Maritime Cork: The history of Cork Harbour's eastern shore

Maritime Cork: The history of Cork Harbour's eastern shore
The transatlantic liner the Celtic aground near Roche's Point in 1928 which became a total loss. It's story formed part of the “Historical and Heritage Exhibition” at, the Aghada Community Centre.

The eastern shore of Cork Harbour was alive with kayaks on Friday night. 

They were an impressive sight on a beautiful evening off Whitegate, a lovely part of the harbour, though regrettably not accessible to larger marine craft because the area has silted up.

I was on my way to hear about “the forgotten eastern shore of Cork Harbour,” although, seeing the “Night Kayak” underway, I wondered how this lovely part of the harbour could be forgotten.

There is a lot of maritime history around Aghada, Whitegate and Rostellan, which was highlighted at the two-day “Historical and Heritage Exhibition” at, the Aghada Community Centre, also an impressive building. 

There were photographic and memorabilia displays and the centenary of the arrival of the American Naval seaplane base at Aghada in 1918 was featured. 

Organised by the Cork Harbour Heritage Alliance and the Whitegate/Aghada Historical Society it showed how small ships, including the legendary De Wadden schooner, had unloaded into Whitegate village.

Amongst the exhibits was an intriguing stone anchor, recovered from the waters of Cork Harbour. Its history has not been fully established, but it was possibly used by fishing boats. That was deduced from its weight and a hole made through the heavy stone.

Also on display were a swivel chair and a “Lost and Found’ press salvaged from the great transAtlantic liner, the Celtic, 50 years ago. It ran aground near Roche’s Point in December of 1928 and became a total loss. The Morsecock, of which I wrote two weeks ago, got the passengers and crew safely off.

It took five years to dismantle the Celtic, during which work four men died from toxic poisoning. The British Board of Trade didn’t hold an inquiry, surprisingly, but the owners, the White Star Line, did. However, the findings were never published, nor was it explained why the ship, en route to Liverpool, headed towards Cork Harbour.

Celtic was insured for £230,000. Most of the cargo valued at £160,000 was salvaged.

Since the ship had been 27 years in service, the owners considered it too old to be worth repairing. “That led to accusations that Celtic had been deliberately stranded but no evidence was ever produced to support that theory,” I was told.

Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the opening of Whitegate Oil Refinery, which was also featured. Local historians want to gather stories of personal experience from those who worked there through the years. “Producing these in book form is one of the plans,” I was told. Contact can be made with Frank Cronin on 087 9696367.

The “Night Kayak” at Whitegate was organised by Whitegate Rowing Club to fundraise for 17-year- old Aaron McMahon from Shanagarry who is suffering from a one-in-a-million type of cancer called Chordoma and needs an operation in the United States.

The support it was given indicated the strength of the maritime community on the eastern shore of the harbour.

OTHER CORK MARITIME NEWS

The man who supervised the building of one of Cork Harbour’s outstanding landmarks, St.Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, is to be commemorated on Saturday when a plaque will be unveiled at 3.30 p.m. at the main entrance. Charles Guilfoyle, Architect, Fenian and Irish Patriot, supervised the construction of the Cathedral for over four decades.

UCC has published a study on saltmarshes and coastal wetlands which shows that an ecosystem’s ability to cope with climate change depends on what type of plants it contains. It also found that the ability of plants to cope with climate change is affected by the amount of nitrogen pollution in their soil and water.

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