The 3rd of November, 1916- some seventy years ago- may not create great interest with your younger readers, save, perhaps, those relatives still alive, but to those of the older generation it recalls the greatest maritime tragedy in the history of Carlingford Lough by the collision and wreck of the “Connemara” and “Retriever.” with just one survivor.
The story of the tragedy was fully reported in the “Newry reporter” issues of the time and in the years since articles have also appeared in this widely read newspaper telling of the tragedy.
Many years ago as a contributor to The Christmas Number of the Reporter, I wrote that although young at the time, I remembered a portion of a poem which was composed at the time to mark the tragedy, by a young Warrenpoint lady, Clara Kathleen Meeke. Clara lived in Warrenpoint at Great Georges Street in Warrenpoint, and her father was in charge of a bakery depot.
Imagine my surprise last year when I met a relative of the Meeke family and I discovered that Clara was still alive. Through this meeting I was able to contact Clara Meeke and as a result she forwarded me a complete copy of the song, and since then we have corresponded regularly, and although she is in her 90th year she is still very hale and hearty.
Her memory of people and places, and her host of names of those who attended Jameson’s School, Warrenpoint in those years brought back to me many nostalgic memories, and some of them are still with us.
She vividly recalls those pre-First World War years of life in Warrenpoint which I, myself, covered in my book which was published a few years ago, and she, like I and others of those years who are still alive are proud and happy to have grown up, lived in, and loved our home town of Warrenpoint.
THE LOSS OF THE CONNEMARA
3rd November, 1916
One stormy wild November night
A ship set out to sail;
To make her way through waters wild,
To meet the rising gale.
When but a little distance out,
Distress “Calls” quickly blew:
As battling with the storm-tossed tide
The Retriever came in view.
What happened then no words can tell,
But we our picture form,
The ships collide, and one hundred lives
Are the victims of the storm.
As signals from the sinking ships
Were wafted on the ear,
A willing band of helpers then
Soon on the beach appear.
How eagerly they watch and wait,
And scan the billows wild;
A feeble cry for “Help” they hear,
As faint as a little child.
They needed not a another word,
As dashing through the wave,
They reach the sailor lad, and thus-
The sole survivor save.
At daybreak, still the watchers wait,
In ghastly fear and dread;
While rolling in on the rock beach
The sea gives up its dead.
As then the mournful tale is told,
Deep sorrow sweeps the land,
And friends, in pity, view the scene
Way down on cranfiled strand.
But oh! For those whose loved are gone,
Dear Lord, their comfort be;
As in thy gracious keeping now
We leave the “Lost at Sea.”
We too, do weep and sympathise
With all who truly mourn,
For loved ones who were shipwrecked
By the shores of kindly Mourne.
By Clara Kathleen Meeke,
16, Great Georges Street,