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Wreck of the Magpie – Cliffs of Moher – 1864

Cliffs of Moher 19th Century Wikimedia Commons
Cliffs of Moher 19th Century
Wikimedia Commons
Freeman’s Journal 22nd June, 1864 p3


Galway, April 5.

Yesterday morning I telegraphed to you the intelligence of an unfortunate accident to the screw gunboat Magpie (2) ; and since then, the additional particulars I have gained are of little importance, expect that she did not float last night, as expected and that fears are now entertained that she will become a total wreck.

The accident occurred at two o’clock on Sunday morning during the thick hazy weather which then prevailed, and which has existed since that time up to the present. The Magpie, which had for some years acted as tender to the Coastguard ship Hawke,at Queenstown, was on her way from that port to Galway with store to the Coastguard stations in its vicinity. Every necessary precaution had been taken to ensure the safety of the vessel when the mist came on, and Captain Bell (with whom every one in Galway sympathises) was just consulting his chart when the boat went ashore with a crash. It was found she had struck on Crab Island, which lies to the south of the famous cliffs of Moher, on the western coast of Clare; and, although an immediate effort to get her off was made, the heavy Atlantic swell which, at the calmest season, rolls in against the cliffs drove her farther ashore.

The boats were out, and a party landed. They procured a car, and drove across the country to Ballyvaughan, which is on the other side of Galway Bay, and from thence a coastguard boat was despatched to Galway for assistance. Captain Hawkes, R.N., the Inspecting- Commander of Coastguards, at once engaged the Atlantic Company’s steam-tiff Rover to proceed to the scene of the disaster, and the Pilot also got up steam and went down to render any necessary assistance.

The steamers got down at evening, but the weather was so thick that the Rover was obliged to lie under Arran Island, and subsequently Black Head, without getting to the Magpie. Yesterday morning, however, she got to Crab Island, and at high water every effort was made to pull the unfortunate gunboat from her position. There was a tremendous surf, and just at the moment when she was beginning to move a wave struck the Magpie, and, the hawser breaking, she was driven still higher on the beach. It was then deemed useless to make any further attempt, and the Rover returned to Galway yesterday evening.

Previous to the arrival of the tugs the men had dismantled the Magpie, and landed, and I understand her guns, one of them a 68 pounder, were thrown overboard. No further attempt to save her will be made for a couple of days, but the general opinion is that she will become a total wreck.— Saunders.



B.A., M.A.(Archaeology); Regional Tour Guide; Dip. Radio Media Tech; H.Dip. Computer Science.

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