The Coastguard service in Ireland was established in 1818. Most members were English ex-navy men. Ireland was an unpopular posting for Coastguard personnel. Accommodation was considered poor and stations were isolated while education and employment opportunities for sons and daughters were limited. Very few Irishmen joined the Coastguard.

Old Coastguard Station overlooking the village of Courtmacsherry
https://www.flickr.com/photos/40911801@N00/4892283522 taken by https://www.flickr.com/photos/achesonblog/

The Coastguard acted as a reserve for the navy, protected the Revenue’s interests and defended the coast by being active against smugglers; ensuring that wrecks were not illegally plundered and assisting the police in discovering illicit stills. None of these activities endeared the Coastguard to the local population.

During World War One the authorities were award that civil unrest was becoming more than a possibility. Coastguard stations were heavily garrisoned and no civilians were permitted to enter.

During the War of Independence (1919-21), despite these preparations, many Coastguard stations were attacked and burned.

The Coastguard Station in Courtmacsherry was founded in 1820, only two years after the service was founded.

The original Coastguard station was situated on The Terrace. The large house in the centre of The Terrace served as the station house and the cottages at either side accommodated the men and their families.

In 1823 it was manned by a Chief Officer, a Chief Boatman, two commissioned Boatmen and four Boatmen, eight boatmen in all.
Six years later, in 1829, that complement had been increased to seven Boatmen, making a total of eleven men manning the station.
At this time, the station had one galley with six oars and one gig with four oars.

In 1865, construction began on a new Coastguard station at Wet Lane, behind the village. This new building was reported to be the heaviest fortified station in Ireland.

An official report on Courtmacsherry Coastguard Station, dated 1888, stated that there were sixty fishing boats operating in its guard area which covered nineteen miles of coast.

The report was of the opinion that the station at Courtmacsherry was very expensive to run, that the erection of the heavily fortified buildings, into which the Coastguard service moved in 1867, was unjustified and that the Royal Irish Constabulary alone could effectively maintain law and order in the locality. It recommended that the Station be ‘broken up’ but this recommendation was not acted upon and it continued to exist until Independence.

Initially a force of between thirty and fifty Sherwood Foresters was billeted in Courtmacsherry Coastguard Station during the War of Independence (1919-21). They were subsequently replaced by a force of thirty from the Essex Regiment.

On 14 May 1921, the Station was attacked by the local company of the I.R.A. The attack lasted only half an hour, no great damage was done and the attack was beaten off. Simultaneously with this attack, one soldier was shot and killed and another was wounded in an attack near the National School in the village.

In 1922, during the Civil War, the naval ship Muirchú was reported to be heading for Courtmacsherry with a party of pro-Treaty soldiers on board. In anticipation of the Coastguard Station being used as a billet, it was burned by anti-Treaty forces.

The Coastguard building, already damaged by fire, deteriorated into total dereliction after Independence. Lt. Commander Sammy Mearns and his wife Ann bought it circa 1970 and moved to Courtmacsherry. They renovated the building in an imaginative way, creating a home for themselves and several self-catering apartments.

NOTABLE COASTGUARDS

BARNABUS EDWARD QUADLING
Chief Officer 1823-1847

In 1840 Quadling was awarded a silver medal by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for his part in the attempted rescue of a sloop carrying coal.

In 1842, Quadling was awarded a gold medal by the R.N.L.I. for leading the rescue of the Master and thirteen crew of the brig Latona.

Quadling was renowned for his energy and with other colleagues purchased diving equipment so that they could dive to wrecks. This was a private enterprise that could be very profitable. He is mentioned in connection with the salvage of a large quantity of coin from the Lady Charlotte off Cape Clear in 1838 and salvage from an Armada ship off the coast of Donegal in 1853.

​EDWIN PENGELLY

Impressment was the snatching of likely young men by press gangs and their subsequent forced service in the Royal Navy. It virtually ceased after the Napoleonic Wars circa 1805. Edwin Pengelly was therefore an unlucky sixteen year old when he was snatched in Falmouth, Cornwall, in 1834.
One ‘press ganged’, a young man was given a choice, either to sign up as a ‘volunteer’ and receive the benefits of being a regular member of the Royal Navy or continue to serve under protest without any privileges.

In the circumstances, Edwin Pengelly signed up as a volunteer and served for sixteen years on the packet ships that acted as carriers of the mail. He was discharged from the packet services in 1850.Eliza Ann, all of whom married in the Church of Ireland in Lislee.

Laura Ellen married James Crews, a Coastguard, in 1865. Henrietta married Joseph Cole, a seaman on H.M.S. Cutter in 1874. Eliza Ann married John Clark, a seaman in the Royal Navy in 1865. Following John Clark’s death, Eliza Ann, married a second time. She married Jeremiah Sauntry, a tailor from Grangebeg, in the Catholic Church in Barryroe.

MICHAEL O’DRISCOLL
Chief Officer November 1911-July 1914.

Michael O’Driscoll was born circa 1866/67 and a native of Cork City. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1884.

He served as Chief Officer of the Courtmacsherry Station during the years of increasing tension prior to World War One. There were a total of seven men posted to the station during this period.

On the outbreak of World War One, O’Driscoll was recalled to the Royal Navy. After the war was over, he returned briefly to serve in Courtmacsherry from October 1918 to April 1919.

Michael O’Driscoll’s only child, Bridget Ivy O’Driscoll, married Patrick Keohane, Antarctic Explorer, in Barryroe Parish Church on 21 April 1914.

This article is taken from the Courtmacsherry & Barryroe History Group website.

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