Irish patrol vessel Muirchú

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Career (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland)
Name: Helga
Builder: Dublin Liffey Dockyard
Launched: 1908
Christened: 1908
Completed: 1908
Commissioned: 1915
Fate: passed to Irish Free State
Career (Ireland) Irish Naval Jack
Name: Muirchú[1]
Namesake: Irish: Hound of the Sea
Builder: Dublin Liffey Dockyard
Acquired: 1923
Commissioned: August 1923
Decommissioned: 1947
Renamed: August 1923 from Helga
Reclassified: 1923
Fate: Sold to Hammond Lane Scrap Merchants Dublin, sank on delivery voyage.[1]
General characteristics
Type: steam yacht
Displacement: 323 tons
Length: 155 ft
Armament: as built: QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss gun
later: 2 x QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval gun
Notes: [2]

Public Armed Ship Muirchú was a ship in the Irish Naval Service. She was the former Royal Navy ship HMY Helga and was involved in shelling Liberty Hall in Dublin from the River Liffey with her pair of 12 pounder naval guns[3] during the Easter Rising of 1916.

Helga was purchased by the Irish Free State in 1923 and renamed Muirchú (Irish: Hound of the Sea).

She sank off the Wexford coast after disposal in 1947. The wheel was recovered from the wreck by local divers and can now be seen in Kehoes Pub in Kilmore Quay

The prefix LÉ is sometimes mistakenly used as LÉ Muirchú. The prefix was introduced in December 1946 when the Irish Naval Service was established with the purchase of three corvettes from the Royal Navy replacing Muirchú.


She was built in Liffey Dockyard in 1908[4] as a fishery research and protection cruiser and was named Helga II. Such was interest in her design that Canada ordered two ships to the same specification (the Galliano and Misalpina).[5]

She was then under control of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland) until she was taken over by the Admiralty in March 1915 when she became officially described as "His Majesty's Yacht Helga", an armed steam yacht - officially an "Armed Auxiliary Patrol Yacht". At this time the "II" was dropped from her name and she served as an anti-submarine patrol vessel as well as undertaking escort duty in the Irish Sea. In April 1918 she was credited with the sinking of a submarine off the Isle of Man and for the remainder of her career she carried a star on her funnel as an award for this achievement.[6]

In October of the same year the RMS Leinster was torpedoed off the Kish and 517 were lost. The Helga was fuelling in Dun Laoghaire[6] at the time and managed to rescue ninety of the passengers. Perhaps it was for her shelling of Liberty Hall in April 1916 that the "Helga" is best known.

She was released from the navy in March 1919 and returned to fisheries work. She was commandeered in July 1922 by the government and used against Anti-treaty forces in Munster.

She was later used to transport the British auxiliary troops known as Black and Tans around the coast when many of the roads in Ireland were rendered impassable by Irish forces in the War of Independence.

Eventually the Helga was handed over to the Irish Free State in August 1923 and was renamed Muirchú. She thus became one of the first ships in the newly established Irish Navy. However, in the following year the vessel was returned to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to carry on her task of fishery protection. It was not until the actual day on which the Second World War was declared that the Marine and Coastwatching Service was again established and on 12 December 1939 the Muirchú was taken over by this Service from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Muirchú was sold to Hammond Lane Foundry by Marine Service, and while on passage to Dublin on 8 May 1947 she sank off the Saltee Islands - though not before her crew safely evacuated.


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