Scattery Island Pilots & Seafarers

Caoimhin Ó' Danachair National Folklore Collection UCD

Piloting on the River Shannon was the main occupation of the men of Scattery Island, closely followed by those serving their time as Sailors/Seamen. The Island men served in both the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy. Having served time, some seamen then went on to work on lightships and lighthouses.

The Scattery pilots worked the Western division of the Shannon Estuary, and were originally based in  the Kilbaha & Carrigaholt areas. They came mainly from a place called Pilot Hill in Kilbaha. Pilots, at the time,used canoes to service ships. In 1873, five Pilots were drowned while on duty in the Kilbaha area.(A memorial honouring the men can be seen in Kilbaha today.) Following this tragedy, a two masted sailing ketch, named the “St.Patrick” and based at Carrigaholt bay was purchased and used by the Pilots based in the area. These Pilots were based at Kilcredaun Battery(purchased by the Harbour Commissioners of the time in 1910). Read more about these Pilots here:The Shannon Estuary Pilots

The Western Pilots remained based here until the Pilot house was built on Scattery Island at the southern end of the Island, on the grounds of the Battery in 1930. Most of the Pilots were, by now living on Scattery Island, so the ketch was abandoned,and there was a return to more traditional method of Piloting using a canoe.

The main Piloting families, kept a four man canoe, which was a necessity for Piloting vessels as far west as Kilcredaun point and beyond. This was the situation until 1953, when a motorised Pilot boat was commissioned, named the “Patricia”. She was based at Cappa, Kilrush, and the Pilot House was also relocated to Cappa. The motorised Pilot boat made the task of Piloting an easier one on the river, indeed at this stage, steamships had replaced sailing ships trading on the river. This also marked the end of the Pilot House being located on Scattery Island, and some of the families moved from Scattery Island, in and around this time, as it was not feasible to continue to live on the Island, with the Pilot House located on the mainland. However,many did remain resident on Scattery Island also  and travelled to the mainland for their duty as Pilots.

Many of the Scattery men went to sea at a young age,they had a great love of the sea and served their time on the steamships in both the Royal and Merchant Navy.

During World War 2, a total of twelve Scattery men lost their lives at sea,which was a large loss from the Island. Shipping on the river was quiet during the war years, but picked up once more after 1945, and the Scattery Pilots continued their duties as trade on the river meant busier shipping channels. After the War many of the Island’s sea men joined the Irish Lightships and Lighthouse services.

A monument stands on the Island today in memory of the Scattery men lost at sea, and in memory of the Belgian Moorkens family, from whom the Island was purchased back into Irish State ownership in 1989. (Follow this link for more details :Kilrush Community Development Limited (KCDL)


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