Piracy a com­mon theme at mar­itime fest

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

SMUG­GLING, piracy and the hunt for sal­vage from ship­wrecks pro­vided a com­mon theme that ran through many of the very well at­tended lec­tures de­liv­ered in Mara Beo on Satur­day and Sun­day as part of the Dingle Mar­itime Week­end.

Des Elkin, who has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on piracy around the coasts of Ire­land, re­lated how the area from Dingle to Cork was a haven for pi­rates in the early years of trans-At­lantic trade re­sult­ing in a thriv­ing black mar­ket in coastal towns to the ex­tent that Bar­bary Du­cats and pieces of eight be­came com­mon cur­rency.

In West Kerry a string of Coast Guard sta­tions was built from Cas- tle­gre­gory to Keel, manned mostly by ex Bri­tish Navy sailors. Al­though the ‘fir goirm’ – so named be­cause of their blue uni­forms – were mis­trusted at first they grad­u­ally in­te­grated into their com­mu­ni­ties, earn­ing hon­our for their heroic res­cues and their ef­forts to pro­vide re­lief dur­ing the famine.

If the Coast Guard had been around in 1818 they might have pre­vented an ap­palling tragedy that cost the lives of 21 men from the Bal­ly­fer­riter area in an in­ci­dent that scarred re­la­tions be­tween the neigh­bour­ing parishes of Dún Chaoin and Bal­ly­fer­riter for gen­er­a­tions af­ter­wards.

In the open­ing lec­ture of the Mar- itime Week­end, Dáithí De Mórdha gave a fas­ci­nat­ing ac­count of the tragic events that fol­lowed the ar­rival of a sink­ing ves­sel – the Bril­liant – north of Inis Tuas­cairt in Jan­uary 1818. Blas­ket is­landers res­cued the three or four crew on board from the ship but the fol­low­ing morn­ing three seine boats set out from Dún Chaoin to sal­vage any­thing they could from the Bril­liant, which was then drift­ing in the Blas­ket Sound. Soon af­ter­wards an­other seine boat from Gorta Dubha, with 21 men on board, ar­rived on the scene ea­ger for plun­der. They forced the Dún Chaoin men off the ship and pro­ceeded to load their boat with any­thing of value but in their ea­ger­ness they over­loaded their boat, which cap­sized throw­ing most of the men into the water.

The Dún Chaoin men failed to res­cue them and were said to have beaten them back when they clung des­per­ately to the sides of their boats. Twenty one men drowned, in­clud­ing the Bal­ly­fer­riter men still on board the Bril­liant, which later sank at Ceann Sraithe.

When grief stricken Bal­ly­fer­riter dis­cov­ered how the Dún Chaoin failed to res­cue the lo­cal men there was an ex­plo­sion of anger fol­lowed by raids on the neigh­bour­ing parish which were so vi­o­lent that the Dún Chaoin took to the hills. Ill feel­ing lin­gered into the 1950s.

Pho­tos by De­clan Malone

ABOVE: Brian Far­rell and Kevin Flan­nery with pho­tos from the EPHEMERE ex­hi­bi­tion on the ef­fects of plas­tic pol­lu­tion on the marine en­vi­ron­ment, which was on dis­play in Mara Beo dur­ing the Dingle Mar­itime Week­end.LEFT: At the ‘How to be an Ocean Hero’ work­shop in Mara Beo on Sun­day Louise Overy used cus­tard, rasins and jelly beans to demon­strate how dif­fi­cult it is for fish to dis­tint­guish be­tween their nat­u­ral food and the harm­ful plas­tic pol­lu­tion clog­ging the world’s oceans.TOP, RIGHT: Young par­tic­i­pants in rapt at­ten­tion at Louise Overy’s ‘How to be an Ocean Hero’ work­shopBOT­TOM, RIGHT: What’s in a tur­tle... well it can in­clude a lot of plas­tic that the tur­tle mis­takes for ed­i­ble jel­ly­fish as Louise Overy ex­plained with a lit­tle help from one of the young par­tic­i­pants in the ‘How to be an Ocean Hero’ work­shop.

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