This is the Metal Man, a warning to sailors that was constructed after the wreck of the Seahorse~a military transport ship that carried the second battalion of the 59th and foot, veterans of Waterloo~in Tramore Bay on January 30th 1816. 363 lives were lost including 38 children. Those on board were soldiers coming from France and their families whom had gone to Ramsgate to meet them. The vessel was travelling to Cork.
The first mate, John Sullivan, the only man on board who knew the coast, had been thrown from the rigging and killed in the night before the tragedy and the ship entered Tramore Bay the following day mistaking if for the entrance to Waterford harbour and foundered in sight of would be rescuers lining the cliffs and beaches. Though the storm that day was fierce it has also been suggested that the ship may not have been in the best of repair.
A monument was erected on the beach and later moved to the Doneraile Walk overlooking the Bay.
It is said that Lloyds of London paid for the building of the pillars and the Metal Man, one of which was also installed at Rosses Point in Sligo, at the behest of the Admiralty as they were the insurers of so many ships that went down in this area as a result of mistaking Tramore Bay for Waterford harbour. I have also heard that subscriptions were raised from members of the public.
According to Irish Wrecks Online 27 ships went down here between 1809 and 1820. I remember being told in school that the only thing recovered from the SeaHorse was a single silver fork though I don’t know how true that is. As far as I know the wreck has disappeared, either covered up by sand or fallen apart.
The pillars at Westtown, as well as the two on the opposite head of Brownstown were finished in 1823. They are 61ft tall and the Metal Man is 14ft tall. The Metal Man was designed by a Thomas Kirk. In his blue jacket red waistcoat and fetching white sailor pants and his cheeky disco pose I don’t think he would have looked out of place in the Village People.
By the way, ladies, legend has it that if you hop around the base of the Metal Man three times you will be married within the year. I haven’t tried it myself so it could be true!