Loss of the Kenneth C a Modern Shipwreck

The Last Cape Horners Furling Sails

Somewhere in the autumn of 1918—about the middle of November, as far as I have been able to ascertain —the three-masted schooner, Kenneth C., of Bridgetown, Barbados, discharged a fruit cargo at Liverpool. She then took in ballast of copper dross; and, in company with a steel ship, towed out of the Mersey, on the return voyage.

Shortly after the tug left her, strong sou’-easterly winds sprang up, which later increased to a gale. The ship, being light, kept falling away to leeward, and after some time it was found impossible to bring her up to the wind. Some hours after leaving Liverpool, a ship was sighted riding to her anchors off St. John’s Point. This the skipper of the schooner believed to be the same one which had left Liverpool with him. But, as the Kenneth C. was built of soft wood, he did not venture to let go an anchor, lest the hawse pipes should cut down.

A night of adventure.

By this time it was blowing a hurricane, and the vessel, already stripped of every stitch of canvas, had her boats, including a motor launch. swept away by the raging seas. Then—worst calamity of all—the steering gear carried away. And so, through the intense shadows of a pitch-black night, the Kenneth C. drifted helplessly towards an ironbound lee shore. which, however. was to prove most hospitable to her entire crew.

At eight bells (evening) the captain told the watch going below not to turn in, as they were going to strike the Irish coast somewhere that night. About three hours and a quarter after this the schooner struck something, but got clear again. At the time it was thought to have been an outlier of Dunary Reefs—but later this was discredited, in consideration of the spot where the ship finally fetched up.

Then, about midnight, she crashed on a sunken reef—and the crew gave themselves up for lost. A huge sea had carried her well inshore, and, her stern swinging round, she was lifted right across the rocks by the next one, and flung into a gully, where she became jammed fast on another reef.

Truly ashore.

It was then that the chief officer decided to try what depth of water there was around. This proved to be only waist deep. And so clambering out on the jibboom, he made the discovery that there was solid earth under his feet. In this way the whole crew, and the ship’s dog, got safely off, shortly before the schooner broke in two.

Following a narrow track leading upwards from the shore, they struck the road which runs from the village of Clogher, right across the Head to the harbour portion—the latter known as Port Oriel. Knocking at the first house en route, they were met by the Harbour Master, whose son, Mr. Hugh Hodgins, now fills the post, and to whom I am indebted for the notes for this account of the wreck of the Kenneth C. Every possible kindness was shown them.

The boy was the only member of the crew of eight to suffer seriously as a result of hardships experienced. He became delirious next morning, but the others were busily occupied salving stores from the wreck, and bringing their belongings ashore.

The resting place of the sunken hulk of Monkbarns Sea Breezes July 1927
On page 65 there appears a picture of Monkbarns as a hulk. Above ie a view of the harbour, the X indicating her position. Sea Breezes July 1927

A modern labour-saver.

The Kenneth C. was a wooden schooner of 900 tons register. She was fore-and-aft rigged throughout, with gaff topsails on fore, main, and mizzen masts. There was no going up aloft in her—everything was worked from the deck, and she was fitted with patent reefing gear.

The velocity of the gale can easily be judged from the fact that, having only left Liverpool at half-past eleven on the morning of the wreck, she was ashore off Clogher Head in Ireland shortly after midnight.

The Kenneth C. was built of American deal throughout. and was apparently more or less roughly constructed. When she ran ashore, her topmasts were gone, bulwarks smashed, and decks littered with wreckage. Her after end is still piled close under the Head – l went over what remains of her recently. Shortly before leaving Barbados, she had been newly fitted up, the owners hoping to sell her on this side of the Atlantic.


Hougomont stranded at Allonby 1903 after storm
A ship wrecked, topmasts gone but some cargo salvaged
RMS Sorata a PSNC liner built in 1872 Sea Breezes July 1927
The R.M.S. Sorata, one of the most beautiful of the earlier P.S.N.C. liners. She was built in 1872 and was a favourite ship with passengers. Photo lent by Mr. S. C. Forrest. Sea Breezes July 1927