The Last Ship to go down in The Great War

When I was a young fellow growing up in Tarbert, a small village and sea port in the Shannon estuary there was an old man who lived beside me in Chapel Street. He lived in a little cottage with a thatched roof and a tidy back garden. It was one of those small yellow washed cottages with a door in the middle and a little window on either side. You could literally put your hand down the chimney and lift the front door latch.
The tall waist-coated man with the cap and moustache who greeted me at the front door was named Bill Liston. I spent many a winter’s night at his open fireside listening to stories of tall ships and bygone days when Tarbert was a busy sea port. Bill was at this stage retired and living on his own. His wife had died years before and his family had all gone away. Bill used to sit in a sugan chair in front of a big open fire of turf and timber while his big black cat purred contentedly in the corner. Bill was a great story teller having spent his youth at sea and had a great knowledge of sea lore. According to him, there was a lost city named Keelstoheen buried under the waves between Scattery Island and Tarbert Island. The city was supposed to be visible every seventh year and the sight of it boded ill luck for mariners.
One night while sitting at his big open fire, Bill puffing contentedly on his pipe asked me if I knew ‘what was the last ship to go down in the Great War? referring to the First World War of 1914-18. Was it the Scharnhost or the USS Lincoln, or some famous British battleship? I ventured. He continued to rake the embers of the fire and as the big black kettle began to sing, he settled back in his sugan chair and the story began. It was The Nellie he said which
sank on the 11th of November 1918, the day the war ended and the guns stopped firing. The Nellie he explained was a flat bottomed boat which was contracted to deliver pigs from North Kerry to O’Mara’s Bacon Factory in Limerick. On the eventful night of her last voyage she had a cargo of ninety pigs and about thirty horse rails of black turf. There was also a three man crew including Bill who was first mate. Not far out from Tarbert pier The Nellie which had a concrete bottom showed signs of sinking. Bill cut the painter, the rope joining the large boat to a smaller boat which was in tow. The three sailors clambered into the small boat without an oar to steer them. Fortunately they drifted towards the Glin shoreline and were thrown up on dry land. Four or five days later all the pigs were washed ashore at Galway. Bill ended the story with a twinkle in his eye. So much for great naval heroes and heroic ships I said to myself as I left his cottage that night!
Bill died in 1979 and is buried in the graveyard adjoining the street where he lived all his life. As the big digger demolished his little cottage to make room for the new Credit Union office, I managed to salvage a memento from the house. Every time I look at the wooden shaving mirror I think of its owner and the last ship to go down in the Great War!