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Limerick Special Court Addresses Pilot Privileges on River Shannon; Convictions and Fines Imposed – Limerick Gazette

Limerick Special Court Addresses Pilot Privileges on River Shannon; Convictions and Fines Imposed

A special court was held on Monday by Messrs Hickson, R M, and Hall for the hearing of two summonses which affected the rights and privileges of the pilots on the River Shannon. In the first sammons, John Downey, licensed pilot proceeded against Martin Collins for being an unlicensed pilot did, on the llth August, 1902, within the Limerick pilotage district, assume or continue in charge of the ship Ardnamult after the complainant, a qualified pilot, had offered to take charge of the said ship.”

In the second summons Thomas Mahony, a licensed pilot, proceeded against the same defendant for a similar offence, in acting as a pilot on board the steamer Sionainne. Both vessels are the property of the Limerick Steamship Company, and trade between Limerick, home and Continental ports. Mr Gaffney, solicitor, who appeared for the defence, raised the question as to whether the prosecutions should not have been ‘ brought by the Board of Trade or some of their officers.

Mr Hickson, after some legal argument said he consulted several authorities on the point and he found that at Gravesen 1, Plymouth and other large ports it was the pilot who always prosecuted, Mr Gattney—Very well ; I will not press the matter further.

Evidence was then given. John Downey was then examined, and said he was a licensed pilot on the Shannon. He remembered the 11th August of this year. On that occasion witness was the licensed pilot at ‘Tarbert, and on several dates he was emplo, el Lo pilot the steamers of the Waterford or the Limerick, Steamship Company—he did not know what name the Company call it. Mr Gaffney — Don’t mind that now. The witness sailed for the last nine years the river pilots acted for the company at a very low rate—£l in cases where they got £6, but some time since the company ceased employing the pilots. Witness got a notice to that effect.

Mr Couniban, solr, who appeared for the complainants, asked witness to state what occurred on the day of the summon. The witness said he boarded the Gypsy steamer, belonging to the company, and went from her on board the Ardnamult. When he got on board he saw the defendant, Martin Connors, standing on the port side of the bridge. Witness offered his services as pilot to Captain O’Farrell who warned him off. Connors was steering the vessel.

Mr Gaffney said they admitted that Connors was in charge of the steering of the vessel. Mr Counihan said they would not accept the admission that he was in charge of the steering. Mr Gaffney—Well; piloting it, or in charge of the steamer.

The witness said that Captain Farrall said be wanted no pilot and witness said to Connors was not one vessel enough for him, but that he should have two, one ship following another.

Mr Counihan—He took charge of the first steamer and the other followed him. The Witness—On the 19th September witness boarded the steamer, Sionainne, and Capt McNamee refused to employ him.

Mr Hickson asked what was Martin Connors? The Witness— A hobbler. Mr Hickson—What is the meaning of that ? The Witness—An unlicensed man that has no authority whatever to act. He can pilot his own ship, but he dare not pilot any other.

Mr Hickson inquired if the Ardnamult was a passenger steamer or not. Mr Gaffney —She is not a passenger boat. The Witness—She carried passengers. Mr Hickson—Has she a certificate from the Board of Trade to carry passengers ? The witness said he believed she should carry 12 passengers to have a certificate. There was no notice that she carried passengers, but still she did.

By Mr Gaffney—His reason for issuing the summons was because of Connors being an unlicensed pilot, who interfered with witness’s mode of living. He did not like to see an unlicensed pilot acting, ‘because if that were allowed, where was the use of witness passing an examination and serving his time for the appointment. He knew a man named Finucane, who was a licensed pilot. Clancy was not, and witness never employed him. When witness was away from Tarbert Finucane acted for him. Clancy was a hobbler.

Mr Hickson—How many pilots are down there ? The Witness—There are 18 westward of me at Tarbert. I live at Tarbert, and am the only licensed pilot there. Mr Hickson—Are you licensed for the whole of the Shannon? The Witness—Yes, I took vessels up from the heads to Limerick several times up and down.

Mr Gaffney—Why did you not také action against Clancy? The Witness—l had no authority. Mr Gaffney—And what authority have you now ? The Witness—The licence I have received from the Board

John Hesty was called and deposed to seeing Connors acting as pilot on board the steamer. This was plaintiff’s case, and Mr Gaffney asked for a dismiss, Mr Hickson—On what grounds? Mr Gaffney —That no evidence has been given that Limerick is a compulsory port.

Mr Hall —I thought the words “Compulsory or non-compulsory ” were in the Act? Mr Counihan read section 508 of the Act which stated, “ If an unqualified pilot, whether within a district in which pilotage is compulsory or outside such a district, assumes or continues in the charge of a ship after a qualified pilot has offered to take charge,” etc, the charge was proved,

Mr Gaffney held that only applied to districts outside compulsory districts. Mr Hall took Mr Counihans view. Mr Hickson agreed with Mr Gaffney’s reading, but the inference would be that it was compulsory when licensed pilots were employed in it

Mr Gaffney said section 604 was against that conclusion. The only case in which it was obligatory to have a pilot was where passengers were carried. Every such ship should have a a pilot. The steamer was not a passenger vessel. Me Hickson—Downey swore she was, and that she carried passengers. Mr Gaffney said there was no evidence of such

Mr Counihan said he did not rely on any section other than 598. He did not contend there was compulsory pilotage on the river except in relation to passenger ships.

Mr Hall—Then the steamer could go without a pilot. Mr Couniban—Yes ; but if he took a pilot at all he should take a qualified one ; otherwise every hobbler on the river could act as a pilot’

Mr Hickson said his view was that Limerick was not a compulsory port, and that the steamers were bound to take no pilots whatever. But if they did take a pilot they were bound to take a qualified pilot.

Mr John Boyd, Secretary of the Harbour Board, re-examined by Mr Gaffney, deposed that the Harbour Commissioners are the pilot authority in Limerick, the port is a non-compulsory port, the pilots are licensed by the Commissioners after undergoing an examination as to their fitness. The master of a vessel was not under the obligation to employ a qualified pilot if he did not want one; he could take a vessel up himself ; he took all risk for the underwriters; he could permit one of his crew to take charge of his vessel.

Mr Hall asked was Connors one of the crew. Mr Gaffney said that he had been in the position of captain and second mate, and sailed the whole distance from Liverpool ; he had navigated the Shannon more than any other pilot. ’

Mr Hall—Could the captain depute the authority to any one of his crew? Mr Boyd thought he could.

Ia cross-examination he said he did not know that Connors was one of the crew of the Ardnamult —he knew nothing about him.

Defendant was called, but Mr Counihan maintained that he could not be examined. Mr Gaffney—l won’t press the matter, sir.

Mr Louis Morley, managing director of the Limerick Steamship Company, deposed, in answer to Mr Gaffney, that he was aware that Limerick is a non-compulsory port as regards pilots. Since he had been in Limerick he had employed some of the regular pilots, and they had done their work very reasonably at a reduced tariff.

Mr Gaffney — But owing to an accident that occurred lately to one of your vessels while in charge of one of these men, who was drunk—— Witness—l must contradict that. Mr Counihan—That is a terrible charge to make. Mr Gaffney —lt has been withdrawn now. There is no necessity for the Billingsgate which is usually dragged into cases.

Me Counihan—lt is not Billingsgate, but it is an answer to your utterly reckless statement, Mr Gaffney said he believed, at all events, this vessel ran down a valuable vessel of the Messrs Russell’s.

Mr Hickson said he did not think that this entered into the inquiry. Mr Morley, in answer to Mr Hickson, said that Connors had acted in the capacity of second officer in some of the company’s steamers going to Liverpool, and for the last two years or so he has been captain of one of their river steamers, the Thomond, trading between Limerick, Clare Castle, and Kilrush He was sent down, with the approval of the captain, to pilot the Ardnamult up from Tarbert. Sometimes he joined her at Kilrush. Connors lives in Limerick.

Cross-examined by Mr Counihan—You are aware he is not qualified to act as pilot? He is not licensed. The Thomond is a small vessel. From time to time the Ardnamult has carried passengers.

The Chairman—Has she got a certificate or licence to do so? Witness said she must have a certificate for anything over seven passengers. She has not a certificate, as she is not a passenger vessel within the meaning of the Act.

Mr Counihan—Up to some time ago you always employed licensed pilots at a reduced rate? Yes, And you selected them yourself? No.

Witness proceeded to say that some time ago the Harbour Board were trying to make some new bye-laws; the Clyde Shipping Company and the Limerick Steamship Company objected to them at an inquiry held at Limerick before Mr Pelham, Under Secretary of the Board of Trade ; this question of pilotage was then discussed before him, and it was admitted that Limerick was a non-compulsory port, and that in such a port the captain could employ any man he chooses to pilot; the vessel; this was Mr Pelham’s ruling as well as the witness could remember.

Mr Hall—Are there any minutes of that inquiry? Mr Boyd —I think so.

In answer to Mr Hickson, Mr Morley said the crew of the Ardnamult consisted of a master, two officers, four sailors, and the engineers. On the day in question Connors was not a master or officer, or any of the hands, and he had not signed the articles for the voyages. He is a regular employee of the company.

Mr Hickson—And you employ him to go down and bring up vessels. Exactly.

Mr Hall —After that evidence, what becomes of your argument, Mr Gaffney, as to his being one of the crew? I think Mr Morley gave the best evidence in favour of Mr Connihan.

Mr Gaffney contended that section 593 applied only to a place where there was compulsory pilotage or outside a place where there were 18 Western and 12 or 13 Limerick pilots.

Mr Hall asked wasn’t it a shame, then, that there should be a very tight examination for pilots to obtain licences for the river?

Mr Gaffney replied that steps could be taken to make Limerick a compulsory harbour,

Mr Hickson said he was only dealing with the facts. These men get their bread and butter by this pilotage, and notwithstanding that they had to pass a stiff examination to get licenses, any one without a license could pilot a vessel up the river, Whether that was the law or not, was unfair.

The case having closed, Mr Hickson said the court was of opinion that this was not a compulsory port, but that in a port where licences were specifically issued they were bound to take a licensed pilot on board. The master of the vessel who engaged the defendant had broken the law, but had not been summoned. The magistrates must convict in the case. He was glad that there was an appeal from their conviction. He believed the fine in this case should go to the pilots who had been more or less out of his job. What was the ordinary pilotage for a vessel of the size of the Ardoamult?

Mr Counihan said £6 16s 10d, Mr Gaffney said he would review the ruling of the magistrates. They would take the same ruling in the second case as in the first.

Mr Hickson announced that in the first case the order was—Defendant fined £1 15s, with 15s costs, or in default 14 days imprisonment, and in the second case a fine of £1 15s with £2 5s costs was imposed.

Mr Gaffney said Mr Morley would like him to say that there were some of the Limerick pilots whom he had got on comfortable with, but there were some naughty boys amongst them, who caused the whole trouble.

Mr Hall—The un-naughty boys out to muzzle them.

Mr Hickson said it would be better for the pilots to arrange the matter, and not lose more money by going to law.

Mr Gaffney —Mr Morley’s company was muleted in £300 lately, owing to a vessel being run down. The proceedings then closed.

Limerick Echo – Tuesday 14 October 1902