Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Treasure of the Fortune

During the year 1649, news of terrible new predations by the English spread across Munster. Cromwell himself had taken command of the New Model Army, and his “Ironsides” (as the men of that army were known) had proven invincible in combat against the poorly organized Irish. Yet in the far west – in Kerry – life seemed almost peaceful.

However violent the reduction of Leinster may have been, Kerry remained at a distance and in relative peace. The Earl of Ormond presided as the King’s representative in Ireland at his seat in Kilkenny, with Murrogh O’Brien, Lord Inchquin in command of the Munster Army, and Lord Muskerry gathering forces at Ross Castle.

Piaras had returned to Ballysible before the Siege of Limerick in 1646, and had strived to avoid involvement in the internecine squabbles between the Northern Chiefs and the Ormondist Party. He had occasionally played the role of diplomat, and had made favorable impressions upon the papal legate, Rinuccini, as well as with military leaders of both stripes. Most of the patriarch’s time was spent with his new wife, and with his new children, (to Dominick's mind the ill-conceived Halflings), little Maurice, and the infant Redmond.

Dominick had married in the years following the fall of Tralee, and had a young son of his own, a new Piaras, who was being raised and tutored in the manner of the elder Piaras – reading and writing in Irish and English, with Latin and Greek to follow. To Dominick’s unspoken irritation, the elder Piaras insisted upon having his own second family taught in the same sessions as Dominick’s son.

The onset of the new year found both Dominick and Risteard at home in Ballysible, with their father, a rare gathering. Although Piaras had spent most of his time at home pursuant to the early Confederate victories in 1641 and 1642, Dominick and Richard alternated time in the field with the Munster Army, wherein Dominic was now a temporary Major and Richard his Lieutenant. To have all three at the manor at the same time almost never happened.

As 1649 rolled into the year of our Lord 1650, a great North Atlantic storm was born, and grew on the ocean far to the west. By late January, the great storm churned the seas off Ireland. For days, strong southeast gales drove sheets of icy rain and high surf against the shore.

The western reaches of the Dingle Peninsula have long been famous for shipwrecks – extending as it does out into the North Atlantic bounded by great cliffs rocky headlands, shoals, and with Ferriter’s Islands, the rugged Blaskets lurking close offshore. During the retreat of Spain’s great armada in 1588, one of the greatest vessels in the Spanish fleet, La Santa Maria de la Rosa foundered and sank between Great Blasket and the mainland, joining many other vessels lost in those waters over the centuries.

Truth be known, the Feiritearaigh had benefited from some of these disasters. During the period of time when the FitzGerald Earls of Desmond held sway across that part of Ireland, a provision of the landholding required wrecks of the sea to be forfeit to the Earl. Of course, this was an honor system, and one best supported by the Earl’s generosity in terms of sharing such bounty with any who risked their lives in securing salvage. Ferriter’s castle had several fine demi-culverins from such wrecks, and Piaras’ mansion was well served by plate that once graced various captain’s tables, accumulated over the time since the Ferriters arrived.

The great storm lashed Ballysible for days. On January, xx, 1650, the winds began to abate, with visibility improving on the dawn of that day and at that time Ferriter tenants on both the slopes of Slea Head and Great Blasket sighted a foundered ship in the channel, drifting inshore toward’s Ferriter’s Cove. The alarm fires were lit, and a house to house alarum passed through habitations in and around Ballyoughtra and Ballysible.

“Shipwreck!”

“All hands muster at the Cove”

“Rally upon Captain Piaras!”

“Arms, to arms, gather weapons at the Fort, and make for the Cove!”

With Piaras and his sons at home, leadership of the recovery effort fell immediately to Captain Ferriter, with his newly brevetted son, Major Dominick to lead the boarding party. Several dozen men, armed with pikes, broadswords, and a few muskets had also rallied to the cry, and several curraghs put out from Ferriter’s Cove, with four men pulling oars on each, and a fifth and sixth man handling muskets fore and aft.

Dominick, armed with a brace of pistols, and his great sword, forged for him after Knockanauss hanging across his back, leaned forward from the bow of the lead boat, as if by stretching out he could somehow reach across the water and seize the prize alone. Richard led the men on the rearward boat, and all of the light, nimble craft streaked towards the stricken vessel.

The men quickly saw that the vessel was not a warship, a fishing boat, nor one of the small merchant ships that plied the coastwise trade between Cork and Galway. No, Indeed this was a full-sized ship, and ocean going merchant vessel, and by her flag, a Dutchman. Oh – ho….riches, perhaps!!

That the ship was stricken was sure; her mainmast was gone, and most of the remaining spars and rigging a hopeless tangle, She had a list, and from the volume of water going over the side, had all hands manning pumps. The wind pushed the vessel irresistibly shoreward, and without assistance, she would be prey to the rocks along the shore at Dun Chaoin.

Pull, pull!” shouted Dominick above the wind, exhorting all of the boats to make speed and close the distance before the hapless ship became more unstable. Major Ferriter could see that the Dutchman had a pair of falconiers placed in stanchions near the bow, closest to the incoming Irishmen, and trained directly upon them.

“Place a volley of musket across her flank below those guns” And the weapons spoke. The gun crews at the demi-culverins backed away from their cannon, and the ships captain came to the side rail with a hailing horn:

“Ahoy, you Irish men, I speak the English, not Erse. I am Peeter Peeterson, Captain of this ship, the Fortune, of Flushing, in Zealand, bound for Cape Verde”

“ Ahoy Fortune, I am Ferriter, Major in command, I speak English. You are far from your destination, Captain!”

“Indeed, Major, We have been blown a bit. We are as you see, but I will not offer this vessel as a prize of the sea”

“Captain, this is Ireland, and we are not at war with the Dutch. Show us that you are not carrying weapons and powder for Cromwell, and we will talk!”

Now, at about this time, Dominick and his men espied the Blasket Islander’s boats approaching from the opposite side. There were another fifteen men in those boats, and the combined numbers clearly gave the advantage to the Irish, and the Dutchmen realized this.

“Major, if your men are willing to take a spell at the pumps, and are willing to help get the ship into safer waters, then you will be welcome aboard.”

By this time, Ferriter’s boats were closing on both port and starboard of the Dutchman, with lines and grapples tossed over the thwarts, the Irishmen, about thirty in number, swarmed aboard, sabers and broadswords slug over their shoulders.

“Richard, get men below to take over the pumps – Master, will you have someone show my brother where the pumps are working? And Master, now you must explain to me what you are doing in these waters, and show us what your cargo is!”

“Dear Major, although I must thank you for providing my men some rest, I must insist that you stay away from my cargo, and understand that this vessel remains under my command, and is not a wreck of the sea, and available for salvage.’

At this moment Richard, who had gone below with his pumping crew came back through the hatch, speaking in Irish: “Brother, this ship is not long for the sun and the stars, she is sinking fast! If we are to save anything, let that salvation be now!”

At this Dominick motioned for his men to take up positions about the Ship’s Master and other men on deck, withweapons drawn, such that no attempt to re-claim the ship could be attempted. In clear English, Dominick declared:

“Master of the Fortune, your main mast is well and truly sprung, and the hull beneath the waters has been breached below the step. This ship is sinking, and sinking fast – your men at the pumps are exhausted, and only my men can now pump quickly enough to keep this hulk afloat. By the Law of the Sea and of Ireland, I claim this ship as a wreck, and all salvage rights are mine!’

The Master grew pale and red by turns. “Bedamned pirates! I am Master of this ship, and I decide whether she can sail, or sink! Unhand my men, you Irish savages! Release this ship now, and return to your boats, or I, Peeter Peeterson, Captain of the ship Fortune, will see you all hanged as pirates!”

At this Dominick, cool as ever responded: “Master Peeterson, this is not Zealand. You have no power here. I am Major Dominick Feiritear, and I command the Munster Army in these parts, and my father, Captain Piaras Feiritear is Master of the shore, and leads all the men of Corkaguinney. My brother, Lieutenant Richard Ferriter has told me that he has seen that this ship is sinking, and I will not doubt his word. Rest assured, we will save your cargo. If that cargo proves to be powder and shot for the Bloody Protestants, then it shall be you that hang, and hang before you ever feel land beneath your feet!”

“Bring us a rope! Richard, take four men and get below to see what this wreck has aboard. If its guns or powder you find, call up, and we will swing Mr. Peetersen aloft upon my word!”

The moments ticked by into minutes, and the Master and his crew were herded onto the main deck. A stout noose was tied, and placed close by Mr. Peeterson, who muttered and cursed quietly in Dutch. At length, Richard reappeared, and in Irish spoke to his brother:

“Oh my brother, this tub is a joy! The hold is packed with fine cloth, and all manner of pots and plate, made in blue colors, all clean and brightly shining! And look, I found these amongst the poor Master’s things, all a-tumble in his fancy cabin! At that Richard extended his fist, opening it to display a palm covered in gold doubloons and silver pieces of eight.

“Why, our fair Dutchman has a chest of these, he does!”Richard, set Duffey to guard that chest, and go with your swiftest two boatmen back to shore and fetch Father aboard! We need his judgment upon this matter! Now hand me that fistful, and keep everyone’s hands clear of that treasure box!”

And the in English: “Master Peetersen, show us your ships carpenters, and lets us have them below decks, for as we get the water out of this hulk, we will be needing to patch her hull.”

The ship’s Master spoke quickly in Dutch: “Anders and Riijn, get below and fetch your tools and wood to the mainmast step, We will save this ship, even if it be for the pleasure of these damned Turks who are parading as Irishmen. Everyone mark my words – we could have saved this ship!”

And then in Engish : “Ferriter, my crew could have saved this ship. We asked for no assistance, and by seizing this vessel, and stealing her cargo, you have all become pirates! If we were in God’s country, I would laugh at your hanging, but as this is Ireland, and I see that you are more Turk than Christian, I will assist you in saving my ship. Just know that my purser has on account every scrap of cloth, every plate, and every coin aboard the Fortune”

By this time, the Kerrymen were winning the battle against the sea, and the Fortune stopped settling further into the water. Master Peeterson sent some of his men, those who were a bit rested and fit to work, below to take a hand in the pumping. He also deployed his anchors, to slow the landward creep of the ship, keeping the savage shoal waters near inshore a fair distance away.

As tempers had cooled, and all of the Dutchmen’s weapons were secure, both the Irish and the Zealanders went to work cutting away the storm damaged rigging, and setting salvageable fittings and spars aside, while carefully coiling the tarred rope for later use.

In Irish, Dominick spoke: “Moriarty, unpin those little cannons from the rails, and place them in my boat, Tie Master Peeterson to the mainmast stump, and Duffy, you and I let’s get below to take a closer look upon this treasure!”

Below decks, Dominick marveled at the stout little chest, chained at both ends to the ship’s ribs, lid prized free by Richards strength, and careful application of a pike blade. There were many pieces of silver, and many of Spanish gold glinting amongst them. Buried in amongst the coins were a few fine signet rings, two golden spoons, and a length of gold chain.

“Ah, beauty, look at this, my friend Duff! And look about you! A fine long glass for espying the ladies at their bathing, and books on the movements of the planets and the moon! Oh my word, taste this sherry! The best Spain can provide! Close that hatch, and we will guard this liquid jewel until my father comes aboard.”

And at that, the contents of the Captain’s decanter ceased to be a part of this story.

Before they day was much past high noon, (remember, this tale began at first light), Captain Piaras Feiritear came aboard, with a dozen or more additional hands to work the pumps, and to set things aright. He first addressed the ship's Master, speaking clearly in Dutch:

“Herr Master Peeterson, my apologies for my son’s rough behavior, and for any upset they may have caused. Lieutentant Ferriter has informed me of our timely rescue, and the ensuing salvation of your vessel, or shall I now say, our vessel. As you know, shipwrecks are enjoyed by those who find them, and although this hulk still floats, all evidence as provided me supports the certainty that she would have been on the bottom long before this hour, had my men not intervened.”

The ship’s Master slowly turned prple, and began to sputter.

“Before you speak, Herr Ship’s Master, hear me once, and one time only. I understand that cannon were pointed at my men, and further that Protestant tracts have been uncovered in your stowage. Those things are enough to cite you as in Cromwell’s aid, and I will have you hanged this instant should you utter a single word. I am a gracious host, as you will learn. My men will salvage what we find useful, and we will repair this ship at my yard in Ferriter’s Haven. Once done, if my Lord Inchquin has no need of this ship for war, I will sell it back to you for the contents of her cargo. Meanwhile, my men will remove this cargo, whatever it maybe, for safekeeping. If any part of you hold contains power, shot, or guns, you and your officers will be brought to Dingle for trial as spies and traffickers in aid of Cromwell.”

Returning to Irish, Pierce continued, speaking to Richard: “Find your brother. If he is drunk with that idiot Duffy, throw him over the side. If he is minding his business, pass on to him that we are taking the treasure and such other small items as might be useful ashore now. He shall remain on board tonight, and you and he will alternate being aboard until this ship is fit to be sailed again. Destroy all of the ship’s papers, and any account books that are found. Clean out each officer’s stateroom, to ensure that this order is fully met!”

Returning to Dutch, “Herr Ship’s Master, you will join me tonight at my home. Please recall my words, and recall them each day until you are back in Zealand”

And with that Captain Ferriter returned to his boat, (a stout wooden craft, not a curragh), and in company with Master Peeterson, set off for Ballsibbel.


And so the treasure of the ship Fortune, out of Flushing, Zealand, bound for Cape Verde, came to be held by the Ferriters. Now under the current tenancy, Lord Orrery, the Earl of Cork, the grand Mr. Boyle – well, he would hve the contents of this wreck as his. But Lord Cork had fled in 1642, and Lords Ormonde, Inchquin, and Muskerry had authority now, and scant little of that, at least in Corkaguinny. The Merchants Trant and Rice in Dingle might have some say there, and by virtue of tenure, perhaps the Knight of Kerrys word would be shown some respect, but in fact, after Tralee fell, Captain Piaras Ferritear, The Feiritearach, spoke with more authority than any other man – at lease upon his demesne.

Before dawn the next day, the Fortune had been towed into Ferriter’s Haven, and materials were gathered to repair the breach in her hull, and once a mainmast could be secured, re-step the mast, a re-rig her.

The Ferriter’s kept the ships crew confined aboard, and used their skills to help repair the ship. After some few days of confinement at Ferriter’s House, Master Peeter Peeterson was provided a horse to and a guide to accompany him to Dingle, where he could arrange for re-supply of his vessel, and send a mail to the vessel’s owners such that any worries they might have about the ship’s whereabouts be dispelled.

When Master Peeterson had departed, Piaras instructed Dominick and Richard to gather together all of the men who had participated in the initial boarding, including the Islandmen. When all had gathered at Ferriter’s Fort on Dun Point, Piras had his sons lug the heavy little treasure chest out from within the castle.

In his clearest loud Irish battle voice, he spoke: “Men! Heroes of the Sea and Land! Brave adventurers whose hearts never quail when challenged by the grey green sea, and her monstrous waves! You men who answered the call to the boats without hesitation, you are my joy, and your county’s great hope! Invincible bold men of Ferriter! For such men, some sharing of the sea’s bounty is just!”

And with these words, he dipped his hand into the chest, scooped out silver pieces of eight, and made the rounds of these thirty or so men, giving each man three coins, more money than most had ever seen, let alone held. This complete, he broached a small hogshead of what had been Master Peeterson’s sherry, and they all found some vessel to drink from, and toasted Ireland, the Pope in Rome, and the late King Charles, and the new King Charles, with a final tip to the memory of the late, great FitzGerald Earls of Desmond, who lived on in memory.

Of course, the tale does not end here. We know that the outraged ship’s master, Herr Peeter Peeterson, proceding to Dingle, made a formal complaint to anyone would would rcieve it, and this included Lord Inchquin, (who would not be denied his share of the spoils), and Lord Ormond, who was most concerned with what sort of political problems might extend from this, and whether his Lord Prince Charles, at his court in exile, might hear of this and be offended in some manner.

In consequence of these complaints A formal petition appeared before the Marquis of Ormond, “on behalf of Peeter Peeterson, Captain of the ship called the Fortune, of Flushing, in Zealand, showing that: --

Petitioner had the ship richly laden by some of the States of Zealand and committed to him to be brought to Cape Verde on the coast of Barbary. Having lost his mainmast in a storm about 14 days ago he put into the bay of Dingle Icouch [Dingle].

He was at once boarded by Capt. Piers Ferretter and many of his retinue who came on board the ship by way of saving her. They broke open his chest and took out 316 pieces of eight. Afterwards they went under deck and took out much holland and other rich commodities " and to use the said captain's own expression, they used him rather like Turks than Christians."

Accordingly and " as the Irish and all other professing for his Majesty have as much security in Zealand and Holland and all other places under the command of the States thereof as their own natives" and as the captain expects reciprocity, he prays for restoration of his goods and that he may safely come into the harbour to get what he wants.

25 Feb. Order of the Marquis Of Ormond.

Limerick.

Granting petition. Any claim by Capt. Ferretter to the money to be referred to the Marquis.

Which petition, having been granted, was followed in turn by:

28 Feb. Lord Inchiquin to [Ferriter] .

The Fortune of Flushing, Peter Peeterson [?] Boon, master, was driven into Dingle Bay into a storm in January last. She was boarded by soldiers under Major Dom. Feriter in boats who stayed aboard for days, and complaint hereof has been made by the master. It appears that, but for the boarding, the men and goods might have perished. Major Feriter shall return to the master the kittles and cloth taken from aboard, and pay sixtyt pieces of eight, which was all that came into his hands, to the same. He shall procure a mainmast, yards, &c., from his father to fit the ship. By doing so he shall quit liability for all other damage done aboard. P. f. Signed (hoi.) : Inchiquin. Followed by

Same. Further Order of Lord Inchiquin to Same.

You shall pay Peter Peterson Boon what is necessary to fit out his ship, taking a bill of exchange for my use upon Peter Felings Burgom [aster] van Flushing. What you shall so lay out Donogh McFeenin, Esq., Receiver of the co. Kerry, shall allow out of your receipts and put the same in acccount on me.

P. J. Si(/ned (hoi.): Inchiquin.

So be it. Sadly that chest of treasure, having dwindled to 65 pieces of eight, further dwindled to nothing upon presentation of certain charges upon Herr Peeterson, Master of the Fortune, by Captain Piaras Feirtear for services rendered in saving his ship, as discovered foundered and sinking in the Channel between Ferriter’s Haven and Ferriters Islands, in January, 1650.

And the brace of demi-culverins taken from the Fortune as a prize of the sea. Well, those cannon served Major Dominick well, through to the fall of Ross Castle, in 1652. That tale is to be told later.

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1 comment:

michele said...

nicely written...based on original documents