Last week I was lucky enough to fulfil a dream I’ve had since I started researching the RMS Tayleur a couple of years ago: I was able to visit Lambay. This beautiful island lies off the coast of Howth, a little to the north of Dublin, and I was taken over on a speedy inflatable called a ‘rib’ (I’d like to make some kind of Adam/Eve joke but my brain is still too giddy, do leave one in the comments section if you’re up for it). I saw a sleeping seal bobbing straight up and down like a cork in the water, all sorts of seabirds that I won’t even attempt to (mis)identify, jellyfish, and a minke whale. It was BRILLIANT. I absolutely recommend contacting Eoin Grimes of Skerries SeaTours on [Irish code] 0863043847 if you’re in the area.
Lambay isn’t just a stunning bird reserve full of deer and wallabies (yes, really), it’s also where the RMS Tayleur wrecked 48 hours into her maiden voyage for the White Star Line 160 years ago. 290 survivors climbed the treacherous cliffs to safety despite horrific injuries and shock, and stayed there for a couple of nights (most of them out in the open) until they could be transported to the mainland. It was gloriously sunny when I was there, with barely a breeze, but I couldn’t help but look on those near-vertical cliffs in horror. They’re menacing even on a late summer’s day, let alone in a winter storm.
I took my copy of “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic‘” (Pen & Sword, 2014) and read the names from the back of the book aloud, all 700+ of them. It took ages and really drove home just how many people were directly involved with this horrific shipwreck. I felt incredibly privileged to be there, and to be able to leave as I chose. Many hundreds of those on board the RMS Tayleur that day did not.
If you have any questions or information on the Tayleur do feel free to leave a comment or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although I was only in Ireland for a few days, I managed to pack a lot in, thanks mainly to the incredibly generous people I met there.
windy on the ferry – not going for the Morrissey look, honest
Too much happened to cram it all into one big fat blogpost, so I’ll let it out over the next few weeks or so, bit by bit. I’ll definitely be going back over for talks and visits (and signings) sometime this summer so do feel free to get in touch with me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or at email@example.com to let me know if there’s anywhere in particular I should get in touch with or if you’re a descendant of someone involved with the wreck and fancy meeting up for cake.
Hodges Figgis in Dublin, Manor Books in Malahide, and FeelGood Scuba in Howth all stock “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur” so if you fancy a look, that’s where to go. Alternatively, you can ask your local Eason’s or independent bookseller to get it in – some libraries have it too – or try here http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur/p/6053/
The best bit of the trip, the indisputable highlight amongst a ton of brilliant things, was sailing to the wrecksite itself on a gloriously sunny day. Many thanks to Howth Sailing & Boating Club for making this happen, and to Harry Breslin for his tales of danger and discovery on the wreck itself, spanning over 50 years.
Thank you again to the people who made all this possible, including the O Duills for adopting me for the duration and feeding me pasta and icecream, Mike Medcalf for taking me out on Yacht Taurus and feeding me cheese and tomato sandwiches and soup, and John Craddock and his mum for escorting me round the anchor memorials and feeding me toast and fancy hot chocolate. Can’t wait to go back!