by Edward Bourke
(This article was first published on our website in November 2009)
The emigrant ship Pomona (1181 tons) was wrecked on a sandbank off Ballyconigar on 28-4-1859. Three hundred and eighty nine people lost their lives. “Since Sunday morning, we experienced severe gales from the SSE with a heavy fall of rain on Wednesday night, which continues with but little intermission”. The gale was at its highest on Thursday morning, when the dreadful catastrophe it is out pitiful duty to record, took place. The United States ship Pomona , Captain Merrihew with a crew of thirty five men and three hundred and seventy three passengers, principally Irish left Liverpool on Wednesday 27th instant, bound for New York, wind se to e , a wholesale breeze and proceeded favourably on her voyage, until she struck the Blackwater Bank, at four o’clock a.m. on the following day. in about eight hours after striking , she worked off the bank, the sea making a complete breach over her; the foremast and mainmast having being previously cut away, the mizzen was left standing. Her port anchor was let go in ten fathoms of water, with sixty fathoms cable, but the vessel continuing to make water, the long boat was launched, with seven of the crew, only two of whom effected a landing. The other poor fellows being washed out and lost. The quarter boat was then launched, with fourteen seamen and three passengers, who landed in safety; but when about three miles from the ship , they lost sight of the latter, which they supposed went down, which was unhappily the case, with all on board , amounting to 389 souls – the crew and passengers making in the aggregate 408, out of whom only twenty three were saved.
We have the above melancholy particulars of this dreadful disaster from the active and efficient agent of the Shipwrecked Mariners society here: James H Crosbie who derived the information from two of the survivors, Charles Jackson and Henry Millar, seamen; who with the others that were saved were provided by our worthy fellow townsmen with comfortable lodging, and all other necessities befitting their situation. Among the lost are the Captain of the ship and first and second mates.
On the shipwreck becoming known here, the steam tug Erin proceeded to the Fort of Rosslare but the sea was so bad, and night setting in with a dense atmosphere, it was useless to proceed. At four” p.m.” sic on yesterday morning , with the new Life Boat in tow, she proceeded tot he north end of the Blackwater bank, and found the unfortunate ship sunk in nine fathoms of water, Blackwater Head bearing W by N and Cahore point NE by N, about one and a half miles inside the bank. Her mizzen mast head appeared over the water, with the American ensign, union down still flying – but the life struggle was over. This the crew of the lifeboat brought with them. They report themselves entirely pleased with the execution of the boat, which inspired them with entire confidence in her sea going qualities.
Bodies were washed ashore along the coast from Courtown to Youghal and were buried after attempts at identification and an inquest. As far as is known no grave of the victims was marked. This is despite at least two of the bodies being identified by family members who had travelled to the scene. Many of the victims were from the Sligo area and the wreck may be the “Pomone” mentioned in a ballad about emigration from near Lissadell. More were from Northern Ireland. A full passenger list exists and some addresses were mentioned at various inquests.
A memorial stone was unveiled at the bridge in the centre of Blackwater village on Sunday May 31 to mark the 150th anniversary of the tragedy. The loss of life on the Pomona was the sixth worst in Irish waters surpassed by the Lusitania, Leinster, Norge, Tayleur and RivalEdward Bourke
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