Friday, 29 May 2015


A few historical items found along the way. The first is an advertisement for a revolving ‘lanthorn’ (Photo 981).  Yes I wondered at this, but it is the archaic version of ‘lantern’. The translucent sides of early lanterns were made of very thin horn, not glass, and hence ‘lanthorn’. Anyway, a Captain H.G. Pearce invented this device “to prevent those serious and Melancholy Accidents which so frequently occur from Vessels running foul of each other at Night”. 
    Full marks for initiative but it would rely on all Masters knowing the colour codes and understanding (as I suppose they must) the nautical terms which puzzle me – ‘Larbourd’, ‘keep her Luff’, ‘Upon a wind’ etc.  I don’t suppose this idea was ever taken up. Why buy an expensive bit of kit if you cannot guarantee everyone else is going to have the same?
      The second historical item is a set of instructions to help you operate a ‘Manual Fog Signal Apparatus’ should you ever come across one (Photo 982).  These instructions were issued by Trinity House in 1895.  My copy is rather tatty and so I have re-typed the instructions. They are, in my eyes at least, a bit pedantic, but I suppose there was little chance of a help-line phone call, or a home visit when things went wrong!  They had to cover every eventuality.

   The last sentence of the first paragraph conjures up a sense of mounting panic as the horn is sounded more and more frequently until it is emitting a continuous scream. Better that than a collision I suppose!

   Coming more up to date (1960s), I found this short item about pirate radio stations –
 The Suppression of the broadcasts by stations outside national territories. - National legislation and European Agreement.  1966
 Great Britain OK has a radius of action covering the French and British coasts. It emits a wavelength already in use by stations in Stockholm, Spain and the Soviet Union. The station is installed on a vessel, the 'Lady Dixon', off the coast in the mouth of the River Thames.

     In fact Great Britain OK (GBOK) never did get to the proposed mooring ‘off the coast in the mouth of the River Thames’ and indeed never did broadcast. It is believed that in July 1962 the ship, while in Sheerness awaiting a tow out to her station, was raided by the Post Office and the radio equipment confiscated. British youth, or at least those in SE England, had to wait for Radio Caroline to make it in 1964.
   Meanwhile, back on the ship  …. Simon has completed the first stage of the repairs to the stern gunwale.  The last section on the starboard side was the worst and did look pretty grim (Photo 983). 

    Five bags of sand and two of cement later and the whole area looks much better (Photo 984).   

   To finish off, the shuttering has to come off and all the repaired areas need sealing and painting. Then he will have to find a good joiner to design, make and fit the bench seating he has in mind. The seats will be weather-proof lockers in which to store cushions etc., and, as I reported before, there will be a door in the centre to give access to the clinker boat he plans to have hanging out there – if he can find some davits!  My ‘artist’s impression’ shows the idea (Photo 985).


Friday, 22 May 2015


Having been told that the Victoria dock was still there, I spent some time proving that what appeared to be the remains of a dock was not the Victoria. Prompted by a reader to look more closely, I found that the ‘remains’ were in fact an optical illusion created by the shadow of the boundary fence of the dockyard. Using Google ‘Streetview’ it is possible to look into the yard through a wide entrance gate and see that there is no dock-shaped depression in the ground (Photo 971).  

   So I have proved that an optical illusion has no bearing on the location of the Victoria dock!    This just goes to show that, if you are expecting to see something, it is highly likely that you will. However, the effort was not wasted as I believe I have now positioned the Victoria and the Albert dry docks as accurately as it is possible to do so.
   Meanwhile, back on the ship, Simon has made excellent use of a slack week in the wallpapering business to progress things. He used his skills on behalf of himself for a change and hung some very smart wallpaper in the salon/wardroom (Photo 972).   

The photo does not do it justice; the wallpaper has a linen-like texture. At the moment the room is actually the bedsit and it will be many a month before the below-deck rooms are ready and his bed can go down there!
   He has also had time to fix the stern decking in place and give it a good day’s sanding (Photo 973).   

When the moth-eaten sections of the bulwark are reinstated (with cement), he intends to build a curved seating structure around the stern. Please excuse my amateur PhotoShopping (and the colour of the seat cushions!) but I have done my best (Photo 974)

       Going one step further (several steps in fact), Simon would like to make a small ‘gateway’ right in the centre there and have his clinker boat hanging off the stern on davits – with matching cushions of course! At the moment he is unable to find and suitable davits.  Long term followers may remember that when Cormorant became Lady Dixon, part of the transformation was a ‘boat platform’ added to the stern. So perhaps he can indulge his whim on historical grounds!
  Meanwhile, the other member of the crew shows little enthusiasm for the work (Photo 975).


Friday, 15 May 2015


Methinks there is confusion about the location of the Victoria Dock.  Google Earth reveals a dock-shaped depression of about the right dimensions sitting parallel to Dock Street and Beach Road  (Photo 961). 

   However, having done a careful comparison with my 1897 map and with a hand-drawn map of the docks contained in Colman O’Mahony’s book “The Maritime Gateway to Cork: A History of the Outports of Passage West and Monkstown, 1754-1942” (thanks to Marcia D’Alton of Cork City Council for alerting me to this book), I am sure that the Victoria Dock was not parallel to those roads and was shorter than that depression would indicate   (Photo 962). The dots indicate the 1897 shoreline.

   Another very interesting photograph has surfaced (where would we be without the Internet and Google?) showing the Victoria dry dock and the Albert dry dock (Photo 963).   

There is no date on the photograph, but as the Albert dock is no longer a twin dock and it extends right into the river, I assume the date would be after 1919 when it was remodelled and before 1983 when it was filled in!   
  To add confusion to an already muddled picture about ownership, ‘Roundymac’ informs us that the dockyard was run by Haulbowline Industries, but doesn’t say when (sounds a bit modern to me) and that there is a company plaque attached to the wall outside the dockyard. On the latter point he is correct, there is a plaque there signifying that the place was run by the ‘Queenstown Dry Docks Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Limited” and states that it was established in 1832 (Photo 964). 

This is misleading as that company was not formed until the end of the 19th century, reformed in 1924 and is still in existence, although I have not yet found a contact address to ask them about their history.  I think the ‘established 1832’ refers to the dockyard itself.
   I hope to report on refurbishment progress next time, now that the weather has improved.

Friday, 8 May 2015


I think it safe to say that Cormorant was not built by ‘The Victoria Shipbuilding Company’. With the help of the Cork City and County Archives I have found Francis Guy’s ‘County and City of Cork Directory 1876-1876’ (Photo 951).   

This records that the company running the Victoria Dockyard at the time was the ‘Cork Harbour Docks and Warehouses Company’.  Their entry in the Directory shows their address as Victoria Docks, Passage West (Photo 952).

    The Directory has no record of any Victoria Shipbuilding Company or any Passage West Shipbuilding Company (probably confusion with the Passage West Docks Company). The Cork Archivist reminded me that another Cormorant was said to have been built in 1855, for the Cork Steamship Company. This was found among the records of the Cork Steam Packet Co Ltd, a successor company. It was certainly not a lightship and apparently it was broken up in 1894.
   Another historical question, on which I am reasonably confident in pronouncing, is the location of the dry docks where Cormorant was built.  They are filled in now of course but back in the late 1880s I reckon they were where I suggested last month (Photo 953). 

 I wish I could find a detailed map of the area dated around 1880 just to confirm that, but I have had no luck in finding one yet.

PS:  If Alex Coulter reads this, please get in touch.  My computer crashed earlier this year and I lost all my e-mail addresses!

Sunday, 3 May 2015


It seems I was a little hasty in condemning those responsible for the drowning boat next door to Simon. Something in the way of repair has obviously been done, as she is going up and down with the tide again (Photo 941).  Whatever the problem is/was, I hope it is nothing too serious because I think, with a lick of paint she could look very nice. Of course I have not looked inside!!

   Back to Simon’s boat, the reasonable weather, the insulated deck and a radiator down below has dried out down there very well.  It is still all very rusty and discoloured, but at least there are not drips from every projection (Photo 942).

   The next step is to remove as much of the rust as possible/practicable. A good chip and scrape would get rid of the really loose stuff, but would take quite a time -  at a rough estimate there is an area of about 5,000 sq ft to clean, a lot of which is not flat, easy surface (Photo 943).

  Once the loose stuff is off,  the choice will be either to cover what is left by coating all the ironwork with either rust-proof paint and/or spray-on insulating foam, or to remove a lot more by some form of blasting, then cover it all with paint and/or foam.
    In my day blasting with grit was the only answer and what a messy business it was when not contained in a booth. I have been researching dry ice blasting – three expressions of interest already (even though it’s a Bank Holiday) and one of the responses came from a chap who lived in Ireland, worked in the marine industry and knows several of the old lightships over there. Now that would be appropriate wouldn’t it?  However, I have a feeling it is going to be rather expensive.  Perhaps we could get a grant from an organisation with nautical/historical preservation objectives?  It is a big job, as you can see from Photo 944, which shows about one third of the below deck area!