Piracy a common theme at maritime fest
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.
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.