Sea Echoes: Recalling the 1908 Cork Harbour collision of the Fleswick and Killarney

Sea Echoes: Recalling the 1908 Cork Harbour collision of the Fleswick and Killarney
Raising the Fleswick in 1909 following its collission with the SS Killarney.

By Tom MacSweeney

There is a determination in Passage West to have a museum in the town, with a strong focus on the huge maritime tradition and culture of the area. 

There was a good attendance at a public meeting in the PACE centre recently, called by those who have been moving the project forward, to get public approval for their plans. That was given unanimously.

Angela Murphy who is also an organiser of the town’s annual Maritime Festival, to be held in June, chaired the meeting and was pleased with the level of support. While the museum would be based in Passage, there is support for the project in Monkstown and Glenbrook and a building has been located for it.

In a week when maritime history was being made downriver at Monkstown and Rushbrooke, attracting a lot of public attention for the transporting of three huge cranes that had been assembled at Cork Dockyard to Puerto Rico, I came across photographs of another time when a maritime incident in the same area of the river also put Monkstown Bay in the headlines.

This was the sinking of a ship in collision with another “on the bend of the river in Monkstown Bay” as reports of the time described it.

The Liverpool steamer, Fleswick, built in 1900, which was 180 feet long by 28-foot beam was arriving in Cork on October 17, 1908, from Garston with 750 tons of cargo and bunker coal aboard. 

According to the reports she was “struck by the SS.Killarney" whose bow cut almost as far into the Fleswick as the funnel of the Liverpool vessel. It must have been quite a collision!

Refloating the Fleswick in Cork Harbour 1909 following its collission with the SS Killarney.
Refloating the Fleswick in Cork Harbour 1909 following its collission with the SS Killarney.

“The Fleswick sank almost immediately, with the loss of one man. Boats from the training ship HMS Emerald, managed to rescue the rest of the crew,” according to the newspaper reports.

The photo reproduced here shows the amazing salvage job that was carried out in the river to raise the Fleswick by the company of Thomas Ensor and Sons. 

It drew big crowds to watch the work. The Fleswick was raised on March 18 of the following year, 1909, repaired and returned to service in June 1909 Just part of the history which will, doubtless, be chronicled, with a lot more when Passage West gets its museum.


Described by its re-building enthusiasts as “the eponymous Auxiliary Ketch Ilen, our flagship, the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships,” this lovely vessel could be back on the water again this July after years of restoration at Hegarty’s boatyard in Oldcourt near Skibbereen. 

She is listed for attendance at Glandore Classic Boats Regatta to mark the 25th anniversary of that event. Organisers say they are hopeful she will be there between Sunday, July 23 and Friday, July 28.


The people of Inishbofin Island off the Mayo coastline have issued a worldwide invitation. 

Their annual Arts festival is to take place from April 28-30 at which they want to have a ‘yarn bomb’ where any form of yarn – knitted, crocheted, or other - is used to cover objects in public areas. “We are looking for colourful donations from around the world,” they say. More details on “Inishbofin Local News” which is their Facebook page.

EVENING ECHO TOMORROW: The state of sailing.


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