by Captain Frank Devaney

A Mr. Griffin and his wife, Sally, visited Sligo in May 1987, all the way from Ontario in Canada, in search of Sally’s roots as her mother’s maiden name was Devaney. In her possession is a photocopy from the flyleaf of her great-grandfather’s prayer book on which is written - "Thomas Devaney left home at the end of February 1847".

Having spent a lot of time and money on research, she traced the story of the ship on which he sailed, but so far nothing definite on his birthplace. Perhaps some reader may be able to assist. The story to date is as follows -

At the end of February 1847, with the great famine at its height, the small brig ‘Dermerest’, under Captain Burke, left Sligo, bound for New York. Onboard were 24 souls, and amongst them was Thomas Devaney. The ‘Dermerest’ was only 85ft. 7 inches long, 20ft. 4 inches beam and 14ft. deep. She was a single deck vessel with two masts and of 193 tons registered. The crew would probably number seven, leaving 16 passengers - no doubt all fleeing emigrants, with sad hearts.

Clearing Sligo Bay on March 1, she set off across the wild Atlantic and appeared to have made quite good progress, reaching mid-Atlantic when disaster struck on the morning of March 19.

A report from the ‘New Brunswick Courier’, dated Saturday, April 17, 1847, gave an account by Captain Shyttecombe, from Limerick, of the barque ‘Falcon’, of what happened.

On March 21, fell in with the wreck of the brig ‘Dermerest’ in a sinking state having on the morning of 19th at 2am, while still under close reefed topsails, during a sudden hurricane, been hove upon her beam ends, the main mast going by the board and carrying away her pumps, and the foremast breaking in three pieces - once below the deck, the stern post also being started and the vessel leaking fast. About noon on the 19th, got clear of the wreck of the masts which until that time had been striking the vessel very heavily, just as to cause her to make a great quantity of water ... but finding the vessel unmanageable and in a sinking state, the rudder being adrift, the master and the crew resolved to abandon her and the passengers, in all 23 in number, were taken on board the ‘Falcon.'

All on board the ‘Dermerest’ must have gone through a very frightening experience, but were lucky that the ‘Falcon’ arrived on the 21st to rescue them. Strangely enough, the wreck did not founder until two days later. The ‘Falcon’ landed the survivors at St. John’s N.B. on April 13, and she sailed from there on May 4 with a timber cargo for Bristol.

I’m sure the bold Thomas had enough of the sea and ships due to that episode, and six years later, his name appears when he married a lady named Caroline Franklin on August 26, 1853, in a place called Port Hope, Ontario. Three sons were born of the union - John Albert, Thomas Burke and Joseph A., also one daughter, Celia. They became owners of a large store with the name Thomas Devaney and Sons over the door, which, Sally told me, still stands to this day. The sons and daughter all married and had families and there are many of the offspring around Canada today, including Sally, his great grand-daughter.