Thursday, February 9, 2012

Daddy Con & the Passing Ship

My Grandfather, Daddy Con (Nana’s Father), was born in 1894 and grew up in southwest County Cork, Ireland, near Skibberreen, not far from the ocean.  One of the ways he and his boyhood friends used to pass the time was to climb the nearby hills to spots overlooking the ocean and watch for large ships passing by the southern Irish coast.

In the decade before WWI there was considerable Irish immigration from Ireland to America, Australia and New Zealand.  Many ships sailing from England or other parts of Northern Europe would make a final stop in Cork City to fill their third class passenger space with Irish immigrants.

These ships usually sailed out of Cork Harbor on Sunday morning.  After Sunday morning Mass, it was a common practice for them to check the newspapers to see what ships were sailing from Cork.  If it looked like there were any interesting ships sailing they would climb a hill near their home in Maultrahane and, if the weather cooperated, they would be able to watch the ships sail by.  Often the paper would have pictures of the ships and Daddy Con and his friends would do their best to identify them.

Daddy Con in Revere, Mass.
about 1925
The interesting ships didn’t always sail on Sunday, and there was one time, it happened to be a Thursday, when he and his friends rushed home after school to make their trip up the hill.

There was a ship sailing that afternoon that they really wanted to see.  Even though this was the ship’s maiden voyage, it was already probably the most famous ship ever built. And, due to something that would happen a few days later, it would remain the most famous ship ever built.  Daddy Con was 17 and he would remember that ship and that day for the rest of his life.  He even remembered the date, April 11, 1912.

They hadn’t been sitting up on the hillside long, when she hove into view.  The day was a bit hazy, but they could see her clearly enough and recognized her.  They had the picture from the paper and the ship had a distinctive profile.  Very few ships had four stacks.

Yes, it was the Titanic, on her way to destiny.

Skibbereen is at the teardrop "A"
I should also add, the Titanic was built in Ireland at the shipyards in Belfast.  Your Irish cousins like to say, "She was fine when she left here!"


When Nana, Dad & I visiteed Ireland in 1994, Nana mentioned this story to her cousins.  Nana told them that she had always thought that this was on of Dady Con's "tall tales" and that it probably had not happened.

Her cousin Tige (Ty), who was closer to Daddy Con's age than Nana's, assured her that it very likely was true.  That, as Daddy Con had stated, ship-watching was a common pastime.  Tige took us out from his home, up onto a small ridge and pointed out the view of the ocean.  He explained that it was very common to see ships from this point.  Tige was very sure that Daddy Con's story was true.


  1. Very nicely done, Tom.
    Phil Stokes

  2. That was delightful Tom. Thanks so much for sending it to me. Cousin Suzanne

  3. Tom,
    I appreciated this story. I have a lot of Irish Heritage and this story appealed to me. Thanks for sharing!
    Josh Crowell

  4. Tom,
    Thank you so much for sending this to us. Fascinating history and story well told. We are honored that you shared this with us.
    Liz, Jim, Michael, and Natalie

  5. Thank you for sharing.


  6. Cool. Am listening to the diane rheem show on the subject now!
    Gary Barnett

  7. That was a great read. Something passed down to your family.

  8. I am a Titanic fan; love the whole story sad as it was. I like sea stories in general. Saw the movie twice in the theatres. Looks like Romney's in. What do you think of that? I miss having a truck; getting the old bug to have a Toyota 4x4 again, although out here, with harder access to public lands, I wonder if I truly could justify 4WD. We'll see. Don't know if I'll make to that big reunion thing Janice Lloyd is putting together. How are you?

  9. Hi Tom thank you for the story. I watched a program last nite on the Titanic so your story was very fitting. It is nice that you have memories and stories of your grandpa. I have none of mine except one...Thanks again,

  10. Hi Tom,
    Great story, thanks for emailing me. Hope things are well and a belated Happy Easter, to you and your family.

  11. How interesting! Thanks for sharing Tom!

    Mary Whitby Newman

  12. Very cool, and timely, Tom.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Very cool and thanks for sharing....
    Robb Fishman

  14. Very nice Tom... Thanks for sharing...
    Greg Greenhoe

  15. thanks Tom,
    I love that story and have told it to friends already!


  16. The story was delightful. Thanks for sharing. Are you published?



  17. Nice story Tom, That is one of those things that needs to be passed down. My Dad was a teenager and lived in Honolulu for Pearl Harbor. All the best ,Paul

  18. Interesting story Tom. Your a good writer.

  19. Good story, awesome one for your boys!

  20. Wow...great story...kind of hard to imagine.

    Hope things are going well with you and you are enjoying your job. I often
    wonder how your commute is. (especially when I take Amtrak to San Jose and back
    to see my son's baby due in June).
    Joyce Snyder

  21. Hi Tom,
    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this!


  22. Tom,
    Thanks for sharing.