The Schooner Elizabeth

Folklore

The Schooner Elizabeth

In October 1827, the schooner Elizabeth sank off Duffcarrick Head, north of Courtown with the loss of all twenty-nine hands. The ship was out of Milford in Pembrokeshire and its captain William Griffiths was a native of Fishguard. His body was interred in Wexford soil in Prospect cemetery near Ballymoney. It is not known if the bodies of the other crew members were recovered.

A fine headstone can still be seen to this day with the inscription below.

“Here lie the remains of William Griffiths of Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, S. Wales late master of the skooner Elizabeth of Milford, who closed his earthly voyage with all the crew on the 28th Oct. 1827 Aged 35 years.

From many storms and dangers the Lord delivered me
Through Neptune’s waves and Boreas from all he set me free.
But at a rock nigh here I lost my tender breath
In high rough waves and breaking seas I suffered pangs of Death.”

Sources:
The Schools Collection, Vol. 0888, pp.120-1

Available Online at:
www.duchas.ie
Accessed November 21st 2019

North Wexford Historical Society: Headstone Recordings 

Available Online At:
www.northwexfordhistoricalsociety.com
Accessed November 21st 201

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Stories

The Tinnaberna Fishermen

Folklore

The Tinnaberna Fishermen

The tragedy of the Tinnaberna Fishermen took place in the 1810s. Tinnaberna was a small fishing village on the north Wexford coast near Kilmuckridge. Two fishing cots set out to sea on the feast of St. Martin’s, November 11th. Both were blown out far into the Irish Sea by a storm. One was lost, but the second made land on the coast of Wales. The crew were given food and shelter by a farmer, but could not communicate with him as he only spoke Welsh. The men eventually made their way to Ballycotton, County Cork and walked back to Wexford to be greeted by relatives who thought they had been lost forever. The story of the tragedy became the subject of a ballad which is still sung locally.

Sources:
The Schools Collection, Vol. 0886, pp.24-5 

Available Online at: 
www.duchas.ie
Accessed November 21st 2019
Gaul, L. “Songs, Ships and High Seas” in The Past, No. 31, 2011-’12, pp.95-102

Categories
Stories Stories Stories Stories

Saint Aidan in Wales

Folklore

Saint Aidan in Wales

Aidan’s power and influence amongst the Britons of Wales appears to have been considerable. In one story, Aidan was encouraged by David and others to use his miraculous powers to cure the son of the King of the Britons, who was blind, deaf and lame. The boy was sent to Aidan, who prayed earnestly for his recovery and in due course the boy was miraculously cured. Following this miracle, we are told that Aidan’s name became known throughout the kingdom. 

Stories like these illustrate that holy men such as Aidan were relied upon by the most powerful family in the kingdom. The ecclesiastics who wrote these stories, who would have been the successors of Aidan, undoubtedly wanted to impress this point on their own rulers.

St. Mogue's (St. Aidan's) holy well in Ferns, Co. Wexford

Another story from Aidan’s period in Wales shows how events of the eleventh and twelfth centuries had an impact upon how Aidan’s story was communicated. It tells how the native Britons of Wales were confronted by the prospect of an invasion by a large Saxon army. Aidan was sent by David to the battlefield and prayed for the Britons, who were outnumbered by their Saxon foes. Following Aidan’s intercession, the Saxons turned and fled and were pursued and slaughtered by the Britons over the following seven days. 

“Not one man of the Britons fell by the hands of the Saxons all that time through the favour of God and the miracles of Maedoc. And no Saxon invaded Britain while Maedoc was there after the manifestation of these miracles”. It is possible that this story was composed at a time when Wales was under threat of invasion by the Normans and can be interpreted as an attempt by the Welsh to warn off potential invaders.

Other Stories

Many other stories are told of Aidan’s time in Wales. He healed a man who had a facial deformity, “whose face was all as flat as a board, without eyes or nose”. Once when carrying ale back to the monastery, the container was damaged and the ale was spilt. But Aidan made the sign of the cross, repaired the damage and carried the ale back to his fellow monks.

Source:
“Life of Máedóc of Ferns” in C. Plummer (ed). Bethada Náem nÉrenn: Lives of the Irish Saints, Edited from the Original MSS. with Introduction, Translations, Notes, Glossary and Indexes, Vol. 2, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1922.

Shemi Wâd’s Flight

Folklore

Shemi Wâd's Flight

James Wade, better known as Shemi Wâd was something of a local character and storyteller, and a number of folktales from north Pembrokeshire in particular either involve him, or are attributed to him. in a small, whitewashed cottage opposite Berachah Chapel in Broom Street, Goodwick (which was later renamed Duke Street). Shemi earned his crust as an itinerant worker: gardening for the local well-to-do, going from farm to farm to kill pigs and help out with the harvest. But he also owned a small boat, and spent much of his time fishing for Fishguard herrings which he sold on to be salted and fried, and also shellfish which he sold to locals and visitors during the season.

Shemi Wâd, National History Museum, Wales

He died on 2 January 1897 at the grand age of 80. His tombstone in Rhos-y-Caerau, Pencaer faces some of his favourite haunts, Garn Fawr, Garn Fechan and Garn Folch. Shemi was also somewhat notoriously known as the best tobacco spitter around, and anyone poking holes in his tall tales did well to stand more than six feet away. Here’s one of them.

A Tall Tale

One summer’s day, Shemi was fishing on the Parrog with a dozen hooks all baited to lure fish. After a long hot afternoon, waiting for a bite, Shemi felt his eyelids droop, so he took a few steps back, lay down on a grassy bank, tied the lines around his right ankle and within moments, he was fast asleep. He was so deeply asleep and bound in dreams that he didn’t notice the tide go out, exposing all the bait on his fishing lines.

Soon a flock of seagulls descended, swallowing the bait – hook, line and sinker. Moments later, Shemi’s snoring disturbed them and they all took flight, heading off across Cardigan Bay, dragging the still sound asleep Shemi with them! They flew all the way across to Ireland, coming to land finally in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Shemi came down to earth with such a thud that finally he woke up. Startled, he freed himself from the fishing lines and stumbled around in the strange surroundings trying to get his bearings. He soon realised that he was in Ireland, but knowing nobody and with the night setting in, he went in search of somewhere he could shelter for the night. At the edge of the park he saw a row of cannons. Now Shemi was only a small, slight man and so he climbed into the barrel of one of the great guns, curled up and went to sleep.

What poor Shemi didn’t know was that the military fired a salute from the cannon ever morning. And so it was that a still slumbering Shemi was shot out of the barrel straight across the Irish sea. Lucky for him, he had a soft landing on the lush grass of Pencw, just above his Goodwick home.

Shemi swore ‘till his dying day that every detail of the story was true…..and those who heard the tale swore blind they believed him…..unless they were standing at least six feet away.

Sources:

The Story of the best tobbacco spitter around, County Echo Reporter, 13 December 2017

Tall Tale from Goodwick (8.4), Pembrokeshire Folk Tales by Brian John

Record-breaking Daredevil trip across the Irish Sea

Folklore

Record-breaking Daredevil trip across the Irish Sea

On the 16th of August, 1960 three young men from County Wexford decided to set sail for Wales. Instead of taking the usual passenger ship from Rosslare to Fishguard, they undertook a more daredevil and dangerous expedition. Seamus Organ (aged 21), Peter Donegan (aged 19) and Peter Sinnott (aged 18) visited a friend who had a homemade two seat canoe and asked to borrow it for the trip. The friend agreed but was sworn to secrecy because the boys knew that their parents would not be in favour of such a foolhardy trip.

Seamus Organ, Peter Donegan and Peter Sinnott

The three young lads set sail on the plywood canoe at 11pm from Ardamine beach, Courtown, County Wexford. To help them make the 85 mile /140km crossing, the boys brought supplies with them which consisted of three bottles of lemonade, nine bottles of water and four packets of biscuits! They also brought a radio and compass but the wake of a passing ship swamped their canoe shortly after leaving the beach and destroyed their radio, so they had no contact with land and could not receive the weather forecast. The journey across the Irish Sea took over 24 hours. Throughout that time the stern of the boat was submerged because it was only a 2 seater canoe, one person had to sit astride it, swapping seats every hour. The three hardy sailors even found a leak in the canoe shortly after leaving Ireland, but refused to turn back.

The danger didn’t end there, as they got closer to the Pembrokeshire shore, they encountered strong currents, rocks and swells that threatened to overturn the boat and resulted in the men spending six hours paddling the last two miles to shore. Once they had landed in a small cove near Stumble Head, they spent a further three hours trying to scale a 150ft cliff in darkness. When they finally reached the top of the cliff they made their way to the nearby coastguard’s house. He had been looking out for the three men because their disappearance caused a huge air and sea search on both sides of the Irish Sea. The police were called and the boys were promptly arrested because they had entered the country illegally. They were told that the last time someone had unexpectedly landed in that cove it was the French, about to invade!

A Heroes Welcome

The three adventurers were taken to the large port town of Fishguard where they reported their story to journalists. The story later appeared on the BBC six o’clock news for all to see. As if that wasn’t enough, the Lord Mayor of Fishguard gave the boys the freedom of the town before they were sent back home (along with their friends canoe) on a Fishguard to Rosslare mailboat!

As they got closer to landing in Wexford the boys saw their parents waiting for them in Rosslare. Anxious to avoid their parents wrath, they asked the skipper of the boat to lower their canoe into the water with a fishing net. He agreed and the boys paddled up the coast to Courtown avoiding their parents. Back in their home town the boys were met by the Gorey Piper band and received a heroes welcome. When they did meet their parents, all was well and they never tried anything like that again, warning others that “no one would do it except mad dogs and a few Courtown men” Peter Sinnott, Gorey Guardian, 2005.

In 2005, forty-five years after that impressive journey celebrations were held in Fishguard for the young Wexford men. The three young men were the first people to cross the channel in a two-man canoe in recorded history. There have been attempts to break their record but with no success. 

 

 

Sources:
Article in The Times Archive (August 20th 1960):
www.thetimes.co.uk

Article from the Gorey Guardian (August 18th 2005):
www.independent.ie