Ireland is not a very big country, physically smaller than most American States, but we have quite a few ancient monuments.
In previous posts, I’ve said how I like Waterford being included in Ireland’s Ancient East but I’m a bit dismayed at being excluded from The Wild Atlantic Way. So I thought I would use this space to shed some light on the area.
Nobody could argue about Waterford being blessed with ancient countryside. You could almost say we were littered with artefacts. This, the Ballymote Monolith, being the tallest at nearly 4m in height, but it’s not alone in the field. About 50m from it is a Mound Barrow, is a flat topped earth and stone tumulus.
So, why are we not included in The Wild Atlantic Way? Maybe we are not wild enough, because we are certainly on the Atlantic. I don’t mind being left off by accident, but when you look at the map and you see that the oldest city in Ireland is not even shown on the map, you begin to wonder. There are only five cities in the Republic of Ireland and the other four are included.
I will give the pen pushers the benefit of the doubt, maybe they don’t know how wild the Atlantic is around here. Their education starts now, read this.
Tramore is known today as a holiday resort, but previously it was known as The Graveyard of Ships. You do not get a reputation like that without some serious wrecks. There are scores of recorded ship losses in this bay, dating back to the 16th century.
I’m going to tell you about one of those, The Seahorse, 30th January 1816. Imagine the scene, you had spent the last number of years surviving battles in the Peninsular War. Ending in glory in the Battle of Waterloo. Then you finally get notice that you will be returning home. You board a flotilla of ships in Gravesend, England, for the last leg of your journey home to Cork.
The Seahorse, a military transport ship, is packed with officers and soldiers, wives and children, heads out from the English Channel into the Atlantic, for the homeward journey back to Ireland. The weather begins to deteriorate as they approach the Irish coast. The captain sends one of his trusted men up the rigging to see if he can recognise where they are, and find somewhere to shelter from the oncoming storm. He falls onto the deck, and dies in his wife’s arms.
Captain Gibbs decides to run with wind, and heads for the safety of Waterford. He realises he will not make it past Brownstown Head, and tries to shelter in Tramore bay. He drops an anchor and swings head on to the wind, and drops a second to begin waiting for the storm to die. It didn’t.
The relentless waves, batter the ship. It looses it’s masts, but is still intact. The anchors were not holding fast in the soft, sandy sea bed, and the ship was gradually moving towards the shallow water. Finally, at midday on the 30th January 1816, the boat was pounded onto the sea bed, the hull cracked open, and the occupants drowned. Of the 402 occupants who entered the ship only 30 survived.
This one storm claimed the lives of over 570 men, women and children, with two other ships, the Lord Melville and the Boadicea, going down in the one day. The highest loss of life in Irish Maritime history.
So what is in the photos on the beach? Well, I believe them to be the mass graves from the Seahorse. It is the commonly held belief that the bodies were buried in the sand dunes at the end of the beach, but that is not true. The parish records show that 28 bodies were buried in the dunes, with 82 being buried in the old church yard at Drumcannon. These were mainly the officers, women and children. This leaves 260 ordinary soldiers with no resting place, until you read the records of Mr Butler Hughes, who raised money for a permanent memorial to the Seahorse.
In total £15.15s was raised, enabling the placement of the monument on six small pillars near the three mass graves on the strand