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The Maritime History of Holyhead and Anglesey, North Wales.

Holyhead Harbour in the 1830's - The scene from St Cybi's Churchyard

By 1820, steam ships had replaced the sailing ships operating between Holyhead and Ireland. To tell the full story of the maritime history of Holyhead, which relied almost entirely on trade with Ireland, it is also necessary for us to include as equally important those ports of Ireland into which the ships sailed. There was Kingstown (later renamed Dun Laoghaire), North Wall in Dublin, and Greenore on the Carlingford Lough.

Kingstown Harbour Very Early

Kingstown Harbour

There are also the stories of two companies that competed for the prestigious and rewarding Irish Mail contract; the LNWR (London and North Western Railways), and the CofDSPCo (City of Dublin Steam Pack Company). This rivalry for the mail contract would span 7 decades, during which time ships of both companies would be lost by accident, and by acts of war, resulting in heavy loss of life.

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By 1882 there were seven sailings a day out of Holyhead to Ireland - 2 ships carrying mail, 2 passenger express ships, 2 cargo ships, and 1 ship on the Greenore service. There were of course the corresponding amount of ships inbound per day.

Anglesey, Holyhead, Railway Hotel and Landing Stage

Anglesey, Holyhead, Railway Hotel and Landing Stage

During World War One (WWI) four of Holyhead's ships were sunk, three by enemy action and one in a collision. See the links on the right hand column to read the story of the Tara (Hibernia), Anglia, Leinster and Connemara. During World War Two (WWII) the Scotia was sunk rescuing soldiers from the beaches in Dunkirk - read her story here too. Each of these ships were crewed by Holyhead men and women, with devastating effects on the morale of the people of the town.

One of the main problems associated with the ships steam engines was the short life of their boilers before they had to be replaced, sometimes only 5/6 years. Replacing the boilers was an expensive and time consuming necessity, partially eradicated when it was decided to open workshops in Holyhead to make their own.  This replacement became unnecessary after 1888, due to improved design and materials.

The SS Curraghmare

SS Curraghmore - Holyhead 1919-1930. Later renamed the Duke of Abercorn

Holyhead's history of shipping links with Ireland goes back hundreds of years, and a great many people have - and continue - to travel to Ireland via this the shortest ferry sailing route. On Newry Beach, in the old lifeboat station you will find the wonderful Holyhead Maritime Museum. A visit is an absolute must. All of its part time volunteers have extensive maritime and local knowledge that they are happy to share with any visitor.

The Maritime Museum in Holyhead

The Maritime Museum in Holyhead

Read about and see the photos relating to the following two companies which operated passenger, cargo, and mail ships between Holyhead and Ireland. Click on the links below.

London & North Western Railway Co    City of Dublin Steam Packet Company

Chronological Ships List from 1840`s on


Holyhead Ships Lost during times of War.

HMS Tara>>R.M.S. Leinster>>H.M.H.S. Anglia>>S.S. Connemara>>H.M. Transport Scotia


Other Shipwrecks.

The Primrose Hill - Shipwrecked near South Stack.

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Maritime History

Maritime and Railway Photos I

Maritime and Railway Photos II

London & North Western Railway

City of Dublin Steam Packet Company

Chronological List of Holyhead Ships

The Sinking of H.M.S. Tara

The Sinking of R.M.S. Leinster

The Sinking of H.M.H.S. Anglia

The Sinking of S.S. Connemara

The Sinking of the Primrose Hill

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