• April 21, 2015


The recent incident involving a Motor Fishing Vessel and a Submarine of the west coast of the Isle of Man reminds us that sadly a problem that fishermen knew only to well in the 1980s is back to haunt coastal communities.

The Celtic League monitored this and other military activity and thanks to a contributor to the sometimes (in terms of the Celtic League) acerbic Manx Forums a media programme link has surfaced which illustrates our role (see link):

It’s a programme made in the early 1980s (I think for BBC Spotlight a Northern Ireland) for a current affairs magazine programme and it features (approx 10 mins into the 30 min item) an interview with me when I was then General Secretary (GS) of the Celtic League. The interviewer I recall was a very youthful Alex Thomson (now with Channel 4 News).

It also features the photograph (one of three) taken by my late wife Deirdre of HMS Porpoise just hours before it sank the Irish MFV Sheralga which proved conclusively that a Royal Navy submarine was operating in the Irish sea. The photographs subsequently (media wise) travelled extensively even ‘surfacing’ in a Japanese newspaper and there most recent airing was about seven years ago in a major documentary for French TV Channels FR3 and TV Monde.

Contrary to what some pundits are saying today about the behaviour of the Royal Navy in such situations HMS Porpoise did not surface to rescue the Sheralga crew who were only saved when another fishing vessel came upon them by chance in the water. Indeed the MOD kept on denying the incident until the photographic evidence proved they were liars!

Despite much speculation today about the possible latest culprit being Russian most recorded incidents including the fatal loss of the Antares are down to British or United States submarines. Certainly during the Cold War the soviets used so called AGIs (Auxiliaries Gathering Intelligence) converted trawlers bristling with aerials and sporting state of the art sonar. Such vessels were often seen in waters off the west and east of the Isle of Man, the Clyde approaches and the Pembroke Strait.

The Celtic League as it says in the (youthful) interview by the GS had by the mid 1980s built up network of contacts around the Irish Sea most important of which was the Faslane Peace Camp (FPC) who logged all movements in and out of Faslane and Coulport the US and British submarine bases. FPC was quite adept at identifying unusual activity such as submarines returning early of with evidence of damage. Often the US Navy and RN would go to great lengths to try to shield the damaged submarines from FPCs cameras.

The Faslane group were also able to alert us when there seemed to be ‘a panic’ on at the base – as in 1986 when they advised us in advance of an incident in the Irish sea involving the USBN Nathanial Greene which struck the seabed south east of the Isle of Man and was so badly damaged it had to be decommissioned.

By 1990 we had also succeeded in getting the International Maritime Organisation to act using the good Offices of many MPs and TDs (not least Hugh Byrne of Fianna Fail) see links:




By the mid 1990s with the end of the Cold War activity levels declined and we wound down are monitoring. One of the last acts undertaken in that phase was to lay a wreath with the names of a number of MFVs lost in suspicious circumstances in the sea about eight miles South of the Chickens Rock. Celtic League member Mark Kermode undertook this job and in addition to laying the wreath recited the Lords Prayer in Manx.

We thought the number of these incidents had peaked and gone into decline but with the loss with all hands of the Breton trawler Bugaled Breizh some years (also during a NATO exercise) ago the incidents started again and this year there have been at least two recorded.

(Our thanks to the Manx Forum Contributor)

Records on the Celtic Leagues military monitoring and also specific detail of the MFV/submarine campaign are deposited in the Library of MNH and also the National Library of Wales.

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

Internet site at:



About Author


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Celtic League
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x