Medieval Tradition Re-Enactment by Admiral of Dublin Port Highlights Significant Commercial and Cultural Links between the City and the Port
Monday, 21st June, 2010: The Lord Mayor of Dublin and Admiral of Dublin Port, Cllr. Emer Costello, today performed the 522 year old “Casting of the Spear” ceremony at Dublin Port.
The “Casting of the Spear” dates as far back as 1488 when the then Lord Mayor, Thomas Mayler set out on his horse to ride the city’s boundaries. Historical records show that he rode out onto the strand as far as a man might ride and from there he cast a spear into the sea. At that time, casting the spear demonstrated the extent of the city boundaries eastwards. From that day onwards each year the Lord Mayor of Dublin re-enacts this medieval ceremony.
The ceremony was re-enacted this morning when the Lord Mayor travelled out into Dublin Bay onboard a Dublin Port tug boat and launched a spear deep into Dublin Bay’s cold waters, and once again marked the position of the city boundaries eastwards.
Dublin Port, as an organisation, has a long and remarkable history also, dating back over 300 years. There have been many famous moments and famous visitors in that time.
Captain William Bligh (of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame) has left a lasting legacy on the port and city. Bligh conducted a study of the tidal flows in Dublin Bay, which led to the construction of the Great South Wall. This construction has resulted in the formation of the present Bull Island, which did not exist in 1800. This amenity is now home to among other amenities two golf courses and an internationally renowned bird sanctuary.
Another interesting historical link with Dublin Port is the tale of the ‘Ouzel Galley’, an Irish merchant ship that set sail from Dublin Port in 1695. After failing to return for three years it was presumed lost at sea. In 1698 a panel comprising the city’s most eminent merchants was set up to settle the question of insurance. The panel’s ruling was that the ship had indeed been lost and that its owners and insurers should receive their due compensation. The galley’s complement of thirty-seven crew and three officers were declared dead and the insurance was paid out.
However, after a further two years had elapsed, she mysteriously reappeared with her full complement of crew and a valuable cargo of spices and exotic goods. By this stage the insurance had been paid out on the in some cases the ‘widows’ of the sailors ‘lost’ at sea had remarried!
Speaking at the ceremony to mark the tradition of ‘Casting the Spear’ Lord Mayor of Dublin and Admiral of its Port, Cllr. Emer Costello, said: “It’s a tremendous honour, as admiral of Dublin Port, to take part in such a treasured, time-honoured local tradition. Over the course of the last 500 years, Dublin Port has played an instrumental role in the development of our capital city. Having Ireland’s biggest port so close to the city, in the heart of our capital, adds a great competitive advantage. As a gateway to European and international markets, Dublin Port continues to play a central role in supporting the country’s return to economic growth”.
Responding to the Admiral of the Port, Dublin Port Company Chief Executive Mr. Enda Connellan said: “Dublin Port is immensely proud of its heritage, its long links with the City and the contribution it has played in the life of this city and country. This ceremony reminds us of where Ireland’s largest city has come from over the last 500 years and how the port has played its role in its development, facilitating €35 billion of trade per year and supporting 4,000 real jobs.”
For further information:
Brenda Daly, Dublin Port Company – 01 887 6846 or 087 915 3965
Niall Quinn, Gibney Communications – 01 661 0402 or 086 827 4829
Notes to the Editor:
About Dublin Port Company:
Dublin Port Company is a self-financing, private limited company wholly-owned by the State, whose business is to manage Dublin Port, Ireland’s premier port. Established as a corporate entity in 1997, Dublin Port Company is responsible for the management, control, operation and development of the port. Dublin Port Company provides world-class facilities, services, accommodation and lands in the harbour for ships, goods and passengers. The company currently employs 162 staff.
Located in the heart of Dublin City, at the hub of the national road and rail network Dublin Port is a key strategic access point for Ireland and in particular the Dublin area. Dublin Port handles over two-thirds of containerised trade to and from Ireland and 50% of all Ireland’s imports and exports, making it a significant facilitator of Ireland’s economy. Dublin Port also handles over 1.3 million tourists through the ferry companies operating at the port and through the cruise vessels calling to the port.
About the Ouzel Galley:
The Ouzel Galley was an Irish merchant ship that set sail from Dublin in the late seventeenth century and was presumed lost with all hands when she failed to return within the next three years; after a further two years had elapsed, however, she mysteriously reappeared with her full complement of crew and a valuable cargo of spices, exotic goods and, it is said, piratical spoils. The ship has entered Irish folklore, and her unexplained disappearance and unexpected reappearance are still the subject of a number of conspiracy theories.
The facts, so far as they can be ascertained, are quite straightforward. In the autumn of 1695 a merchant galley called the Ouzel sailed out of Ringsend in Dublin under the command of Capt Eoghan Massey of Waterford. Her destination, it was supposed at the time, was the port of Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire (now İzmir in Turkey), where the vessel’s owners - the Dublin shipping company of Ferris, Twigg & Cash - intended her to engage in a trading mission before returning to Dublin the following year. The Ouzel, however, did not return as scheduled; nor was she seen the year after that. When a third year passed without any sign of her or her crew, it was generally assumed by the people of Dublin that she had been lost at sea with all hands.
In 1698 a panel comprising the city’s most eminent merchants was set up to settle the question of insurance. The panel’s ruling was that the ship had indeed been lost and that its owners and insurers should receive their due compensation. The galley’s complement of thirty-seven crew and three officers were declared dead and the insurance was paid out.
Two years later, however, in the autumn of 1700, the Ouzel made her unexpected reappearance, sailing up the River Liffey to scenes of both disbelief and wild jubilation. Capt Massey later described how the ship had fallen victim to Algerian corsairs on its outward journey. The crew were taken to North Africa, where they were forced to man the ship while their new masters engaged in acts of piracy against merchant vessels returning from the Caribbean or plying the lucrative Mediterranean shipping lanes. After five years of captivity, however, Capt Massey and his men took advantage of a drunken carousal to free themselves and retake the Ouzel, which they then promptly sailed back to Dublin, its hold still full of the pirates’ booty.
It was not long before rumours were circulating around Dublin to the effect that the trading mission to Smyrna had been a blind all along and that it was Capt Massey and his crew who had been engaged in piracy on the high seas. The tall story of Algerian corsairs and a five-year captivity in North Africa, not to mention the fortuitous escape of the entire crew, was considered too far-fetched to be true.
In the late eighteenth century it was illegal for Irish ships to trade in the West Indies, so it is quite possible that Smyrna was falsely declared as the ship’s destination and Capt Massey sailed to the Caribbean with every intention of trading honestly. In those days the West Indies was notorious for its piracy, and Irishmen are known to have engaged in the practice, both willingly and unwillingly.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the ownership of the Ouzel’s cargo became a matter of dispute. As plunder, it could not be legally divided amongst the crew. The arbitration body which had settled the question of insurance in 1698 was reconvened to inquire into the matter. Later accounts recall how the panel decided that all monies remaining after the ship’s owners and insurers had been properly compensated should be set aside as a fund for the alleviation of poverty among Dublin’s “decayed merchants”.
For several members of the crew this outcome only exacerbated the straitened circumstances in which they found themselves, for many had returned to Dublin only to discover that in their absence their wives had remarried, or their estates had been divided among their next-of-kin. It is even said that some of the returning shipmates found new children awaiting them at home. To this day in Ringsend, children born in unorthodox circumstances are referred to as “ouzelers”