Strong support for Skerries sea pole memorial

Campaign has highlighted centuries of maritime history

A  campaign to re-erect a sea pole in Skerries, Co Dublin, as a memorial to lost sailors, has attracted the support of thousands of locals. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

A campaign to re-erect a sea pole in Skerries, Co Dublin, as a memorial to lost sailors, has attracted the support of thousands of locals. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

A campaign to re-erect a sea pole in Skerries, Co Dublin, as a memorial to lost sailors, has attracted the support of thousands of locals.

The pole was originally part of an elaborate apparatus used to help sailors in floundering ships. When a vessel ran into trouble rescuers on the shore would climb to the top and, using a rocket, fire a rope to the stricken craft. The sailors would secure the rope after which a harness would be sent over to haul the men to shore.

But technological advances and increased resources saw the pole- essentially a 16ft tall telegraph pole with climbing rungs- fall out of use and into disrepair. It remained, however, a local landmark, featuring frequently in photographs from the area before the council eventually removed it a number of years ago.

Now locals want it to form the centrepiece of a memorial which, they believe, will have the county’s longest list of names of people lost at sea.

Shane Holland, a local production designer who is spearheading the campaign, said the plan is to erect the pole in the centre of a bandstand on the harbour. This will be lined with metal plates bearing the names of at least 271 ships and souls.

On Sunday some 2,500 people walked from Skerries Rugby Club to Shennick to raise funds for the project, the most expensive aspect of which is laser engraving the names on the ever-growing list of lost seafarers.

“There was never a proper sea memorial to people lost at sea in Skerries,” Mr Holland said. So he started compiling the list, comprising of ships lost off Skerries and of locals who perished in waters around the world.

It has been a “fascinating study”, Mr Holland said, taking in almost 300 years of maritime history that links the village with vessels from Alexandria, Greece, Barbados and France as well as German U-boats. It also highlights connections with British towns like Carlisle, Wokingham, and Sunderland, which exported large quantities of coal to nearby Balbriggan in the 19th century.

Originally Mr Holland estimated about €3,000 would cover costs but “every time the number of names increases, the budget increases”. Now organisers hope to raise €10,000 from the local community.