Born in a dockside tavern in Wicklow town, Robert Halpin began his seafaring career at the age of eleven. Unafraid of danger, particularly when potential profit outweighed risks, he ran supplies to the Confederate ports in the American Civil War.
His greatest days at sea were as Commander of the largest ship on earth, The SS Great Eastern. He laid 26,000 miles of cable, linking four continents with telegraphic communications, making himself a fortune in the process.
His later life was involved in local politics and contested the 1892 general election in the wake of the Parnellite split.
The talk was be given by author and historian Jim Rees. He has been researching the history of south Wicklow for over 40 years. He has published hundreds of articles in various magazines and journals as well as writing eight books, including the biography The life of Captain Robert Halpin (1992). His other books include Arklow – last stronghold of sail (1985), A Farewell to Famine (1994), Surplus People – from Wicklow to Canada (2000), Arklow, the story of a town (2004), The Fishery of Arklow (2008) and To the banks and beyond – the story of Arklow lifeboats 1826 – 2013 (2013).
He is currently chairman of Arklow Maritime Museum.
National Maritime Museum of Ireland is the custodian of Captain Halpins’ dress uniform. We were granted over €11.5k in funding under Heritage Council Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2021. for its restoration which is currently in progress and will be back in the museum later this year. You can read more here