West Cork fisherman makes a diamond catch

Posted on: 4th August, 2015

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

When the Lusitania was struck by a German torpedo off West Cork’s coast 100 years ago, 1,198 lives were lost, but so too was a cargo worth $735,579. Lily P.Murphy recounts the long-forgotten tale of the extraordinary honesty of West Cork fisherman John Hayes. 

When the Lusitania set sail from New York, with its passengers of all classes and creed, there was also a disparate mixture of cargo onboard – from simple bacon and butter to costly furs worth over $119,000. Also included were auto parts, dental goods, motorcycle parts, electrical machinery, leather, shoes and wool. In the aftermath of the sinking of the luxury ship, wild rumours spread regarding its precious load – gold bullion, diamonds and expensive paintings had all been lost to the sea off the Old Head.

Four days after the tragedy, a local fisherman by the name of John Hayes, skipper of the fishing boat ‘Pet’, was out fishing some ten miles from Glandore harbour when he made the catch of his life.

As he hauled in his nets, Hayes spotted something tangled in them; on further inspection he discovered a registered postal basket with three parcels inside. He opened the parcels to see what they contained uncovered a batch of priceless diamonds tucked safely inside.

In the following days several more items from the ship washed ashore including deck chairs, clothes and cutlery from the ship’s kitchens, though having been securely locked away in the cargo-hold’s safe, it is surprising that the basket containing the diamonds came loose and floated away.

The honest fisherman handed the parcels over to the coastguard in Castletownsend, who in turn brought them to the Receiver of Wreck at Baltimore village. The diamonds were then forwarded to the General Post Office in London in a simple, unregistered postal packet. Luckily they arrived safely and enquiries were made to find the owners of such expensive gems.

The Lusitania was carrying the diamonds from a firm in New York to jewellers in London and they had been insured for $13,000 with the Union Insurance Company. In the aftermath of the sinking, the insurance company promptly paid out believing the diamonds to have been lost in the depths of the sea. It took another two years before the rightful owners of the diamonds were found and they graciously paid back the insurance claim of $13,000.

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Jeremiah McVeagh, a Home Rule MP from County Down, brought the subject of the found diamonds to the attention of the house. McVeagh insisted that a reward be paid to the John Hayes who had made the discovery of the diamonds and in his great candour handed them over.

In the aftermath of his extraordinary find, John Hayes had to give evidence before the American Consul and in return was given only travelling expenses – eventually he received a reward of only £10 pounds for the discovery of gems worth over $23,000! However his story made news all over the world, providing a much-need positive story from what was such a tragic event.

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13th April, 2018  ·  

An evening on the 'Balance of Feeling Good' by Clonakilty Gaa Club Health and Wellbeing Committee followed by Guest Speaker, Cork GAA Chairperson, Tracey Kennedy.

Paddy Duggan, former Principal of Clonakilty Community College, will be MC on the night, facilitating a discussion on getting the balance of feeling good.
Contributors on the night are Colm Sheehy, Conor Murray, David Lowney, Denis Murphy, Eoghan Deasy, Sean McEvoy, Thomas Clancy and Treasa O'Brien.
Topics covered will range from awareness and responsibility to yourself and others to the benefits of exercise and nutrition.
The evening is suitable for everyone aged 16 and over from players, members of the community, parents of young and adolescent children, etc.

This is a public event, free of charge and everyone is invited and very welcome to attend.
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12th April, 2018  ·  

The Cast of Harold Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’ are on their way to the All-Ireland finals, having won 26 awards, including five best of Festivals, at the Amateur Drama League of Ireland annual three act festivals. The play ‘No Man’s Land, by Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize Winning Author is directed by Jennifer Williams.

One last opportunity to view this multi award winning play at Skibbereen Town Hall, on Saturday 14th of April, before the finals.

Having met by chance in a pub, two aging writers continue a long night of drinking and reminiscing in a stately London home. As the night wears on, their conversation wanders through memories long forgotten or invented. Is their encounter real or a delusion? Are they strangers or do they share a past history? When unexpected guests intrude upon an increasingly surreal evening, the atmosphere quickly changes from friendly to threatening, and the encounter becomes a game of survival.

Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by emailing schulldramagroup@gmail.com

For more information please contact hilary.mccarthy6@gmail.com
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