The Treasure of Dollar Bay

When we think of pirates we usually think of people like Jack Sparrow, exotic islands and hidden chests of gold. It’s hard to imagine them here in Wexford but that’s just how Dollar Bay got its name and the focus this story!

Back in the 1700s, a ship called the Earl of Sandwich was returning from The Americas, bound for London, the passengers on board were listed as Captain Glass, his wife and daughter Kathleen and their young servant boy. They were returning to England after spending years aboard and had with them all their worldly possessions, including a reputed €12 million Spanish gold dollars, Silver “pieces of eight”, bags of gold dust and precious jewels.

On board were a crew of 6 along with the Captain of the ship itself and his first mate. A Donegal man by the name of James MacKinely. James and the Cook George Gidley, a gruff Yorkshireman had spent years at sea, and had the scars to prove it. They had grown resentful of the huge riches the merchants had made, safe in their luxurious mansions while men like them risked life and limb bringing the merchants cargo’s across the sea. This resentment may have come to nothing but for a chance remark made by the Glass’s servant boy.

Sitting below deck one afternoon, they little boy, only about 10 years old, was talking about how smart his master was to mark the boxes containing all his treasure as being books and building materials. It would be sure to deter any pirates, as they wouldn’t be smart enough to discover the truth, the little boy said.

James took this information to his friend the Cook and together they hatched a plan.

As the ship came close to Irelands coastline, they hit bad weather, James and George leapt into action. They and two other crewmen, attacked the Captain and the remaining crew, throwing their bodies overboard. Captain Glass below heard the noise from his cabin and instructing his wife and daughter to hide he drew his sword and came up onto the deck above. He had seen more than one mutiny in his time and knew what was expected of him!

But the men above where expecting him and as he emerged onto the deck he was grabbed, garrotted with his own sword and thrown overboard. The men then dragged Mrs Glass and her daughter onto the deck. Begging for their lives, no mercy was shown, the two of them where thrown into the icy waters below to drown.

The four pirates then set to work, filling the only life boat with as much treasure as they could carry, the boat was low in the water by the time they were finished. Then they began to scuttle the boat, as the water rushed in and the ship began to sink, the men must have laughed. The ship along with its “passengers and cargo” would go down, no one would know what had really happened and the four of them would get away with the perfect crime!

Using Hook Lighthouse as a guide they sailed down the Waterford Estuary towards New Ross. But the lifeboat had seen better days and began to take on water. So using their hands as shovels, thousands of pieces of eight, where thrown overboard

Also, they were very aware that Duncannon Fort overlooked the water and they would certainly be spotted by the Soldiers patrolling the walls and so they came ashore in Fisherman’s Bay.

A pretty beach with golden sand. They pulled the boat up high in the sand and in the moonlight, under an angry sky, it was here they buried their treasure, pocketing around €1200 each to conclude their plan. They headed on foot to the nearest Tavern for a much needed drink.

The next morning, the discovered one of them had been robbed during the night! But not wanting to remain so close to the scene of their crime, they gave up on finding the thief and made their way to New Ross, here they purchased horses, clothes and changed their silver and gold for coins. And hit the road, bound for Dublin.

They stopped in every shebeen and pub along the N11 though, so it took some time. It was almost a week before the reached their destination. The Black Bull Inn in Dublin City. It was here they planned to catch a boat to Liverpool, there they would purchase another boat, sail back to Hook, pick up the treasure and sail away to a new life, living happily ever after!

However….

Unfortunately for them, the ship hadn’t sunk; it had drifted through the night, eventually getting stuck on some rocks near Dunmore East. And remember the little servant boy? Well he had hidden so well, the pirates hadn’t found him. Only surfacing once he was sure they had left and he realised the ship was sinking. He had climbed the central mast and had clung on all night. As the ship lurched and pitched in the cold November waters. We can only imagine his relief, as dawn broke and he discovered the ship was securely lodged on the rocks!

As the local people awoke and began there day, it wasn’t long before someone spotted him, hoarse from shouting, still holding on for dear life!

A local fisherman rowed out to rescue him and on hearing his story, quickly rushed the boy to the local magistrate to explain what had happened.(and make his own claim of salvage on the remaining gold still on board!)


Messenger’s were quickly sent to Dublin castle and the four men were soon found. Drunk as skunks, celebrating their good fortune still sitting in the Black Bull Inn, surrounded by “new friends” and yet to reach Liverpool.

The men were arrested, tried for piracy and of course, found guilty, as the little servant boy testified against them . The trail made international news, everyday the papers reported more gruesome details, It was little Kathleen Glass’s tenth birthday the day she lost her life, and some of her toys had been found on the men when they were arrested. Mrs Glasses jewellery had been given as a gift to a young working girl in New Ross as payment for her services.

It is even thought that the famous book, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, was inspired by the true story,

The four men, James McKinley, George Gidley, Richard Quentin and a Dutchman by the mane of Hanns Zuckermann were taken to St Stephens Green and just across the road from where the Shelbourne Hotel stands today, the men were hanged.

Their remains were thrown into gibbets, rusting iron cages, on Muglins Island just off the Dalkey coastline for the birds to pick their flesh clean and their bones would be lost to the sea. A warning to other would-be pirates that a nasty end awaited them should they try.

And the treasure? Well, the soldiers from Duncannon fort were quickly dispatched to Fisherman’s Bay, where it was dug up and brought back to the Fort for safekeeping. But local legend has it, that not all the gold was found, indeed, over the years bits and pieces have shown up. Divers have found silver pieces of eight off Duncannon beach, lying at the bottom of the water, and interestingly, there is a record, not long after the events of a local man called John Rogers, making a salvage claim of exactly €1200!

Fishermans Bay today, is a known as Dollar Bay, a gorgeous stretch of golden sand, very popular with locals taking picnics and children splash about in the water, along with the odd person casually strolling the beach metal detector in hand!

If you want to visit Dollar Bay, we pass by on any of the tours that feature a visit to the Hook Area