Cymric (schooner)

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StateLibQld 1 150259 Cymric (ship).jpg
Cymric
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: Cymric
Builder: William Thomas and Sons
Launched: 1893
Career (Ireland)
Owner: Captain Richard Hall of Arklow
Acquired: 1906
Career (United Kingdom)
Acquired: c.1915
Career (Ireland)
Owner: Halls of Arklow
Acquired: c.1919
Fate: Vanished with all hands in 1944 during World War II
General characteristics
Class & type: Iron barquentine
Tonnage: 228 grt
Length: 123'
Beam: 24'
Draught: 10'8"[1]
Propulsion: Sail, Auxiliary motor fitted in World War I
Sail plan: Three masted

Cymric was a British and Irish schooner, built in 1893. Initially she was in the South American trade. She joined the fleet of Arklow, Ireland, in 1906. She served as a British Q-ship during the First World War; she failed to sink any German U-boats, but did sink a British submarine in error.[2]

After the war, she returned to the British and, later, the Irish merchant service. In Ringsend, Ireland, she collided with a tram, her bowsprit smashing through the tram's windows.[3] In 1944, during the Second World War, sailing as a neutral, she vanished without trace with the loss of eleven lives.

Arklow schooners[edit]

Photographs of Cymric held in the John Oxley Library

Arklow, Ireland has a long history of ship-owning. According to local tradition, it extends back to the export of tin and copper by the Phoenicians.[4] The fleet was locally owned, managed, mastered and manned. Historically each ship was an individual enterprise, each divided into 64 shares. A captain would probably have a 25% interest in his ship: that is 16 shares.[5] The owner listed in documents was the managing owner, not necessarily the beneficial owner. The Arklow shipowners cooperated. They established their own mutual insurance company.[6] A century ago, ownership became concentrated. In 1966 Tyrrell and Hall formed an umbrella company to operate their ships: Arklow Shipping.[7] By November 2011 they had a modern fleet of about 45 ships.[8]

Early career[edit]

Two Arklow schooners, Cymric and Gaelic, were built by William Thomas in Amlwch. Cymric was launched in March 1893.[9] Gaelic was launched in March 1898.[10] They were built as barquentines,[i] In Arklow, the preferred sail configuration was the double top sailed schooner.[5] In 1906, Cymric joined the Arklow fleet and was rigged as a schooner.[ii]

Cymric was an iron schooner. She had a shallow draught of only 10.8 feet, three wooden masts, no poop deck, a flaring bow, a round counter-stern and very square yards on her fore mast. She was built by the Thomas yard for their own fleet. Her early days, under Captain Robert Jones, were spent in the South American trade running from Runcorn to Gibraltar and on to the Rio Grande, docking at the Brazilian port of Porto Alegre.[11][12] In 1906 she was sold to Captain Richard Hall of Arklow.[13]

The new century, 1900, saw an expansion in the Arklow fleet, as larger iron-hulled schooners were purchased. Job Tyrrell purchased Detlef Wagner and Maggie Williams, while Job Hall acquired Patrician, Celtic and Cymric. In the main, all of these ships engaged in the Spanish wine trade until Detlef Wagner was sunk[14] by UC-72 on 28 May 1917[15]

First World War[edit]

Three Arklow schooners were requisitioned by the Admiralty to be used as Q-ships, they were: Cymric, Gaelic and Mary B Mitchell. They sailed the Southwest Approaches, masquerading as merchantmen, inviting attack by U-boats. Their guns were concealed, when a U-boat approached, a "panic party" would abandon the ship, while the gun crews waited for their target to come into range. The expectation was that the U-boat would approach the apparently abandoned ship and would be surprised and sunk when the guns were revealed and opened fire. Great successes were claimed and medals awarded.[16] Mary B Mitchell claimed to have sunk two U-boats in the same day.[17]

Post-war analysis did not confirm these claims. After the war, it was concluded that Q-ships were greatly over-rated, diverting skilled seamen from other duties without sinking enough U-boats to justify the strategy.[18]

Cymric did sink a submarine; unfortunately it was what we now term 'friendly fire'. On 15 October 1918, HMS J6, a J-class submarine was on the surface outside her base, Blythe when she was spotted by Cymric which mistook her 'J6' marking for 'U6'.[19] Cymric opened fire, J6 tried to signal, but the signalman was killed. J6 fled into a fog bank, but Cymric located J6 again, and sank her, with the loss of 14 lives.[20] An order under the Official Secrets Act prohibited mention of this incident until 1969.[21]

Between the wars[edit]

Photos of Cymric taken on 25 September 1930, in Australia

After the war, she was disarmed and returned to Halls of Arklow. The auxiliary engine remained. By now large steamers were more profitable than sailing ships for ocean voyages. However, within Ireland transport was becoming more difficult. The neglect of the networks during World War I was compounded by destruction during the war of independence and the subsequent civil war.[22][23] It was more cost-effective to transport goods by sea around the coast rather than using internal road or rail. Cymric had a new career: transporting malt from ports such as Ballinacurra, New Ross and Wexford to Dublin.

It was on one of these voyages that she collided with a tram. Cymric was waiting for Mac Machon Bridge, a bascule bridge, at the entrance to the Inner Basin of the Grand Canal Dock 53°20′33″N 6°14′17″W / 53.342369°N 6.23795°W / 53.342369; -6.23795 to open, when a gust of wind propelled her towards the bridge.[iii] and her bowsprit speared tram number 233. There are many versions of this story. Details differ, including the date, which varies from 12 February 1927[13] or 1928[25] to 21 December 1943[26] Research by Dr Edward Bourke established that there were two separate incidents: on Tuesday 29 November 1921, Cymric did, indeed, collide with a tram. On 21 December 1943, Happy Harry, a different Arklow schooner, collided with the same bridge.[27] No one was hurt in either incident.

Cymric was witness to a sad event that would change the way lighthouses and lightships are administered in Ireland. At the time, they were directly controlled from the UK by Trinity House, who removed a lightship from the Arklow Bank. On 19 February 1931, the Julia en route from Glasgow to Newhaven, grounded on the Arklow Bank and was wrecked with the loss of the crew of five, two of whom were from Arklow. Cymric, with her shallow draught, discovered the tragedy two days later.[28] It became a political issue.[29] In 1935, the 'Irish Lights Commissioners (Adaptation) Order' was made. It is the legislative basis for the Commissioners of Irish Lights.[30]

On Christmas Eve 1933, Cymric grounded on a bank in Wexford Harbour. Rope, which had been used the previous day in an attempt to re-float another vessel, fouled her propeller. She spent five days aground and was eventually refloated with the aid of a diver and the removal of some barrels of malt from her cargo.

Second World War[edit]

Memorial in Dublin, with the names of those lost on neutral Irish ships, including Cymric, during World War II
Cymric in her wartime livery,
with EIRE and tricolours on her hull.
Oil painting by Kenneth King from the
National Maritime Museum of Ireland

At the outbreak of World War II, there were only 56 ships on the Irish register; 14 of those were Arklow schooners. Sailing as neutrals, these schooners played a vital role in keeping Ireland supplied.[31]

Cymric was charted by Betsons to travel to Portugal. Betsons imported agricultural equipment and fertilisers from America. On November 1939, Roosevelt signed the Fourth Neutrality Act forbidding American ships from entering the "war zone",[32] which was defined as a line drawn from Spain to Iceland. Cargoes intended for Ireland were shipped to Portugal. With cargoes "piling up on the quays of Lisbon awaiting shipment",[33] Betsons chartered Cymric to travel to Lisbon to collect these cargoes.[34] Setting sail from Ireland, Cymric would carry food to the United Kingdom. There she would collect the British export of coal and carry it to Portugal.[35] In Lisbon, Cymric loaded the awaiting American cargo and brought it back to Ireland.

In October 1943, she had a total refit in Ringsend Dockyard. On what was to be her final voyage, on 23 February 1944, she left Ardrossan in Scotland where she loaded a cargo of coal for Lisbon. She was sighted off Dublin on the following day – that was her last sighting. No wreckage was ever found. She might have hit a mine, was sunk by a U-Boat or was driven by a gale into the 'prohibited area' of Bay of Biscay and was attacked and sunk by Allied aircraft enforcing the blockade.[36] MV Kerlogue was fortunate to survive such an attack by the RAF in that area.[37][38]

Neither the Cymric or her crew of eleven was ever seen again.[39] When Dublin's docklands were redeveloped, a new residential street was named 'Cymric Road'53°20′42″N 6°12′55″W / 53.345°N 6.21514°W / 53.345; -6.21514.[iv] It is not far from where she collided with the tram. On the third Sunday of every November, those who lost their lives on neutral Irish ships, including the Cymric, are remembered.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ They were built as barquentines; that is there were square sails on the fore-mast and fore-and-aft sails on the other two masts.
  2. ^ A schooner has fore-and-aft sails on all masts, as depicted in the painting of Cymric on this page
  3. ^ The bridge is now a fixed bridge, originally called Victoria Bridge.[24]
  4. ^ Cymric Road in Google Maps [1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Forde 1988, p. 68
  2. ^ "The Cymric in Peace and War (The extraordinary story of a small ship acquired by the Royal Navy as a Q-Ship during WWI and achieved notoriety by colliding with a tram in Dublin and sinking one of its own submarines.)". Medal Society of Ireland. Retrieved 23 November 2011. (registration required)
  3. ^ Murphy, Francis J (December 1979). Dublin Historical Record (Old Dublin Society) 33 (1). JSTOR 30104169. "the unique accident which occurred at Ringsend in 1928 when a D.U.T.C. tram was in collision with a ship The Arklow schooner, Cymric" 
  4. ^ Forde 1988, p. 11
  5. ^ a b Forde 1981, p. 9
  6. ^ Forde 1988, p. 43
  7. ^ "Arklow Shipping". The Wind of Change. Arklow Shipping. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Ashmore, Jehan (15 November 2011). "New Arklow Bulker Docks in Dublin". Afloat. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "Amlwch History". Ship Building. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Amlwch History". Vessels built in Amlwch. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  11. ^ Eames 1973, p. 306
  12. ^ "Amlwch History". Cymric. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Cooke, Jim. "Irish Ships and Shipping". The 'Cymric' A Seafaring Tragedy. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  14. ^ Forde 1988, p. 41
  15. ^ Lettens, Jan. "Detlef Wagner". Wreck site. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  16. ^ Noonan, Dix. "Lot 1244, 7 Dec 05". Lot details. Retrieved 26 November 2011. "quoting London Gazette 16 February 1917, and 11 August 1917" 
  17. ^ "Mary B Michell – A Terror to U-boats". Daily Leader. Associated Press. 13 January 1919. p. 7. Retrieved 19 November 2011. "Sailing vessel sank two submarines in one day during the war" [dead link]
  18. ^ Preston 1982, p. 58
  19. ^ "Submarine Losses 1904 to Present Day". Page 8. The Royal Navy Submarine Museum. 
  20. ^ Akermann 1989, p. 162
  21. ^ Richie, Carson (1985). Q-ships. p. xi. ISBN 0-86138-011-8. 
  22. ^ O'Halpin 2008, p. 27: "widespread destruction of roads, bridges, and railway lines".
  23. ^ Wills 2007, p. 34: "Ireland's roads were amongst the most dangerous in Europe".
  24. ^ "MacMahon Bridge" (pdf). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  25. ^ Delany, Ruth (1996). The Grand Canal Docks 1796 – 1996. Inland Waterways Association of Ireland. "Available from the Waterways Visitor Centre Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2." 
  26. ^ Kennedy 1998
  27. ^ Bourke, Edward. "Tram and schooner collide". History. Maritime Institute of Ireland. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  28. ^ Forde 1988, p. 155
  29. ^ "In Committee on Finance. – Vote No. 59 – Marine Service". Oireachtas Debate. 23 April 1931. Retrieved 26 November 2011. "the wreck was entirely due to the bad lighting arrangements on the coast. A lightship, which formerly was stationed in that vicinity, was taken away by the British Government" 
  30. ^ "Constitution". About CIL. Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  31. ^ "From Sail to Steamship to Motor". Follow the Fleet. Irish Maritime Development Office. 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2011. "Two famous sailing ships Cymric and Mary B. Mitchell brought vital supplies from overseas during the war years." 
  32. ^ Burne 2003, p. 537
  33. ^ Forde 1988, p. 216
  34. ^ Spong 1982, p. 7
  35. ^ Share 1978, p. 101
  36. ^ Forde 1981, p. 19
  37. ^ Fisk 1983, p. 319
  38. ^ Kennedy 2008, p. 254
  39. ^ "Remember". Cymric and 11 crew. Maritime Institute of Ireland. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 

Bibliography[edit]