The 4th Earl of Kilmorey and the Fishing Industry

During the later 1800s the fishing industry grew significantly. By the 1900s one third of all Irish caught herring was landed in Kilkeel Harbour. One man who had a great passion for the sea and wished to help and encourage local men in their trade was Lord Newry (later the 4th Earl of Kilmorey). His first love was the sea and he spent a lot of time on fishing boats, trying to find new and improved fishing techniques.

The 4th Earl of Kilmorey. Photo taken when he was Viscount Newry and Mourne

The 4th Earl of Kilmorey. This photo was taken when he was Viscount Newry and Mourne

Lord Newry was responsible for bringing one of the first motorised boats to Kilkeel Harbour and as a result helped revolutionise skiff fishing. He wished for the men to be able to fish in rough stormy weather.

The first motorised skiff Lord Newry brought to Kilkeel was the Ellen Constance N.303. It was a converted motor boat fitted out at Lowestoft and the Viscount himself sailed it back to Kilkeel in May 1911.

The Ellen Constance, from the Earl of Kilmorey's scrapbook

The Ellen Constance. Photo taken from the Earl of Kilmorey’s scrapbook.

Ellen Constance was fitted with a Thornycroft two cylinder motor, developing 26 H.P on petrol and 23 H.P on paraffin. The voyage to Ireland was made by the east coast and Caledonian Canal.

The Ellen Constance owned by the Earl of Kilmorey in 1911

The Ellen Constance in 1911.

Another boat belonging to the Lord Newry was the Patricia, N.206 which apparently embodied the ‘evolution of the fishing skiff.’ This skiff was built by Kilkeel boat builder John Mackintosh.

The Patricia, from the Earl's scrapbook

The Patricia

The Patricia had the means to brave the Channel in rough wintry weather due to its new design and a small motor engine. The entire boat was made in Kilkeel, even down to the row locks. It was launched from the shipyard of John Mackintosh, witnessed by a large crowd of local people along with the Earl and Countess of Kilmorey.

When at sea Lord Newry worked among the fishermen, living as the men did as he didn’t mind ‘roughing it’.

Viscount Newry later built the new lugger the Maid of Mourne N.347 which was able to maintain a speed of 7 knots due to the latest state of the art engine. It was built in the Isle of Man and sailed to Kilkeel with Newry at the helm. These boats belonging to Lord Newry fished from Kilkeel Harbour, giving local men a berth and a means of income. It is said he spent most of his time at the harbour with the ‘fisher folk, advising and helping them’.

Mourne Men and the U-Boats, 1914-1918

Kilkeel author Matt Maginnis has published a book exploring the experiences of Mourne merchant seamen during the First World War. It documents their close encounters with the German U-Boats and tells us all about the experiences of the captains and their crews from Kilkeel and Annalong along with Killowen, Dundrum and Newry. Matt Maginnis hopes that this book is a fitting tribute to the courage and tenacity of these men during the dawn of a new type of warfare.

Matt Maginnis, author of Mourne Men and the U-Boats

Author of Mourne Men and the U-Boats, Matt Maginnis

The U-Boat Incident of 1918

On 30 May 1918 a fleet of local fishing boats were scuttled by German U-Boat UB-64 under the command of Admiral Otto von Schrader.

Admiral Otto Von Schrader, Commander of UB64

Admiral Otto Von Schrader, commander of the UB-64

The German submarine surfaced in the middle of the fleet who were fishing about 12 miles South by East of Kilkeel. The crews were ordered into the punts and told to row for shore. The crew of the Never Can Tell had no punt so were ordered aboard the submarine, according to crewman Tom Donnan. They stayed here for roughly 1 hour 20 minutes, where they watched the crew place bombs onboard their ships and sink them. During this time the Germans kindly exchanged their gin and cigarettes with the men.

Tom Donnan 2

Tom Donnan

The crew of the Never Can Tell were then ordered onboard the Moss Rose. Apparently the parting words from Otto von Schrader were; ‘Good night and tell them ashore how bad we were to you, and tell them in Belfast we were asking for them.’

The Mourne boats sunk by the UB64 were; Never Can Tell, The Honey Bee, Jane Gordon, Marianne McCrum, Cyprus, St. Mary, Sparkling Wave and Lloyd. Two Portavogie boats were also sunk: Glad Tidings and Seabird.


The UB-64 at sea

During its patrols the UB64 sunk 30 ships (34,111 tons) and damaged 4 (48,497 tons). It was surrendered 21 November 1918. UB-64 Commander von Schrader, a recipient of the Iron Cross committed suicide while in Norwegian captivity during WWII on 19 July 1945.

Other Mourne boats sunk by German U-Boats included:

Earnest: the schooner owned by James McKee and James Ferguson of Kilkeel was sunk by U-Boat U-65, 2 May 1917 while taking coal to Dublin. U-65 was commanded by Otto Steinbrinck, a maritime legend. When the crew were ordered onto the deck of the submarine, the commander apologised to Captain Ferguson for sinking his vessel and give him his binoculars as recompense!

Otto Steinbrinck

Otto Steinbrinck

Edith: schooner owned by Thomas Doyle and John Rooney. Sunk by U-24, 27 June 1915 off County Cork with a cargo of plaster of paris. Crew saved.

The schooner Edith in the foreground at Kilkeel Harbour

The schooner Edith in the foreground in Kilkeel Harbour

Irish Soldiers, the Easter Rising of 1916 and Commemoration

Over 200,000 Irishmen joined the war effort even though conscription was not enforced. These men were sent to the fields of France and the beaches of Turkey. While these men were off fighting however, dramatic events were unfolding on Irish soil which would change the way the Great War was remembered in Ireland.

Irish Recruitment Poster

Irish recruitment poster

Irish Soldiers and the Easter Rising

In prelude to the Easter Rising, most people in Ireland were in no mood for rebellion. Irish mothers in Dublin were grieving for their fallen sons and they did not believe now was the right time to embarrass the English.  The First World War for nationalists however provided the perfect opportunity and timing for the Easter Rising of 1916.


The Rising as a whole not immediately very popular or successful. In total, 500 people were killed and 2500 wounded, most being civilians who were caught in the crossfire. It was the British response to the Rising which helped sway public opinion in Ireland away from the war and towards  the rebels cause. A total of ninety death sentences were handed out, of which fifteen were carried out over the following ten day period. This harsh response alienated the Irish people and pushed them into the arms of rising political party Sinn Fein.

Sackville Street Rising

Rising in Sackville Street, Dublin

The response to the Rising on the Front by Irishmen in the 10th and 16th Divisions was varied. Some men despaired, some were delighted and some felt like they had been stabbed in the back by their own people. As a result of the unrest and conflicts which were to unfold  in Ireland, the men who fought on the fields of France and the beaches of Suvla Bay became trapped in a political and historical no man’s land. The hopes and dreams of reconciliation through shared suffering in the trenches was never realised and attitudes towards Irelands involvement in the Great War hardened. The words of Tom Kettle sum up this attitude towards Irish soldiers, ‘These men will go down in history as heroes and martyrs; and I will go down – if I go down at all – as a bloody British officer’.

victoryparadedublin 19 July 1919 Union Jack flying over Trinity College and College Green

19th July 1919: Union Jack flying over the Victory Parade in Dublin

Aftermath of WW1

Some men used the practise on the foreign soils of war to prepare themselves for conflict at home against England. As Irish people became more and more disillusioned with the Great War, which was lasting longer than expected at a great cost to human life, some men decided to fight in Ireland against England on their return home. All though in the end, there was no huge sum of Great War veterans joining the ranks of the IRA. Only a small proportion of ex-servicemen were involved in the movement.

College Green 11 November 1924. Large numbers still showed up to remember even though the IFS had been founded

College Green, 11 November 1924. Huge crowds still showed up to remember the Irish men of the Great War even though the Irish Free State had just recenetly been founded.

The Irish War of Independence

The Military Archives of Ireland holds valuable information on the post war years in Ireland. It has now released the names and numbers of men joining up to the IRA in the key years of 1921 to 1922. In the Mourne area there were quite a few recruits from places such as Attical, Killowen, Greencastle, Kilkeel, Moneydarragh and Ballymartin. These men joined the ranks of the 4th Northern Division, 2nd Brigade, 1st Battalion.

IRA membership IRA membership 2

Membership of IRA in Mourne. These documents can be viewed in full at the Military Archives of Ireland website.


After 1916 and the events that led to partition and the establishment of the Irish Free State remembering Ireland’s fallen in the Great War became problematic. A sense of amnesia fell over the Irish Free State in the years following, with the soldiers becoming forgotten, and to a large sense ignored. The Free State wanted to overlook the part they played in the conflict on behalf of the British. It is only in recent years that Ireland and its government have dusted down the memorials and begun to publicly acknowledge the contribution of Ireland in The Great War.

The Garden of Memorial at Islandbridge outside Dublin was begun in 1931 to remember the Irish who gave their lives in the Great War but it was not officially dedicated until nearly fifty years later. The initial plans for the dedication were hindered by the onset of the Second World War and the grounds fell into serious disrepair throughout the 1970s and 80s. They were eventually restored and the memorial park was dedicated in September 1988.

peace park

Island of Ireland Peace Park near Messines.

A memorial on foreign soils was erected close to where the  16th Irish and 36th Ulster Divisions fought side by side in Messines, called The Island of Ireland Peace Park. It was officially opened by the then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, Queen Elizabeth II and King Albert II of Belgium on 11 November 1998.

Mary McAleese, President of The Republic of Ireland, laying a wreath at the Island of Ireland Peace Park

Mary McAleese laying a wreath.

Mourne Men and the Great War 2

The following information is courtesy of Wesley Newell:

Private Robert Newell

Robert Newell from Ballymartin served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. When war was declared Robert walked to the recruitment office in Newry and enlisted. He didn’t tell anyone he was doing this, not even his mother and father. He was only 16 when he signed up but lied and stated he was 18.

Postcard from Robert Newell. It read 'Best Love to Mother. From Bob' It was dated March 22, 1917 Pin of Robert Newell-b

Left: Robert Newell. Right: Robert’s pin.

This was very common and many ‘boy soldiers’ were sent off to the Front. During his time in France Robert was gassed twice and lost his little finger.

Robert Newell (2nd from left) in hosptial with other soldiers, 1917 Postcard from Robert Newell in Abbeyville, France 1917

Top: Photo of Robert in hospital, 2nd from left in 1917. Bottom: Robert’s postcard from France in 1917, Abbeyville.

Years and years later a black mark on Robert’s face went septic. They operated on him and found that it was a bit of shrapnel which had been lodged there since the battle of the Somme. He relived his war days with his grandchildren telling them the stories of the good and the bad times at the Front; the great sense of comradeship along with the tough times in the trenches, surrounded by mud and death.

Another postcard from hospital dated 1917. Robert is 2nd from right.

Another postcard from France dated 1917. Robert 2nd from right.

The following information is from Matt Maginnis:

Doctor Ferguson Floyd

On the 25 Oct 1916 Dr. Floyd, Medical Officer of the Workhouse requested leave to offer his services as a doctor in the war. This was after his son’s death (Hayden Floyd). He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps for 6 months. During his service he was torpedoed on a hospital ship in the English Channel.

The Gloucester Castle, a hosptial ship which was torpedoed in 1917. This is most likely the ship Dr Floyd was on

Dr. Floyd served the people of Kilkeel for 53 years and he made his visits by pony and trap, motor-bike and then motor-car. He died 17 Sept 1968 at the age of 98.

Private Andrew Mulholland

Private  Mulholland enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion in 1914. He saw action at the famous Battle of Eloi but was killed soon after, near the Ypres-Menin Road during trench warfare on 14 May 1915. Andrew Mulholland was buried where he fell and is remembered on the Menin Gate.

The Menin Gate in Ypres where Andrew Mullholland is remembered, as one of over 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers with no known graveThe Battle of Eloi, showing the Royal Irish Fusiliers in action

Top: The Menin Gate. Bottom: painting of the Royal Irish Fusiliers fighting in the Battle of Eloi

Private James H. Ross

Private Ross lived in The Square, Kilkeel with his mother before moving to Canada around 1900. He was a member of the 10th Battalion, Canadian Regiment and saw action in France. He suffered gunshot wounds at Ypres on 25 April 1915 but managed to survive the war.

The following information is from research carried out by Lydia Annett:

Margaret Anderson, the ‘Florence Nightingale of Mourne’

Margaret Anderson was born in Ballinran, Kilkeel. In 1916 she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Reserve. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross by King George V in 1919. In 1926 she returned to Ireland as matron of the hospital in the Silent Valley.


During WWI  she kept in contact with her family in Ballinran by letter and postcard but rarely gave any indication of where she was or what she was doing. It wasn’t until she received the RRC that her family realised how much of a contribution she had made. During WWII she took part in several sorties across the Channel during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Nurse Anderson (seated, left) at a Military Hospital  in Bournemouth during the First World War
Above: Margaret Anderson, seated left.

Mourne Men and the Great War 1

The following information is from the private collection of Alfie Irvine:

Sergeant William Thomas McKnight

Sergeant McKnight of Newry Street Kilkeel was killed at Passchendaele on 16 August 1917, aged 36 and has no known grave. He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium and in Mourne Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. The 13th Battalion was badly depleted on the first day of the Somme where many young men were killed including some from Mourne. As a mature soldier Sergeant McKnight felt the loss of his friends and neighbours greatly, and despaired when their replacements suffered the same fate. McKnight was killed just over a year after the Somme.

Colour Sergeant William Thomas McKnight William Thomas McKnight's plaque and medal from King George

Lance Corporal Thomas Ballance

Lance Corporal Ballance fought in the same battalion (13th, Royal Irish Rifles) as Sergeant McKnight and was killed during the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. He was aged 20. His parents were William and Susanna of 13 Stanley Terrace, Harbour Road Kilkeel. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Lance Corporal Thomas Ballance

Rifleman William Teggarty

Rifleman Teggarty was killed at the battle of the Somme 1 July 1916, serving with the Royal Irish Rifles. He was the husband of Mary Teggarty of Harbour Road, Kilkeel.

Rifleman William Teggarty

Second Lieutenant Hayden Floyd

Hayden was the only son of the well known Doctor Ferguson Floyd. Hayden was known as a daredevil and he and his father had a great interest in all things mechanical. They were both motorcyclists and Dr. Floyd was one of the first men in the town to own a car. Their home place was on the Sand Road in Derryogue.

Hayden, initially in a motorbike regiment was transferred, probably due to his nature and mechanical mind to the Royal Flying Corps which was much more dangerous than the front line. He held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant when he was attached to a front line squadron in France. This is where he met his death at the age of 20. He was wounded in action over German lines on 9 July 1916 and died two days later, buried by the enemy. The War Graves Commission states that his death was a result of a crash landing and his body was buried at Doucy-Les Ayette, South of Arras. John Graham of Kilkeel lies in an adjacent war cemetery to where Hayden is interred.

Hayden Floyd

Private John Graham

Remembered  in Kilkeel Presbyterian Church. Killed in action April 1916.

Private Uriah Graham

Uriah Graham served with and survived the war with the Connaught Rangers. Private Graham did not talk much about the war on his return home, but spent his time reminiscing with his old comrades . His son James Graham recalls him talking about his exploits with his boyhood chum Hayden Floyd, rather than the war itself.

Uriah Graham of Connaught Rangers Papers belonging to Uriah Graham, Connaught Rangers Papers belonging to Uriah Graham, Connaught Rangers 2

Mourne World War One Heroes

Local War Heroes

Below is some information on a few of the men from Kilkeel who served in the Great War. Two of these men were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry against the enemy.

Private Robert Scott VC

Robert Scott was born in Lancashire. His parents were from Kilkeel and he returned to live here. He served with the Manchester Regiment and is buried in Kilkeel. He got his VC in the Boer War, but also fought in the Great War. On 5 January 1900 he was one of 16 soldiers who took up defensive positions at Caesar’s Camp. Private Scott and one other survivor held off the enemy for 15 hours and both were awarded VC’s for their actions. He is buried in the Church of Ireland Graveyard, Kilkeel.

Robert Scott VC cigarette cardGrave of Robert Scott in Church of Ireland, Kilkeel

Company Sergeant Major Hanna VC

Robert Hill Hanna, born in Aughnahoory near Hanna’s Close was a Company Sergeant Major (later Lieutenant) of the 29th Vancouver Battalion. In 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70 at Lens  in France. Hanna took charge after his officers were killed or injured and led a successful attack on a German machine gun position. For his tremendous bravery Hanna was awarded a VC. He returned to Kilkeel on 2 March 1918 to a hero’s welcome.

Robert Hanna VC Robert Hanna VC grave

Major Joseph H. Thompson

‘Colonel Joe’ was a highly decorated war hero, born in Kilkeel. After moving to America in 1898 he joined the US Army 110th Infantry, 28th Division in 1917. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Croix de Guerre and the Purple Heart but it was due to his actions in Apremont France on 1 October 1918 that he was awarded the Medal of Honour. During a counterattack by two regiments of the enemy, ‘Major Thompson encouraged his battalion in the front line of constantly braving the hazardous fire of machine guns and artillery. His courage was mainly responsible for the heavy repulse of the enemy. Later in the action, when the advance of his assaulting companies was held up by fire from a hostile machinegun nest and all but one of the six assaulting tanks were disabled, Major Thompson, with great gallantry and coolness, rushed forward on foot three separate times…under heavy machinegun and antitank-gun fire, and led the one remaining tank to within a few yards of the enemy machine gun nest which succeeded in reducing it, thereby making it possible for the infantry to advance’.

Major Joseph H. Thompson The Medal of Honor

The Great War 1914-1918

In 1914 the UK and Ireland was faced with the dreaded news that they were at war. All over Ireland men from all backgrounds answered the call and went off to fight on the Front against German aggression.

Historians estimate that around 210,000 men in Ireland contributed to the wartime forces. Every man had a different reason for joining; some were looking for adventure, some were looking for arms, some wanted to protect their country from a hostile Germany and some simply saw being a soldier as an occupation. At the outset of war, Ireland seemed to have been swept by war fever with most believing that taking up arms against Germany was the right thing to do.

battle of the somme going over the top battle of the somme

Many men from Mourne volunteered for service in the 13th (County Down) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles which formed part of the 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and also for service in Battalions of the 16th and 18th (Irish) Divisions. Men from these divisions fought in a number of famous campaigns, including the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

A Trip Through The Mourne Mountains

From the Northern Whig, 12 August 1901 in Sydney Matier’s album from PRONI

 In August 1901, a reporter named ‘R.B.’ from the Northern Whig newspaper, based in Belfast took a trip around Mourne in a day long bus tour. He had the ‘good fortune to secure a seat on one of the Messrs. Norton and Co’s highland coaches’ giving him the ‘privilege and pleasure of a trip through the Mourne Mountains, to the beautiful and enchanting lake Lough Shannagh and to the Happy Valley.’ Something which much impressed him was the scenery which was not ‘unadorned and marred by man’.

The trip was organised by the superintendent of Messrs. Norton and Co’s car service. They supplied two well appointed and comfortable highland coaches which accommodated 30 ladies and gentlemen from various parts of England and Ireland.

They started their journey at the car office in Kilkeel which was just beside the Courthouse, leaving at 10am on a beautiful and clear day. They travelled up the Newry Road where they passed Mourne Park, the ‘charming residence’ of the Earl of Kilmorey where they were able to admire Carlingford Lough and Greencastle Castle, along with the old Bridge at White Water River.

They continued up along the Tullyframe Road where the landscape was dotted with woods, there coming to the conclusion that ‘I do not know a more interesting district’. On the Tullyframe Road the bus was ‘greeted with loud cheers of welcome from the many farmers and labourers…pulling their flax’.

Apparently a local farmer named ‘Edward Ned’ waved his hat frantically at the visitors while’ Pat Bradley’ wished them a pleasant day. The author writes that the coaches containing so many people was a ‘novel sight’ and that men would rest from their work and women and children would rush from their cottages looking at them with ‘mingled admiration and curiosity’.

The buses then passed along the base of Eagle Rock Mountains where he was told a golden eagle supposedly visited for several days during the month of June last. Attical Chapel then came into view. The area itself was described as ‘pretty with clean homely cottages’. They passed up the valley to Moyadd where they left for a mountain walk and proposed having their lunch at Lough Shannagh. The people on the trip were ‘charmed by the various views’ amid the laughter and jokes echoing from the surrounding mountains.

The reached Lough Shannagh and were taken aback by the ‘silvery sands’ of its beach and decided to have their lunch as it was nearing noon. After this they made a start for the Happy Valley, surrounded by bright green pastures and great expanses of purple heather. They heard a cock crow in the distance and as if ‘by magic’ the whole mountains lit up in the sunlight as they walked towards the valley. When the Happy Valley came into view surrounded by the mountains ‘the great stillness of the valley was here apparent’. Before they left the valley, they saw a shepherd herding his sheep on the near hills. As they proceeded down the valley, they began to near the ‘busy haunts of man, by the noise of one of the Messrs. Fisher and Le Fanu’s locomotives proceeding down the railway line’ loaded with sand for work in connection with the Belfast Water Scheme. Their coaches were waiting for them at the valley gates and they drove down Carginagh Road to Kilkeel where they arrived at around 5pm.

Those present on the tour were ‘greatly charmed by the day’s outings’ and ‘many of the party will have pleasant memories of their visit to the lovely little lake nestling in the bosom of the Mourne Mountains’.

This article gives us a glimpse into the world of Mourne in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It was obviously a popular tourist destination even then, with people wanting to visit the much famed Kingdom of Mourne. It was perhaps even more beautiful and peaceful back in this era. The people on the coach trip are stunned by the natural beauty of the area and the author almost makes it seem like a magical place to visit, using the colourful and emotive language throughout his piece. It seems like a different world,from the farmers in the fields gathering flax next to their little cottages nestled in the hills, to the shepherd on the hills with the train running through the Happy Valley in the background

The SS Connemara and Retriever Disaster, 3 November 1916

This disaster was the largest shipping tragedy in Carlingford Lough, resulting in the loss of 94 lives.

The SS Connemara was owned by the London and North-Western Railway Company and its Captain GH Doeg and crew of 30 all came from Holyhead in Wales. The passengers on board included soldiers from The Front returning to the Great War along with people from counties Sligo, Longford, Monaghan, Cavan, South Armagh, Louth, Down and Antrim along with livestock and their porters. There was 17 young women onboard who were intending on travelling to Canada via Liverpool. Many others were emigrating to America and Australia.

The Retriever was owned by the Clanrye Company and had a crew of nine. The Captain was Patrick O’Neill from Kilkeel, Second Mate was his son Joseph and one of the seamen was his son-in-law Joseph Donnan. The only survivor of the disaster was fireman James Boyle from Warrenpoint. The others onboard were from Newry.

The Collision

The weather on the night/early morning of the incident was very bad and many thought the Connemara would post-pone its journey. Unfortunately it did not.

The Retriever left Garston for Newry loaded with cargo at 4am but was running late due to the gale force winds. The Connemara left Greenore shortly after 8am bound for Holyhead. About two and a half miles from Greenore she passed the Hawbowline lighthouse. The watch at the lighthouse saw the two ships coming too close and fired off rockets in warning. The Retriever struggled against the gales with its unsteady cargo to avoid the Connemara but a huge wind swung it into the side of the ship, smashing it from hull to funnel. The ships locked together for a moment but the Retriever had reversed her engines seconds before the collision causing it to swing wide leaving the Connemara open amidships. It sank within minutes followed by the Retriever, killing 94 souls.


The sole survivor James Boyle was 21 years old when he was present on the ill-fated journey of the Retriever. He was rescued by local men William Hanna and Hugh Doyle after being alerted by Peter Morgan.

On the beach the men  saw livestock desperately battling the waves to reach the shoreline. By the early morning it became clear how widespread the tragedy was with more livestock wandering the beaches along with bodies being washed ashore. The bodies were collected in carts by local farmers and a temporary morgue was set up in Nicholson’s shed.

Unfortunate Twists of Fate

A Mr Patrick Kearney and his wife Kathleen Kearney were killed in the tragedy. They were on their way to meet their sister in Liverpool and while waiting in the train station in Newry they met RIC Sergeant Fitzpatrick who told them it was likely that the Greenore boat wouldn’t sail due to the poor weather. He suggested they go to Dublin instead. Mr Kearney decided to flip a coin and the result was that they would head to Greenore.

A man called Henry Tumelty had arrived too late to board the Retriever at Newry. He decided to cycle three miles along the canal and jumped on board as it sailed past the locks at Fathom. He was also lost.

James Curran was a passenger on that fateful night and he had a dream pre-telling of the disaster. He was a strong swimmer and had often swam alone from Rostrevor to Carlingford. The night before he sailed he had a dream that he was a seaman crossing to join his boat at Liverpool but he never reached his destination. He dreamt he was rowing a punt in heavy, stormy seas surrounded by pigs and cattle. His boat capsized and he landed ashore where he was streaming with blood. When he told his dream to his family and friends they begged him not to sail, but he dismissed their fears. An hour before he sailed he noticed that he needed a new button on his shirt, so he replaced it.

His body was found on Cranfield beach and was identified by the newly sewn button. He was taken back to Rostrevor and was buried on 7 November.


Some of the unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave in the Old Church Yard of Kilkeel. Kilkeel High School erected a headstone in their memory in 1981. Greenore Greencastle Community Association erected a memorial granite seat in Greenore in 2006.

For more information see booklet published by the Kilkeel Development Association and the Greenore Greencastle Community Association, available from Kilkeel Visitor Information Centre.