The Mayor of Drogheda, Frank Godfrey, yesterday took to the waters of Drogheda Port to take part in the traditional ‘Hoisting the Captains Clam Diggers’ ceremony.
The ‘Hoisting the Captains Clam Diggers’ is a tradition dating back centuries, certainly predating the Elizabethian era and the tradition was carried on by Mayor Frank Godfrey as Honorary Admiral of Drogheda Port.
Historical records indicate that the maritime tradition of ‘Hoisting the Captains Clam Diggers’ dates back to 1417 when it was the acknowledged symbol from an arriving vessel to Drogheda Port that it wished to engage a Pilot.
Clam diggers were traditional undergarments worn by the vessel crew which allowed sailors to wade without getting them wet, each leg could also be tied at night to prevent rats from scooching up. Specifically, it became the tradition that red and white striped clam diggers would be hoisted when entering Drogheda Port. It is not known which vessel was the first to hoist the captains' clam diggers on the foremast but it requires considerable skill and they were usually hoisted with a fresh northerly or southerly wind for best effect and visibility from the shoreline.
Engaging a Pilot in those days was very much a free for all and it was the first pilot who made it to the vessel, either by swimming or rowing, who was engaged by the captain of the vessel. Up to 10 pilots could be vying for any one vessel, but they could not commence their race to the vessel until the captains clam diggers were hoisted.
The practice was very much in place during the Elizabethan Era when the maiden tower and finger were constructed at Mornington as navigational aids and local legend recalls the story that a young and very beautiful local woman had a lover who left to fight in a war overseas. Each day, for weeks the woman kept her constant and lonely vigil from the top of the tower for her lover to return. Months afterwards she spotted his ship on the horizon. Straining her vision she saw the captains clam diggers being hoisted and mistook them for her lovers and took it as a sign he had been lost. Overcome with grief she is said to have thrown herself off the top of the tower to her death.
Mayor of Drogheda Frank Godfrey said; "I am absolutely thrilled to have the honour this year of ‘Hoisting the Captains Clam Diggers’ and marking a very important tradition for Drogheda Port. The year ahead is a particularly busy and active for both Drogheda and Drogheda Port as it continues to develop, expand and grow.
There to witness the ‘Hoisting the Captains Clam Diggers’ ceremony was Maureen Ward manager of the Drogheda Homeless Aid.
Drogheda Port CEO Paul Fleming commented at the ceremony; “I would like to thank Mayor Godfrey for his participation in ‘Hoisting the Captains Clam Diggers’, a ceremony that celebrates our heritage as a maritime town. Today’s re-enactment is symbolic of Drogheda Port’s continued commitment to preserving, for the town and its people, an understanding of the history that binds the port and the town.”
Maureen Ward accepted a donation from the Port Company after the ceremony on behalf of the Drogheda Homeless Aid.