Dublin People

‘Great Raheny character’ Captain Brendan Forde passes away aged 90

A “great Raheny personality”, Captain Brendan Forde passed away on Tuesday, December 20, at the age of 90.

Captain Forde, a merchant navy officer, was born in Arklow in 1932 before moving to Killester with his family at the age of nine.

Historian and local Raheny man Peadar Slattery paid tribute to Captain Forde who described him as a “larger than life character”.

“He was at sea all his life and was well-known by everyone who ran Dublin Port.”

Slattery says that Captain Forde was “destined to be a seaman” from an early age.

“Brendan, avoiding sitting the Intermediate Certificate state examinations in 1947, spent that summer on the schooner Gaelic at £4 a month, working between Dublin, Arklow, Liverpool and Milford in Donegal,” he says.

“In 1948, at 16, having served on the Swedish ship Sjöbris, Brendan was given the opportunity to go home for Christmas, he declined and sailed for Sweden on 23 December.

“The captain’s insistence that he learn Swedish, began Brendan’s long association with Sweden,” Slattery says.

In 1949, while working between Poland and Sweden, Captain Forde began seeing at first-hand the destruction caused by World War II and the ongoing impact of the Cold War.

“In Poland, Brendan saw evidence of the war – a burnt-out tram, people salvaging bricks from ruins, and a damaged pub in the basement of which he drank his first vodka,” Slattery says.

“With a Danish friend, he came under notice in Gdynia (city in Poland) and both were arrested at gunpoint, the Dane receiving a rifle-butt in the ribs.

“Brendan, aged 17, got in deeper trouble when he showed his Irish seaman’s card as identification.

“A British consul, aware of Brendan’s situation, said in that English way: ‘I cannot help you, old man’, but that afternoon he was released.”

Roughly 10 years later, Captain Forde observed an atomic explosion near Hawaii while for working Irish Shipping on the Irish Ash as third officer.

Slattery says that the men on the ship “were suddenly shocked by a continuous, brilliant flash of light to the south – it was not a just a quick blink of light – it was quite prolonged, lighting up the ship even on the shadowy starboard side.

“Men who were asleep in cabins on that side reported that they were awakened by the light,” Slattery says.

“Brendan, expecting a blast, jumped into the wheelhouse, pulling in the lookout, slammed the door and called the captain down the voice pipe.

“No blast arrived and no damage was done. They hosed down the ship and none of the crew had any ill effects.”

While working for Palgrave Murphy in Hamburg during the 1960s, Captain Forde met his future wife, Elke Sönnichsen and the pair were later married in Howth before moving to Raheny.

Then, after 14 years of working at Dublin Port for a German company, Captain Forde returned to sea in 1978 as a second officer in the lighthouse service.

Slattery says that Captain Forde saved the lives of several men during his career, was a skilled artist, spoke five languages, and was honoured by The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Ireland for his outstanding contribution to the shipping industry.

Captain Brendan Forde is survived by his wife, Elke, his three daughters Gráinne, Sonja, and Brenda, their spouses and children.

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