Journal Volume 7 2013

The heroes of Greystones


On Friday night, October 14, 1892, a heavy sea and north-east gale prevailed in the Irish Channel, during which the schooner Mersey, which was moored alongside the jetty at Greystones, threatened to break up where she lay, and the owner resolved to let her drive on the beach. John Doyle and William Doyle, with Herbert Doyle, son of the latter, went out along the jetty to cast a rope to the vessel, and having done so, were returning when a great wave came and engulfed them. They had often gone out to save life, and were famed for their bravery. John and William Doyle leave large families, for whom a subscription is being made. The disaster has prompted the following lines:-


Only three simple fishers – two lusty men and a lad,

The stay of two poor and humble homes that yesterday were glad;

Their hands were hard from toiling – from dragging the ropes and sails,

For often out in the Irish Sea they’d weathered the western gales;

But they had often plunged in the deep, and battled the angry wave,

And risked their lives and the children’s bread a fellow’s life to save.

There was nothing heroic about them – only two men and a lad –

But they’re stiff and dead in the billow’s grasp, and the hearths are cold and sad,

And tears and sighs fill hearts and eyes that yesterday were glad.


There was trouble that night on the deep, and the waves were lashing high,

And the winds were howling in the shrouds beneath the frowning sky;

And the cordage creaked as it only creaks when Davy Jones has spread

His arms to grasp in icy clasp his harvest of the dead.

The boat was straining to the beach, the sea had seized its prey,

And soon would snap the staying cords and bear its prize away;

For the bonds that hands of man had wrought exert their power in vain

When the anger of the skies breaks forth, and the tempest’s sinews strain.


Now, help for the ship which doom awaits, no faint help must it be,

And muscle and heart must be stout and brave to face that raging sea;

For over the staunch high pier it breaks, and strikes with maddening force,

Sweeping before it mightily whate’er would stay its course.

But there are hearts to face that gale, and hands who’ll try to reach

And save that ship from the tempest’s jaws, and they’re ready on the beach.


But now while they struggle with thews all bent, watch how the surges rise,

And see that torrent rushing on high, rearing to the skies.

“Come back, come back!” – along it sweeps and rises o’er the pier.

“Come back, come back!” they cry in vain to ears that can scarce hear.

Too late - for as lighting leaves the heaven, and in a minute of time

Descends to earth, and takes its course, all bright, from clime to clime,

Sudden it rose that mighty wave and round the hapless men,

Swept as no human power can sweep, incircling them, and then -

Oh! then - sweet sister, hold your breath, and wives your tears prepare,

For by that slender cord three lives are hanging lightly there.


Back goes the wave, and, God of Love, the men and boy are – where?

Ask of that wave, beseech the winds, and yield ye to despair,

For the Lord of the deep has taken them; it was the gleaning day,

When He hath willed to gather them into His home away.

But shall the widow weep for bread, and shall the children cry?

And while we wreath the statesman’s tomb, shall they of hunger die,

The kith and kin of those fishers three – two simple men and a lad –

Who weep in the darkened homes to-day that yesterday were glad?


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