The loss of the Rival In Connemara
Edward J Bourke
The Rival can be unequivocally described as Ireland’s most forgotten wreck. Not only was this unfortunate ship the fifth most serious loss of life in Irish waters; but no folk memory survives in Connemara or anywhere else in Ireland. Five bodies were washed ashore but that location is unclear and there is no known marked grave. The ravages of the Famine in Connemara only ten years later must have erased the memory of other people’s troubles. The soldiers aboard were foreigners and of no interest to the locals. The site of the disaster on the Skeard rocks some ten miles off the mainland prevented any survival. The wreckage came ashore near Roundstone and was reported by the Coastguards who patrolled the shore every day. The main concern of the authorities was that the wreck might have been a British naval warship. When it became clear that it was the Volunteer ship from Glasgow they worried about the possibility that arms from the ship could fall into the hands of the Irish locals. Irish newspapers mention the loss in a three line paragraph while Glasgow sources report the sailing and the loss in slightly more detail. Otherwise, there was scant attention paid to the disaster. There seems to be no passenger list published in Glasgow papers.
The first formal record is a letter from Captain Busby of the Waterguards at Clifden to J.C. Reilly the Port Collector of Customs at Galway giving news of the loss of the Rival on 4-12-1832. He reports that there were 432 passengers listed as aboard. The Inislacken Coastguard Galley could not be launched due to the gale. He says that the five bodies which came ashore had been plundered and buried before the Coastguards reached them. The Galway Advertiser mentions that the wreck occurred on the western point of the coast of Connemara. The 310 ton vessel was lost with Captain Pallis and all aboard.
War broke out in Portugal between two pretenders to the Crown. This was the Miguelist war and centered around Brazillian independence and a disastrous Argentinian war. In Britian and Ireland there was sympathy for Don Pedro against his opponent Don Miguel. This took the form of financial support and dispatch of arms but also recruitment for an expeditionary force. The London Times of 9-11-1832 reported that six hundred young men enrolled in the Glasgow Constitutional Volunteers to assist in Portugal. They sail for Oporto in a day or two. On the 5-1-1833 nearly two hundred Scotch arrived and were put under the orders of Major Shaw, who was much pleased with having the command of his countrymen. Six hundred had been recruited in Glasgow, four hundred of whom were wrecked on the coast of Ireland, and every soul perished. This was a severe blow to the cause at a time when both men and money were so much wanted at Oporto. On the 15th a reinforcement of two hundred Portuguese arrived from the islands, and four hundred French; the whole were safely disembarked under the lighthouse, whose provisions continued to be landed, though frequently interrupted by surf. Tom Steele the prominent Clare landlord who had associations with Daniel O’Connell and among other things, patented a submarine light and diving bell design, lost his fortune on the Miguelist war; he had supported Don Pedro.
Despite the remoteness and difficulty of transport news traveled very quickly and the story became clear within a few days of the disaster. Within two days it was clear which ship was lost and the Glasgow owner was en route to see what could be done. The discrepancy in captain’s names may be that Captain Pallis was a former captain of the ship or maybe he was captain of the troops.
Portion was found floating at the entrance to Roundstone Bay and this was secured by Lieutenant Hunter of the Coastguard. The remainder was found a few miles away. The wreckage indicated that the vessel was a 350 ton brig. Local opinion was that she had struck the Skird Rocks.
Galway Free Press correspondent, quoted in the Freemans Journal Tue Dec 11th 1832.
Clifton Co Galway, Wednesday morning last portion of a wreck was seen floating near Roundstone Bay. The Coastguard under Lt Hunter secured the remains. The next day the remainder was found with uniforms floating so that they thought it one of Her Majesty’s ships. Trunks etc. were found by Captain Busby of the Coastguard. She was a 350 ton brig commanded by William Wallace bound from Greenock to Oporto. The chartered party stated that he shall take no more than 480 men. The owner and captain were brothers.
Letter from Glasgow, Commercial Chamber Greenock, 11-12-1832
Received letter of 7th concerning the loss of the Brig Rival. She aboard 450 recruits. Mr. Wallace, the owner intends to proceed to the site, his brother was the master.
c. Dec 4, 1832 – The Rival, out of Greenock bound for Oporto in Portugal with 472 volunteer troops to support Dom Pedro in the Miguelista War, sinks off the Galway coast.
On 15-11-1832 the Lusitania sailed from the Broomielaw, having on board 172 men for Oporto, to join forces under Dom Pedro. In the course of the present week another vessel, the Rival, will sail from the Broomielaw, having on board 472 men, destined for the same port and service.
Belfast News-Letter (Tuesday 11th December 1832)
Loss of the Rival with Don Pedro’s Glasgow recruits.
This vessel, which left the Clyde about two weeks ago, with 430 recruits for the service of Don Pedro in Portugal, was wrecked on the 28th ult on the coast of Galway, when the whole crew perished. We understand that the Lusitania, which sailed from the Clyde shortly before the Rival, was in Rothesay Bay on Wednesday last; at which place a good number of the volunteers made their escape. – Glasgow Courier
Aberdeen Journal (Wednesday 12th December 1832)
A letter has been received at Lloyd’s, from their agent at Galway. Announcing the total loss of the Rival, Captain Wallis. He states that in consequence of a great number of straw beds having been washed on shore, and some casks of rum, she is supposed to be a transport. Upon inquiry, we regret exceedingly to learn that she was a vessel chartered by Don Pedro’s agents for the conveyance of troops from the Clyde to Oporto, and had on board, it is stated, upwards of 400 men, including the crew, all of whom have perished, and the vessel became a total wreck.
The same issue has:
The Brig Rival, which left Glasgow, about a fortnight ago, with 430 volunteers, for the service of Don Pedro, was totally wrecked, we regret to say, on the 28th ult, on the coast of Galway, when all on board perished. Several of the passengers had, however, previously made their escape while passing through Rothesay Bay.
A remarkable account surfaced in the papers of two years later. Apparently, the risk of arms recovery was such that divers were obstructed by the Coastguard in attempts to salvage the wreck. At the time the Coastguard themselves were interested in diving and had copied the newly developed helmet. They used this at Crookhaven to recover coins from the Lady Charlotte. The names of the divers involved are unclear from the records but may have been the Deanes or a group from Whitstable. The former had invented the diving helmet and Whitstable became the base of the early helmet divers. They worked in Ireland on the Lady Charlotte and the Enterprise.
Dublin July 16 1834. The Freemans Journal reports that Galway fishermen were angry that they had been denied salvage work on vessels in their area. They were poor men and fishing was poor and the wrecks obstructed their fishing grounds. The Sarah of Pwlheli was lately fitted with a diving bell and suitable apparatus for raising 11 vessels wrecked on Galway shore during last winter. The Thais, Falmouth Packet, Whitbread of London, James of Tynemouth, Rival of Glasgow, (Don Pedro’s troopship) a Philadelphia ship, a sloop from Scotland and a Revenue Cutter. These vessels are much in the way of fishing nets. The Coastguard of Inislacken seized the Sarah as she lay in ballast in Roundstone Harbour ready to go to work and forbade any further work relating to raising the wrecks in the name of admiralty. A complaint has been forwarded.
Spanish trawler sinks off Ireland; four dead — A Spanish Trawler struck rocks and sank in rough seas off western Ireland on Tuesday, killing four crewmen. The accident came two days after eight men were lost when a French trawler went down in the same region.
This was not the only disaster in the area, the Arosa was lost on 3-10-2000. The vessel was a 36-metre Spanish Trawler owned by Manuel Barreiros, operating out of the Spanish port of Marin but under a British flag. The Arosa radioed a distress call at 5 a.m. local time when it struck one of the rocky islets known as the Skerds, 13 miles off Slyne Head in County Galway. The Coastguard said rescue efforts were frustrated by winds up to 54 mph and swells of 13 feet. The sole survivor of thirteen crew was Ricardo Garcia. He said he believed he was the only member of the crew who had not put on a life jacket. He was rescued by helicopter. Another crewman was taken from the water but was dead on arrival at Galway. One crewman was found dead on a liferaft others were washed ashore.
A magnetometer survey in connection with a wind farm project discovered magnetic anomalies in areas of sand and gullies to the north and east of Doolick Rock. No piece was big enough to give a side scan sonar echo suggesting that the items were buried under sand. Archaeologists thought these would be potentially interesting. The Arosa struck Doonguddle nearby while making for the entrance of Galway Bay. It is probable that these are pieces of the Arosa. Names of the various islets can be confusing and local names often conflict with the chart names.
- An Account Of The War In Portugal Between Don Pedro And Don Miguel by Admiral Sir Charles Napier
- “The Brave Volunteers” (“One cold stormy night in the month of November”), H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also Harding B 26(74),
- Marine investigation branch (UK) report of the Arosa accident