seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Tom McClean Completes First Solo Rowboat Transatlantic Crossing

Tom McClean crosses from Newfoundland to Blacksod Bay, County Mayo, completing the first solo transatlantic crossing in a rowboat on May 17, 1969.

McClean is born on February 12, 1941. Having been abandoned as a baby, he starts life as an orphan at Bethany Home in Dublin. He spends much of his teenage years working on a farm until he becomes bored and enlists in the British Army. After Chay Blyth and John Ridgway row the Atlantic in 1966, he announces to both that he is going to complete this alone.

McClean starts his military career in the Parachute Regiment and then progresses into the Special Air Service (SAS). Following his retirement from military service, he gains fame for numerous feats of endurance. He holds the world record as the first man to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean from west to east which he does in 1969. In 1982 he sails across the Atlantic in the smallest boat to accomplish that crossing. The self-built boat measures 9-feet and 9-inches, and because of the weight of the food takes seven weeks to cross. His record is broken three weeks later by a sailor manning a 9-feet and 1-inch long boat. In response, McClean uses a chainsaw to cut two feet off his own vessel, making it 7-feet and 9-inches long. During the return trip he loses his mast and the journey takes even longer than his first attempt but he regains the record.

He is a survival expert who lives on the island of Rockall from May 26 to July 4, 1985 to affirm the United Kingdom‘s claim to it. This is the third longest human occupancy of the island, surpassed in 1997 by a team from Greenpeace which spends 42 days on the island, and in 2014 by Nick Hancock who spends 45 days there. Two years later, the then 44-year-old McClean sets about regaining his transatlantic rowing record and achieves his goal crossing the Atlantic in 54 days, a record still held.

In 1990 McClean completes a west-east crossing in a 37-foot bottle-shaped vessel, which had been constructed at Market Harborough by Springer Engineering, a firm with a past history of steel fabrication and narrowboat construction. The Typhoo Atlantic Challenger sails from New York to Falmouth, England. This vessel is now preserved at Fort William Diving Centre.

McClean’s most recent feat is the construction, in 1996, of a boat shaped like a giant whale, which completes a circumnavigation of Great Britain. The boat, ‘Moby’ Prince of Whales, stands 25-feet high and 65-feet long. It has a spout which can launch water as high as 6 metres in the air. The Moby Dick, as of 2017, is in the process of conversion to electric power for an Atlantic crossing.

McClean is the subject of This Is Your Life in 1987 when he is surprised by Eamonn Andrews.


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The SS Aud Begins Gun-Running Voyage to Ireland

the-ss-audThe German merchant steam ship SS Libau, also known as SS Castro and masquerading under the cover name of SS Aud, sets sail from the Baltic port of Lübeck on April 9, 1916, loaded with guns and ammunition for the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) as part of the preparation for the Easter Rising.

Masquerading as SS Aud, an existing Norwegian vessel of similar appearance, SS Libau sets sail from the port of Lübeck, under the command of Karl Spindler, bound for the southwest coast of Ireland. Under Spindler is a crew of 22 men, all of whom are volunteers. SS Libau, laden with an estimated twenty thousand rifles, one million rounds of ammunition, ten machine guns, and explosives under a camouflage of a timber cargo, evade patrols of both the British 10th Cruiser Squadron and local Auxiliary patrols.

After surviving violent storms off Rockall, SS Libau arrives in Tralee Bay on April 20. There they are due to meet Roger Casement and others, with Casement having been landed nearby by the German submarine U-19. The SS Libau has no communications equipment aboard, giving them no means of contacting the Irish while en route. As a result, they are unaware that the date for its arrival off Fenit has been altered from Thursday, April 20 to Sunday, April 23.

One of the two cars carrying Volunteers who are supposed to meet SS Libau crash into the River Laune, many miles away, at Ballykissane pier, Killorglin, resulting in the death of three of the four occupants of the car. This leads to no hope of an organised transfer of arms and the gun-running plan nears an end.

SS Libau, attempting to escape the area, is trapped by a blockade of British ships. Captain Spindler allows himself to be escorted towards Cork Harbour, in the company of the Acacia-class sloop HMS Bluebell. The German crew then scuttles the ship. Spindler and his crew are interned for the duration of the war. Roger Casement and his companions are captured in an old ringfort or rath between Ardfert and Tralee.

A number of rifles are recovered from SS Libau before the vessel is scuttled. Several examples exist in various museums in Britain and Ireland. Among these are the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park in Cork, a museum in Lurgan County Armagh, the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, and the Imperial War Museum in London.