There are many photographs of Ballymoney and her beautiful beaches. Many feature boats pulled up on the North Beach, about halfway over. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s and into 1970’s there were two almost permanently on the beach. These were used for herring fishing in the late Autumn and early Winter months. A 14 foot youghal, owned by Thomas (Tom) O Leary and a somewhat smaller skiff, owned by Jack Rickerby.
For her size, Tom’s boat was heavy, whilst Jack’s boat was on the lighter side, but both were fine sailing boats. Jack had built his own, the Lonestar. The boats were launched using timber rollers on planks of wood until they reached the sea and floated in the water. They were retrieved in the same way with the help of a winch on the banks over the beach. They were also used for leisure and on a fine Summer’s afternoon in 1961, 14th August to be exact, Tom was looking forward to a “sail”. None of his usual sailing buddies were around, so he took on a crew of young local lads and a young fellow, believed to be on holidays.
The crew was Thomas (Tom) O Leary, owner and skipper, with Peter Dempsey, Gordan Mowatt, William Kinsella and the holiday maker, Derek Walsh, all youngsters in their teens. They put to sea and hoisted the sail. However, after a few short hours of pleasant sailing, the weather “turned” and in no time at all they were in trouble. The mast broke in heavy seas and the boat soon was at the mercy of the elements. Eventually darkness fell. They took to the oars and Tom’s instructions to the young crew were to “row and pray, pray and row”.
Whether by good fortune, good seamanship or the grace of God, having seen the light of the Arklow South Lighthouse, they steered a course and somehow they hit the lightship square on. With what bits of oars and timber they could salvage, they banged on the steel hull of the lightship until they were eventually heard by the crew. They were pulled on board with ropes and remained there until they were brought ashore by Arklow RNLI the following day, 15 th August. The picture shows the RNLI lifeboat towing the ill-fated boat into Arklow harbour with Tom and his crew on board.
On August 7 th, 1971, the Arklow RNLI came to the assistance of the Lonestar along with The MFV Threeflowers. They were no distance off-shore but a dense fog reduced visibility to such an extent that they couldn’t see the coast.