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The Ardmore Rocket Crew - 1. Introduction
Text: James .T. Quain
Illustrations: Fiona Kelly
Scanned By: Joanne Connors Parandjuk
George William Manby (1765-1854) was born in Norfolk. He was a school friend of Horatio Nelson and became an English army officer. Manby wrote numerous works on subjects as diverse as lifeboat design and criminal law. He invented the first portable fire extinguisher and the 'jumping sheet' for catching persons when jumping from burning buildings.
Manby was a tireless experimenter. On witnessing a shipwreck off Yarmouth in which the crew perished within sixty yards of the shore he turned his attention to life-saving apparatus. The first thing was to establish a communication with the shore. This he did by firing a rope to the ship from a mortar on the shore. The line-throwing apparatus which he invented was first used successfully at a shipwreck in 1808 and thereafter its use rapidly became widespread. In 1878 the mortars were superseded by rope-carrying rockets.
It is hard to believe that some sailors could be completely ignorant of the Manby line-throwing apparatus more than fifty years after its invention. Yet such was the situation with the unfortunate crew of the Sextusa, a Maltese barque of 400 tons when she was' wrecked in Ardmore Bay on Sunday 30 January, 1865. On board was a cargo of Indian corn consigned to Cobh. The Coastguards under Thomas Coveney got a line on board at the first attempt. The crew of the Sextusa didn't know how to use it, resulting in the loss of six lives. Ten others were nevertheless rescued.
The traditional method of rescue is as follows: The rocket carrying the line is fired over the vessel in distress. Once contact is made, the ship's crew can haul away Until a stouter line is on board. Attached will be a tally board in several languages instructing the crew to fasten the rope to the ship's mast or other suitable fixture. The breeches buoy 'can now be set up and hauled out to the wreck to bring the crew ashore one by one. A tripod or 'triangle' is used to keep the breeches buoy clear of breakers and rocks.
With the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 the British coastguard service ceased. Tom Casement, sea-faring brother of Sir Roger the executed patriot, tried in vain to form a new Irish coastguard. His efforts did however, result in the setting up of the Coast Life Saving Service (CLSS) at the end of 1923. The Service was headed by a Marine Surveyor with the title of Inspector of the Coast Life Saving Service. Tom Casement was the first Inspector. About fifty coast life saving stations were initially set up around the Irish coast. Ardmore Head was No. 23. To the east lay No. 22 (Helvick Head), and to the west No. 24 (Youghal).
According to the CLSS records the Ardmore Station was reestablished on the 20th February 1924. The station building or Rocket House was built by the Coastguards and adjoins the Coastguard Station In the townland of Dysert. The CLSS inherited this building together with the rocket cart and lifesaving equipment. Many of the rocket crew down the years were descendants of the old volunteer crew under the command of the Coastguards. Under the Inspector's direction the stations on the south coast (from Kilmore Quay to Valentia) are supervised and exercised by a Superintendent based in Cork. The first Superintendent was Mr. J. Morgan. He came down from Cork and formed a crew, appointing Jamsie Quain as No. 1 Man. Mr. Morgan remained as Superintendent right up to 1945. He was succeeded by Mr. Hamilton (1946-48), Mr. J. F. Ga1gey (1948-52), Captain William Jeffers, (1953-79) and the present man Captain David Sheil.Ardmore Rocket Crew - List Of Enroled Volunteers 1936
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