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Waterford in mourning after 77 men lost at sea
The SS Coningberg, one of the ships sunk in the disaster. Photo: National Library of Ireland

Waterford in mourning after 77 men lost at sea

Waterford, 3 January 1918 - Waterford is in mourning after two ships, manned principally by men from the city, have disappeared in the Irish Sea.

Approximately 77 men are believed to be dead and almost 400 women and children have been left without husbands and fathers. Little is known of the incident and no bodies have been recovered, although a battered lifeboat was washed ashore in Fishguard Bay in Wales.

The directors of the shipping company have issued a statement, blaming the disappearance on what they refer to as ‘enemy action’ sometime after departing Liverpool in mid-December.

The sense of despair in the city and county is palpable. Reports tell of women looking ‘worn out’ mentally and physically by the news of the tragedy. Families from practically every ward in Waterford City have lost a breadwinner.

The Most Rev. Dr Hackett has announced that a Requiem Mass would be celebrated in the cathedral for the repose of the souls of the men who had lost their lives. ‘I have been for 30 years associated with this city and it's beyond all question the biggest catastrophe that has befallen Waterford during that period.’

On Fr Alphonsus Road, the fathers of three families perished, among them Mr P. Hennessy, who leaves behind a widow and five children.

On Parliament Street, two adjoining houses lost their breadwinners. Mrs Morrissey was the wife of the cook on one of the vessels: her husband was a member of the C.Y.M.S in the city and on receiving his wages in Liverpool he would invariably go to the post office and telegraph nearly the full amount home.

On Doyle Street, Mrs Doyle lost her husband, the second crushing blow in a matter of months, having already lost one of her sons at the front. To compound her tragedy, her brother, Stephen Whitty, was lost in the same boat as her husband. Mrs Doyle is now the sole provider for her four surviving children, the youngest of whom is 13 years old.

A relief fund has been established by the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union and a sum of £1,400 has been collected to ease the burden on the dependents of the victims.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.