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In the summer of 1875, an elegant topsail schooner, christened the ‘August’, was launched from the island of Funen, in the Danish Archipelago. She was built for Neils Dreoi of Aeroskobing, an island port farther south and began her working life on the ‘Islandic run’. The ‘August’ brought Islandic handicrafts, lamb, wool, eiderdown and dried fish from Reykjavik to Liverpool, Hull, Stornoway and Copenhagen. On one occasion, she transported Icelandic horses to Leith in Scotland for use in the coalmines. The round trip to Iceland took seven weeks. With time she operated in other, warmer, European waters and was known in the ports of Portugal, France, Spain and North Africa from where she made her last voyage.

Just after Christmas 1902, the ‘August’ ‘left Laroche in Morocco bound for Queenstown in Cork Harbour with a cargo of beans. It was a stormy voyage and her five man crew were exhausted by the time they reached Southern Ireland. The captain on that fateful voyage, was Edward Clausen. The mate was the son of the ship’s owner, also called Neils Dreoi. They sighted the old head of Kinsale at 2am on January 16th 1903. Conditions at sea had been steadily deteriorating. Roches point weather station would record that the wind that night was a force 10, equivalent in gusts to a hurricane. Tacked and close-hauled, the ‘August’ sailed east towards the mouth of Cork Harbour and definitive safety. Pounded continuously by wind and waves, her leeward side was soon underwater. One of the hurricane gusts ripped the topsails from the once elegant schooner. Just ten miles short of the harbour mouth, the crew decided by ships council to ’beach’ their craft in a desperate attempt to save lives. They turned towards the rocky coast and the southerly gale soon thrust them into the narrow cleft that is Nohoval Cove. Immediately, a following breaker swept the captain overboard. The remaining crewmen scrambled out along the bowsprit to a rock just beneath it. They clung there and watched as the sea consumed their craft. The night was bitterly cold. It had snowed the previous day and the fields around the cove were white and still. Above the pounding waves they heard a man’s voice shouting and out through the boiling surf came Denis Collins who lived in a little cottage above the cove. In turn he carried the exhausted mariners ashore, slung across his back. When they were all within the shelter of his home, he brought out all his clothing for them; his wife raised a great fire and prepared a meal. The following day they retraced their steps to the cove. Little remained of the ‘August’. Captain Clausen’s body lay on the shore. Soon Lloyd’s agent in Kinsale arrived. Funeral arrangements were agreed and the Danes were eventually repatriated.

On their return to Denmark, the crew loudly proclaimed their praise of Denis Collins. His actions were recognised both by the Royal Danish Government, who sent him an engraved silver cup and the Royal Benevolent Society in London from whom he received a framed testimonial and five pounds. These were presented to him three months later at the Petty Sessions in Kinsale, by the presiding judge, a captain Stoyte, who remarked that were it not for Collins, there was not the slightest doubth that the Danes would have perished on that rocky shore. The judge was sure that Collins would be rewarded by the Great Supreme Being for on that fateful night of January 16th, he clothed the naked, fed the hungry and gave shelter to the homeless; a display of true humanity and christian charity. Neils Dreoi went back to sea and was murdered in Australia a few years later. Denis Collins died peacefully in 1945 aged eighty-three.

The Schooner August

A Painting of this elegant Schooner ‘August’

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Articles Schooner August

Articles Schooner August

Cork Examiner , Jan 19th 1903.