Remembering the crew of the Alfred D Snow

Last Sunday there was an understated but very fitting memorial ceremony for the crew of the sailing ship, Alfred D Snow. The ship grounded in Waterford Harbour on January 3rd 1888 and all 29 crew aboard were drowned. The memory of the tragedy lives on however, on both sides of the harbour. And Sundays ceremony saw the great great grand daughter of her captain lay a wreath in memory of the crew. 
image courtesy of Andrew Kelly
The Alfred D Snow was a three masted fully rigged all timber ship which was built in the Samuel Watts shipbuilding yard in Maine USA.  She was 232 feet long with a beam of 42 feet.  She departed San Francisco on Aug 30th 1887 bound for Liverpool with a cargo of wheat under Captain William J Wiley. On that trip was his 18 year old nephew, John. Approaching the Irish coast she encountered a storm and had to try find shelter in Waterford Harbour.  However the ship struck the bottom close to Broomhill in Co Wexford and got stuck fast.  Heeling over, the waves crashing aboard, the ships boats were launched with some difficulty and one managed to make it away but it was swamped and all aboard were drowned. The remaining crew took to the rigging in the hopes of salvation, which never arrived. In total all 29 crew died, mostly American but also men from England, France, Germany, Norway and Russia.  

During the days that followed the captains body was recovered and was shipped home for burial in a lead lined, brandy filled casket. Other crew men were interred in Ballyhack, but most were never found. Pieces of the wreck floated in all along the harbour.  These were secured by the coastguard apparently and were auctioned off. Timbers were used in the making of the Strand Tavern in Duncannon, the bar of the Ocean Hotel in Dunmore, now the Three Sisters.  They were also used in house construction throughout the harbour and I believe a table from the ship was taken from the tide by a Cheekpoint fishing family and for many years after had pride of place in the living room.  One of the more interesting artifacts that was salvaged was the ships figure head.  It was for many years the property of Capt. Richard Farrell, former Harbour Master of Waterford and it stood in his front garden. I understand it was sold during the 1980's to a London antiques dealer.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Grogan
Following an earlier account that my wife Deena wrote, Betsy White, a direct descendant of the ships captain and his nephew, sent an email seeking more information on the area and the events.  Betsy was planning a trip to Ireland and was trying to locate the various placenames associated with the story. Over the space of a year we exchanged many emails and photographs creating a clearer picture for Betsy and helping in some way in her planning of the trip.  The highlight for me last week was to finally meet her and to witness her lay a wreath in memory of all those who died.
Betsy White with Jim FitzGibbon of Slade following the wreath laying
The captain's last resting place
photo courtesy of Betsy White
According to Betsy, the only way the captain was actually identified was because of a ring he was wearing. (Betsy also informed me that the ships carpenter was also returned home to be buried, he was identified by a measuring stick found in his pocket). She also told us that the trip was to be the captains last.  It was undertaken to pay for a new home.  He was interred in his home town of Thomaston, Maine and his wife Cordelia is buried with him having died in 1913. The ship and her crew are still remembered today by the Thomaston Historical Society and here's hoping the same will be said in our own harbour for many years to come. 

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

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