He brought her home to Kincasslagh, and not a mile from the village, close to Belcruit Strand, may be seen the ring which defended her and Owen from the fairies. It is a very large fairy ring, but why the grass should grow luxuriantly on it tradition does not say.

Big Herring Harvest of 1916

From an article that appeared in the Irish Standard on April 8th 1916

The fishing community of Donegal has had a remarkably successful season. Up to August things were little better than average years so far as supplies went, but, of course, more advantageous in the better figures realized. Then towards the end of the month shoals of herrings appeared unexpectedly in the fishing grounds, and the whole fishing population was immediately astir.

cdb

The Congested Districts Board was apprised of the prospects, and arrangements were forthcoming for making available the motorboats and sailing boats provided by the Board along this section of the coast. In due course a contingent of Scotch and Irish buyers appeared on the scene, and, with keen competition, the Donegal folk have been able to reap a splendid herring harvest. There were times during the season when the price of herrings went up to as much as from £3 to £4 and £4 10s a cran, and even higher. Reduced to a more easily understood basis, the higher quotations mentioned worked out at as much as 2d apiece for the fine qualities which are attracted to these Northwestern grounds, and the fishermen, as might be expected, rejoiced in their luck. The Board’s steam-drifters were requisitioned by the Admiralty.
The New Motor Boats
One of the developments which has accrued to the fishing interests in the district is concerned with the matter of the provision of the motor-boats and steam-drifters by the Congested Districts Board. Up to 1894 only open boats of the Greencastle yawl type
had been in use by the Donegal fishermen.

dscf7389
Greencastle Yawl at Greencastle Maritime Museum, Co.Donegal

In that year a number of large decked sailing boats, known as the “Zulu” type, were introduced by the Board for herring fishing at Downing’s Bay and other centres. These boats were worked by crews on the share system, a boat and gear being handed over to a crew of six as joint owners, subject to a repayment to the Board of about one-third of the net earnings. The system worked satisfactorily for many years, and the Board were repaid the entire cost of the boats and gear originally supplied. There were still several others of these craft, however, in respect of which considerable sums had yet to be discharged before the debt to the Board would be cleared off.

In 1907 a big change had to be met. Steam-drifters, which had been introduced into Scotland and England, took part in the Donegal fishery, with the result that the crews of the local sailing boats were discouraged by their inability to compete with the steam vessels which were able to land large catches both in stormy weather and in calms when sailing boats had to remain in harbour. Even when sailing boats were able to go out, the steamers could go farther out to sea where the best fishing grounds are and get back sooner to harbour, thus securing better prices. The Donegal fishermen, therefore, urged the Board to provide them with steam-drifters and motor-boats, so that they might share upon equal terms in the fishery off their own coast. With the aid of a loan from the Development Commission the Board acquired some steam-drifters and motor-boats.

cdb-motorboats-spring-1916


Changed System                                                                                                                                    
New conditions suggested to the Board that it might be well to vary the terms for repayment for these boats and gear. Under the share system the length of time before repayment in full could be made and caused the crews, after a number of successive poor seasons, to lose sight of the prospect of becoming owners, and men changed from one boat to another. In
many instances, too, the crews did not maintain their boats and gear-in good order, and it was quite evident that, in the interest of the fishermen as well as of the Board, nothing short of ownership would stimulate the crews to take care of their boats and gear. It was, therefore, decided that the Board “would sell each boat and gear on the loan system to some one or more fishermen. The present value of the boats and gear was ascertained, and these
amounts were treated as having been lent to approved applicants, the advances to be repaid by half-yearly instalments. The initial cost of the boatswith gear ranged from £1,000 to
£2,000 each for motor-boats, and present values were fixed according to the condition of the craft, with a discount of 20 per cent for cash paid at the time of sale. The prices of the sailing boats and gear were, of course, very much less.

cdb-motorboats-spring-1916

Activity at the Centers
The principal centers of the industry are at Downing’s Bay, Kincasslagh, Gweedore, Burtonport and Killybegs. Each of these places is a port where the fishermen keep their boats and where buyers attend, and the marketing conditions, influenced by the scarcity existing in the chief centers across the Channel, have been such as to assure fair ruling quotations at
every center. Buncrana, on Lough Swilly, which used to be the chief market, and in years back was the biggest and most important fishing base in the North-West, has suffered
because of the Admiralty Order closing Lough Swilly tor fishing, except in a restricted way within certain local limits, and the principal market is now at Downing’s Bay in Sheep Haven. Here a very large quantity of herring has been cured for export, and at the other centers mentioned the season has been scarcely less busy. At Killybegs in August, 1915, herrings of extraordinary fine size and quality were landed. Only a relatively small proportion of the catches was dispatched fresh to the markets.
Donegal Salmon Fishing
An interesting story appertains to the very appreciable development in the salmon fishing which has taken place off the West Donegal coast in recent years. It was not known that
salmon, when proceeding from the deep water to rivers, followed the same course year after year. To the late Father Bernard Walker, of Burtonport, is due the credit of proving this theory, and that, too, in the most incontrovertible manner. During some boating trips well outside the islands which fringe the Rosses, his observation was directed on a few occasions to the splashing of salmon, as he conceived it to be, and curiosity tempted him to try his luck with a salmon net along a course where he had seen salmon rise. His acumen and his enterprise were rewarded in a fine capture, and his initiative was quickly followed by the fishermen of the West Donegal coast, who found in the new grounds a successful area of operations.

The “Salacia” A Century Ago Happening in the Rosses

First appeared in Derry Journal 16th October 1953 

Judged from the viewpoints, the 19th century wasn’t indeed the greatest of centuries; but of course, for those of us who enjoyed its twilight and grew up in the dawn of the century to follow, it naturally has an appeal and fascination of its own. Some of its characters we know intimately; others we heard so much about, as to regard them as near acquaintances. For our forebears in Ireland, the 19th century was of course, the century of the “Famine,” the age of despotic landlordism, etc; but for all that it was too, the century of Emancipation in name and in reality.

Across the water in Britain truly great after the Napoleonic collapse, the last century was hailed as the Scientific Age, but Catholic Ireland had but little interest in the world of Lodge, Stephenson, etc; for them it was the era of school-building and church-building. Not a few of the churches and schools of rural Ireland date back to the post-Emancipation period and little wonder that to-day, a century later, most of them call out for replacement and renovation.

In the course of this article it is intended to treat of a rather obscure happening which took place in the remote Rosses of 1854. Even to-day, the Rosses is sometimes referred to as “the back country” by the people of East Donegal, and if the term is justified even to-day, how much more apt was it 99 years ago!

I would say that rather few of the shore-dwellers of the Rosses at that time saw beyond the natural confines of sea and mountain which seems to hedge them in. 1854 was the year of the Crimean War but I’d think that the Rosses folk at the time were more interested in their own struggle for mere existence than, say in Britain’s victories around Sevastopol. 1854, too, was a memorable tear in the Catholic world, being the year of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and of the founding of Newman’s University in Dublin; but education was only beginning in West Donegal then, and I doubt if the great Cardinal had many admirers in the Rosses!

PADAÍ MAIGHISTIR

Amongst the few schools in existence in the parish at that time was a humble thatched building that passed for a school in the townland of Keadue. Built by An Sag-Rua, Rev. James MacDevitte P.P. (1835-1848) this crude educational structure wasn’t a lot to look at but the educational value of such places shouldn’t be judged by their outward appearance or by the amount of glass in their windows. The teacher at Keadue at the time was Paddy Ward and the fact that his name is still revered in these parts assures us that not all the good he commanded was interred with his bones, which lie buried in Kincasslagh cemetery, with a simple granite monument bearing the inscription “Padaí Maighistir” to mark his final resting-place.

Mrs Mary Ward (John the Master) Keadue with Brian Ward
Mary Ward (John the Master) Keadue, a relation of Padaí Maighstir with baby Brian Ward              Photo: Deirdre Silbourne

 

On the 29th of November, 1854, the schoolchildren of Keadue had an unexpected holiday. There was no compulsory education those days but, nevertheless, learning was always prized in the Rosses and the children attended school well during the winter months when there was no work to be done at home. As I have said, the comforts of the Keadue Old School were indeed few, and yet it is said that a Bishop once attended it-viz., Most Rev. Dr. James MacDevitte, nephew of the Parish Priest, mentioned above, who became Bishop of Raphoe during the year 1871-1879. It is said that as a boy, the future bishop stayed for a while with his uncle at Mín –Chonchubhair- Duibh in Keadue and attended school there.

bishop mcdevitt
copyright ‘The Raphoe Diocese, a brief History’ by Fr John J. Silke, 2000 http://www.raphoediocese.ie/bishop/previous-bishops/79-bishop-james-mcdevitt

On 29th November, 1854, the fury of the elements rendered school impossible. Everywhere men could be seen moving about with bundles of sugáns trying to secure their thatched cottages. The Gaeltacht and CDB housing grants were then undreamt of and that time very few slated houses at the time around the coast.

COMING OF “SALACIA”

At mid-day, when the men of the Rosses had got the situation in hand a ship appeared on the scene which gave them something to talk about for generations to come! She was the “Salacia” and a rock and a strand in the Rosses bear her name to this day. “the Year of the Salacia” (1854) was a milestone or social landmark in the Rosses for many a day and seventy years afterwards Pension Officers were tired of the story; “I have no birth certificate but I was –years when the “Salacia” came to Keadue!”

A sailing ship was no unusual sight in Rosses waters those days, particularly as the sands of destruction hadn’t yet swallowed up the glory of Rutland and Rutland Harbour; but when it was seen that this strange ship was taking the unusual course through the rock-strewn waters of Keadue, men, women and children crowded the hilltops!

One man in Cruit thinking it impossible for the “Salacia” to reach Keadue Strand without being smashed to pieces, bekoning to the captain to steer for a relatively safe cove along West Cruit; but as the man in question used a red handkerchief for signalling, the captain of the “Salacia” interpreted his signals to mean danger and kept the ship off the shore. Miraculously enough, the “Salacia” managed to escape all the shoals and breakers of Keadue Bar but struck the last remaining obstacle on the way, i.e, the Salacia Rock a few yards off the shore! The Master of the “Salacia” did almost the impossible; he steered his ship through waters where a local pilot would in nine chances out of ten, have failed!

Keadue Bar is one of those places of which the “Irish Pilot” advises mariners that it would be futile to steer on a chartered course and that entry is by no means to be attempted without somebody aboard having a local knowledge of the dangerous shoals. How the master of the “Salacia” got so far is still a mystery because with heavy seas running a gale of wind, Keadue Bar breaks right across so that no channel is discernible. It has been said that he followed the movement of Cormorants, a sea-fowl which, it is believed always keeps out on deep water. “The Salacia” despite the great seamanship of her master, Captain Forrest, was left “high and dry” on the Salacia Rock beside Oilean-Carragh not knowing what moment the terrible sea would swallow her up.

holyhead_wreck_1
a similar wreck copyright http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?4800

KEADUE PEOPLE TO RESCUE

The good people of Keadue in that age of illiteracy and poverty rallied to the rescue and fortunately all the crew were saved. The Coast-guards at Innishcoo were quickly on the scene, but for reasons best known to himself, it is said that Captain Forrest refused them permission to board the ill-fated vessel. It is thought that his refusal under threat to shoot, resided in the fact that he had some unacustomed goods  aboard-whiskey and tobacco presumably-which he distributed among the local residents when nightfall came.

The “Salacia” bound from Quebec to Glasgow with a cargo of timber, was still in danger of breaking up and it was decided to salvage the cargo first in order to refloat the ship. The man entrusted with the task of salvaging the cargo and ship by the Collector of Customs and Excise at Derry, was a certain Capt. Coppins, of Derry, who had been engaged on similar jobs all around the coast of Donegal about 100 years ago. Indeed, the name Coppins is still remembered in the Rosses to such an extent that some people think that Captain Coppins and not Captain Forrest was the ship’s master. The master and the crew of the “Salacia” were taken to Burtonport by the Coastguard where they were fitted out with clothes in the premises of Mr. Keon to enable them leave the Rosses.

CAPTAIN COPPINS

Capt. Coppins maust have spent some weeks salvaging the cargo of the “Salacia” before towing away the damaged vessel by means of a paddle tug to Derry. While in the Rosses, Capt. Coppins stayed with Charles O’Donnell of Lower Keadue, one of the leading men in the parish in his day. One night in a shebeen in the Rosses, Captain Coppins met a local resident who came to the premises in order to get a drop of spirits to celebrate the birth of his newly-born child. The child’s name was Nancy and the fact that Capt. Coppins attending the christening party explains why she was afterwards called “Nancy Coppins” by the people of the neighbourhood. A native of Glenahilt, her proper name was Nancy Bonner. She has been called to her reward many years ago.

ST MARY’S, KINCASSLAGH

The “Salacia” timber was taken to Innishcoo Island as Rutland Harbour was then the headquarters of Coastguard and Customs in the Rosses.

iniscoo
Innishcoo Island on the right from The Lawrence Collection copyright National Library of Ireland

It was later anchored by the Customs Officer at Innishcoo and the principal buyer was the parish priest, Father Dan O’Donnell, who wanted the timber in order to build a new church at Kincasslagh. It is said the Father Dan got the timber rather cheaply as the only opposition received came from a local Protestant resident who bid at the sale in order to ensure that the timber wasn’t sold to cheaply, from the Customs point of view. This timber was put to various uses in the construction[sic]. The pine beams and pillars used for the gallery of the church were always said to have come from the “Salacia.”

salacia sale 1854
copyright The Glasgow Herald – Dec 22, 1854 pp.8

St Mary’s Church, , Kincasslagh, which was opened in 1856 and accidentally destroyed by fire is the subject of a fine article in Irish by the late Niall Mac Suibhne, O.S., Meenamara, in the “Irish Press” of December 1932 or 1933.

chapel 1927
St Mary’s Church, Kincasslagh pre 1900

Years ago Lloyds of London were asked to give the date of the “Salacia” shipwreck by people from the Rosses who were born around 1854 and who wanted the exact date in order to appy for the Old-Age Pension; but Lloyds weren’t in a position to supply that information. N.B. The “Salacia” had always been called or pronounced “Silecia” in the Rosses and again Lloyds demand that at least the year and the name of the shipwreck be given before they cause a search to be made in their records. The following reference to the “Salacia” is to be found in “The Derry Journal” files dated 6th Dec.,1854. “On the 29th November, the barque “Salacia,” Captain Forrest bound for Glasgow from Quebec, laden with timber, was wrecked in the Rosses on the North-west coast of Donegal, in a heavy gale of wind. The crew were all saved. The vessel, it is feared, will become a total wreck.”

HEARD ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME

For days afterwards, the Keadue school-children watched Captain Coppins and his men at their task of salvaging and heard the then official language of the school (English) spoken for the first time in their young lives by those strangers to the locality! The Rosses, it will be remembered, was 95% Gaelic-speaking in 1854, but I doubt if it would be even 10% Gaelic-speaking in 1954! I only make that remark casually, as it were, but, nevertheless, there is much food for thought in these regrettable facts. 1854, or rather 1847, to be more precise, marked the high-water mark of the Gaeltacht and when or where may we ask will the low-water mark be fixed?  The terms high-water or low-water levels as applied to the Irish language are indeed ill-becoming as they presuppose flow to follow the ebb. Will that flow ever come?  Time wil tell, and 2054 should have the answer although we won’t be alive to see it!

Leaving this digression of thought let us return to the “Salacia” and the fun of the school-children in a remote country without a bus, car, train, radio or newspaper! The present writer remembers first hearing about the “Salacia” from an old woman who watched Capt. Coppins and his band of workers salvaging the timber from the stricken ship. This old lady told how, as a girl of 12, she sat on Oilean-Carrach watching the operation and especially the killing of huge rats from the beached vessel as they attempted to escape! The sailors, she told me, clubbed these rats, and one sailor at least seemed to derive satisfaction from hanging up bunches of dead rats on nearby spars. Some of those rats escaped but whether or not naturalists can trace Canadian rats in Keadue still I cannot say!

 

I stair tíre is beag le rá é 100 bhlain ach i sceál parráirte dé, teitear dúinn é bheith na tréimhse fada go loer. Tá trí gluíne daoine imithe uainn ó bhí aimsir an tSalacia ann. Tá said na luí i “n-Acra Maire” agus reiligeacha eile na Rosanna ag fanacht leis an scairt chun Eiseirghe agus guidhimid eiseirghe ghlormhar go raibh aca uilig. Go dtugaidh an Bainrion A Tógagh Ar Neamh céim ard daofa uile go le measc Noamh na Fódhla

No author given, but it is thought to be the work of the late Pádraig Ua Cnáimhsí.

 

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