West Cork fisherman makes a diamond catch

lusitania

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.

Latest News Articles:

Issue of childcare a major concern for 72 per cent of female entrepreneurs
Rain, slurry deadlines and housing
Celtic Ross Hotel awarded AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence
St. Joseph’s in Clonakilty looks back on 50 years of educating young girls
‘Operation Transformation’ for Young Beef Farmers
Macra President welcomes publication of EU Young Farmer Survey
Vital role of Focus in the West Cork community highlighted at Open Morning
Clonakilty Food Company opens new production facility in Clonakilty
Beara student one of three Cork students awarded €20,000 scholarship by Naughton Foundation
International success for Skibb rowers

Join us on Facebook

Bandon Walled Town Festival in looking for new ideas!
Would you like to get involved in the 2018 Festival?If you yourself would like to be involved in big or small way
email bandonwalledtown@gmail.com
... See MoreSee Less

11th October, 2017  ·  

Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
... See MoreSee Less

11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at xavierdubuisson@gmail.com or text at 086/0476124.
... See MoreSee Less

26th September, 2017  ·  

Jump to:

Top