b. 12/06/1820 Castletown, County Cork, Ireland. d. ?
DATE OF AM ACTION: 30/11/1866 Courtmasherry Bay, Ireland.
John Donovan was born at Castletown, Co Cork on 12 June 1820. On 4 June 1840, aged 19, he enlisted in the Royal Navy serving in various ships including HMS Belvidera, Gorgon (with which vessel he served during the Syrian crisis), Ceylon, and Rodney. On 8 June 1849 he transferred to the Coast Guard Service, being stationed at Cromarty and then Harwich from 19 September 1849, before moving back to Ireland where he was based at as a Boatman at Poor Head from 16 August 1851. Drafted back into the navy for the Baltic campaign, he served in HMS Royal George from February 1854 to May 1856, being awarded that campaign’s medal. He was present when the Russian brig Patrioten was captured, gaining a share of the prize money awarded for this (London Gazette, 21 July 1857, p. 2517). His conduct at this time was rated as ‘very good’ for the first time, in contrast to a previous record of indifferent behaviour, demotion and transfers. He was then posted Ballycroneen from 14 July 1857 as a Commissioned Boatman, then at Ballygeary from 15 January 1863 as its Chief Boatman, at Robert’s Cove from 21 January 1863, and than at Old Head from 4 November 1864 as its Chief-Boatman-in-Charge. John Donovan retired on pension on 7 May 1872.
The ” Thetis,” of 324 tons, with a crew of eleven persons, became embayed in Courtmacsherry Bay during a gale on November 30, 1866. She had anchored in a dangerous position surrounded by reefs, and had cut away her masts when she was observed by the Coast Guard and Fishermen on shore. JOHN DONOVAX, Chief Boatman in charge of the Old Head Coast Guard Station, Kinsale, endeavoured to prevail upon the fishermen who lined the shore, to the number of about 200, to launch one of their boats, well adapted for the service, and already on the strand, for the purpose of rendering assistance, but they refused. DONOVAN then caused the Coast Guard Galley to be dragged across the laud a distance of about one and a-half miles, and lowered over a perpendicular cliff about 50 feet in height. When this was done, he and four Coast Guard men launched her and proceeded to the vessel. On getting alongside, the galley was capsized and partially stove, but by good management her crew, who had life jackets on, got on board the barque, where they remained for some hours expecting that she would part her cables, owing to the heavy sea running, and a gale blowing on shore. She however rode till the weather moderated, when the galley was repaired and the crews of the boat and vessel landed in her.
BURIAL LOCATION: UNKNOWN.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL NAVAL MUSEUM, PORTSMOUTH.
Allan Stanistreet – Image of John Donovan AM.