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The Angler's Locker

Below is a listing of bits and bobs that have ended up here during the frequent idle moments of the site's webmaster. Hopefully something might be of interest to you here!

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To get the ball rolling here is a local sea-shanty.

A Trip to Ballinadee


Hold fast ye dry land sailors all, and listen to my tale.
It recalls an expedition bold and started from Kinsale
As stout a crew as ever you knew, who had never been to sea,
But who ventured all in an open yawl on a trip to Ballinadee.

The cargo consisted of some "hard tack" and crubeens,
Some junks of meat you never could eat and a dozen of dry scalpeens,
A keg or two of "mountain dew" and a dozen of lemonade,

And the symphony band was a gadget grand that the carpenter newly made.

They left one Sunday afternoon, this jolly crew of tars,
And each one carried his overcoat and a couple of cheap cigars
With many sighs and fond Good-byes, the girls all around did flock,
Gone were their hopes when the crew cast ropes and cleared from the Short Quay dock.

As soon as they left Kinsale behind, with helm hard to port,
The gallant ship was making fast for old King James' Fort,
When the donkey-man cried out abaft: "Steer clear the harbour rock",
But the devil a tug we gave the lug till we landed at the Dock

But soon the siren blew again, each one the oars did grip,
Through blinding spray and angry say, we passed the Ferry Slip.
We held our sail before the gale, the ship was on her own,
And we raised a cheer as we passed quite near the castle of Ringrone.

The firemen all got rusty and they said they'd go to bed,
As the watchman on the gangway shouts, "I fear there's rocks ahead".
But the man at the steer, who was full of beer, from the mate got a stiff poltogue.
While you'd wink your eye we were high and dry on the headland of Comogue.

The captain cried, "Come on my lads, your seamanship to prove."
So we put our shoulders to the wheel and gave a powerful shove,
And we raised a cheer as we steered her clear of a sharp and dangerous ledge;
Through the blinding foam we sang "Home, Sweet Home" right under the Iron Bridge.

Tissasson, Ballywilliam and Killaney passed our view.
With plenty of coal in each stoke hole, just like a bird she flew,
'Till the cook in the galley shouted out: "She's making water fast."
So we took a bag and raised our flag and nailed it to the mast.

Now Bailed was sighted as the clock was striking six.
The skipper said to all the crew, "I fear we're in a fix.
So large a boat will never float till the tide rises full brim."
So the cry arose: "Take off your clothes, we'd better get out and swim."

With heartfelt thanks we reached the banks and safely came to land,
The musical director then started up the band,
We chorused "God save Ireland" and the "Boys of Garryowen",
And Ballinadee resounded as we gave "The Holy Stone"

The local folk surrounded us, they came from far and near,
When they saw those gallant heroes, they raised a rousing cheer.
The mayor, himself, conducted us into the nearest Pub,
They filled a can for every man and gave us plenty grub.

So this, friends, is the story of this crew of jolly tars,
Who sailed away one Summer's day and came home on outside cars.
My bosom swells when history tells of this gallant company
Who ventured all in an open yawl on a trip to Ballinadee.


The Fisherman
William Butler Yeats (1916)

Irish Naval vessel L.E. Aoife, (P22), at anchor at Lower Cove, Kinsale harbour, Summer 2002.

Maybe a twelvemonth since

Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,

Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down-turn of his wrist,
When the flies drop in the stream,
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream,
And cried, ‘Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.




The Boatman of Kisale

Thomas Osborne Davis (1814–45)

HIS kiss is sweet, his word is kind,
His love is rich to me;
I could not in a palace find
A truer heart than he.
The eagle shelters not his nest
From hurricane and hail
More bravely than he guards my breast—
The Boatman of Kinsale.

The wind that round the Fastnet sweeps
Is not a whit more pure,
The goat that down Cnoc Sheehy leaps
Has not a foot more sure.
No firmer hand nor freer eye
E’er faced an autumn gale,
De Courcy’s heart is not so high—
The Boatman of Kinsale.

The brawling squires may heed him not,
The dainty stranger sneer,
But who will dare to hurt our cot
When Myles O’Hea is here?
The scarlet soldiers pass along:
They’d like, but fear to rail:
His blood is hot, his blow is strong—
The Boatman of Kinsale.

His hooker’s in the Scilly van,
When seines are in the foam,
But money never made the man,
Nor wealth a happy home,
So, bless’d with love and liberty,
While he can trim a sail,
He ’ll trust in God, and cling to me—
The Boatman of Kinsale.





Some Old Sayings and Terms

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  • Not Enough room to swing a cat - This refers to the time the "cat of 9 tails" or whip was used to flog offending sailors. In many smaller ships, particularly below decks due to the uprights, there was not enough room literally to swing the whip.
  • Cats: The domestication of cats goes back some 10K years, and the practice of taking cats aboard boats and ships began not long afterwards. The Ancient Egyptians took cats on board Nile boats to catch birds in the thickets along the riverbanks. Cats were also carried on trading ships to control rodents, and that concept was adopted by traders from other nations. This led to the spread of cats throughout the world, with the species eventually reaching nearly all parts of the world accessible by ship. Over the centuries their offspring developed into different breeds according to the climate in which they found themselves and the mates they took, as well as the deliberate selection by humans. Phoenician cargo ships are thought to have brought the first domesticated cats to Europe in about 900 BC. Perhaps this may have something to do with catheads - those wooden beams used to hold the main anchors outboard of the ship which often had the image of a cat at their outboat end. .
  • Crank. A ship or boat that had a tendency to lean to one side or even capsize. Unstable.
  • Hard and Fast: Inflexible, without doubt as with rules. As in ship stuck fast on the hard and situation not changing at least until the next high tide.
  • Shanties (or Chanteys) were songs sung by sailors when working - often as a means of timekeeping. The words were often adjusted to the rythm of a task and the length of the song to the time required for the job itself. "Long Haul" jobs such as setting sails required long story-like shanties while "Short Haul" jobs such as tightening ropes, the pulls on the rope were done on a keyword rathen than a chorus/verse. A Shantyman was the leader with a strong voice that could penetrate the wind's howl. Songs sung for diversion on the other hand were called "forebitters" - perhaps they were sung while sitting on the bitts forward. (Musn't have been much fun behind the mast!?)

  • Copper Bottomed Investment: Wooden ships with copper-plated bottoms lasted longer and went faster, due to copper's protective and antifouling properties. The case in favour was unarguable long term, but required more money up front - hence the phrase "copper-bottomed investment".

  • Three square meals. Hunger was never far for many in years past. One of the main selling points to potential sailors was the promise of 3 square meals a day from the Royal Navy. The expression derived from the fact that part of a sailor's kit included a square timber tray that doubled as his plate onto which his meals were placed.

  • "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours...". Harsh justice was the order of the day aboard ships of the line. Floggings were meted out frequently and for the most trivial of offences. Often these floggings were carried out by a randomly selected crewman. Journeys were long - very long - and sailors being mindful of the strong possibility of being on the receiving end at some future point drew up their own code. So, if one sailor was easy with the cat-o-nine tails - maybe, maybe he might benefit later.
  • Irishman's Pennants: Not sure whether a humerous or derogatory term. Used in the days of the square-riggers and before. It refers to loose parcelling threads and serving threads on ratlines, stays and rigging blowing dejectedly in the wind. This often occurred after months at sea when the preserving tar broke down and wear and tear on the treads by crew working the rigging and esposure to unforgiving elements.
  • l'irlandaise. This is also a French nautical term for the emergency procedure performed when a sailing craft is caught unprepared by a squall with too much canvas out. It involved cutting large vents in the sail. Ref: Dictionnaire amoureux de la mer by Jean Francios Deniau, Académie francaise,published 2002.
  • In the Offing. Offing was an old term for "Offshore" - that region off the coast that was close to a port. It was an alert to local businesses to be prepared IF the boat were to dock. Of course, it may as easily have been going to the next nearby port, so it was not a guarantee of business but a good chance.

    Mullocking. This word came into use on Limerick Dockside in the days of heavy physical stevedoring labour in all weathers (for the local Mullock shipping agency and others). To be considered a Mullocker by the "boss" was indeed a compliment to the worker. The Mullock shipping agency, formed 1778, was only under Mullock partnered control for 3  years when it passed completely to other shareholder Herriot. In recent times the Herriots line married into the Dundon family who now run the Mullock and son business in Foynes and Limerick.
  • Nippers. In the days of the Ships of the Line, the Anchor rope, (cable or hawse), was hauled in using the capstan. However, this cable was not attached directly to the capstan. There was a "continuous" rope called the messenger which looped from the capstan down the length of the gundeck, through a block and back again. The anchor's cable was attached, or nipped, to the messenger by short lengths of light rope by the ship's boys as the cable came through the hawse hole onto the gundeck. Before the cable was dropped through a hatch to the orlop deck below these short strands were undone to be used again forward. This sequence required fast work by the boys as the cable came through and these very, very young sailors were given the term "nippers".

  • Pandora's Box. No, not that great Greek legend which is well served at . HMS Pandora was sent to the South Pacific to find Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers of Captain Bligh's ship HMS Bounty. After an epic search with little results, the ship began it's return voyage to England with only 14 mutineers found - Christian not being amongst them. The mutineers were held in a wooden box on deck - 11' x 19' - and endured terrible deprivation over many weeks. This hell-hole was given the name Pandora's Box. But maybe like the legend, hope was to play it's part - HMS Pandora ran aground and sank on the Great Barrier reef. Though 4 of the 14 died in this terrible event the rest survived, (released to man the pumps), to return to England. Of these 10, only 3 were hanged, which was very merciful by the standards of the day.
  • Pinch more than an inch.. The Royal Navy's wooden ships were made from valuable timbers and metals - especially the many brass and bronze rivets and and nails. On many of the nails and rivets used, the King's Mark would often appear every inch or so thus making it impossible to steal or 'pinch' more than an inch.
  • Norwich, Greenwich, Ipswich... - in fact most towns in England that end in "ich" were Fish processing towns. The "ich" sylable is from the old Norman term for the salting process used in the fish processing. Since 1600 medieval Dunwich in Suffolk disappeared beneath and a half mile out to sea - due to coastal erosion, (and now global warming).
  • Orlop Deck. The deck below the gun deck.Thought to have come from the Dutch word "oberluppen" , meaning overlying, as this deck was overlying, or just above, the hold. The Orlop deck was below water level. The lowest level above the waterline would have been the gundeck.

  • Reveal ones true colours: Ships of war often disguised their identity by hoisting fake ensigns, only to reveal their true identity at a suitable time in order to surprise their enemy before engaging in battle.
  • Sewerage: Old English word for seaward.

  • Ship Shape in Bristol Fashion. The expression "Ship Shape" for most means very tidy. But "Bristol fashion" has the extra requirement of tightness & snug storage. And the term comes from the massive, over 30', tides in Bristol port- when these tides went out and the ship leanded over on it's keel you had better have stored your cargo and goods well or yor could have damaged or even lost some of the cargo.
  • S.H.I.T. Certain types of manure used to be transported (as everything was back then) by ship. In dry form it weighs a lot less, but once water (at sea) hit it. It not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by-product is methane gas. This Methane would then build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, well, BANG! Because of this danger, the bundles of manure where always stamped with the term "S.H.I.T" on them which meant to the stevadores to "Ship High In Transit." In other words, high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo.
  • SON OF A GUN: Illegitimate child born aboard ship when the name of the father was not produced.

  • SPROG Son Produced by Recoil of Gun: Loose term for baby born in the bunk above the gun - a new navy recruit.
  • Sterling, as in English currency is derived from the word "Easterling" or trader from the East. The easterlings were from the countries of the Hanseatic League of trading nations and were "East" of the English ports. These Easterlings were as good as their word in matters business and they became synonymous with reliability and fair trading - they could be banked on.

  • Ship Shape in Bristol Fashion. The expression "Ship Shape" for most means very tidy. But "Bristol fashion" has the extra requirement of tightness & snug storage. And the term comes from the massive, over 30', tides in Bristol port- when these tides went out and the ship leanded over on it's keel you had better have stored your cargo and goods well or yor could have damaged or even lost some of the cargo.
  • Swinging the Lead: Many of our charts were last updated in Victorian times. The depth information was got from  lines attached to a lead weight (of about 3 kg) that were cast out and once the touched bottom the length of line was measured to obtain a depth reading. Often the lead's bottom was hollow and filled with tallow to which a sample of the bottom would attach and so be discovered. The depths were made at regular intervals. However a lazy surveyor would be found spending more time swinging the lead in a circle beside him than doing the more laborious task of hauling the heavy weight up from a depth.

  • Three Sheets to the Wind: (Variations are "'All sheets to the wind' or 'Four sheets to the wind'). Sheets are the lines or ropes attached to sails that allow the sails to be shaped and moves to best catch the force of the wind to drive the ship forward. Without these, a ship is out of control. So, Out of control, drunk.

  • Toe the line: For newly enlisted crewmen (landsmen) to a the ship - drill included having to form up along a specific line of the ship's deck for training exercises.