Floating Guinness Barrels Saved 8 Irish Sailors During WWI

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The Irish identity has been linked to Guinness, a dry stout brewed in Dublin, for decades - but perhaps no story better exemplifies Ireland's love for the dark brew more than this 1917 tale from the Irish Sea.

From 1914-1917 Irish shipping vessels intending to bring barrels of the liquid gold to British shipping ports faced off against German submarines patrolling the murky waters. But this story is about the crew of the ill-fated W.M. Barkley.

Boston Ranked Second Best City For St. Patrick's Day Celebrations - Thumbnail Image

Boston Ranked Second Best City For St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

On October 12, 1917, the unlucky crew of 13 Irishmen set off from Dublin on their fateful voyage to Liverpool with a cargo hold full of stout. 

Aboard the W.M. Barkley, a retired British warship, the crew was only 3 hours into their 135-mile journey when disaster struck. A German UC-75 submarine had fired a torpedo into their hull, splitting the cargo ship in two and trapping the sailors inside.

“The Barkley was doing her best to go down but the [beer] barrels were fighting their way up through the hatches and that kept us afloat a bit longer,” the ship's cook Thomas McGlue told the Guinness HARP magazine in 1964. “In fact, it’s the reason any of us got out of there.”

Thanks to the positive buoyancy of the barrels, 8 of the 13 trapped sailors had time to escape to a lifeboat before the ship was pulled under.

The surviving crew members were left to wallow at sea all night after being questioned by the German captain. As day broke the following morning, a passing ship rescued the 8 men and ferried them back to Dublin where they were treated to a swig of brandy by their superintendent at the brewery before being sent home.

So as you take the first hearty sip of your cold-and-foamy on this St. Patrick's Day, cheers to Guinness - a beer that actually saves lives.

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