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Phantom Boats

Ardmore Memory and Story - The Sea

9. Phantom Boats
In the Ardmore Journal of 1991, James Quain has a very interesting article on ‘Phantoms of the Sea’.

He tells first of the phantom boat seen by his grand-father Jamsie Quain about 1900. It was winter and he was tilling land out the cliffs when he saw what seemed a ship’s life-boat out to sea with about a dozen men rowing and another steering and he saw them change seats a few times. He called one of the coastguards and they both went back to the cliff. The boat was drawing near and almost below them; the crew looked cold, wet and hungry but strangely did not respond when the two onlookers waved and called. Suddenly, to their amazement, the boat altered course and set out to sea again. It seemed unbelievable, that an exhausted crew could head out from sheltered waters into the open sea.

Jamsie and the coastguard hurried to the pier and got a crew together, including Pat Troy and Maurice Flynn. They got the sail up and soon began to catch up on the boat heading towards Mine Head. They got within almost 200 yards of it but could not get any nearer; they shouted but got no response. Maurice Flynn said “Turn back, Quain, or we’ll all be lost. We’re following dead men”, so they reluctantly did so. The coastguard telephoned Mine Head lighthouse and alerted the rescue services along the coast, but the boat was never seen again.

Jimmie Rooney had the story both from Maurice and Jamsie. They said they were only just off the corner of the head on the return journey, when a sea broke on top of Seán Spán, “a big wave that would drown a liner, Seán Spán is a sunken rock off Ardmore Head, where a Spanish ship was wrecked one time. We often got nets caught there at low spring tide.” Some days later, they heard a large vessel had been lost out at sea, about a week previously.

Jimmie Rooney, Paddy Downey, Mikey Lynch and Jack Farrissey all give graphic accounts of the phantom boat seen in February 1936.

Jimmie and his crew were putting out nets at the Head on a Sunday night when “we saw this vessel bearing down on us from the south-east and thought it was the bailiffs launch coming out from Youghal” and they began pulling in the nets. We waited at Goílín na Rínne but there was no sign of the ship coming round the Head, so after a while, we began to put out the nets again and put Paddy Flynn ashore and we rowed round the Head” but none of us saw anything.

Within a week, a big storm came and the Nellie Fleming was lost.

Paddy Downey with Tom Harty and Johnie Brian from Curragh were out at Faill na Daraí putting out the nets, when they saw what they thought was the Muirchú.

Mikey Lynch and Jack Farrissey were at the Clais under the well, putting out the nets also that Sunday night, when they saw the big boat coming from the Head towards them. They too thought it was the Muirchú and hastily made for the pier, where they met Paddy Downey soaked to the skin, “with his new blue suit destroyed by the salt water”.

Willie Roche from Monatrea tells of the phantom ship that came into Caliso Bay during the Great War. It was near the old Moylan family home down near the beach, and came so close that those watching on shore thought she’d go aground. They could see the naval men in uniform going about the deck. The ship came along by Cabin Point and at Carthy’s Cove disappeared off out. A few days later, the news came that Mike Moylan on HMS Carturian was dead. He is buried in Ardmore graveyard just outside the cathedral at the S.E. corner.

These accounts are condensed from the Ardmore Journal of 1991.

Another maritime ghost story concerns Martin Troys' grandfather from Curragh who was drowned while sailing home from Youghal in 1886. A neighbour, John Corbetts grandfather was digging potatoes at about 10am and saluted Seán Treo as he passed by, but he got no reply from him and reported this at home. It transpires that Seán Treo was dead when his neighbour met him.

Author: Siobhan Lincoln

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