“In a violent gale, heavy rain and mountainous seas, the Brig ‘Gainsborough’…was wrecked on shore near Carrickhill Tower, Malahide.…”7
tanding at Yellow Walls’ crossroads and looking down Sea Road towards the Broadmeadow estuary, about halfway down on the left hand side is a small gated plot of land. On the historic ordnance survey map below2, the plot is marked “Grave Yd. (Disused)”. The graveyard was reputedly a burial place for persons of unknown identity, unbaptised children and paupers. No trace of burial plots or grave markings remain. Inside the gates, stands a large Celtic-style stone cross and behind this is a building known as the ‘Band Room’.
The Band Room
The Band Room is the practice hall of the Malahide Pipe Band6 which has a long and proud history, being referenced in several archived newspaper reports from the 1920s and 30s, when it was known as the “Yellow Walls Band”.
One report3 describes how the recently married Lord and Lady Talbot returned by train to Malahide station in September 1924 and were met by a large crowd which “gave hearty cheers for his lordship and his bride. Outside the station they entered a car, which was drawn to the castle by several men, preceded by the ‘Yellow Walls’ Band. Bunting was displayed at several points and bore inscriptions of welcome.”
Another report4 refers to the “Yellow Walls (Malahide) Fife and Drum Band”. The fife and drum band evolved into a pipe band in the 1950s, and after a hiatus of some years, reformed as the Malahide Pipe Band in 1993.
Today the band continues to thrive, performing at local events, participating in pipe band competitions around Ireland and offering tuition in piping and drumming at all levels.
The Wreck of the Gainsborough
The cross in front of the Band Room stands as a memorial to an event that took place in November 1838.
On the 29th of that month, a vessel called the Gainsborough was wrecked off the coast of Portmarnock during a heavy storm.
A letter was written by Thomas Ross, commander of the Coast Guard, Swords District to the Freeman’s Journal in December 1838, a couple of weeks after the incident. Ross lived at Millview House (which would become the home of the Kettles decades later) and went on horseback to assist in the rescue attempt on the night of the sinking.
In his letter5 he refers to “…the wreck of the brig Gainsborough, of Ipswich, on the Portmarnock strand*.” He describes arriving at the scene “at half-past twelve; and seeing the crew in the rigging, part of her cargo strewn about the beach, and the vessel going to pieces, a terrific sea reaching nearly as high as her tops…”
Another account7 describes how “In a violent gale, heavy rain and mountainous seas, the Brig ‘Gainsborough’, Liverpool to London, was wrecked on shore near Carrickhill Tower, Malahide.” Carrickhill Tower is the Martello tower on the coast road between Malahide and Portmarnock.
When the Gainsborough was wrecked, three seamen drowned and the cross was erected in commemoration. Curiously, the cross isn’t inscribed with the names of those who died. A couple of explanations have been put forward for this. One is that the Gainsborough was carrying ‘contraband’ or illegal cargo and it was thought best not to record the names of the smugglers. The other explanation is that the crewmen were Russians and the stone mason, being unfamiliar with the Russian alphabet, was unable to faithfully transcribe their names.
Why the cross was erected in Yellow Walls and not closer to the wreck site is a puzzle. Maybe there is a connection with the site being a former burial ground for “persons unknown”?¥
Although three seamen were drowned, another three were saved thanks to the lifeboat men of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. An extract from minutes1 of the local district meeting held on the 9th January 1839 describes their heroic efforts:
Read letter from Captain Sparshott of 13th December and Captain Ross Inspecting Commander of the Swords District, Ireland, stating the wreck of the Brig Gainsborough on 29th November at Malahide near Dublin when the Master, two seamen and one boy were saved (three men lost) with very great difficulty by Captain Ross, Inspecting Commander, Mr. Jones, Chief Officer, five coastguards and W. Beggs, Master of a small collier, who went off in the 6 oared galley and after making three attempts to reach the wreck, at which the boat filled every time, were compelled to desist and wait a more favourable opportunity, the weather having moderated a little they again launched the boat and succeeded in taking the survivors from the rigging and landed them. Captain Ross and W. Jones received personal injuries and the whole of the boat’s crew are stated to have acted in the best possible manner.
“Ordered – that the gold medal be presented to Captain Ross and the silver medal to Mr. Jones and Mr. Begg and that an award be made of 2 each to Mr. Jones and Mr. Begg and 1 each to the five coastguard men. The draft for 9 to be sent to Captain Sparshott.
The sinking of the Gainsborough is also remembered in the naming of a Yellow Walls’ housing estate.
*Also referred to as “Baldoyle strand” in the same correspondence.8
¥This is not the only instance in Malahide’s history of shipwreck victims being buried in unconsecrated ground. In January 1854 the ship John Tayleur sank off the coast of Lambay Island with the loss of over 300 lives, the majority of them Irish people emigrating to Australia. The inquest into the sinking was held at Malahide with two of the bodies being brought from Lambay for the purposes of the proceedings. These were subsequently buried “under the carriage drive of St. Andrew’s Church, Malahide”.9 Around 100 other victims were buried in the churchyard of St. Colm Cille, near Lambay Harbour.
1. Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Extract Committee Minutes – 9th January 1839.
2. Ordnance Survey Of Ireland 25″ Map: online. Reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey of Ireland; Licence No. NE 0000414.
3. Irish Independent, October 1 1924.
4. Irish Press, February 6 1933.
5. Freeman’s Journal, Dec 15, 1838; Page 2.
6. Malahide Pipe Band website.
7. Cox, Barry. Lifeboat Gallantry: The Complete Record of Royal National Lifeboat Institution Gallantry Medals and How They Were Won 1824-1996. Spink, 1998.
8. Freeman’s Journal, Jan 5, 1839; Page 1.
9. Little, George A. About Malahide. Dublin Historical Record, Vol X Nr 3, September-November 1948.
Keywords: Malahide history Yellow Walls Ard Na Mara Millview Seabury Gaybrook Chamley townland