Organisation : Waterford County Museum
Article Title : The Ardmore Journal
Page Title : The Loss Of The SS Ary
Page Number : 11
Publication Date : 08 February 2011
Expiry Date : Never Expires
Category : Ardmore
URL : http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web?task=Display&art_id=331&pagenum=11&lang=en

1947 was the year of the big freeze-up. Heavy snowstorms brought life to a virtual standstill in Ireland and indeed Europe. The crisis was compounded by the shortage of Fuel and Foodstuffs in the year immediately following the War. Blizzards blocked road and rail routes, bringing down power and telephone lines. The petrol shortage also affected transport and distribution, as did the freezing of Europe's canals and rivers. Many factories were closed, lacking fuel and power. In Clonmel, the G.A.A. found someone had cut down their goalposts and removed them for fuel. Irish shipping's vessel, the Irish Plane, lay stranded on the shore near Ballycotton, and in Cork City young people were skating on the frozen Lough. The cold spell lasted for over two months and resulted in many villages including Ardmore, being occasionally cut-off from the outside world. One particular day however, which stands out in the memories of many Ardmore people, is Tuesday 18th February 1947. The occasion was one of great sadness as eleven sailors were laid to rest in Ardmore cemetery, following the loss of the steamship Ary.

On the morning of Saturday 8th February, the steamer Ary left Port Talbot in Glamorganshire, South Wales, with a 600 ton of Coal bound for the port of Waterford. The ship failed to arrive at Waterford on Sunday as scheduled, and, as there was no news over the next few days, Lloyd's reported her missing.

Built in Holland in 1904 the S.S Ary, formerly a passenger ship, was registered in Panama. She had a gross tonnage of 642, and her 97 horsepower was provided by triple expansion engines. The dimensions of the ship were: Length 180ft x Beam 29ft x Draught 13ft. According to the newspapers no information could be obtained regarding her ownership, but the Ary had been under the control of the British Ministry for Shipping for a long time. 

The Ship Founders
 
On the morning of Saturday 8th February, the steamer Ary left Port Talbot in Glamorganshire, South Wales, with a 600 ton of Coal bound for the port of Waterford. The ship failed to arrive at Waterford on Sunday as scheduled, and, as there was no news over the next few days, Lloyd's reported her missing.

Built in Holland in 1904 the S.S Ary, formerly a passenger ship, was registered in Panama. She had a gross tonnage of 642, and her 97 horsepower was provided by triple expansion engines. The dimensions of the ship were: Length 180ft x Beam 29ft x Draught 13ft. According to the newspapers no information could be obtained regarding her ownership, but the Ary had been under the control of the British Ministry for Shipping for a long time.

At about 8.00am on Wednesday 12th, a ship's lifeboat came ashore at Ballymacart in Old Parish. In it was Jan Dorucki, a 19-year-old sailor, suffering from exposure and in a state of collapse. He climbed the steep cliff and staggered into the farmhouse of the Hourigan family. He was then brought to Dungarvan District Hospital where he told his story to Lloyd's Agent.

The Ary left Port Talbot on Saturday morning with a cargo of coal. The heavy weather caused the cargo to shift, and a list to port developed that evening. The captain ordered water to be pumped into the starboard side of the ship. Efforts to right the ship were unsuccessful however, and at midnight they took to the boats shortly before the ship foundered. Of the crew of 15, nine men including Jan were in the port lifeboat. The fate of the starboard lifeboat and the other six men, including the Captain, is unknown. As they watched the ship sink about 100 yards away, Jan and his companions could hear the others calling out, but could do nothing to help as they realised they had no oars, sail or engine in the boat. Most of the men were lightly clothed having abounded the ship in haste. That night they drifted on rough seas, in cold easterly wind carrying snow showers with it. Jan pulled tarpaulin over himself and fell asleep. Next morning he awoke to the terrifying realisation that he alone was alive in the boat with 8 dead men. Afraid of the dead, Jan pushed the bodies overboard and drifted on. He called for help to passing ships, but was not heard. Finally, on Wednesday morning, the ship's lifeboat grounded on the shore at Ballymacart.
 
As the lutine bell was rung at Lloyd's in London on Thursday 13th to announce the loss of the Ary, the first body was washed ashore at Ardmore. The local Gardai, under Sergeant Dan Gallagher, had the remains removed to Ardmore Fire Station in Coffey Lane. On the following day, Friday 14th the inquest was held in Ardmore. Papers found on the man identified him as Jose Guisado-Mejais of Spain. West Waterford coroner Dr. Daniel McCarthy recorded a verdict of death from exposure and not from drowning. On Saturday Jose was buried in St. Declan's Cemetery Ardmore.

During the weekend eleven other members of the crew were washed ashore between Ardmore and Youghal, including several at Monatray. Some post-mortems were carried out by Dr. Catherine Foley and on Tuesday morning a further inquest was held. All the bodies wore life jackets and once again a verdict of death from exposure rather than drowning was recorded. The inquest was held as customary, at the nearest public house, in this case Rooney's Stand Bar.

The bodies were put in coffins at the Fire Station, and shortly after 2.00pm that afternoon, with more snow falling, the first funeral commenced. And so it went on all afternoon, each time the hearse was followed up Main Street by a 'nice cortege of people' walking behind – some people went to all the funerals. The snow was thick on the ground as Ned Kiely of Dungarvan coaxed the hearse up Tower Hill. The coffins were laid side by side in a large grave at the southeast corner of St. Declan's Cemetery (new ground). The local Parish Priest Fr. O'Byrne and the rector Rev. Warren recited funeral prayers. An interesting remark overheard at the funerals provides us with a reminiscence of times long past; someone said the weather was similar when the Trantem was lost "nár cailleadh an peig Trantem"

The following is a list of the Ary crew members interred at Ardmore, in order of burial:

1. Jose Guisado-Maejais
of La Linea, Spain
Ship's Steward – Age 32 – (Burial 15/2/47)

2. Stefan Pawlicki
of Warsaw, Poland
Seaman (Fireman) – Age 21 – Single

3. William James Fisher
of Aberavon, Port Talbot, South Wales
Seaman (Fireman) – Age 33 – Single

4. Alexander Malm
of Tallim, Estonia
Ship's Engineer – Age 72 – Married

5. Edward Kolk
of Tallim, Estonia
Ship's Captain – Age 55 – Married

6. Antonio Rodriquez
of Seville, Spain
Seaman – Age 41

7. Ludwig (Peter) Fisher
of England
Seaman – Age 36 – Married

8. H. Nugis
Seaman (Second Engineer) – Age about 36 – (Roman Catholic)

9. Marakin Edmund Stefanski
of Poland
Seaman – Age 16

10, 11 & 12 Three unidentified Bodies.

The ship's Master Captain Kolk was deputising for the regular Captain, Mr. L.J. Catalender who had gone to London on business a few days before the Ary sailed. Jan Dorucki was the sole survivor of this disaster. Twelve of his companions, including Captain Kolk, were washed ashore and buried at Ardmore, leaving two members of the all male crew of 15 unaccounted for.

Jan Dorucki spent several months in Dungarvan Hospital. Born in Poland in 1927, Jan was a Catholic and unmarried. He had a fair knowledge of English and his father was in the Polish Army in England. Jan himself was a Sailor and had joined the Ary in 1946. As a result of exposure in the lifeboat, he was suffering from severe frostbite. Gangrene set in and both legs had to be amputated. Before leaving hospital, Jan had to learn to walk on his artificial legs.

The position of the Ary when she foundered is unknown. Newspaper reports at the time varied – "off Waterford" "near the Tuskar Light" or "in the Irish Sea". Jan Dorucki was surprised when, after drifting for several days, he landed in Ireland, he thought he was in France. One newspaper report suggested that the disaster occurred near the Welsh coast, and that Dorucki's lifeboat was blown towards the Waterford coast by the strong easterly winds prevailing. A rough estimate of the ship's position however, based on speed and time travelling (Saturday morning – midnight) indicates that she must have been close to Waterford – somewhere off the south coast of Wexford, perhaps near the Saltee Islands.

Some time later, in the Autumn of 1947, some relatives of the ship's engineer, A. Malm, came to Ardmore and had his remains exhumed. He was reinterred in the south west corner of the graveyard where the inscription, at the base of a stone cross, reads as follows:

Alexander Malm
Born Estonia 1875
Lost Eire Coast 1947
Sleep Well.

Text by: James T. Quain

Scanned by: Ursula Ansell


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