The Howth Yacht Club Library has been much enriched with Captain Raja Maitra, Howth Harbour Master's presentation of 3 books by the author Edward J. Bourke describing some of the estimated 12,000 shipwrecks around the Irish coast between the 10th and 20th centuries. Each book is personally signed by the author.
Volume 1 published in 1994 cover the period from 1105 to 1993 and volume 2 published in 1998 coverers the period 932 to 1997. These two books have superb and very interesting descriptions of the many wrecks accompanied by some photographs. The third book contains 219 pictures, sketches, painting and documents including descriptions of salvage operations The following extracts from this book should whet your appetite to read more.
The fury with which primitive communities descended upon a stricken vessel can only be regarded with a sense of awe. Tales abound of the ferocity of wreckers and their cruel deeds. Many tales are related which must be apocryphal. Foremost among these is the story of the light tied to a cow's horns, a horse's tail or even carried by men to give the impression of the lantern of a ship rising and falling at anchor.
The penalty for murder of shipwrecked folk was to be plunged into the sea until half dead and then stoned to death. A milder sentence was provided for negligent pilots who were to have their goods seized to repair the loss. However if their goods were insufficient they were to be beheaded. Captains were advised that they should be persuaded that the man had not the means to make good the loss, before they cut off his head.
Ancient common law directed the cargo of a wrecked ship belonged to the king, who might assign his rights to a favoured noble or landowner. For instance in 1774 the abbot of Buildwas in Shropshire was granted the rights of St Mary's abbey in Dublin by Henry 11 ' to include all the shipwrecks that might happen on their land'. In 1684 the rich rights to wreck on the South Bull were disputed between Dublin Corporation and the Admiralty. Later in 1728, the City of Dublin observed that 'Captain Vernon assumes the right of the City by taking upon him the right to seize such things that are cast on the shore at Clontarf by shipwreck which is the undoubted right of the city of Dublin.'
The following are some of the boats wrecked at Lambay and the surrounding area and written up in volume 1;
Richard & Martha 1689, Robert 5-2-1834, Grainuaile 14-4-1847, Horatio 17-8-1848, Tom 6-9-1849, Tayleur 21-1-1854, Will O The Wisp 8-2-1855, Unnamed 16-3-1857, Tergiste 14-11-1858, Leinster (Pilot Yawl) 22-10-1868, Georgina 1-3-1873,
Shamrock 21-12-1878, Una 28-2-1881, Albion 11-12-1887, Hypatia 24-7-1904, Lancaster 26-1-1910, Isabel 9-1-1913, Deliverer 3-11-1917, Shamrock 11 5-5-1918.
Thanks to Captain Raja Maitra, members can look forward to hours of captivating historical nautical reading.
Report and pictures compiled by Pat Murphy, May 2011