top of page

66 Hours - Chapter 2

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

After the first Chapter which concerns the story of the Mexico and is told by her Captain - Ole Edwin Eriksen, we move on to a Chapter entitled ‘Fearless’. The crew of the Helen Blake set out on their rescue mission during a force seven near gale in a 35-foot long boat powered only by sail and muscle.

The Helen Blake photographed on a training exercise before the tragedy

The tide was too low to launch from the boathouse slip, so she was brought on her carriage to Fethard Quay and launched there. Even this short journey was fraught with issues, the running gear fouled and ropes repeatedly caught. It is my firm belief that a quayside conference would have been held to gain a consensus on whether or not to attempt the rescue.

The route of the Helen Blake to the wreck of the Mexico on the Keeragh Islands

Young Richard Bird who survived the tragedy, but sadly died two years later at the tender age of 24, was not a full member of the crew; nevertheless, he volunteered to set to sea with his uncle Christopher due to the fact that Bill Banville was delayed on his journey to the quay. Bill had been tending his cattle on a cliff top field when he saw the Mexico in trouble, he rushed to meet the lifeboat secretary George Bassett, and the signal to launch the lifeboat was given. He subsequently made it to the quay in time, and so the crew was now fourteen instead of the usual thirteen. This, unfortunately, meant the men didn’t have enough life jackets to go round. Bill was heard to say “if I am to be drowned without it, I will be drowned with it”.

In my view, as experienced fishermen who knew the coastline and currents well, I think they took a calculated risk and considered their mission viable. The reason for the terrible loss of life was pure bad luck, three freak waves smashing their lifeboat to splinters on the shore of the Little Keeragh. The first of the emotive images are revealed on pages 22 and 23. This diptych signifies how suddenly a family and community can be pulled apart by unforeseen events.

Friday the 20th

Saturday the 21st

The crew of the Helen Blake

Christopher Bird - Coxswain aged 54                Drowned

Thomas Handrick - Bowman   39                      Drowned

William Bird   36                                                 Drowned

James Morrissey   45                                         Drowned

Michael Handrick   45                                         Drowned

Patrick Stafford   54                                           Drowned

William Banville   33                                           Drowned

Patrick Roche    55                                             Drowned

Patrick Cullen    37                                             Drowned

John McNamara - 2nd Coxswain

George Crumpton

Richard Bird

Garrett Handrick

John Kelly

117 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page