Skerries Harbour Part 2

Skerries, which has always had a fishing tradition and once was one of the main fishing ports in Ireland, has only a small number of trawlers now. In the days of sail the harbour was also a busy trading port but with the arrival of steam ships this trade died away. In the year 1884, 286 sailing vessels loaded and unloaded here. Limestone from Milverton Quarries was the biggest export, being used for building and in road making.

The Queen, a paddle steamer was the first steam powered vessel to enter Skerries harbour. It arrived with passengers on a day trip from Dublin on the 15th of August 1887. The last ship to load limestone in Skerries did so in 1942.

Complete records of shipping through the harbour are available since the Dublin Port and Docks Board took control in 1877. In 1884 a total of 226 trading vessels passed through the harbour. Imported were coal and “culm” (coaldust) and exported were limestone, timber, herrings, and potatoes. However the number of trading vessels declined steadily over the years, as shown at ten yearly intervals from 1884.

1894 . 92 vessels . . 1904 . 59 vessels
1914 . 28 vessels . . 1924 .15 vessels
1934 . 14 vessels . . 1944 . 02 vessels
1954 . 03 vessels

In 1961 three motor vessels unloaded coal in Skerries Harbour and since then no trading has been done.

The first lifeboat house was constructed in Skerries in 1854. This house was replaced in 1903 by a new one, which stands where the harbour road turns onto Red Island.

The original Skerries lifeboat, which was called the William Maynard, was a rowboat with a crew of ten. The lifeboat Station was closed in 1930 but it was reopened in recent years when the town got an inshore lifeboat.

At the turn of this century the buildings connected with the harbour extended down to where the playground is now situated on Red Island. Firstly there was the Salt Works, which was later used as a coal yard. Further along, where the bandstand is now situated, a row of cottages housed the coastguards. The Coastguards Station was situated in the yard of the present lifeboat shed. This shed housed the breeches buoy or the “Apparatus” as it was called locally. The pole at the end of this shed, and the stump of a similar pole with a ring beside it, near the Captain’s, were also part of the “Apparatus”.

When a ship was in trouble near the shore a line attached to a rocket was fired out to it. This light line had heavier ropes attached to it. These heavy ropes were anchored on shore while the other ends were pulled out to the ship and attached firmly to it. A canvas seat travelled back and forth along these ropes taking passengers and crew off the stricken ship, one at a time. The equipment used in this type of rescue was the “Apparatus”.

Out to sea, from the back of the harbour, is a buoy. This is especially noticeable when it flashes its warning light at night. This buoy, “The Perch”, marks The Cross Rocks.
Published here: November 2002