Just over 80 years ago, on an incredibly stormy evening in December, 1942, a terrible tragedy befell Cork Harbour when two launch boats tragically collided with the propellers of the Irish Poplar resulting in the deaths of five men, writes RAY CLEERE


At 5.50pm on Saturday evening, December 12th, 1942, Fort Templebreedy (also known as Templereedy Battery, which was a coastal defence fortification, close to Crosshaven, in County Cork), received word that a ship was approaching Cork Harbour, and requested port clearance and a pilot.

The ship was the ‘Irish Poplar’, a former Greek cargo ship, which was en-route to Cork Dockyard for repairs after it was attacked by a German U-boat. At that point the ship was about half a mile south-east off Roches Point. The pilot boat on duty at the time was pilot boat number 2.

A very strong southeast wind had increased to 55 miles per hour with heavy rain and very poor visibility when coxswain Pilot James Horgan, Motorman John Higgins and Pilot Patrick Lynch departed at 6pm to put the pilot onto the oncoming ship.

Petty Officer George Geasley at Fort Templebreedy signalled for the ‘Poplar’ to proceed to the ‘Dogs Nose’ (the green number 5 buoy in the centre of Cork Harbour between Camden and the approach to Whitegate) for the examination.

Boat Number 3 had cleared the basin at Haulbowline at 6pm with coxswain, Petty Officer Frank Lloyd, Chief Petty Officer Frank Barry, leading Seamen William Duggan and Frank Powell, and Able Seaman Patrick Wilshaw.
Shortly afterwards the City of Cork steamship, the ‘Kenmare’, which had left Cork at 5pm, had a very narrow escape with examination boat Number 3. Suddenly, out of the dark, less than 50 feet away from the ‘Kenmare’, the port control ship appeared with the lights on.

But just as quickly as the ship appeared the lights disappeared. But quickly out of the darkness of the night the Captain of the ‘Kenmare’, saw the shadow and lights of the ‘Irish Poplar’ which was inward bound. Both ships escaped unharmed.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own