Former Cork Harbour Master, Pat Farnan, will become Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club at its 297th annual general meeting next Monday night.
As a Cobh man of many years, his attainment of RCYC leadership emphasises the connection between that town and the Crosshaven club.
The RCYC moved from Cobh to Crosshaven in 1966 when it amalgamated with the Royal Munster Yacht Club at the other side of Cork Harbour.
Thus the RCYC maintains the longevity of its place as the oldest yacht club in the world. There are other connections, through the Water Club of Cork Harbour on Haulbowline Island, the Munster Model Yacht Club and Monkstown, but the Cobh link is at the core of the present club, the only one in Ireland with the title of Admiral.
Elevation from ‘Harbour Master’ to ‘Admiral’ led me to an interesting story about a former Harbour Master who lobbied the Queen of England to change the then name of ‘Cove’ to Queenstown. He is also credit with preventing the execution of local men after robbery from a ship and a ‘food riot’ in the town.
I came across this fascinating story of Cork’s maritime history in the Boston Collection of the John Burns Library from ‘The Sacred Heart Review,’ a newspaper published in Boston, USA, from 1888 to 1918. It doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘Sacred Heart Messenger’ which readers may remember, though its historical relevance is mainly because of reportage of the Catholic Church! It also published local, national and international news items and historical articles.
One of these recalled that in 1849 when the effects of the1847 Famine were still being felt, a ship called the ‘Westmoreland,’ a brigantine, was moored in what was then known as ‘Cove’ with a big cargo of potatoes for England.
This aroused the anger of the townspeople where there was still hunger from the Famine years. A group of young men from the town boarded the vessel and landed the cargo, the potatoes being offered to anyone who wanted them.
The town’s police force was unable to deal with the crowds which gathered to take the potatoes and sent for help from the military who arrived from Spike Island. According to reports, the officer-in-charge approached the local Magistrate who was at the scene and offered him his sword. This was an indication that he wasn’t willing to take action against the clearly hungry people who were making off with the cargo.
The Magistrate was Bartholomew Verling, an extensive landowner around Cuskinny, who was also Spanish Consul and Harbour Master. When men regarded as ‘ringleaders’ of the cargo theft were later charged at Cork Assizes he is said to have successfully appealed for them to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin because a conviction could have led to death sentences. The men pleaded ‘guilty’ to rioting. Other charges were dropped and they were sentenced to two months in jail.
Verling was also part of a deputation to Queen Victoria when she landed in Cobh in August of the same year, 1849, which successfully sought her permission to change the name of ‘Cove’ to Queenstown.
That was later changed with the formation of the Irish Free State to Cobh. However, the old name of ‘Cove’ is still the title of the town’s sailing club.
Verling also campaigned for ‘Queenstown’ to be made a Naval Station and ‘Mail Packet Port.’ As often, marking Irish historical incidents, a song was composed about ‘The Capture of the Westmoreland.’ A fascinating story of Maritime Cork.
Every Wednesday this new column will link Cork’s maritime history, culture and modern development
Tomorrow ECHO SPORT: Sailing