Shipwrecks Around Ballymacoda #2 – Three Wartime Incidents

In the first article in this series, I discussed probably the most memorable wreck along our coastline, the Tadorna, wrecked off Ballycrenane in 1911. Continuing this series, I’ll delve into some of the lesser known shipwrecks and shipping accidents that have occurred around the Ballymacoda coastline – the first of these are three incidents which occurred during World War I – the running aground of the S.S. Messina in 1917, and the sinking of the schooner Edith and the steamship S.S. Lucena on the same day in 1915 by a German submarine off Knockadoon Head.

The Grounding of the S.S. Messina

The Messina was 4,271-ton cargo ship owned by Gulf Line, based in West Hartlepool, England. The Messina was a relatively new vessel, having been built in 1911 by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd in Newcastle. Towards the later part of World War 1, on the night of February 20th 1917, the Messina ran onto rocks near Knockadoon Head and was stranded. The HM Trawler Indian Empire arrived from Queenstown (Cobh) to assist, under Lieutenant Arthur Sanderson. Three other vessels, the tugs Stormcock, Hellespoint, and Warrior were also involved in the operation. An interesting side note here is that the Warrior had been one of the first vessels to come to the aid of the torpedo stricken Lusitania in May 1915, and was credited with saving 74 lives.

The salvage operation conducted on the Messina off Knockadoon was complex, and lasted three days, with different methods being tried to free the vessel from the rocks. Eventually on February 22nd, Petty Officer J.C. Williams, of H.M. Drifter J.E.C.M., assisted by Sanderson, risking being crushed to death, used explosives to shatter the rocks, which allowed the assembled boats to tow the Messina free.

The tugboat Warrior, involved in the salvage of the Messina off Knockadoon, and also in the Lusitania tragedy

Those involved in the salvaging of the Messina off Knockadoon applied to the British Admiralty for naval salvage money for the successful outcome of the operation. This was common practice at the time, as was the practice of awarding prize bounty money to Royal Navy ships involved in the sinking or capture of enemy vessels. In the resulting compensation case, a sum of £2,550 was awarded to those involved in the salvage of the Messina.

The London Gazette, July 30th 1918 with reference
to the salvage of the Messina

The Messina having been saved from destruction off Knockadoon Head, had difficult times ahead. On the evening of October 15th 1918, on a voyage from Plymouth to Baltimore, it was shelled by the German submarine U-152, in a confrontation lasting 2 hours. The Messina put on full speed and zigzagged in accordance with the wartime regulations, luckily escaping with minimal damage, having been hit once by a German shell on the port side. A little over a year later, on December 14th 1919, having survived the grounding off Knockadoon and the treacherous U-Boat infested waters of World War I, the Messina was abandoned in a storm in the North Atlantic and eventually sank. She was on a voyage from St. John to Antwerp, carrying a cargo of grain.

The final fate of the Messina, two years after she was stranded off Knockadoon, from the Victoria Daily Times, December 1919

The Sinking of the Schooner Edith & S.S. Lucena

The schooner Edith was 78-ton British registered merchant ship, built in 1876, and owned by John Rooney of the port town of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, England. On Sunday June 27th, 1915, she was on route from the town of Silloth on the north coast of England to Cork, carrying a cargo of plaster of Paris. Unfortunately for the Edith, the German U-Boat U-24 under Captain Rudolf Schneider was lurking in the waters about 10 nautical miles off Knockadoon Head.

The crew of the Edith reported that the submarine surfaced 100 yards from them, and was flying the Union Jack flag, a common deception tactic at the time. The submarine crew then ordered them to quickly leave their vessel. The three crew, all men from Kilkeel in Co. Down, got into their punt and began to row a safe distance from the Edith. From their deck gun, the crew of U-24 fired 4 shells and sank the defenseless Edith. The crew of the Edith were picked up and landed in Youghal.

On the very same day, the S.S. Lucena was also stopped in a similar fashion by the crew of U-24 approximately 4 miles south of Capel Island. The Lucena was a cargo ship, operated by Joseph Monks & Co. Ltd. of Liverpool, and was travelling from Granton in Scotland to Bantry with a cargo of coal. Similarly to the Edith, the crew of the Lucena were ordered to leave the ship before it was shelled and sank by U-24. The crew were later picked up and landed in Queenstown (Cobh).

U-24, responsible for the sinking of both the schooner Edith and the steamship Lucena on June 27th 1915 off Knockadoon

In what the U-24 crew probably deemed an extremely successful day, the Indrani, a 3,640 ton steamship was torpedoed by U-24 in St. George’s Channel and also sank on the very same day.

U-24 remained in service for the remainder of the war, until the German surrender in November 1918. The submarine was eventually broken up in 1922.

Report of the sinking of the schooner Edith, carried in newspapers of the time.

With incidents such as these, and the Imperial German navy’s campaign of unrestricted warfare on the seas from 1917, it is very easy to see why the Irish Coast Watching Service was setup in the early stages of World War II. Read more about the coast watching service in Ballymacoda in the previous post on the Ballymacoda History Project – The Coast Watching Service in Ballymacoda – now updated the show the excellent work done recently by members of the local community to restore the ‘LOP 21‘ marking.

References and Further Information

The London Gazette, July 30th 1918

The Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia, December 13th 1919

The Sydney Stock & Station Journal, June 30th 1915

Irish Shipwrecks, Entry for ‘Edith’

Wikipedia, List of Shipwrecks in June 1915

Ballymacoda & World War I

Unsurprisingly, Ballymacoda was not left untouched by the events of July 1914 to November 1918. In this post, we will discuss the men from the parish who served during World War I, some of whom never saw their homes again.

At that time, Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, many Irish people, both Nationalist and Unionist supported the war. Many Irishmen, like those from the Ballymacoda area, signed up to serve in the British armed forces. The generally accepted figure is that approximately 200,000 men from Ireland signed up to fight. About 30,000 of these men were killed in action during the course of the war.

WW I recruitment poster used in Ireland

The men from Ballymacoda served across the armed forces, in both the Army & Navy. Based on research carried out using the National Archives of the UK, I have been able to collate information on those who served. Note that this focuses solely on those from Ballymacoda who served during World War I. There are of course numerous records of those who served but were discharged before the war began in 1914, those individuals are not included here.

Royal Navy

Based on my research, the following is a list of those from Ballymacoda who served in the Royal Navy. This list is based on ‘Place of Birth‘ being listed on the official Navy personnel records available from the National Archives of the UK, as well as available naval pension records. Interestingly, there were two men named Patrick McCarthy & two men named Robert Rumley from Ballymacoda who served – indicated by distinct records, service numbers and different dates of birth.

NameDate of BirthNotes
Bartholomew Ronayne18 Apr 1886Discharged 1926
Jeremiah Prior1 Sep 1883Discharged 1919
John Hennessy13 May 1883Discharged 1924
John McCarthy18 May 1886Discharged 1919
John Morrissey25 May 1880Discharged 1918
John Smiddy20 Mar 1898Discharged 1919
Michael Garde29 Sep 1890Discharged 1935
Michael O’Grady26 Dec 1887Discharged 1928
Patrick Donovan15 Aug 1877Discharged 1920
Patrick Hyde3 Mar 1877Discharged 1919
Patrick McCarthy20 Apr 1874Discharged 1920
Robert Rumley1 Nov 1878Discharged 1919
Robert Rumley11 May 1883Discharged 1919
Michael Walsh1869Discharged 1919
Jeremiah Shea1893Discharged 1918
Richard RumleyUnknownDischarged 1916
John O’BrienUnknownDischarged 1919
Jeremiah FoleyUnknownDischarged 1919
Patrick WalshUnknownDischarged 1914
Patrick ShanahanUnknownDischarged 1919
William Daly1883Discharged 1920
William Shanahan1878Discharged 1918
Patrick Lynch1871Discharged 1919
James Irwin2 Jul 1881Discharged 1923
Patrick GardeUnknownDischarged 1919
John Ronayne20 Aug 1882Died in 1914
Maurice QuirkeAbt. 1894Died in 1916
Patrick SheaUnknownDied in 1916
Richard Ahern 10 Apr 1877Died in 1917
Michael McCarthy23 Apr 1888Died after discharge in 1918
Michael Canty12 Aug 1876Died in 1918
Patrick McCarthy17 Jun 1884Died in 1919

The following gives more information on those who died.

John Ronayne was born in Ballymacoda on August 20th, 1882. He served aboard HMS Bullfinch with the rank of Stoker 1st Class. He died on August 15th 1914 when the Bullfinch was involved in a collision with a merchant steamer in British waters. He was buried at Scartho Road Cemetery, Scartho Road, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, UK.

The memorial to John Ronayne from Ballymacoda in Lincolnshire, killed in August 1914

Maurice Quirke was the son of John and Margaret Quirke and lived in Garryvoe. He served aboard HMS Indefatigable with the rank of Stoker 1st Class. He died aged 22 on May 31st 1916, when the Indefatigable was sunk by the German ship Von der Tann during the Battle of Jutland. Of a crew of 1,019 aboard Indefatigable, only 3 survived. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 16.

Patrick Shea was from Knockadoon, and was the son of Timothy & Nora Shea, and the husband of Hannah Shea. He died on December 8th 1916, when the ship he was serving on, HMT Dagon, was torpedoed in the Dover area (the only trawler to be torpedoed in this area during WWI). The Dagon was a fishing vessel which had been hired by the Royal Navy and converted to an armed trawler to be used as a minesweeper in 1915. On December 8th 1916, all crew were lost when the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 19.

Richard Ahern from Knockadoon was born on April 10th, 1877, the son of Daniel and Mary Ahern. He served aboard the SS Polandia with the rank of Leading Seaman. He was killed in action at sea on March 11th 1917, when the Polandia was sunk by a German submarine while on route from Birkenhead in England to Cherbourg in France. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 23.

Michael McCarthy from Ballymacoda served in the Royal Naval Reserve with the rank of Seaman. He was born on April 23rd, 1888 and was the son of Michael & Mary McCarthy from Ballyskibole. He was honorably discharged due to tuberculosis in 1915, and died on February 7th, 1918. He was awarded the Silver War Badge, given to those who had been honorably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service. He is commemorated at the Brookwood 1914-1918 memorial, Panel 1, in Surrey, UK.

Michael Canty was born in Ballymacoda on August 12th 1876. He served in the Royal Navy with the rank of Leading Stoker, and died on October 26th, 1918. His cause of death was recorded as ‘died from disease‘. He was buried at the Weston Mill Cemetery, Weston Mill, Devonport, Devon.

Memorial to Michael Canty from Ballymacoda, at Weston Mill Cemetery, Devon, UK,

Patrick McCarthy served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Bellerophon with the rank of Leading Stoker. He was born in Ballymacoda on June 17th 1884, the eldest son of William & Bridget McCarthy of Gortcorcoran. He died on January 19th 1919 in an accidental drowning (just a few months after the war had ended). He was buried in the Hill Cemetery in Ballymacoda.


As well as the Navy, men from Ballymacoda also served and in the army during the Great War, although to a lesser extent based on my research of the available records. Below is the list of men who served in the army. Where available, the Notes column contains the name of the unit in which they served.

NameDate of BirthNotes
Timothy McCarthyApril 1896Served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers.
Thomas McCarthy
Abt. 1899Served in the Royal Irish Regiment.
Jerome TwomeyUnknownServed as Corporal in the Guards Machine Gun Company.
James ConnollyUnknownServed in the Irish Guards. Discharged in 1919.
John MearaUnknownServed in the Royal Engineers.
John Smiddy1895Died 1915 (see below)
John CondonAbt. 1890Died 1917 (see below)
Richard HydeAbt. 1876Died 1918 (see below)
Michael Daly2 Jan 1876Died 1918 (see below)
James O’NeillAbt. 1895Died 1918 (see below)

Based on my research, the following is a list of the men from Ballymacoda who served in the army, and were killed in action.

John Smiddy from Ballykeneally, Ballymacoda served in the Grenadier Guards, 1st Battalion with the rank of Guardsman. He was killed at the Battle of Loos in France on October 17th, 1915. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in Pas-de-Calais, France.

John Condon from Ring, Ballymacoda, the son of David and Ellen Condon, served in the Royal Irish Regiment, 7th Battalion with the rank of Private. He was killed in action in France on December 12th 1917. He was buried in Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery in France.

Richard Hyde from Ballydaniel, Ballymacoda served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1st Battalion with the rank of Private. He was killed in action at Flanders on September 30th 1918. He was buried in the Cantaing British Cemetery in France.

Memorial to Richard Hyde from Ballymacoda, in Cantaing-sur-Escaut, Departement du Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

Michael Daly from Ballymacoda served in the Irish Guards 2nd Battalion with the rank of Private. He died of wounds sustained in battle in France on May 29th 1918. He was buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery, Doullens, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

James O’Neill from Warren, Ballymacoda served in the Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment with the rank of Private. He died on February 20th 1918. He was buried at Villers-Faucon, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

Memorial to James O’Neill from Warren, in
Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery, France

I was aware that some people from Ballymacoda served during WWI, but after concluding this research, I was surprised at the extent of the involvement of men from the parish.

In a future post, I will look at WWII and the involvement of people from Ballymacoda there.

References & Further Information

Ireland, World War I Casualties, 1914-1922 [database online]

UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1848-1939 [database online]

UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 [database online]

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for John Ronayne

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Patrick Shea

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Richard Ahern

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Michael McCarthy

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Patrick McCarthy

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Maurice Quirke

Reference for Michael Canty – UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 [database on-line]

UK, World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923 [database on-line]

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ireland’s Memorial Records [available online]

Reference for John Condon – UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 [database on-line].

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for John Smiddy