Near ones on the Irish Sea.

Charlie Warmington
9th September 2005, 13:26
Near ones on the Irish Sea

In 1906 three ships, the Magic, Caloric and Optic - struck rocks on five occasions near the Copeland Islands, just down the coast from Belfast. Previously uncharted hazards were discovered and one rocky reef was called Magic after the vessel that “discovered” it. The Caloric encountered a strike of another kind a year later when attempting to disembark some non-union crewmen onto a Belfast quay during an industrial dispute. Angry strikers chased the ship, shouting abuse and hurling scrap-iron and stones at the vessel. One of her officers was hurt and even though two hundred policemen were called, everyone except the captain remained below deck till the union men dispersed. No captain, however daring, could evade the exceptional circumstances of the First World War when confusion provoked a multitude of mishaps on and around the Irish Sea. In 1915 the Belfast cargo ship Hampshire Coast ran aground, and a local ferry the SS Logic collided with the SS Mourne. These were feeble foretastes of the future. Early in 1916 the Belfast-Liverpool SS Patriotic tangled with a heavy iron chain that twisted one of her propellers; she had to be dry-docked. Shortly afterwards in July she collided with a quay when she went astern rather than ahead. In the same month the SS Graphic collided with a sailing ship off the Skulmartin lightship and in October the Magic scored a second hit; on an Admiralty collier, the Wedgewood. In November the Logic bent another propeller, this time on a thick wire rope, and before the year was out the Graphic rammed a quay wall in Liverpool; the same wall butted by the Patriotic a few months earlier. In 1918 the Patriotic hit the Belfast coaster Straid, ending the hectic spate of maritime misfortunes – but only for a while!
On a sunny Sunday, June 3rd 1923 at 7 a.m., morning was breaking. So was the SS Graphic - again! There was “a sound like thunder” that rumbled over Holywood, County Down. An outward-bound U.S. ship called the Balsam slammed against the incoming Graphic and tore a 25 by 19 foot gash in her side. The grinding clatter was created by 5,000 tons of American might rupturing 2,000 tons of Harland and Wolff’s resilience. The roar of ripping iron was preceded by a shrill cacophony of ships’ whistles; an urgent series of short blasts from the American, then three from the SS Graphic, returned in triplicate by the big MacBalsam! Five minutes later, with water gushing through the mortal cut in her hull, the Graphic settled on a sandbank. Her passengers took to the boats and fortunately no lives were lost. But the stricken vessel was astride the navigable channel and soon two more ships grounded whilst trying to pass her by. One was the SS Logic, renamed the Culzean after she’d rammed the SS Mourne in 1915! A dozen divers and salvage experts took three weeks to float the Graphic, requiring oxy-acetylene to cut and patch the extensive gash. Gelignite was used to blow off her bent plates and large pumps drained her hull. When she was finally towed away four tugs were needed; a fierce north wind was blowing. After a five month makeover by H&W she returned to service with new boilers, cabins restyled, and for the first time on a ferry, with a barber’s shop. A reminder perhaps of her encounter with the Balsam – awash, a cut and a blow dry!

9th September 2005, 13:35
Interesting story Charlie, seems as though it is best to keep away from that part of the Irish coast.Any more stories would be most welcome.