Journal Volume 1 1992

Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/15)

The recent work on the harbour had cost the taxpayer twelve thousand pounds; so what was to be done about a groyne? The Irish Builder reported exactly a year later that on 20 November 1889 the Financial Secretary had himself visited Greystones, accompanied by his private secretary and the two highest officials of the Board of Works. They were met by a deputation including the MP, William Corbett; James Price, civil engineer; and Cathcart Dobbs, JP, both of whom lived here, and another local man, W. Jones. Jones said ‘the harbour was a failure and that a north groyne was the only solution’.

Well, they got their groyne. Samuel French lists everything that was done between 1885 and 1897 and tells us the total cost - twenty thousand six hundred and seventy- eight pounds and some shillings and pence (81). Soon after the pier was built it became evident that the harbour, whose entrance faced north-northeast, the point from which our storms come, was unsafe. Heavy swells rolling into the harbour endangered the boats moored to the wharf or anchored there: in the face of the gale they were trapped and couldn't put to sea, to ride out the storm. Then a terrible tragedy occurred.

There exists a broadside ballad, now rare, called The Heroes of Greystones, with an introductory note as follows:

On Friday night, 14 October 1892, a heavy sea and north-east gale prevailed in the Irish Sea, 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 left large families, for whom a subscription is being made.

There were many tearful eyes at the funeral service in St Patrick's Church for the three Doyles, whose descendants are still in Greystones.

The Anchor amusement centre and restaurant at the harbour was originally a lifeboat house, and between 1871 and 1896 there were two lifeboats, the Sarah Tancred and the Richard Brown. William Doyle who was one of those drowned was coxswain of the Richard Brown (82). In 1911 three schooners moored in the harbour were wrecked in a storm. Thereafter marine insurance for boats coming to Greystones became unobtainable, according to Samuel French, and, writes he, ‘the pier was left to the tender mercy of the sea' (83) whose fury only The Grey Stones could withstand.


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