This week(21 Feb 2014) a century ago south Wexford was plunged into much sorrow, and mourning at the tragic loss of life of the nine lifeboat crew of the “Helen Blake” from Fethard, and one of the crew of the “Mexico” who died from exposure on the south Keeragh island during their 3 day ordeal, when the “Mexico” ran aground on the keeragh island, co. Wexford on Friday, 20th February, 1914. The photo above was taken on the Waterford quayside at 4 pm. 24th February, 1914, the day after they were rescued, where a huge crowd gathered to welcome the rescued, and rescuer’s. The older sailor in the center was the captain of the “Mexico”, Ole Edvin Eriksen, of Frederikshald, Norway, the other’s are his crew, and the body of Antonio Live, a Portuguese native, is also believed to be aboard. (below) The “Mexico” in 1905 The master of the “Mexico” Ole Edvin Erickensen tells his story of the last voyage of the “Mexico”. “I was master of the ship or vessel “Mexico”, which was wrecked at Keeragh island, on the coast of county Wexford, Ireland, on the 20th day of February, 1914. The vessel belonged to the port of Frederikshald, in Norway; her registered tonnage was 434 tons; she was owned by Alf. Roed, of Frederikshald, Norway, and was a three mastered schooner, built of steel, at Frederikstadt, in the year 1905. The crew consisted of ten hand’s all told, including myself, and she had no passengers. Her cargo was 481 tons of mahogany and cedar logs, shipped at Laguna, Carmen island, Mexico, by Bolnes & Co, and consigned to David Mishley, of Manchester, England. The vessel left Laguna on the 4th of November, 1913, for Liverpool, in good condition and well found in all respect’s, and was wind-bound in the gulf of Mexico for about one month. She passed Cape Hetteras on December 22nd and subsequently encountered several heavy gales, and on or about the 26th December the steering broke, but was temporarily repaired on board and the vessel reached Ponto Delada, in the Azores, about the 20th of January, 1914, where further repairs to the rudder were made and new sails and lifeboat obtained, as the former lifeboat had been broken in the storms. She sailed from Ponto Delada on the 6th of February, 1914, and encountered a hurricane for the north when in about 43o 45’N., and 17 o 48’W. on the 12th February, I took observation at noon and found the ship’s position 5O 0 49′ N. and 8 o 18’N., and set course for Coningbeg lightship. On the morning of Friday, the 20th of February, the wind increased to a form the S. and S.E., with rain and sleet. The ship was on the starboard tack on a course E. and E. by S., and nothing was seen. At 1 pm. with weather cleared, and I found that the vessel was between Saltee Islands and the mainland, and I had the vessel brought on the post tack and headed S.W.1/2W., but owing to the heavy seas, the strong current, and the force of the wind, the vessel was driven inshore and failed to clear the Keeragh Island, on the south west end of which she struck on rocks at 3 pm. on the same day. The lifeboat was lowered and two of the crew got into it. In order to get the boat down quickly when there was a chance, it had to be cut away, and in getting down some fittings were lost. The two men in the boat had oars, but probably no rowlocks. They could do nothing to get back to the ship and were carried ashore near Bannow. Attempts were made to get the mizen boom swung out towards the shore so that men could go along it and try to get to the Island. In the meantime the lifeboats from Fethard, county Wexford, approached, but as the lifeboat neared the wreck she struck on rocks and was broken into fragments within 3 minutes. Four of the lifeboats-men got on to the Island and one reached the wreck. A line was subsequently got from the wreck to the Keeragh Island or rock, and was made fast by the lifeboat-men there, and the seven men of my crew and the lifeboat-men and myself were hauled through the water to the Island, where we remained until the morning of Monday the 23rd of February, where we were rescued, the Wexford (fort) lifeboat taking off ten survivors and the Dunmore lifeboat two. One of the crew of the “Mexico” Antonio Live, a Portuguese subject, had died on the Island from exposure to the freezing cold, hail, sleet, and rain, and two had got to shore in the ships boat on the 20th, as stated. The five lifeboat-men saved were landed at Fethard, but all the survivors from the “Mexico” were taken to Waterford by the Wexford Harbour tug which had been rendering assistance. At the time the Mexico, struck she was under fore-staysail, jib, double reefed foresail, double reefed mainsail, and full mizen. It was impossible to anchor owing to the heavy sea, the wind being a whole gale from S.S.E., heavy sea with the wind, and strong current going to the northward. I attempted to save the logbook and the papers from the cabin, but could not do so, the cabin having filled with water within 10 minutes of the vessel striking the rocks. The “Mexico” struck at 3 pm. and the Fethard lifeboat at about 4 pm., and we got out the line to the Island at somewhere about 5 pm. I estimate the value of the ship at £3000. I estimate the value of the cargo at £10,000, but I do not know for what it was insured, nor as to the insurance of freight. In my opinion, the sole cause of the stranding and loss of the “Mexico” was the thick weather which came on, and the strong currents from the southward causing the vessel to drift inshore, and in the circumstances, it was unavoidable. So far as I can judge, the cause of the loss of the Fethard lifeboat was the same, she was carried inshore too close to the rock, the wind failed, and she could not make her way out, she was caught by breakers and was at once stove in and smashed on the rocks in heavy surf. Nothing could be done to save the brave men who were thus thrown into the heavy sea, and with the exception of the five men mentioned, all others of the lifeboats crew were drowned. Our lifebuoys had been lost, and our other boat carried on the fore-hatch smashed by seas breaking over the “Mexico” when she struck. Each man had a lifebelt, but after putting it on we took it of again to enable us to work better. The lifeboat was under sail, I did not notice anyone rowing. She passed a very short distance from our bow, and we were trying to get our boom in so that it should not be in her way. Seas were constantly sweeping the forepart of the “Mexico”. The vessel was about 5 fathoms from the Island. The wreck was heading southerly, and the place where the lifeboat struck was on our starboard side, at about 7 or 8 fathoms distance. Everything possible seems to have been done to render assistance to my vessel, and both when we got on the tug and when we landed, we were treated with the utmost kindness, and everything was done for our comfort. On my own account, and our very deep sorrow for the terrible disaster to the lifeboat-men who were trying to come to our rescue. I now desire to say a few words in appreciation of the services rendered by the crews of the lifeboats which, under difficult circumstances, effected the rescue from the Island, and in the connection Edward Wickham, coxswain of the Wexford (fort) lifeboat, and Walter Power, coxswain of the Dunmore lifeboat, are worthy of much commendation. Laurence Busher, master of the stern tug “Wexford”, also appears to have done all that he could to assist in the good work. In the earlier attempts to approach the wreck the Kilmore lifeboat had some trying experience. I have already mentioned that ten men were taken from the Island, in five successive trips in 13ft punt, manned by two men. Commander Holmes, who was an eye- witness upon that occasion, stated that this service was one of the great personal risk to those who undertook it, as can be readily understood when the size of the boat, the state of the sea, and the rocky nature of the locality were taken into consideration. Accordingly, it affords me very great pleasure to have the opportunity of bringing the names of these two men, William Duggan and James Wickham, respectively bowman and second coxswain of the Wexford (fort) lifeboat, to the special notice of the board of trade, for its favourable consideration”. The memorial for those brave men who lost their lives to rescue others, in Fethard village, co. Wexford. (below) The Keeragh Islands in mild conditions.