independent

Friday 20 September 2019

Fitting commemoration of sinking of St Patrick

FAMILY'S PRIDE AS FATHER AND UNCLE HONOURED

PADRAIG BYRNE

THERE was great pride at Rosslare Europort last week as a plaque was unveiled to finally recognise the sacrifice that people on board the ill fated vessel, the Saint Patrick hade made, not just for the war effort, but ultimately for their own country too.

The Saint Patrick was a passenger and mail ferry which operated between Rosslare and Fishguard. Despite the fact that it was garnished with the red cross to indicate that it was not a military vessel, the Saint Patrick was attacked on a couple of occasions by the Luftwaffe during World War II and on June 13, 1941, the ship was bombed by German aircraft and sank, killing 30 people, 27 of whom were Irish.

Particularly proud to see the occasion marked, was Alice Hunt of Mulgannon, who's father Mosey Brennan and brother John Brennan both lost their lives in two separate attacks on the ship.

'I'm very happy,' she said. 'It's a bit of closure for me. I've fought tooth and nail over the years for some kind of recognition for the people who lost their lives on board the Saint Patrick. I never wanted medals or anything, just a bit of recognition from the Irish government for those who died. I just hope my mum is up there watching today. It was particularly hard on her and she really did sacrifice everything to raise us.'

Mrs Hunt was also particularly thankful to Cllr. Joe Ryan, who was instrumental in getting her story out there. 'I'm eternally grateful to councillor Joe Ryan,' she said.

'I first met Alice at a commemoration of the Battle of the Somme that took place in Enniscorthy.' Cllr Ryan said, 'She proceeded to tell me her story and that her father and brother had never been officially recognised by the state, and I just thought it was completely wrong. So I contacted John Browne, who was at that time a Minister of State for Fisheries and I was told that, because the ship flew a British flag, it was up to Britain to recognise those killed. I thought this was ridiculous. The ship was named after the patron saint of Ireland and 27 Irish people lost their lives on board. So I bumped into Shane Dunphy in Tesco one evening and I suggested that maybe he do something about it and I more or less turned it over to him and he did a great job.'

Speaking at the unveiling, Shane Dunphy spoke of his pride in the radio documentary, which has been downloaded over 30,000 times worldwide, in bringing one of the worst maritime disasters in Wexford's history to the attention of the public.

' The greatest wish of a documentary maker is for their work to make a difference,' he said, 'and it's with great satisfaction that I can say ' The Sinking of the Saint Patrick' has done that and the fact that we're all here today is a testament to that.'

Shane drafted in the help of local maritime history experts John Boyce and Brian Cleare to make the documentary and the result is a compelling exploration into one of Ireland's lesser recognised tragedies.

Also attending the event was Beryl Kinsella who's father Arthur Walters had been lucky enough to escape from the Saint Patrick with his life, when he was picked up on a wooden raft by a British Destroyer that had been accompanying a convoy from Belfast. Not put off by the experience of their father, Beryl and her brothers were all involved in working on the Sea Link Ferry at some point, before it later became Stena Line.

Operations manager for Stena Line at Rosslare Europort, Eamonn Fortune, said, 'We're delighted with the response we've had in making this event. It's only a small gesture, but we hope it can go some way towards providing a level of closure for Alice and other families who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy.'

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