Wonderful old photos from the Museum of Ireland Flickr

These fabulous historical shots come from the National Library of Ireland on The Commons – a collection that’s well worth a bit of time, and not just for the boat and sea related shots.

See also:

And this set:

The sea poems of Cicely Fox Smith


I’ve just learned about the poet Cicely Fox Smith. Not too much is known about her, but there’s a short biography at The Little Red Tree website.

As a woman, Ms Fox Smith  (1882-1954), must have been pretty well excluded from working as a sailor herself, but  she writes very convincingly about ships and men – so convincingly, in fact, that quite a few of her poems have been set to tunes and are being sung by the kind of people you would normally expect to sing traditional shanties, ballads about cruel ships’ mates and ribald ditties about landlords’ daughters, as I discovered recently when listening to Tyne and Tide, a new CD made by group of Tyneside singing group The Keelers.

She wrote hundreds of poems on a variety of themes, and they can be found here.

I’ve pasted two particularly powerful examples below.


These were the ships that kept on going
When the seas were thick with the War’s black sowing –
Great ocean liners in white paint and gold,
Shabby little colliers, all grime and green mould,
Up-to-date cargo boats ugly as sin,
Old seven-knotters with their plates rusted thin,
Has-been clipper-ships, laid up for ages,
Fitted out and rigged new and sent to earn their wages,
Coal-ships and cotton–ships,
Sound ships and rotten ships
From Thames and Clyde and Merseyside that fetched their ports no more –
Tyne ships and Humber ships,
Grain-ships and lumber-ships –
Ships that went down in the War!

These were the men that knew no shirking
The hungry waters where death lay lurking –
Grizzled old skippers that had grown grey in ships,
Young brassbounders with the down on their lips,
White-faced black squad and tanned A.B.’s
In oil-stained boiler-suits and torn dungarees,
That dropped beside the wheel on the deck all bloodied,
That drowned in the darkness when the stokehold flooded,
That froze on the rafts in the bitter Atlantic,
That drifted in boats till the thirst drove them frantic,
Some with wives and youngsters to cry their eyes red,
Some with neither chick nor child to care that they were dead.

Not reckoned greatly daring men,
But every-day seafaring men,
Who stood their trick and earned their whack and took their fun ashore,
Until on every tide for us
They took their chance and died for us –
Men that went down in the War!

Copper Ore

Jane Price
of Swansea
Thirty days out,
With Copper ore from Carrizal
And sinking . . .

With her cargo shifting
And her steering gear gone:
And the pumps clanking on
The whole day through
And the whole night too,
And the water gaining
Spite of all we can do,
And no use complaining
And no use thinking . . .

In the
Jane Price
of Swansea
Thirty days out,
With Copper ore from Carrizal
And sinking . . .

Like a log, and lifting
To the big green seas
That crash aboard like thunder,
With her lee rail under
And the water to our knees
And all the while mounting,
And we’ve got past caring,
And we’ve got past counting,
And the mate’s quit swearing,
And the Old Man’s drinking . . .

In the
Jane Price
of Swansea
Thirty days out
With Copper ore from Carrizal
And sinking…

Robin Craig’s wonderful photo collection

Be warned – this could take some time, and it may be a moment to draw up a chair, and sit down with a cup of tea and a favourite biscuit or two…

If’ you’re sitting comfortably, these few thumbnails link to photographs in the huge and wonderful Robin Craig collection of photos of ships and boats – there are three directories containing hundreds of photos from the 1930s to the 1970s on line here.

PS – I’m sorry to report that I completely forgot to thank Jay Cresswell (see comment below and various earlier posts and comments) for leading me to this website. Thanks Jay! intheboatshed.net is always grateful for a good tipoff!