Subtitled ‘An event in the history of Ireland — ‘Two Admirals in command and three first rate ships in the Cove of Cork’, this painting depicts the visit of the White Squadron to Cork from August to September 1843.
This visit coincided with the 13th annual meeting of the British Association in Cork, which began on 13th August 1843.
On 26th August the Illustrated LondonNews reported:
‘The Cove presented a very animated appearance and just previously a series of grand fetes were given on board several of the ships of war lying here. That on board the Tyne (the admiral’s ship) was on a very grand scale, nearly 300 of the elite of the town and neighbourhood of the Cove assembled and continued the merry dance until morning. The vessel was very tastefully fitted up, having a spacious saloon on the deck and on the gun deck a splendid supper was laid out.
However, by September, when Atkinson painted this work, Tyne was no longer in Cork. The ships depicted in Atkinson’s painting are Caledonian (I20 guns), Camperdoiun (I04 guns) and St Vincent (120 guns).
The admiral of the White Squadron was Sir Charles Rowley, and the white flag on St Vincent, shown stern view, indicates this was his Flagship (the use of squadron colours continued until 1864). The St Vincent was a three-deck battleship, with a high, ornate stern. It is shown here surrounded by pinnaces, a paddle steamer and a cutter.
The second admiral was William Bowles, rear admiral of the Blue Squadron, but presumably his ﬂag is not
seen as his ship was part of Rowley’s squadron.
The painting was exhibited at the RHA the following year, where it failed to sell, but it was purchased for £25 in the 1845 Art Union exhibition. The scene depicted in the painting corresponds to a description of the event in the Illustrated London News:
On Friday, at one o’clock p.m. the town of Cove presented an animated appearance when it became known that the expected ships of war were making the harbour, and crowds of persons mounted the hills, to command a view of the entrance to the port. In a short time the firing of guns announced that they had come within the forts of Camden and Carlisle, and at Z o’clock the St. Vincent 120 guns ship, commanded by Captain R.F. Rowley, and bearing the flag of Admiral Sir C.Rowley, anchored near the spit buoy. The Camperdown 104
guns commanded by Captain F. Brace dropped anchor inside her; and the Caledonia, 120 guns, Captain Alex Milne, and the Euridice, Z5 guns lay outside her. The vessel having the flag of Admiral Bowles, saluted the ﬂag of the admiral of the squadron, by firing 17 guns, which were answered by a similar discharge from the St. Vincent. Cove is now honoured with the presence of two admirals in commission. It is expected that the ships will remain at Cove until the 10th October.
The painting will be included in Woodwards auction on October 22nd with an estimate of €30,000 -€40,000