John Smith-Barry (1793-1837) of Fota House loved to race yachts and won many cups with ‘The Morning Star’ and ‘Columbine’, the latter a 99 ton cutter. The painting above shows John at Fota with ‘Columbine’ moored in Cork Harbour behind him.
His son James Hugh Smith-Barry was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and Vice Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, later admiral. James preferred cruising to racing and had Columbine turned from a cutter into a yawl. Those of you who have visited Cobh will know the beautiful promenade called the Columbine-quay. This was built at a great expense by James Smith Barry and was used by the Royal Cork Yacht Club, at their annual regatta
‘the gayest and best supported of any display of the kind in Ireland; the prizes are often large, and contended for with great emulation and spirit. In the centre of the beach is the Yacht Club House, for the accommodation of the numerous and respectable members, who meet once a week during the summer season, the fleet then generally going to sea for some hours under the command of the ‘Admiral of the day.’’
Royal Cork Yacht Club is the oldest yacht club in England or Ireland … founded in 1720 it was first called the ‘Cork Harbour Water Club’. It changed its name to the Cork Yacht Club in 1828 and, under the patronage of William IV, became the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 1830.’
During the Great Famine of 1845-49 the Smith-Barrys had to cut back on lavish spending as their income, based on tenant rents, fell away to nothing. The Smith-Barrys had to resort to ‘pretty rigid economies’ – they sold ‘Columbine’, stopped all improvement works in their houses and went abroad for a year or two until the financial situation improved. We know very little of their efforts, if they made any, to aid their distressed tenants. If only we knew as much of Fota during the Famine as we do about her sister Irish Heritage Trust property, Strokestown.
When Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry inherited the estate he tried his hand at many sports, even rowing! And although was a ‘fair oarsman’ (watch out Paul and Gary) he really loved to play cricket and played for Ireland on one occasion. In 1876 he bought a sea going topsail schooner ‘Goshawk’ weighing 252 tons.
He and his wife Mary sailed in the Mediterranean, travelling as far as Alexandria and then to Crete, Athens, Malta, Tunis, Algiers and Gibraltar and then ‘across the bay’ to Cobh. He replaced ‘Goshawk’ with the ‘Alruna’, a 126 ton yawl, followed by ‘Celia’ a 60 ton cutter, and the ‘Waterwitch’ a 150 ton schooner. Arthur Hugh was a great traveller, but never made it as far as Rio …
Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry’s unpublished autobiographical notes
Slater’s National Commercial Dictionary of Ireland, Cove (Cobh) Co. Cork, 1846 http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mturner/cork/slaters_cove.htm
Membership List of the Western Yacht Club – 1837-47 http://www.westernyachtclub.com/cms/uploads/downloads/RWYCI%20Membership%20&%20Yachts%201827-1837.pdf