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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

1883 Fishguard (Wales) - Blackwater (Ireland) Cable

Because of its proximity to Ireland, the county of Pembrokeshire in Wales was a popular landing site for cables in the 19th century.

In 1862 a cable was laid from Abermawr to Wexford for the Electric & International Telegraph Company. It was taken over by the GPO in 1870 when the inland telegraph service was nationalised.

A second cable was laid between Blackwater, Ireland, and Abermawr in 1880 for the GPO, and in 1883 a further GPO cable was laid from Blackwater, but with its terminus a few miles north of Abermawr at Parc y Morfa near Fishguard.


View Cable Cottage, Parc y Morfa, Fishguard in a larger map

The Electrical Review, in its issue of April 14, 1883, reported on the expedition to lay this cable:

Post-office Cables.—The s.s. Dacia, Captain P.M. Hayward, chartered by the Post-office for the submersion of a new cable between England and Ireland, and for repairing the Dublin and Isle of Man cables, left her moorings yesterday afternoon for Greenhithe, from whence she sails to-day (14th) for the Irish Channel.

The new cable, some 64 miles long, has been manufactured by the Silvertown Telegraph Works, and contains four conductors. It will be laid from Wexford to Fishguard Bay. The existing cable goes from Wexford to Abermawr Bay, and the former will therefore be north of the old one.

The Electrician also reported on this cable, in its isssue of January 1, 1884:

To connect this cable of four wires, additional land wires of a corresponding number were required from London to Fishguard and from Blackwater to the towns served in Ireland. The total number of cross channel wires available between the two countries was by this addition increased to twentyfour.

Note that one report gives the Irish landing point as Wexford; the other as Blackwater, located about six miles up the coast. As cable landing points were generally in remote locations, newspaper reports quite often gave the nearest large town, and I believe that is the case here.

The 1893 edition Irish Coast Pilot entry for Wexford Harbour gives this detailed information:

The Coast from Wexford harbour to Blackwater head, nearly 6 miles, is formed of sand backed by undulating hills, the most conspicuous of which is Ballyrevan, 372 feet high. From Blackwater head to Norris Castle coast-guard station, 6 miles distant, are clay cliffs 90 to 165 feet high, behind which, and about midway, is Ballinamona hill, 234 feet high, and northward of the hill Kilmuckridge church.

From Norris Castle to Cahore point, 3½ miles, the coast consists of sand-hills. Norris Castle coast-guard station is a conspicuous cluster of white houses.

Blackwater head may be easily recognised, being the abrupt southern termination of the clay cliffs, with the ruins of a house on its summit.

Telegraph beacons and cables.—At Ballynaclash, southwestward of Blackwater head, two beacons have been placed indicating the direction of a submarine telegraph cable.

The front beacon, painted white and marked Telegraph beacon, is situated near the coast on the south side of Flaherty’s gap, and bears W.S.W. from Blackwater head distant seven-tenths of a mile.

The rear beacon, painted white, is situated about 600 yards northward of the front beacon.

These beacons in line indicate the direction of the cable. There is also a second cable near the first one.

Caution.—Mariners are cautioned not to anchor in the vicinity of the cables.

At the Welsh landing point near Fishguard, at Parc y Morfa, a small cottage was built to house the cable equipment, and probably a station keeper.

Cable Cottage, Parc y Morfa
Photograph from the Geograph website, © copyright ceridwen
and used under this Creative Commons Licence.

The cable building has long since been converted for residential use and expanded, and is now a holiday cottage.

Aerial view of the cottage from Google Maps

Last revised: 2 March, 2010

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