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The Erins Hope Arrives

The Fenian Landing At Helvic

4. The Erins Hope Arrives

The renamed Jacmel had a crew of 5 and 40 Fenians. J. E. Kerrigan was in command of the Fenians - William J. Nagle and John Warren were his assistants. Conditions aboard were reasonable, as sleeping accommodation had been prepared for the extra passengers. On arriving off Sligo, the Jacmel showed her prearranged signals — a certain type of light by night and a furled jib during the day.

Several days passed and there was no acknowledgement from shore. By May 23rd Capt. Cavanagh had begun to grow impatient and decided to go ashore himself to investigate, taking with him two Fenians named Doherty and O'Shea. While they were away a fracas seems to have arisen between the crew and the Fenians, resulting in two sailors (James Nolan and John Smith), being shot and injured by a Fenian named Buckley. To add to the confusion the local pilot, Michael Gallagher, from Towney near Teelin decided they needed his services and came aboard. He had to be detained and was told a false story about the vessel being bound from Spain to Glasgow with fruit. Cavanagh then returned just before another visitor arrived. He transpired to be Richard O'Sullivan Burke who later planned the Manchester Rescue, and had been posing as an artist named Walters, staying at the Imperial Hotel in Sligo.

Burke told the Fenians the true state of affairs in Ireland and suggested they bring the arms and men to Cork where Captain Lomasney was still active. Cavanagh accepted the advice, but now had to deal with the detained pilot and two wounded sailors. He put all three ashore at Milk Harbour near Streedagh that night (24th May) in charge of Patrick Nugent. Burke was also put ashore in the company of three other Fenians.

Meanwhile, suspicions had been aroused about this cruising brigantine. Nugent and the sailors were arrested 18 shortly after landing and a gunboat was making its way from Lough Swilly. 19 The Erin's Hope had gone however by the time it arrived and was making its way to the Cork coast.

From May 27th to 30th the Erin's Hope cruised between Toe Head and the Galley. Provisions were now running low, so Capt. Cavanagh tried to put Warren ashore for food near Rosscarbery on the evening of the 30th. However, two coastguard boats came out and he was forced to stand off. He then decided to try and land Nagle and Warren near Ballycotton but it began to blow from the South West and he was forced to run eastwards during the night of May 31st. 20

Early on Saturday, June 1st, the arrived off Helvic. There they sighted a hooker from Ballinagoul hauling trammels. It was a foggy morning. A swell from the South was still running and the Ring men had difficulty hauling their hake nets from the bottom. The Captain asked the skipper, Paid Mor O'Faolain, to take two men ashore for £2 which he agreed to do. However, on going up alongside the brigantine, 32 men came aboard the hooker. Cavanagh asked for them not to be put ashore until evening but it was hardly reasonable to expect Paid Mor to sail around all day with an overloaded hooker. He landed the Fenians on the beach near Ballinagoul pier, but by this time the fog had lifted and George Jones, a coastguard in Helvic, saw them and alerted the R.I.C. who set out in pursuit.

Cavanagh then sailed off into the Bristol Channel, with him at this stage were three of the crew and several Fenians including the leader, Kerrigan. They cruised off Land's End for a few' days and returned to Mine Head on June 6th where they seem to have expected instructions on what to do with the arms on board. Receiving no signal from shore they continued westward to Toe Head and set sail for America, Food had run very low when they hailed a trawler on the Grand Banks in Mid July and finally arrived in New York on August 1st. 21

Cavanagh had sailed 9,000 miles in 107 days and had evaded the British Navy on more then one occasion, The Jacmel had been sighted by British men—of —war several times, but as brigantines were commonly used in coastal trade, suspicions were never aroused. On one such occasion before the Helvic landing they had made preparation to fight if the Naval frigate cane close. P. G. Kain mentioned this in a letter to O'Donovan Rossa on Augustine Costello's death in 1909. 22 John Devoy commented that they had proven that arms could be landed despite the presence of the British Navy and Capt. Cavanagh said, "there was no point of the coast at which I stopped that I could not have landed considerable quantities of arms had preparations been made to take them from me" 23 The Admiralty had issued a description of the Jackmel on June 14th 24 apparently obtained from William Million, one of the prisoners who turned informer. However, the Government was not too hopeful of arresting Cavanagh as "by this he has made his way to some French port for provisions and will make his way back to North America perhaps for more arms", observed Larcom in a letter to Lord Mayo.

Author: Sylvester Murray

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