Irish Ships and Shipping
The Helga 11 (Muirchu)
The "Muirchu" was built in Liffey
Dockyard in 1908 as a fishery protection cruiser and was named "Helga II". She
was then under control of the Department of Agriculture and Technical
Instruction (Ireland) until she was taken over by the Admiralty in March 1915
when she became officially des-
cribed as "H.M.Y. Helga", an armed steam yacht. At this time the "II" was dropped from her name and she served as an anti-submarine patrol vessel as well as undertaking escort duty in the Irish Sea. In April 1918 she was credited with the sinking of a submarine off the Isle of Man and for the remainder
of her career she carried a star on her funnel as an award for this achievement.
In October of the same year the
"Leinster" was torpedoed off the Kish and six hundred passengers were lost. The
"Helga" was fuelling in Dun Laoghaire at the time and managed to rescue ninety
of the passengers. Perhaps it was for her shelling of Liberty Hall in April 1916
that the "Helga" is best known. She was later used to transport Black and Tans
around the coast when many of the roads in Ireland were rendered impassable by
Irish forces in the War of Independence. Eventually the "Helga" was handed over
to the Irish Free State in August 1923 and was renamed "Muirchu". She thus
became one of the first ships in the newly established Irish Navy.
However, in the following year the vessel was returned to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to carry on her task of fishery protection. It was not until the actual day on which the Second World War was declared that the Marine and Coastwatching Service was again established and on 12th December, 1939 the "Muirchu" was taken over by this Service from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It is of particular interest to note that Colonel Lawlor was appointed Commanding Officer of the Service in January, 1940.
In July 1942 a separate Marine Service was established and at the end of the war the Coast watching Service was disbanded in October 1945. Only those members of the Marine Service who wished to remain were retained. The Marine Service became a permanent part of the Defence Forces in 1946 and thus was established the "third" Irish Navy. In the following year the "Muirchu" was sold to Hammond Lane Foundry, and while on passage to Dublin on the 8th May, 1947 she sank off the Saltee Islands but not before her entire crew got safely off the historic old ship.
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