Salt in The Veins

Remembering the Kyleclare 1

Local Ringsend man Gerry Brannock has good reason to be proud of the area. The spritely native has seen both land and seascapes of Dublin’s south portside change radically over the years, but the historic pride is also tinged with tragedy.

Gerry’s father, able seaman Patrick Brannock, alongside bosun Frank Hopkins and cabin boy Robert Larkin perished aboard the Kyleclare and all hailed from Ringsend. The cargo ship was torpedoed 70 years ago this year, yet the tragedy didn’t put off any ambitions of serving the high seas for Gerry.

This article is dedicated to the crew of the Kyleclare, the last Irish merchant ship sunk during the war.
“It was a way of life with us, that’s just the way it was,” Gerry explained. Gerry Brannock is a wealth of names and rankings of every merchant naval position held by locals. He can account for the names and insignia of residents past and still present from almost every street in the area.

“If one went to sea in a family, that usually got other family members to go. The like of the ship carpenters would have served their time in the Liffey or the Ringsend Dockyard. Going to sea as a carpenter was seen as equivalent to a petty officer, a high-ranking position. You worked your way through the ranks, we all came from a working class area so it was a great achievement to become a captain.”

And there were a number of captains amongst the dozens of names Gerry proudly recited to go with almost every ranking position. Seafaring, once inherent to the area, is declining. “With my grandfather being a seafarer, it was always a natural progression that my father, brother and me would go to sea. None of my family has gone to sea since. The cut-off point was myself. My eldest son is 44 and the youngest is 32 and there’s no desire amongst them to go.”

The proud Dublin 4 man believes the changing economic climate has changed the landscape of the area. “It’s something like the bankers are doing now –Irish Shipping was bled dry. It ruined shipping and the expertise was taken away. It changed the area.”

Gerry still sees some brightness in the recent developments of building in the Docklands. “They based Dublin Docklands on the London Docklands. That Ulster Bank area is a miniature Canary Wharf. I was competing with Stella Maris Rowing Club on the Thames when they (the developers) came with us and started photographing London Docklands. People have some lovely apartment buildings here too.” He also firmly agrees with the port authority’s decision to move the passenger ferry terminals. “That’s all for the better. Better and quicker to have the passenger ports down here than having to go up the river toward town.”

Photo: The Irish Merchant Seamen Memorial on City Quay.

By Eric Murphy