survivors account of a Boston fishing tragedy
Ever since the Great Famine, the huge emigration from Beara
Peninsula was to the United States of America, with many
of those emigrants heading for Butte City, Montana, where
they found work in the copper mines. However, many of these
emigrants, having arrived in Boston, Mass., decided to remain
and settle there, and that has been the case of the present
In those long years, Beara men have become prominent in
politics and other spheres of industry. The likelihood that
the late President Kennedys great-grandmother hailed
from Beara brings in its train nostalgic echoes of the memorable
meeting between Dave Powers and Kennedy.
Incidentally, it is noteworthy to record that Dave Powers,
who was born at Charleston, Boston, was the son of parents
who both emigrated from Beara towards the latter end the
19th century The homestead of the Powers family is situated
at Rodeen, Castletownbere.
Their association in fact began away back in the year 1946,
when Dave Power, an ex-Air Force veteran, then rendered
valuable assistance to the young candidate for Congress,
John F Kennedy, when he called at Daves home in the
Charleston district of Boston and asked him if he would
help him in his Senate campaign.
This meeting forged the link of an unbroken friendship between
them which deepened and mellowed with the passing years.
In later years, Powers came to be known as Kennedys
coatholder and Sancho Panza, because
he spent his life tending to JFKs career, his widow
and his children, and finally, his legacy, as curator of
the John F Kennedy Library Museum.
Following Powers death some years back, Senator Ted
Kennedy said in a statement: Jack loved Dave Powers
like a brother, and so did all of us the Kennedy family.
Jack couldnt have had the New Frontier without him,
and we will miss him very much. This week we recall
Beara mens experience of Boston 92 years ago.
On the Sunday morning of July 14 1913, fourteen men set
out on a days fishing from Pier 7, Charleston Boston
(this is the area where Dave Powers was born and lived),
in the sloop Alberta under skipper and owner Albert G Ayers,
who was Superintendent of the Catholic Sailors Club
Among the group, who were all friends, were four Castletownbere
men, brothers Patrick and John Holland or Houlihan from
Derrymihan West, and brothers Michael and Jeremiah ONeill,
Rodeen, as well as two men from Bere Island, Daniel OSullivan,
Ballynakilla and Jeremiah Crowley from Derrycreeveen.
Two hours after leaving Charleston, they anchored off the
Rams Head buoy in Broad Sound, where they proceeded
to fish. All the sails were down, and although the sea became
more choppy and the wind increased to a gale around 2pm.,
they enjoyed themselves to the uttermost. There was rivalry
on board as to who would catch the most fish and Captain
Ayers was leading, with John Holland a close second.
At four oclock the contest came to a close with the
captain leading by three silver hake. For an hour they took
it easy, still laying at anchor, and at five oclock
preparations were made for the return trip. Storm clouds
were hanging low on the horizon as the skipper ordered the
Daniel OSullivan, who was from Ballinkilla and was
one of the six men rescued, told the story of their ordeal.
With three or four of the men, I helped about the
sails in order to start. There was little kick to the wind,
but no indications of heavy weather. We had the mainsail
set and anchor broke. Some of the men were on the act of
raising the jib, when a storm broke and hit the Alberta.
Before we knew what had happened , the boat capsized. I
was thrown into the water with the rest of the party.
As I could swim, I made for the bottom of the overturned
craft. I slipped off and around to the other side and grabbed
the topmast. I clung on to that until I was rescued. Just
before I had been taken on board the boat that rescued me,
I lost my senses. The water was very cold and the last thing
I remembered was one or two of the party trying to cling
onto the slippery bottom of the craft, which was being gradually
It was a case of each man for himself, for it came
to such a pass that the waves were sweeping over the Alberta
and just when you thought you had a firm grip, you were
swept into the water again. Skipper Ayers was at the wheel
when the blow hit us. He dis not have a chance to luff her
into the wind before the wind struck us on the starboard
quarter and blew the boat over as it she was a chip. At
the time, I think that there were two of three in the cabin.
Following the upset I did not see them again.
Daniel OSulivan and the five other survivors, including
Patrick Holland, were carried aboard the vessel Vigilant
together with the body of John Holland, which was caught
up in the boat ropes by one of the rescue boats, and brought
to Boston where over a thousand men, women and children
had gathered on the wharf gate.
For over thirty-five minutes a life-giving machine was used
on Holland without success. All six survivors recovered.Two
of them, Patrick Holland and Jeremiah ONeill, lost
brothers in the catastrophe. Jeremiah Crowley was one of
the eight lost. The strong link between Beara and Boston
is still strong at the present day with a flourishing Beara
Boston Society keeping Beara emigrants in touch with each
other and with home.
Courtesy of the Southern Star
9th July 2005