The Wrecking of the San Francisco, Duneen, 1867

On 7 January 1867, after violent storms, Captain Garibaldi ran his brig ashore at Duneen Cove, Ardfield to conduct repairs. It was Monday afternoon, the light was clear, and Coastguard Carr watched her sail two points before the wind straight through the rocks and onto the sands. In fifteen minutes Carr was on the beach, and within the hour, so were two hundred others. A game began. Every time the tide rose, the people retreated, for the ship could not be reached; every time it fell, they swarmed forward. They entered the icy water, lifting each other on board and throwing down everything they could steal. For twenty-four hours, six coast guard and five police battled, night and day, to keep at bay a growing crowd of four hundred. The coastguard Captain Synge was sick in bed, and it was down to Chief Boatman Bridle to control matters, but he was late arriving.

Instead, Denis McCarthy Gallwey, arriving from Greenfield House shortly after Carr, hired a boat and with RIC Constable Shields rescued the crew. The Italian Captain barely spoke English, and could not understand that he must pay for the coastguard and police to protect his vessel. So Miss Annie Gallwey came from Greenfield to speak with him in French. As a result, the unfortunate man went up to Muckruss House and signed his entire ship and its cargo of coal over to Henry Baldwin Beamish Esq., landlord and magistrate. By now it was Tuesday afternoon. Henry’s first action was to dismiss the police. He appointed his four gentlemen sons and his elderly father-in-law to protect the vessel. The crowd swelled to five hundred. The ship began to ring as if attacked by fifty caulkers (Coastguard Carr’s statement). Even after 7 pm, ‘as high as the tide is they are still rapping at her’ (Cornelius Donovan’s words). By Wednesday, five hundred-weight (40 stone) of the sheet copper covering the hull had disappeared into the Muckruss mist.

Wreck Auction of San FranciscoConfusion arose as Captain Garibaldi changed his mind and handed the ship’s papers to the official agents Cummins of Queenstown. They arranged for its auction at Duneen on Monday 14th. Henry purchased the coals. The ship was bought by the surveyor who had been contracted to value her; but he reconsidered on the way home, and Henry got her at a knockdown price.

The Board of Trade ordered an Inquiry, partly because on Thursday night the people had taken to stoning the coast guards from the cliff, and in response John Dooley (Dirk Cove Coastguard) and boatmen John Warren and his son fired their pistols at them in the dark (no-one was hurt). Mostly, it was because the coastguard had still not been paid. The ship made £154 5s 6d at the auction; but after the shipping agents, the auctioneer, Beamish and Gallwey had submitted their claims, all that was left to her Captain was four shillings. The largest claim – at £37 8s –  had been made by Henry Baldwin Beamish.

The investigators were a lawyer John Hughes, and young Captain Henry Duncan Grant RN, who had risen through the ranks, fighting his way through India when Lieutenant on HM Pearl, and captaining anti-slavery missions in the Caribbean. They came fresh from the Elizabeth Buckram, sunk off the Wirral, Liverpool. Their brief: to inquire into the chaos that arose when her cargo of raw rum washed ashore. One hundred and fifty people fought over the barrels. A house painter emptied his paint can, wiped it with grass, filled it with rum and fell face down into a puddle. He had to have his stomach pumped. A lady, tempted to a tot, was found insensible in the dunes, having been abused. Women were seen drinking from their boots. The scenes of debauchery were unspeakable. A gentleman and a hotel boot boy disappeared into the waves never to surface again. Grant became a teetotaller.

Now here he was in Clonakilty and clear in his sights was Henry Baldwin Beamish, dodgy Irish magistrate with a bunch of pampered sons. Captain Grant asked why Beamish had dismissed the police. To save money, said Henry. Did he think that the expenses of those men would have amounted to what he had claimed for his sons? “I do not know what you do in England,” said Henry “but here we do not expect gentlemen’s sons to be paid at the same rate as labourers.”

Henry was not helped by the intervention of his younger son Tom, who accused the police of drunkenness at two earlier wrecks on his father’s land; and turning a blind eye to plundering if offered little glasses of whiskey. Tom insisted that Cornelius Driscoll should be brought in as a witness. Faced with the formality of the Court, Cornelius said he could only tell his story in Irish; the interpreter was a policeman, and Tom’s case was lost. Henry quickly established that the earlier wrecks would not fall within the scope of the current investigation.

The Inquiry lasted five days. By the Third Day, Grant and Hughes had stripped away every veneer and had Beamish wriggling on a pin. Then Henry Baldwin Beamish rose to read his formal statement to the Clonakilty Court. With flamboyant elegance and little flourishes of language, he made five points. He had been appointed agent for the ship by the Captain, and had he not been ‘overruled and supplanted’ by Messrs. Cummins, things would have gone on nicely. This was his property, his land, his country and he was the magistrate in charge. His dismissal of the police demonstrated the profound moral influence he had over the people, perfectly sufficient to protect the ship. The police had better things to do as they were a military force, directed of course by him as magistrate. Further,

“I would wish to impress upon you that if you think by inverting society, by putting common officers in the place of gentlemen of proper intelligence and worth … and that if the magistrates of this country are degraded by imposing over them stipendiaries – I say that the glory of old England is set for ever! and her sister island will perish in the sea!

“I fear not your utmost! Do your business! I am here to set you at defiance! I know the rectitude of my conduct. I care as little about that petty business of the San Francisco and her value of £200 as I care for 200 pence! My son will be here, and we defy you!”

These were no idle threats. It was Saturday 6 April 1867 –  exactly one month since the Fenian Rising – and Irish courts everywhere were arresting and prosecuting the patriotic rebels. The British government was in no mood to upset local magistrates, especially now Lord Naas, Chief Secretary for Ireland, had extended the ‘Fenian Pay’ to all the magistracy – as well as the constabulary, railway and telegraph workers – to keep them ‘loyal’.

From that moment the Court was in Beamish’s hands. Grant made his acid report to the British House of Commons, and nothing further was done. Business as usual re-established around the Galley Head. What did that mean? Grant could not decide. Close examination of witness statements suggests a pact between Beamish and his locals: they got some, he got some. In this, Denis Gallwey and his sister Annie colluded. On 9 January Denis sent a telegram from Greenfield house to the London Standard falsely stating that the San Francisco’s back was broken. But what about their side of the Galley Head?

Greenfields Clonakilty Jan 9th 1867

Denis was baronial high constable for Ibane and Barryroe, recommended by his uncles, lawyers for the Crown Prosecution. His was an immensely respectable family with a long history of smuggling. Grandfather Michael and sons controlled tenancies across Kilkerran, Ballylibert, Lisduff, Donoure, & Dundeady. Their published family history relates that Michael, a brewer, was nearly convicted in 1821 but for Lord Longueville’s intervention. Professor Frank Hodnett from Clonakilty quotes O’Donaghue’s words on the Gallweys, “Smugglers, all of them.”(3)

  1. The San Francisco was one of four wrecks around the Galley Head on 6 & 7 January 1867. The other three mentioned in the Cork Examiner and Skibbereen and West Carbery Eagle, no survivors, only one identified: the St. Helena researched by the author.
  2. The eleven crew took up residence in Cornelius Donovan’s ‘small house on the cliff’ (BOTW).
  3. The Galweys & Gallweys of Munster by Sir Henry Blackall, revised by A Galwey & T Gallwey 2015.

Galley Head west creek

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Wieniawski, Ravel and the Chicken God

Synaesthesia is not much a part of Western culture, unlike 17th C India where modal music – the Ragas – were expressed through paintings – the Ragamalas. The modes carry associated colours, hours, seasons and verses. Indian musicians sit before these pictures and literally play them.

Classical Hindustani musician Sadhana has a website to explain the basic concepts of Indian Music. Without hesitation she begins by comparing a palette of colours in painting to describe both the playing and the construction of ragas.

Sadhana

It is difficult to see why in the West it is thought strange, when singers talk of ‘colour’ although they do not mean anything one can see. Presumably, without becoming involved in what is meant by the western medical definition of an identified condition, presumably synaesthesia is a cultural development in the wiring of the mind.

Wieniawski Legende Op 17 sketch RRDuring many hours of painting in the studio, I used to listen to music until at one point the music took over, demanding that I draw the sounds. The images are not intended to communicate the experience of listening to the music, nor to provide a musical text, but they arise from it.

The Legende in G minor Op.17 by the virtuoso violinist composer Henryk Wieniawski has an undercurrent of bassoons. He wrote it to win his fiancée Isabella Hampton, and succeeded, so they say. It is romantic but precarious too, like Wieniawski’s life that ended at 45.

Wieniawski's Legende in G minor Op. 17 RR

You may not like my painting but just listen to the music.

Wieniawski’s Legende Op.17 Anne-Sophie Mutter

(If you can’t access this on the ipad then you can use a free youtube converter to convert it to an MP4 file, then it will play. This is the URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUD0Z0Hmrv8 to paste into the converter.)

I have heard critics describe Maurice Ravel’s music as unemotional, mathematical. This surprises me. Perhaps they mean that it does not follow a single emotional trajectory, but slides in the spaces in between, which I find truer of relationships. Sometimes tantalising and so nearly something, that becomes something else, and on again.It is no less feeling to go through these changes although they cannot be pinned and boxed for convenience.

Anyway the dance is at the heart of it, and drawing Ravel lead me on again to a series that I can only call the chicken gods. They are all masked, which for a painter of portraits is a strange release – allowing the dancers to say what no-one wishes.

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Widger’s Dig

James Lyon Widger was born in Broadhempston village, Devon and spent 20 years excavating the karst limestone caves in Torbryan. He dug alone in the dark to discover a sequence of British wildlife stretching back for 200,000 years. He began in 1865 just as the debate over the age of the world intensified.

His finds tell a story that he himself could not have imagined. His own story is part of the long battle between old ideas and new that are evidenced in the church of Holy Trinity in Torbryan. Working for The Churches Conservation Trust, I developed interpretation to tell that story of change from medieval devotion through Reformation iconoclasm, and we also created this cabinet about Widger’s Dig. It is the next stage in the tale.

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Design

We needed something that would not take over the view from the altar to the tower, as some religious services are still held in Holy Trinity. That something had to convey a sense of mystery to encourage visitors to discover the story for themselves.  Smith & Jones Design created this cube cabinet, and we layered in information and activities for adults and children. I ran a project with Denbury Primary School for six weeks and the children got to grips with the Ice Age and spotted hyenas through Widger. They gave ideas for the cabinet.

The pull-up panels tell James Lyon Widger’s story in brief. The top drawer is about the caves and how far the Ice Age glacial sheet extended over Europe. Then the drawers open as the dig, going downwards and back through time.

Second drawer – showing animals Widger found back to 11,700 BP The Holocene Epoch

Third drawer – Into the Ice Age – to 70,000 BP The Devensian Glacial. Included woolly rhinos, cave lions and hyenas.

Fourth drawer – Warming Up – to 128,000 BP The Ipswichian Interglacial. Included hippos, hyenas and straight-tusked elephants all living around Torbryan.

Fifth drawer – Freezing – to 200,000 BP The Wolstonian Glacial. More woolly rhinos, mammoths, cave lions, and lots of brown bears, clawless otters and wolverines. Layers with different little lemmings, each a specialist herbivore revealing the plants that grew and so the conditions.

Sixth Drawer – Spotted Hyenas. Widger found the remains of 600 hyenas in the caves. The school children studied their behaviour and habitats in Tanzania, realising how the climate had changed around Torbryan; before we went to Torbay Museum and learnt about the Ice Age.

NB No access to the caves, a protected SSSI, on private land, dangerous.

 

Artist / Writer author, illustrator, research and interpretation