The Brig Ellen Forrestal and Barque Alfred


Copyright © 1999 - Eric Shaw - ericshaw@iol.ie
All Rights Reserved

Eric is writing a book on William Carroll, his 3x Great Grandfather, and is collecting information about the ships associated with William. He has written this very interesting history of the vessels, part of the upcoming book. Eric would appreciate any new information about either of these vessels, the "Ellen Forrestal", and the "Alfred".


The Ellen Forrestal

The Port of Clare was the principal point of entry of trade from abroad and in the 1840s it had a thriving business. It’s closeness to Ennis was deemed to be a great attraction and there were plans afoot to link the Port with the town of Ennis by a canal and a series of locks to get past the portion of the Fergus that was not navigable round the area of Clare Island. These plans never came to fruition due to the arrival of the railway in the 1850s.

Building products such as timber, slate and iron had to be imported, as well as coal, flour etc. All of these were brought in through the Port of Clare by ship and shipping played a vital role in the commercial life of that part of Clare.

Michael McNamara was a timber merchant and builder in Jail Street; Ennis and he imported most of his timber from Canada. It made economic sense for him to own the ship that carried the timber for him and so in 1844, he purchased a ship named the Ellen Forrestal.

The Ellen Forrestal was launched from a small shipyard in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island on 31 August 1843. Her owner, Daniel Brenan and her builder, James Lawson watched the launching, both from New Glasgow. She was a brig, a two-masted vessel, square-rigged on both masts with a gaff sail on the after mast. The measurements of the brig was 83 feet in length, 20 feet wide in mid-ships and her depth in hold at mid-ships was 13 feet. She was carvel-built, rigged with a slanting bowsprit and she weighted 189 tons.

McNamara sailed her to Limerick and she was registered there on 18 May, 1844. Michael McNamara Senior and Junior are shown to own 32 shares each in the ship. She was sailed up the Fergus for the first time to Clare, with Thomas Bowler as Master.

The records of Clare Castle Harbour Board, prior to 1918, no longer exist but the movements of the ship can be plotted from the shipping intelligence in the local papers and it can be seen that she was an industrious ship. Samples of her voyages are:

YearArrived fromCargoRef.
27 November, 1844MiramichiTimber3
2 August, 1855QuebecTimber4
15 April, 1846NewportIron5
30 April, 1847New YorkBread Stuff6
16 February, 1848GlasgowCoal7
30 April, 1849New YorkIndian Corn8
14 August, 1849New YorkTimber9
6 August, 1851St. JohnsTimber10

A fuller list of the known voyages of the Ellen Forrestal is given at the end of this page.

All of these voyages would have come through the Port of Limerick en route to Clare Castle and she usually carried ballast on the outward trip.

There is some evidence that William Carroll chartered the Ellen Forrestal on occasions to bring timber from Canada to his yards in Ennis. His relationship with the McNamaras would have made this possible. His daughter, Mary, remembered being on board the ship in Clare Castle in the mid-1850s and there were blocks and various pieces of rigging from the ship in the rafters of the coach-house at Abbeyview well in to the 1920s.

Apart from being an interesting insight in to the commercial life of Ennis at the time, the voyages of the Ellen Forrestal where she carried passengers during the Famine years are fascinating. The advertisement that appeared in the Limerick Chronicle on 22 March 1848 illustrates the way that the ship was adapted to another use by her owners. The ship began to carry passengers from June 1847 to October 1851 to New York and as can seen in the table below, she also carried passengers to Quebec and Boston in those years. Advertisements of her availability to carry passengers first appeared in the Limerick Chronicle on 21 April 1847.

The Ellen Forrestal was a relatively new ship and obviously totally sea-worthy at the time that she carried passengers but it was a ship designed to carry cargo and not passengers. In The Famine Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846 - 1851, edited by Ira Glazier, one can find the lists of passengers that the Ellen Forrestal carried from Clare and Limerick to New York in those years. Similar lists for the ports of Boston and Quebec will become available. When one bears in mind that the ship was very similar in size and design to brigs afloat today such as Asgard, the Astrid and the Royalist that visited Dublin during the Tall Ships Race of 1998, one can only marvel and shudder at the thought on 100 passengers on such a tiny vessel on a long sea voyage to New York. As Ciaran O Murchadha remarks in his book, Sable Wings over the Land, the Ellen Forrestal cannot be regarded as a coffin ship but the desperate need of the people to leave was certainly met by the ship-owners in a truly commercial manner.

All of the voyages did not go without incident. For example, the Clare Journal of 17 May 1847 gives the following report on the Ennis Petty Sessions:

Mr. Mat Kenny next complained, on the part of John Maley and 30 others, against Messrs. MacNamara and Son, for agreeing with them for a passage in the “Ellen Forestal” to America. They contracted to sail on the 5th inst., but now refused to do it, to the serious injury of the complainants. Under 5th and 6th Vic., c. 108, the persons so injured were entitled to a shilling a day for the time being.

Mr. MacNamara (junior partner of the firm) here entered and declared he had heard of the summonses only the night before. So far from wishing to delay the progress of the emigrants, that on finding the “Ellen Forestal” did not sail, he gave berths in other vessels to all applicants, and gave money in others who required it, as he was ready to do on the present occasion. This declaration terminated the business quite satisfactorily,….

In June of the following year, the Clare Journal declared that "the friends of those emigrants who sailed from Limerick on the “Ellen Forrester”, belonging to the Messrs. MacNamaras of this town, will be delighted to learn that she made her passage to New York in thirty six days, without a case of sickness on board"

From the Passenger Lists it can be noted that she carried 76 passengers on this trip.

Later in the same year, the same paper noted that " the brig, Ellen Forrestal, the property of Messrs. M’Namara of this town, bound for New York, started from her anchors in Scattery Roads during a gale of wind on Tuesday last; and was obliged to put into Kilrush for repairs. She lost her windlass and some of her bowsprit gear in her struggle with the elements."

On 30 August 1849, Michael McNamara sold half-ownership in the vessel to John Shaw, miller and coal merchant in Ennis. Cornellius Bunbury became her Master

A further safe crossing of the Atlantic to New York with passengers was noted on 17 September 1850. On this occasion, John McDonnell chartered the vessel.

On a different note, in September 1852, the Master of the brig Ellen Forrestal was prosecuted in Kilrush for smuggling tobacco. It was noted that Messrs, MacNamara and Shaw of Ennis owned the vessel.

In 1854, the Ellen Forrestal was again sold to MacFarlane of Greenock, Scotland and her port of registry was transferred to Greenock. She then traded between the Clyde and Australia. From Lloyd’s List, her trading between Melbourne and Callao in Peru can be traced. She also visited Chinchas in Peru. The last record shows her en route from England from Calloa, with the rather sad note “leaky” added to the entry. There are no further entries for the little ship and she disappears from the records. There was a possibility that she was not insurable because of her condition and that she simply carried on trading. This was normal practice at the time.

Voyages of the Ellen Forrestal
DatePortArrived/MasterFrom/CargoRef.
SailedTo
27 November 1844LimerickArrBowlerMiramichiTimberL.C.
19 February 1845LimerickArrBowlerLondonStavesL.C.
2 August 1845LimerickArrBowlerQuebecTimberL.C.
19 November 1845LimerickArrBowlerQuebecTimberL.C.
15 April 1846LimerickArrBunburyNewportIronL.C.
1 August 1846LimerickArrBunburyQuebecTimberL.C.
26 August 1846LimerickSailedBunburyMiramichiBallastL.C.
28 October 1846LimerickArrBunburyMiramichiTimberL.C.
23 December 1846LimerickArrBunburyGlasgowSundriesL.C.
19 January 1847LimerickSailedBunburyMaryportBallastL.R.
30 April 1847LimerickArrBunburyNew YorkBread StuffL.R.
1 June 1847LimerickSailedBunburyQuebecPassengersL.R.
3 September 1847LimerickArrBunburyQuebecTimberL.R.
16 February 1848LimerickArrBunburyGlasgowCoalL.C.
19 April 1848LimerickSailedBunburyQuebecPassengersL.C.
12 August 1848LimerickArrBunburyQuebecTimberL.C.
18 November 1848LimerickSailedBunburyNew YorkPassengersL.C.
13 April 1849LimerickArrBunburyNew YorkIndian cornL.R.
14 August 1849LimerickArrBunburyNew YorkTimberL. R.
16 October 1849LimerickArrBunburyGlasgowCoalL.R.
30 April 1850LimerickSailedBunburyBostonPassengersL.R.
6 August 1851LimerickArrBunburySt. JohnsTimberL.C.
25 January 1852Clare CastleArrDillon?BallastL.R.
8 February 1852LimerickSailedDillonGlasgowOatsL.R.
5 March 1852LimerickArrBunburyNewportCoalL.R.
18 March 1852LimerickArrBehanGlasgowCoalL.R.
Note:L. C. = Limerick Chronicle
L. R. = Limerick Reporter

The Alfred

Some 30 years after his involvement with the Ellen Forrestal, Carroll expanded his business to include the ownership of a barque named the Alfred in 1880. As will have been noted in an earlier chapter, the Alfred was wrecked off the coast of Prince Edward Island two years later on 24 October, 1882 but her story gives an interesting insight into the life of a sailing-ship of that period.

The Alfred, official number 45,491, was built in Southwick, England in 1864. Her builder was Rawson and she had a gross tonnage of 349 tons. She was 116 feet, 6 inches in length, 27 feet, 6 inches in breadth and had a depth of 17 feet. The ship had a barque rigging with three masts and was registered at Scarborough Port. Her first owners were H. Smith & Co. and then W. H. Ross & Co. both of Scarborough. She was listed as A1 Class on Lloyd's Register and her hull was felted and sheathed with yellow metal.

The ship was very similar in size and design to the Jeannie Johnston presently being built in Tralee and was a slightly smaller version of the Dunbrody under construction in New Ross. Both barques give a very accurate impression of how the Alfred must have looked.

Under Carroll's ownership, the voyages of the Alfred can be plotted from the Crew Lists that still exist. On 18 May 1881, the Alfred sailed from Liverpool to St. Johns, New Brunswick with a crew of ten and with James Martin as Master. James Martin was born in Kilrush in 1824 and passed his examination for a Certificate of Competency as Master at Cork in 1865. Among the crew were William Hickey, James O'Mahony, Daniel Behan and Joseph Mahony of Limerick. The ship arrived back with a cargo of timber for Carroll to Clare Castle on 26 September 1881.

On 18 October 1881, the Alfred sailed from Clare Castle to Troon in Scotland . In April 1882, she sailed from Limerick to Quebec, arriving back in Clare Castle on 21 July of that year. That trip had a further significance for Carroll in that his son Patrick Carroll is listed among the crew of twelve. The rest of the crew signed on for a wage of £3.5s.od. per month while Patrick was given a nominal wage of just one shilling.

The Crew Lists also give an idea of what conditions on board a sailing-ship were for the crew.

BreadBeefPorkFlourPeasRiceTeaCoffeeSugarWater
lb. lb. lb.lb.pint lb.oz.oz.oz.qts.
Sun111/41/81/223
Mon111/41/81/223
Tues111/41/81/223
Wed111/41/81/223
Thurs111/41/81/223
Fri111/41/81/223
Sat11
I lb. Of Butter weekly
For the above at Master's option.
No grog allowed

On 16 August, 1882, the Alfred set sail from Clare Castle, calling at Limerick, on her way to Miramichi or St. John's, New Brunswick, with the following crew:

Wm. J. Stephenson (Master) of St. John's N.B.
George Hopkins of Ramsgate
John Miller of Limerick
Thomas Lenord of Limerick
Matt Kelly of Ballylongford
Benjamin Genou of Limerick
Charles Nelson of Germany
Thomas Carroll of Kilrush
George Lay of Gravesend
J. Williams of Londonderry
John Tyrrell of Arklow
P. Carroll of Ennis

John Miller deserted the ship at Kilrush and was crossed off the Crew List. George Lay failed to join the crew and Patrick Carroll was taken on as a substitute. All were listed as seamen with the exception of Lenord who was shown as a cook/steward and Hopkins was listed as Mate.

The final adjustments were made to the Crews List at Beeves Light on 21 August 1882, just as the ship left to cross the Atlantic.

Mitchell's Maritime Register for the period October and November 1882, gives a graphic account of the final days of the Alfred. The Register received a telegram on 24 October from the western end of Prince Edward Island announcing that the Alfred, barque, for Miramichi, in ballast, had struck on the east end of North Cape that morning. The telegram stated that there had been a heavy gale from the NE on the previous day and that the ship was a total wreck. The Nautical Magazine carried the following report:

Alfred, Barque; built at Sunderland 1864: owned by Mr. Carroll; tonnage 349: (on voyage from) Clare Castle to Miramichi (New Brunswick, Canada); ballast (i.e. cargo on outward journey); lost near North Cape, Prince Edward Island October 24th 1882

The Board of Trade's Abstracts of Shipping Casualties 1882-83 gives a similar account, with the additional information that no lives were lost and that the wind was southeast 2 knots when the ship ran aground.

The wreck was put up for auction on 7 November 1882 and the final report on the ship states that "she will be broken up".

On 13 March 1883, an inquiry on the wrecking of the Alfred was held at Cardiff before Jones, Stipendiary Magistrate. The Master, William James Stephenson, who had been born at St. John, New Brunswick in 1852 and had passed his examination for Master in Canada in 1874 (Colonial Certificate No. 483), was found in default for careless navigation. His Masters certificate was suspended for three months.

The Crew List shows Stephenson as being discharged on 24 October 1882 at North Cape and the words "wrecked, P.E. Island" were written opposite each of the crews' names.

That entry also marked the last occasion that Carroll's son Patrick appears in any records located todate but it would appear that he stayed on in Canada before moving south to the USA. As will be seen, he apparently was in the USA in 1889, when Carroll died.

Eric Shaw, 1999


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Last Updated: 3/22/99 6:53:07 PM
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