On Tuesday morning a very pleasing function took place in the Boardroom of the Harbour Office, Town Hall, when the men of the Carrickfergus and Tartar of the Sligo Steam Navigation Company were presented with badges as a souvenir of their survival while on ships sunk through enemy action, and as a recognition of their faithful service in the Mercantile Marine under the present dangerous conditions.
Lieut.-Col. James Campbell, D.L., Chairman of the Harbour Board presided and the men were presented with the badges by Mr. A. Jackson, D. L. J.P.
The Chairman said he was very pleased to welcome the men to the Harbour Office under such happy circumstances and he formally called on Mr. Jackson to make the presentation to them.
Mr. Jackson said his first feeling was to express his thanks for the opportunity given them of meeting in that room. It is most appropriate, he continued, that we should meet here, as the function we are engaged in is intimately connected with the Harbour of Sligo. As Chairman of the Sligo Steam Navigation Company, it gives me very great pleasure to be the means of transmitting these badges which have been awarded by the Government to the survivors of the Mercantile Marine, who have been fortunate in being saved from the brutal attacks made by the Germans on our sailors and men of the Marine Service.
I think those of us who live on dry land can never fully realise what this warfare on sea means. The lives of numbers of men have been taken without a moment's notice, sometimes in the dead of night, without warning - men not actually engaged in warfare themselves - and this is far more than we are capable of realising, living as we are in a state of comparative security and immunity from such outrages. It has, however, been brought home to us, in some degree in a small community like this where the Steamship Company is owned by Sligo people, and where every interest connected with it is in the interest of the people of the district, but not by any means to the degree felt by larger companies in other centres. But it will give you some idea of the destruction not only of valuable lives, which can never be replaced, but of ships owned by a small company like our own, when I tell you that we have lost two ships out of four since the work commenced. The news of the loss of the Steamship Liverpool was a great shock to us, because she was a ship that was specially built for this trade. It is quite a good many years ago now, since I made several trips to Liverpool in connection with the designing of that vessel, and was present when she did her trial trip in the Mersey before she was taken over.
I think that any of the officers or men connected with her will agree with me that she was one of the finest ships that ever traded to this port. She was modeled on the best lines, and we had the advantage in her construction of having the advice of one of the first men in Great Britain, the late Mr. Henry West. She sailed regularly, no matter what the nature of the weather, almost as punctually as a train, and during the whole time that she was engaged on the service, she never lost a life, a fact which was due mainly to her excellent sea-faring capacity (hear, hear).
Mr. Jackson then read the names of the men entitled to badges, and in presenting them with a small torpedo badge, congratulated each of them on their having survived the tragedies with which they were individually identified. He referred pathetically in passing to the loss, in the case of the Liverpool, of Daniel Garvey, a winchman and J. Costello, a fireman, and also another man who was on board.
The following is a list of the men who received badges -
Patrick Bruen, 3rd Mate on SS Anglo Columbian when that vessel was sunk by shellfire on 23rd Sept ember 1915, off the S. W. coast of Ireland. He was 2nd Mate on H.M. Transport Peignton when vessel was sunk by shellfire on 14th March 1917, off the SW coast of Ireland. He is now 1st Mate on SS Carrickfergus.
Francis Devaney, Master SS Liverpool when vessel was sunk by mine on December 19th 1916, off the Isle of Man. He is now Master SS Carrickfergus.
Michael Mc Loughlin, Mate SS Liverpool, when vessel was sunk by mine on December 19th 1916, off the Isle of Man. He is now Master of SS Tartar.
Ivor Thomas, 2nd Engineer, SS Liverpool, when vessel was sunk by mine on December 19th 1916, off Isle of Man. He is present temporary engineer of SS Carrickfergus.
John Moffat, 2nd Mate SS Liverpool, when vessel was sunk by mine on December 19th, 1916, off the Isle of Man. He is now AB on SS Carrickfergus.
James McGowan, an AB SS Liverpool, when vessel was sunk by mine on Dec 19th, 1916, off the Isle of Man. He is now an AB on SS Carrickfergus.
Concluding, Mr. Jackson said that, as they were all aware, each man in the Mercantile Marine Service carried his life in his hands. From the time he left one port till he landed in another. They felt they owed much to the Mercantile Marine. The Army and Navy have been doing much good work, but none of them could too highly appreciate the work which was being silently done by the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine. He sincerely hoped that when the war was over, the services rendered by these men in the present great crisis would not be forgotten.
Were it not for their self-sacrificing devotion to duty, the people of this country would feel more acutely the pinch of the war, and starvation might be closer to us all than it otherwise was (hear, hear). He could only express the great pleasure it gave him to present these badges, and he expressed the hope that for the sake of humanity they had heard the last of these barbarous outrages of the sea (hear, hear).
Capt. Devaney, on behalf of the men, said they all felt grateful, for the honour that had been conferred on them that morning. No matter what the dangers were, they recognised only the performance of a duty, and, come what may, they would continue to perform that duty, while their lives were spared and while a ship remained afloat.
The tragedy of the Liverpool had not cowed them. They were sorry to lose such a splendid ship, but they stuck to her to the last, and did their utmost to save her. He paid tribute to the steady nerve of the men under the circumstances, and their coolness throughout.
There was nothing in the nature of a panic. Their great regret was to have lost their ship. There were men who had spent 15 years in her, and they could truthfully say that she might be well described as a large lifeboat. He thanked Mr. Jackson for his very kind words, and for the presentation which had been made to them that morning and he hoped the time was not too distant, when the death-knell of the U-boat would be sounded.
Capt. McLoughlin said he had very little to add to what had been said by Capt. Devaney. The tragedies of the past did not in the least deter them from carrying out their duties to the future despite the Submarine campaign.
The Chairman said he had little, if anything, to add to what had been said by Mr. Jackson, but the thought had just come into his mind that the attempted destruction of the morale of the Mercantile Marine by the Hun had been a failure. After four years their efforts in that respect had been thrown away as far as English and Irish seamen were concerned. The presence of the men there that day proved it. Their work was a work of patriotism, and as Mr. Jackson had said, it was removed from the Public gaze, but nevertheless, they all felt that on the practical work of the Mercantile Marine depended the lives of the people of these islands (hear, hear).
Mr. Jackson said there was one thing he forgot to mention, and that was that Col. Campbell had been associated with him for a long time now, something about 30 years, in shipping matters in Sligo and was present at the launching of the Liverpool.