Ten dead in Fethard sea disaster
Crew members of a Norwegian vessel, Mexico, who survived what is known as the Fethard Lifeboat Disaster. This picture was taken on 24 February 1914 Photo: National Library of Ireland, PWP 2536

Ten dead in Fethard sea disaster

Published: 1 March 1914.

Ten men are dead following a shipping disaster off the Wexford coast.

Nine of the dead men were members of the Fethard Lifeboat Crew who were attempting to save the crew of the Mexico, which went aground on the Keeragh Rocks off Cullenstown.

The Mexico - a steel, three-masted schooner - had gone aground amidst an appalling storm on Friday night. The ship was laden with mahogany that was being transported from Central America to Liverpool. With the ship beginning to break up, the Fethard Lifeboat set out despite the mountainous seas in response to distress signals. The lifeboat reached the vessel at midnight, but was caught by an enormous wave and was thrown onto the rocks where it shattered almost immediately.

A handwritten report on the disaster dated 21 Feb 1914.  (Images: National Archives of Ireland)

At dawn the next day, onlookers from the coast could see that the Mexico was continuing to break up, but there was no sign of the lifeboat. The figures of a number of men could be seen on the rocks, but it was unclear who they were. Attempts by other crafts, including the Kilmore Lifeboat, to approach the site were met with failure.

The Fethard Lifeboat disaster revisited: Listen to RTÉ History Show report and discussion on the tragedy one hundred years on.

Shortly afterwards, the battered bodies of five members of the lifeboat were washed up on Cullenstown Strand, against the wailings of their widows and children. For two days, attempts to save the remaining men who were out on the shelterless Keeragh Rocks were thwarted by the weather. Eventually, six trips to and from the island, made on a small dinghy, brought to land the men who were suffering badly from exposure.

In the end, nine lifeboatmen and one of the crew of the Mexico were lost to the sea.

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