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The sinking of the SS Inniscarra

Wednesday, 16th May, 2018 4:30pm

Another ship sinking occurred on 12 May 1918. This time the SS Inniscarra was sunk by torpedo by German submarine ten miles south east of Ballycotton Island on the approaches to Cork en route from Fishguard.

Built by Wigham Richardson & Co. Ltd Newcastle in 1903, the ship was a passenger steamer of 1,412 tonnes. She was owned at the time of her loss by City of Cork Steam Packet Co. Ltd.

At the time of the disaster, the ship was Cork-bound with a general cargo and carried no passengers.

At 4.20am, the roar of an exploding torpedo was heard. The ship was struck on the port side, abreast the forward engine space, killing those in that space quickly below.

While still making headway, the ship sank bow down. Before this, a barrel raft got away with one lifeboat. On the raft lay Captain Kelly, with his legs crushed and Chief Officer Swan, who was badly bruised. From the raft a cattleman slipped off and sank.

Minutes later, the submarine emerged beside them from the waters, questioned the men on their rank, and then made off.

As dawn broke, one of the ship’s seaman, Mr Warren, was picked up by a passing small boat into which as well four other male survivors transferred themselves from the raft. Four hours later, they landed them at Queenstown. From Queenstown, the survivors were rapidly conveyed to the midst of their friends and family in Cork.

The five survivors comprised Captain Kelly (Ballyhooley Road), Chief Officer Swan (5 Beechwood Place, Douglas Road), Steward Keane, Seaman Bird arid Seaman Warren, (Kinsale).

In his account to the Press Association, Captain Kelly stated that this was his second similar experience since the war began. He detailed that the SS Inniscarra commenced going down bow first about three minutes after being struck.

He jumped from the bridge down on to the fore deck just as the ship was making her last plunge. He succeeded in getting upon a barrel raft but was washed off. In trying to keep the raft clear of the bridge, he got his left leg badly bruised and mangled. He was then picked up by a lifeboat containing the few survivors.

Stewart F Swan, who was badly injured, was a member of the Mercantile Marine Service Association. He had plenty experience in shipping. He held the Royal Humane Society's bronze medal and parchment for life-saving in the River Lee.

He distinguished himself on the night of 13 May 1913, when he made a gallant rescue of a passenger who had fallen overboard from the steamer Innisfallen in Fishguard Harbour. The cry of ‘man overboard’ having been raised by some of the cabin staff, Swan, who was in his berth, rushed on deck to see what he could do.

Seeing the struggling man in the water about 30 feet from the ship's side, without hesitation he plunged overboard. He swam towards him and after a struggle, succeeded in placing a lifebuoy over his head.

Through the sinking of the SS Inniscarra, many relatives of the deceased were plunged into deep mourning. For example, Maurice Geary, Fireman (42), lost his life and he left behind his wife Margaret and seven children, and resided in Ballinure, Blackrock.

I have added the list of those who lost their lives below, the vast of which were from Cork and surrounding region:

Patrick Cox, Fireman (47), was husband of Ellen Cox (nee Murphy), of Ballinure Quarries, Blackrock, Cork. Robert Hayes, Greaser (53), was husband of Margaret Hayes (nee Regan), of Convent Road, Blackrock.

William Neil, First Engineer (60), was husband of Mrs Neill, of Marion Ville, Blackrock. Michael Forde, Quartermaster (66) was husband of Norah Forde, of 91, Friar Street, Cork. John O’Connell Fireman (27) was husband of Norah O'Connell (nee Jones), of 1, Desmond Square. Mathew O’Sullivan, Able Seaman (53), was the husband of Mary O'Sullivan (nee Creedon), of 29, High Street, Cork.

Arthur Attridge, Carpenter (72), was husband of Bessie Attridge (nee Riordan), of 3, St James Place. Mr Buckley, Trimmer (27), was son of Hannah Buckley (nee McCarthy), of 5, Hegarty’s Square, Blarney Street. John Harrington, Firerman (48) was husband of Mary Harrington, of 4, Cassidy's Avenue, Barrackton, Cork. John Mullane, Cook (37) was the husband of Mary Agnes Mullane (nee White), of 23, Kelleher's Buildings. John O’Brien, Trimmer (27), was the husband of Mary O'Brien (nee Murphy) of Mayfield.

Denis O’Mahony, Fireman (29), was the son of James and Sarah O'Mahony, of 10, Alfred Street. Denis O’Shea, Fireman (30), was the son of Edward and Eliza O'Shea, of 76, Great William O'Brien Street, Blackpool. William Ryan, Donkeyman (38), was the son of Margaret and Hugh Ryan, of 7, Mahoney's Avenue, Lower Road.

George Clarke, Able Seaman (61) was the son of the late George and Catherine Clarke (no location noted). Daniel Driscoll, Able Seaman (39), was husband of Nora Driscoll (nee Hayes), of Scilly, Kinsale. Michael Murphy, Able Seaman (34), was husband of Catherine Murphy (nee Coughlan), of 2, Cork Hill, Kinsale. James Harris (36) was the son of James and Alfina Dunne Harris, of Curraghboy, Youghal.

Laurence O’Connell, Fireman (36), was the son of John and Ann O'Connell, of Glencarney, Rockchapel. William Evans, Second Mate (54), was the husband of Alice Kate Evans (nee Patrick), of Tan-y-Bryn, New Quay, Cardiganshire. Michael O’Hare, Greaser (41) was the husband of Margaret O'Hare (nee Masterson), of 48, Cecil Street, Newry, Co. Down.

Joseph George Page, Leading Seaman (no age given), was the son of Charles and Catherine Page, of 2A, Chaucer Street, Kingsley Park, Northampton. Robert James Peters, seaman (no age given) was born at Neyland, Pembrokeshire. George Tucker, Able Seaman (20), was the son of Charles and Martha Tucker, of Rock House, Llanrhidian, Reynoldstone, Glamorgan.

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