The Phantom Ship

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Waterford County Museum – The Ardmore Journal

Phantoms of the Sea – 3. The Phantom Ship

Account By Jimmy Rooney

It was a Sunday night in the month of February, 1936. I remember we had our good clothes on. We rowed out to the Head to moor the nets and leave them out for the night. We dropped the anchor and paid off the nets going N.N.E. towards the ‘Miner’. We had about half the nets out when we saw this vessel, bearing down on us from the S.E. We thought it was the bailiff’s launch coming out of Youghal. We began pulling in the nets as fast as we could and soon lost the vessel behind the Head. We waited inside at the little sea inlet of Gaibhlín na Rinne but there was no sign of the vessel coming around Ardmore Head. Jim Drohan known as Bob said it must have been a herring drifter. In those days a lot of English and Scottish herring drifters came to Ardmore and stayed on for days or even weeks. Occasionally they’d give a few bags of coal to the fishermen. This was the nearest point to the fishing grounds. During the months of February to May in the 1930’s I often saw half a dozen of them in here. They’d do the herring fishing at night. By the time the war came they were gone completely and we only saw Dutch trawlers after that. Anyway, after waiting a while we decided to pay out the nets again. This time we saw the hull of a big ship and she seemed to be in close, near Faill na Sleannaire. We thought we’d be run down by this big ship. We pulled in the nets again and then we put Paddy Flynn ashore. Paddy walked up along the cliff and we rowed around the Head. None of us saw anything, there was no ship there. Within a week the big storm came and Fleming’s boat went down. That was the time the Ballycotton lifeboat rescued the men from the Daunt Rock Lightship.

We were discussing it later and came to the conclusion it must have been a phantom ship. I had heard about a previous phantom boat from Jamsie Quain and Maurice Flynn. Then in the meantime the Nellie Fleming was lost, so everything coincided.

Account By Paddy Downey

There were two Curragh men in the boat with me – Tom Harty and Johnny Brien. We were out at Faill na Daraí just beyond the hotel. We had the nets fully out when we saw a small light off the point of the Head. I can only describe it as very weak – like a candle in a lantern. We thought ’twas the Muirchiú, so we left the nets out there and came ashore. Within a week the Nellie Fleming under relief Captain Mike Duggan was lost, with all hands. She was a three masted schooner-one of the last trading out of Youghal under sail. She left Lydney, Gloucestershire in the Bristol Channel on Saturday 8th February 1936 with a cargo of coal expected in Youghal on or about the 12th February. A fierce southerly gale blew up and she was never seen again. Some years previously Tom Harty was out trawling one night. He saw a phantom boat coming down on top of them and then disappearing.

Account By Mikie Lynch

We went out about eight o’clock on a Sunday evening. It was a bright moonlit night and there wasn’t a puff of wind. There were just two of us, Jack and myself on the oars. We stayed in close to the rocks to avoid being spotted from the Garda Barracks above. Our berth was at the Clais under the well. We had the nets almost out when I looked up and saw a big boat coming down from the Head, making for us. There was a light on her and she was so big it was easy to see her outline. Thinking it was the Muirchiú fisheries patrol boat we threw out all the nets and made for the pier. I remember Paddy Flynn coming in soaked to the skin with his new blue suit destroyed by the salt water. That night Rooney said ” ’twas a ghost boat and ye’ll hear of something yet.” Some days later a fierce storm blew in from the east and lasted four or five days. The nets were blown up on the strand in bundles and Martin Hurley’s lobster box landed over in Power’s bog. There wasn’t a pole left on the pier, some of them ended in Chapel Row near the school. When Fleming’s boat went down we decided it must have been a phantom boat and she appeared just before the Nellie Fleming was lost.

Account By Jack Farrissey

The boat we saw was supposed to be the ghost of the Nellie Fleming. ‘Twas a lonesome sort of boat with a dim light and very high over the water. We paid out the night nets and left them there. My aunt over in Monatray one time saw a sailing boat going up the harbour for Youghal. She turned her head for a minute and on looking again it had disappeared – in board daylight. Jamsie Quain and Maurice Flynn saw a phantom boat one time with eight men pulling and one fellow steering.

Account By William Roache

I heard about a phantom ship of the Nellie Fleming, but ’twas in the nighttime she was seen. I often heard the old people talking about the phantom ship that came in here during the Great War. She came into Caliso Bay near the old Moylan family home. The ruins of the thatched cottage are still there down near the beach. She was a big ship and came in so close that those watching on shore thought she’d go aground. ‘Twas in the day time and they could see naval men in uniform going about the deck. The ship came along by Cabin Point and at Carthy’s Cove disappeared off out. A few days later the news came that Mike Moylan on HMS Centurian was dead. He is buried in Ardmore graveyard just outside the cathedral at the S.E. corner. The headstone inscription reads.

M. MOYLAN, ABLE SEAMAN RN 238143,
HMS ‘CENTURIAN’ 23rd AUGUST 1916, AGE 28.

Nobody sees those things now anymore.

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The original Lugnad was, according to legend, a "luamaire": that is a navigator or helmsman. He is credited with bringing his uncle, Saint Patrick, to Ireland. Lugnad's grave is in a ruined monastery on Inchagoill island in Lough Corrib, County Galway