A special artifact from Cape Clear Island Heritage Center
Cape Clear Heritage Center is brimming with interesting artifacts from days gone by. If only they could speak, what tales could they tell us ? Its rarely that we can relate an item to an heroic event. When that happens it makes it very special artifact indeed.
But, like any tale its best to start this one at the beginning.
World War II and The Battle of the North Atlantic
Cape Clear Islanders viewed the onset of World War II with great trepidation. For almost to a man the Island’s menfolk were scattered amongst the Irish and UK merchant and navy fleets. Knowing that they would surely be in harms way, they had a special concern for all mariners in danger at sea.
The Hazelside, an early casualty of the U-Boat War
In September 1939 the steamship Hazelside was attached by a U-Boat 11 miles from Cape Clear. An SOS was picked up by Denis Cadogan on the Island. Thus alerted Con Regan of the St Ultan lost no time in setting off to the rescue.
All available hands joined in this mission of mercy. Amongst them was a young Kieron Cotter who interrupted his shaving to join in the effort. Also included were John Bill Cadogan, Sean Regan, Fineen Cadogan, Jack Mahoney, John Harte and John Burke.
An exciting day on Cape Clear
Around the same time a sea plane arrived over Cummer dropping leaflets to alert Islanders to a ship in trouble. While the St Ultan ploughed through the rough seas with gale force winds, other islanders took to the cliffs to watch the action unfold.
Dangerous conditions and help from the sky
The Hazelside had been carrying a cargo of large beams of timber. As these were now scattered in the rough seas great caution was required to avoid hitting them as one could easily have sunk the St Ultan. Meanwhile the RAF flying boat made every effort to guide the St Ultan to the relieved survivors.
A sinking ship and an act of courage.
After collecting most of the survivors the St Ultan approached the sinking Hazelside. It was then they spotted two sailors tied to a spar and in great danger. Remembering his razor hastily thrust into his pocket Kieran knew what to do. And so taking a moment to divest his outer garments and shoes he plunged into the sea, razor in hand to cut the sailors free.
In all 23 sailors were rescued and brought to Schull by the St Ultan. 11 were lost including the Captain.
And in 1989 some of them returned to Cape Clear to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their rescue. This plaque was unveiled on that occasion.
And what of the courageous Kieran Cotter ? By all accounts he spoke little of this exploit later in life. But the apple did not fall far from the tree. That’s because one of his sons is also known as Kieran Cotter. And he recently retired as Coxswain of Baltimore Lifeboat after a long and distinguished career saving lives at sea.
A special artifact
Readers will no doubt by now agree that this razor from Cape Clear Heritage Center, formerly owned by Kieran Cotter (Senior) is a very special artifact indeed.
We hope that you will also see that Cape Clear Heritage Center is also a very special place and well worth a visit.