ST. PATRICK’S DAY IN THE ROSSES. The anniversary of St. Patrick’s Day, on Tuesday last, was celebrated in Lower Templecrone with the greatest enthusiasm, yet with the utmost good order and decorum. About ten o’clock a.m. the Calhame amateur fife and drum band, followed by a large procession, started for Kincasslagh Chapel. On leaving Calhame, which is situated in the north-eastern part of the parish, the procession consisted of several hundreds of stalwart young men, wearing green sashes and other decorations, and as they moved along the were swelled by contingents from several townlands along the route. There were two beautiful green flags carried in the procession with large portraits of St. Patrick and Daniel O’Connell, with a sprinkling of shamrock and suitable mottoes. After Mass and benediction, the procession again formed on the strand immediately outside the chapel yard, and proceeded westward, marching round the residence of their late and lamented parish priest, Very Rev. D. O’Donnell, whose memory will be cherished in the Rosses for generations to come. Miss Bridget Crerand, who resides at this place, and niece to the late Father O’Donnell, presented the band with a handsome gift. They next paid a visit to the residence of the curate, Rev. Father Scanlon, thence to the residence of the parish priest, Rev. B. Walker, at Burtonport, at which place the band played a selection of national airs, after which the Rev. Father Walker, who was still standing by, addressed the crowd (which by this time must contain some thousands), in very suitable language. bestowing great praise on the band, as well as on the whole procession, and at the conclusion of his address he made a presentation to the band through their leader, Mr. John O’Donnell, Calhame. Mr. O’Donnell, on behalf of the band, &c., in suitable terms thanked the rev. gentleman for his liberality, and encouragement towards them. After giving three hearty cheers for Father Walker and Father Scanlon, who was also present, as also for the Irish Parliamentary party, the procession again formed and marched via Aces, Meenanolobany, Cruckamore, Sheskinarone, Meenbanad, &c., &c. and back to their starting point, making a circuitous route of nearly the whole parish. They wound up by holding a ball as well for their amusement, as also for the purpose of putting the proceeds into a fund for buying equipment for the band, The band, under the direction and management of Mr. Patrick Gallagher, Calhame, would be no discredit to some of our best provincial towns. The uniform worn by the band was specially decorated for the day by Mrs. J. O’Donnell and Mr. P Gallagher, and which they did with a taste and skill that reflected great credit on them. The procession and the ball passed off without a hitch to mar the pleasant proceedings of the day.
On the evening of 30th January 1925, a Lough Swilly Railway train was blown off the rails while crossing the viaduct spanning the valley of the Owencarrow on the Letterkenny & Burtonport Extension in stormy weather. Four passengers died, three at the scene, the fourth some hours later.
Graving Dock Station, Derry: As the clock ticked towards 5.15 pm on Friday the 30th January 1925, Lough Swilly Railway 4-6-2T No. 14 was being readied for departure to Burtonport, 741⁄2 miles to the West. On the footplate was an experienced crew – driver Bob McGuinness with 20 years’ experience as driver, 13 as regular driver on the Burtonport Extension, fireman John Hannigan with 7 years’ experience as fireman, two as regular fireman with Driver McGuiness.
As they waited for the last passengers to board, conversation between the two switched to the weather and in particular the rising wind, with McGuinness referring, with some trepidation, to the prospect of crossing the viaduct spanning the Owencarrow Valley, to the west of Kilmacrenan, which they were due to reach about 8 pm that evening. It was a prospect he always feared when the winds were strong.
But with all passengers on board, thoughts turned to the job in hand and, Guard Charles Mullan having given the signal, the train eased away from the platform and across the Strand Road.
Stops at the intermediate stations to Letterkenny were brief, the inclement weather not encouraging traffic, and they arrived on time at Letterkenny, where many of the passengers left the train. Burtonport based guard Neil Boyle, having just worked the 3.50 ex-Burtonport train as far as Letterkenny, joined the train, exchanging roles with Guard Mullan, who returned on the Derry bound train.
Neil Boyle spotted Arranmore merchant Phil Boyle on the platform, along with his wife Sarah and son Phil junior. Speaking to them, he learnt that Phil junior had been in Letterkenny Hospital for two weeks for treatment of a hand injury and his parents, on return from a stay in Dublin, collected him from the hospital that afternoon. As a result of delays in his discharge, they had missed an earlier train and Mrs. Boyle was heard to express her unease at travelling on the night train with the wind rising as it was. However, she was persuaded to board the train. Her unease was shared by another passenger, Mrs. Úna Mulligan from Falcarragh, who was returning home from a stay with her daughter on Inch Island. She stepped off the train at Letterkenny, with a view to discontinuing her journey, but after a few minutes’ consideration, decided to travel after all.
A few minutes were spent taking stock off the train at Letterkenny before the whistle sounded and the journey recommenced at 7.05 pm, five minutes behind schedule. Behind No. 14 on leaving the station, the train now consisted of four vehicles, namely covered wagon No. 55S, six-wheel carriage No. 12S, Bogie Carriage No. 11B and combined bogie carriage and guard’s van No. 8B. On board were fourteen passengers.
As they headed out into the open countryside, the crew’s conversation increasingly focused on the rising gale, knowing that they would soon be making the exposed crossing of the Owencarrow Valley. This undoubtedly occupied the minds of the passengers too, as the carriages rocked in the gale more than would normally be the case. Despite the heavy winds, the skill of the crew ensured the train was still only five minutes behind schedule as it arrived in Kilmacrenan.
With the wind howling through the station, the train pulled up at the platform, to be greeted by Stationmaster Rory Delap. He spotted Neil Doogan step out of the train, his usual stop, but was surprised to see him hesitate then turn to re-board the train. Enquiring as to why, Doogan replied that, with the wind so strong, he’d struggle to walk home against it, so he’d rather carry on to Creeslough and walk home with the wind at his back. His decision, like that of Mrs Mulligan earlier, was to prove tragically significant.
As the wind continued to blow hard, the crew became increasingly concerned about the next stage of the journey and the crossing of the long and exposed Owencarrow Viaduct. Bob McGuinness admitted he always feared the crossing when the wind gusted, dating back to a scare he had in that very station a number of years previously. On that occasion, a sudden violent gust, ripped through the station, knocking over wagons just taken off the train and ripping off part of the station roof. It made him fearful of what might happen if the train encountered a violent blast when exposed on the Viaduct, a fear that always hit him whenever there were high winds .
The train once again started on its way at 7.52, still five minutes behind schedule, and gradually headed towards the Creeslough road, eventually crossing at No. 8 Gates, and climbing to run through the more open moorland that was Barnes Gap. Towards the northern end of the Gap a summit was reached and thereafter the train began a descent, turning back across the road on a three arch viaduct to run along the south west slope of the valley of the Owencarrow. The descent continued as the train negotiated the curve leading to the Viaduct.
Driver McGuinness, having checked his vacuum brake and handbrake and found both in working order, slowed the train, in accordance with Board of Trade regulations, to maintain a speed of 8 to 10 mph. On first entering the viaduct, he looked back and could see that the whole of the train was running normally. On a second look back a short time later, he could see the sidelights of the Guard’s Van, which indicated all seemed to be well, so he continued to maintain his reduced speed in the face of the gusting wind. About 2/3 of the way across, where a gentle ascent commenced, as he was reaching for the regulator to increase steam, a sudden, exceptionally severe gust of wind caused him to again look back, whereupon he saw that the first carriage, No. 12, was off the line and raised in the air. He immediately applied the brake and promptly pulled up, as carriage No. 12 toppled over the parapet, pulling the wagon between it and the engine also sideways to the parapet .
Fireman Hannigan crossed the footplate to the driver’s side and looked back, his immediate words to the driver being “there is harm done tonight” . The two got down from the engine and walked back the length of the train to determine what had happened. At the rear of the train they saw the Guard’s Van, precariously balanced against the parapet. Inside was Guard Neil Boyle – to him, the wind, on entering the viaduct, was blowing strong but steady and he noticed nothing unusual in the running of the train until a sudden blast of wind raised his van and knocked him over. The van was dragged about a van length and came to rest at an angle. His immediate impulse was to open the door on the high side to get out, but with the roaring wind he was frightened to do so. To his relief, driver and fireman came to his rescue .
Together, the three men set about helping the injured passengers who were calling for help and, having done what they could do in the immediate aftermath, McGuinness asked Hannigan to proceed with all speed to Creeslough, a distance of 23⁄4 miles, to summon aid. He and Guard Boyle continued to give what limited assistance they could but realising that doctors were urgently needed, and they could offer little more, he also sent Guard Boyle for help, in case any mishap had happened to Fireman Hannigan.
Hannigan, meantime, made what haste he could against the force of the wind to Creeslough. On the way, he called at the cottage of Ganger John McDermott  and informed him of the accident. The Ganger went to the scene to offer what help he could while Hannigan proceeded to Creeslough.
Meanwhile, at Creeslough, Stationmaster Jimmy Gallagher had received the signals from Kilmacrenan that the train had departed, and he anticipated its arrival at 8.10 pm. When the train was some ten minutes overdue, his porter was sent down the line to see if he could see it coming, returning about 15 mins later to say there was no sign of the train. At this, Gallagher informed Kilmacrenan and Letterkenny that it hadn’t arrived. While awaiting a reply, John Hannigan arrived at 9.10 pm and informed him of the mishap. He immediately arranged for a local doctor and clergyman to proceed to the scene, together with members of the Civic Guard and some other volunteers. He then wired what details he had to Letterkenny, Burtonport and the General Managers office .
In Letterkenny, stationmaster Robert Bell received instructions at 9:30 p.m., from the General Manager’s office, to arrange for a Driver and Fireman to prepare an engine at once, to take as many men and equipment as could be quickly gathered and two doctors and proceed to the Viaduct to give all assistance possible. A further instruction by phone at 9:50 p.m. altered this for him to proceed at once to the Viaduct by car with two Doctors and any men available, the train would follow once General Manager Henry Hunt and Permanent Way Inspector McElwaine had joined from Derry. He left Letterkenny about 10:30 p.m., arriving at the scene about 11.30 p.m. to learn of the fatalities and injuries. His account gives an illustration of what the rescuers had to face :
I arrived at the scene of the disaster about 11:30 p.m. and heard that Phil Boyle, Neil Doogan and a woman passenger were killed, and that 10 people were injured. I learnt that all the injured had been removed to various places and had received medical and other attention except Edward McFadden, one of the more seriously injured, who was waiting attention in a cottage close by. I went with Drs McGinley and Patterson who rendered him medical aid.
I, with Porter Starrett, returned to the scene of the accident and, after some difficulty, gained access to the Viaduct. It was still blowing a strong gale, and I had occasionally to hold on to the railing to prevent myself being blown over. The engine appeared to be in order and on the track. The covered wagon following the engine was derailed and leaning against the parapet wall; the next vehicle (3rd class Swilly Carriage) had turned somersault and was, as far as I could see in the dark, a complete wreck, three compartments having being completely demolished in the contact with the parapet wall; the next vehicle on the train, a Burtonport trio, was lying over on its side, some distance down the stone embankment; the last vehicle of the train (Burtonport Combined Van) was partially hanging over embankment, only about half of this vehicle had cleared the main hand rail on the viaduct.
I then went down the embankment and examined carriages, the embankment under them and the marsh surrounding to make sure that no person had been overlooked. In this work I was piloted by one of the local people and accompanied by Porter Starrett and motor driver Charles Dorrian, both of Letterkenny. I found no person and formed the opinion that nothing more could be done until the breakdown train arrived. I proceeded to Creeslough and wired particulars to the General Manager, who was coming on the breakdown train. I also wired to Falcarragh for information concerning the woman passenger who had been killed and unidentified, and I learnt that she was a Mrs Mulligan of Falcarragh .
I again then returned to the Viaduct to meet the General Manager on arrival of the breakdown train and remained with him until he got full particulars of what I had done and observed.
Newspaper reports also painted a picture of the scene:
The cries of the passengers could not be heard in the darkness owing to the screaming of the gale from the open Atlantic, which filled the valley with its eerie moans. From thatched cottages, nestling in the glen, warm patches of light dotted the gloomy surroundings until, at length, with that sense of tragedy ever present in Donegal, some doors opened, and lights began to move about, attracted by the blaze of the engine and the screaming of its whistle. Friendly hands, eager to help, were rendering assistance, and some of the passengers were taken to the nearest shelter, while the injured received every assistance it was possible to give. Messages sent to Derry brought a special train to the scene with nurses and doctors and railway officials. This only arrived on the spot after 2am. The gale had by then moderated and, with powerful lamps, it became apparent that the disaster was more than at first appeared. The coaches were utterly wrecked, and broken glass and woodwork littered the viaduct. The ironwork on the viaduct was twisted and torn by the impact. Heart rending scenes were witnessed as women ran about frantically in the darkness calling on their friends. Some of these were Irish speakers and prayers in Irish could be heard as they stood in little groups holding on to the iron framework, those of them who could not be persuaded to leave the scene of the disaster 
As the day dawned, the scale of the tragedy became apparent. The derailment occurred towards the western end of the viaduct, at a point where large boulders are piled high against the walls, believed to have been done to provide extra support. The engine and wagon had remained on the rails. The first coach was upside down with its roof missing; the second coach lay on its side on the boulders while the third coach lay at an angle against the railings. The unfortunate passengers of the first coach were hurled onto the rocks and plummeted down to the valley floor, sustaining injuries as they fell and further injury as boulders which had been displaced fell on top of them. Those in the second coach fared a little better but were badly shaken about while Guard Boyle, the only occupant of the third coach, was shaken but unhurt.
Philip Boyle, Úna Mulligan and Neil Doogan were pronounced dead at the scene, while Sarah Boyle suffered horrific injuries and died a short while later in Letterkenny Hospital. All were in the first coach. Nine passengers were injured, four seriously. Philip Boyle Junior, who shared the same coach with his parents was thrown largely clear of the rocks and was relatively unhurt, though was found wandering in a somewhat dazed condition.
On a somewhat happier note, one young lady, Mary Campbell from Meenbanad, was catapulted from the carriage but miraculously was thrown clear of the rocks and landed unharmed in soft boggy ground and, in struggling to get free, left her shoes buried in the bog. She walked bare- foot some miles to a house, where she was given fresh shoes and dry clothes . Another lucky escapee was Kathleen McGinley, a teacher in Temple Douglas. She usually travelled by train to her parents’ home at Creeslough every Friday but, on this particular Friday, while on her way to the station, she met an old man who advised her against travelling, for he said he feared that a serious accident would take place on the viaduct. Kathleen took his advice and returned to her boarding house .
Who was this man with a foretaste of doom? There were rumoured sightings of an old man apparently talking to passengers on the platform at Derry and Letterkenny and, during the weeks before the disaster, there were reported unusual sightings of an old man walking along the Burtonport Extension. He even possibly appeared on the night as the train approached the viaduct. The sightings were believed to be that of the ghost of an individual killed during the building of the Extension.
In the aftermath of the crash, the Board of Trade Engineer, Thomas Batchen, was sent to investigate the cause of the derailment. In response to the request of the Coroner, he attended the inquests into the deaths of Philip Boyle, Úna Mulligan and Neil Doogan at Creeslough and that of Sarah Boyle at Letterkenny, acting as assessor to the Coroner.
Questioned about the speed of the train, the three crew members were insistent that the train had slowed to between 8 and 10 mph on entering the viaduct, in keeping with regulations. A dissenting voice on this point was Neil Doogan’s son who, from his home near the viaduct, watched the train crossing that night, as he had done on many occasions before, and claimed that it was travelling faster than he had seen on previous occasions. Questioned about the wind, the crew, and passengers that commented, believed the high wind was no worse than had been experienced on previous occasions, until a sudden, severe gust was experienced at the time of the accident.
In his report, Batchen first described the nature of the line approaching the viaduct and the crossing itself. From a summit in Barnes Gap, 2 miles from the viaduct, the line descended continuously on a 1 in 50 gradient, then rounded a sharp curve to enter an approach embankment of 176 yards, followed by a steel viaduct built on masonry piers and consisting of 8 spans of 41 feet, 4 spans of 75 feet and 3 spans of 140 feet each, making a total length of viaduct, including abutments, piers and masonry parapets of 360 yards. The extreme height of the viaduct from the lowest part of the Valley to the level of the rails was 54 feet. The remainder of the way across the Valley was occupied by a length of 134 yards of embankment at a maximum height of 35 feet and having in it two masonry arches of 40 feet span each. Between the parapets of the viaduct and those of the arches there is a space of 47 feet, against which rocks and boulders were stacked. This particular spot was the scene of the accident.
The evidence presented indicated that the night was stormy, but not of such violence as to cause doubt or anxiety in the minds of the train men as to the safety of the train. Recordings around the coast on the night indicated wind speeds of between 34 and 44 mph, not sufficiently strong to overturn any of the coaches. He believed that in the long and narrow Owencarrow Valley, 140 feet above sea level and in the straight path of the wind, the velocity was likely to be greater. He calculated that a direct pressure of 28 lbs. per square foot would have been required to overturn the coaches, equivalent to a wind velocity of 93 mph. In accordance with witness statements of a severe gust at the time of the accident, such a velocity may well have been attained and, crucially, he believed that the nature of the embankment, and the boulder pile, may have resulted in an upward funnelling of the wind and resultant increase in its force. The first carriage was then blown completely over the parapet wall and held there in an upside- down position by the couplings.
He referred to the verdict of the Coroner’s Jury at Creeslough which, in attributing no blame to the train crew, suggested that if a proper protecting railing was present along the whole length of the viaduct, from cutting to cutting, without any intervening gap, no lives would have been lost. While agreeing with this opinion, Batchen did not recommend the erection of a railing as the construction of a sufficiently substantial structure would, in his opinion, be impracticable on the edge of an embankment only 12 feet wide. Instead, he recommended that the Railway Company place two anemometers at selected sites west of Kilmacrenan and, when a wind velocity dangerous to trains was reached, all traffic should cease .
In a subsequent exchange of correspondence, the Company were reluctant to place anemometers at the viaduct as, being 51⁄4 miles from Kilmacrenan and almost 3 miles from Creeslough, would necessitate providing for a resident staff. Instead it was agreed to place instruments in a site near Dunfanaghy Road where wind speeds were believed to be similar to those at Owencarrow. In September, 1926, Henry Hunt was able to report the instruments were installed and in operation and in the first few weeks of operation, winds of over 80 mph had been recorded on three occasions, resulting in temporary suspension of trains on the Burtonport Extension.
John Hannigan went on to be an engine driver for the Company and, whether intentionally or by coincidence, drove the last train across the Owencarrow Viaduct, as the rails were lifted in July 1949:
As a sad, but interesting, sequel to the journey to Gweedore in 1946, I was privileged to travel with the demolition train when it crossed Owencarrow Viaduct for the last time. On Tuesday, July 19, 1949, I joined Driver Hannigan on the footplate of No. 12 … and by 11 am we had drawn out of Letterkenny with a train consisting of a wagon, four flats (actually the frames of passenger vehicles) and a brake composite coach. Grass growing on the track made the running far from easy, and only frequent use of the sanders enabled us to breast the 1 in 50 gradients between Letterkenny and Kilmacrenan. After some shunting at Kilmacrenan, the engine propelled the train.
Near the foot of the ascent to Barnes Gap, we stopped again to take water from a small river, through a petrol-driven pump carried in the van. This procedure was necessary because the track already had been removed at Creeslough, the nearest station with a water tank. No. 12 climbed to Barnes Gap in fine style, and then we made a cautious run over the serpentine descent to the viaduct. A short distance beyond the viaduct, the track ended abruptly and only a bare path of ballast extended across the bog to Creeslough.
Men were soon at work loading the train, and by 2.30 pm the last train ever to cross Owencarrow Viaduct began its return journey, with a full load of rails and sleepers .
With the rails gone, the metal girders remained in place for a few more years until they too were stripped away in the the 1950’s, leaving only the stone pillars and central steel columns, still standing to this day, both as a tribute to the skills of the contractors and a memorial to those who lost their lives on that stormy night of January 30th 1925.
 Recounted by Alex McGuinness, son of Robert, to journalist Ken McCormack, Derry.  Robert McGuinness witness statement to coroner’s inquests and BOT investigation.  John Hannigan witness statement to coroner’s inquests and BOT investigation.  Neil Boyle witness statement to coroner’s inquests and BOT investigation.  John McDermott witness statement to coroner’s inquests.  James Gallagher witness statement to coroner’s inquests and BOT investigation.  Robert Bell witness statement to coroner’s inquests and BOT investigation.  “Mrs Mulligan’s face was so terribly disfigured it was impossible to identify her at first. It was only by articles on her body and wearing apparel that her identity was ultimately established”. Derry People Feb. 7th 1925.  Sunday Independent Feb 1st, 1925.  John Sharkey. Personal communication.  Sarah McCaffrey, Creeslough quoted in That Old Sinner (Frank Sweeney, Irish History Press) p 286.  Thomas M Batchen – report to the Director, Transport and Marine Branch, Department of Industry & Commerce, Dublin. Dated 23rd February 1925.  K. Longbottom. Railway Magazine, Nov. & Dec. 1949, p. 353.
© Researched and written by J. Begley January 2020
Siúlóid éadrom timpeall an t-aerfort is deise tírdhreach ar domhan ag eisteacht le béaloideas an ceantar álainn seo. Éist le scéal Cathlín Mhor, Banrion an Uaignis agus go leor eile, Longbhriseadh, Córas Oideachas, Oileán na Marbh, Seandálaíocht, Logainm, agus tuilleadh.
Fad: 4km -1.5 uair.
NIGHT OF THE BIG WIND IN THE ROSSES – THE LOSS OF THE ‘ANDREW NUGENT’
First appeared in the Derry Journal in July 1955.
“Along its wild indented coast,
There were frequent heavy losses;
The “Andrew Nugent” went down in Thirty-nine,
The Big Wind Night in the Rosses.”
There has been many fierce storms in the course of the nineteenth century, but amongst all these one seems to stand out in broad capitals in the memory of the Irish countryside, namely, that of January 6th, 1839, or the Night of the Big Wind, as it has been popularly called. The stories about that dreadful hurricane were told by the Irish seanchaidhes until the last of them was called away; and, even to-day, echoes of that memorable night are yet to be heard although naturally the details now are becoming more vague and blurred with the passage of years. The purpose of this article is to put on record some facts and experiences of the Night of the Big Wind in the Rosses in order that the present generation, and especially the younger generation, should know them and, as it were, pass them on to posterity. As the Big Wind swept in from the Atlantic and howled across the country from the west, its full force was felt along the bleak western seaboard, stripping the poorly constructed thatched cabins in its path. Little wonder, then, that Oiche Na Gaoithe Móire, La An Bhriste Mhóir (Tone’s Last Fight Off The Rosses) and tales of the Great Famine were the main topics of seanchas along our coast for the century just past.
Social and Political Background
A word about the social and political background of the year of the Big Wind. The lot of our forefathers in 1839 wasn’t a lot different from what it had been in the dark century preceding it. It was the Ireland of the Tithe Agitation, of Father Mathew and the recently-established “Poor Law” The latter was but a superficial remedy for the many ills of the time. The conditions for a national calamity were already in existence, and it only required the culmination of tragic events In the years immediately following to bring about the catastrophe commonly referred to as The Great Famine. The landlords were still the ruling class of the day but if they only stoped to think they could even then have seen for themselves the writing on the wall. Around that time somebody reminded them that property had its duties as well as its rights and privileges but all this they, of course, ignored. It was the age of Fintan Lalor whose teaching fore-shadowed the Land War of later in the century and whose sound principles no present-day system of government can afford to ignore. It was the era of rack-rents exacted from tenants-at-will reduced to a state of abject poverty so vividly described in the Report of the Devon Commission. After 39 years of Union the people of Ireland had yet, to see its benefits. Instead of the prosperity it enjoyed under the Dublin Parliament it now was on the brink of economic and social ruin. The country was worse off than ever.
Coming of the Wind
January 6th, 1839. the Feast of the Epiphany, was a Sunday. The wind began to rise about six o’clock in the evening it increased to gale force around bedtime and by midnight it had become a hurricane. For six long hours, from midnight until six o’clock in the morning, the storm raged. It was generally stated that the wind was westerly but that is not strictly correct, it was a point north westerly. A contemporary report for instance, describing the storm in Enniskillen, states that the direction of the wind changed from N.W. to West at six o’clock on Monday morning, January 7th. when the storm moderated somewhat. Whether westerly or north-westerly, the force of the wind was felt in no small measure along the coast of the North-West. In the towns of the South and Midlands slates were ripped off and chimneys came tumbling down, causing whole towns to blaze. Eighty-seven houses were burned to the ground in Loughrea; half of Kells was reduced to ashes, while Navan also suffered severely. Before morning the countryside was like a place devastated by a modern bomber force using both high explosives and incendiaries. A newly-built church was left roofless in County Galway while great damage was caused to tree plantations, and housing in the towns of Kilkenny, Moate, Belfast and elsewhere. In towns no one stayed indoors as the fear of falling masonry and slates kept them off the dark muddy streets. The skies were further Illuminated by the dazzling beams of the Northern Lights which added to the terror of the grim spectacle. As one might expect, there was little rain but where showers fell it is said that the force of the raindrops broke panes of glass as they were lashed against them by the driving wind! This would be unimaginable in the Donegal Gaeltacht at that time, because the windows in the houses then (where there were such) had very small panes. There were no housing grants then.
Men, Woman and Children Pray
The Night of the Big Wind struck terror into those living along the exposed coast from Malin Head to Erris Head. At that time there were scarcely any slated houses and the frail thatched cabins swayed and trembled under the pressure of the wind. Men, women and children prayed in the flickering light of the turf-fires or the rush-candle in an age when the E.S.B. and modern pressure lamps were unheard of. There were no storm lanterns at that time and the men-folk had to stay indoors as they could do little to secure the roof, etc., in the darkness of a winter’s night with a gale of probably more than 100 m.p.h. raging. Even they had had flood-lighting there was little they could then do. Boats were smashed to pieces on the beaches all along the coast of Donegal, much to the discomfort and loss of their hard-pressed owners. It is said that the spume and spray from the sea was carried miles inland by the wind, rendering the water in wells, lakes, rivers, etc., salt for weeks afterwards. No place seems to have escaped. Great shipping losses were incurred in Liverpool and in Cork harbour, as well as elsewhere around the coasts. The destruction was general.
There seems to have been other great storms earlier in the century, too, particularly in 1802 and later in 1819. In the Rosses the seanchaidhes told us about Oiche Na dTor Buidhe and Oiche Sheain Mhic Shomhairle but Oiche Na Gaoithe Moire seems to stand out by itself. It was, or has been, a milestone in that age of illiteracy which had yet to know the usefulness of both a clock and a calendar! When the Old Age Pension was introduced in 1909 the Night of the Big Wind was adverted to in order to fix or determine an applicant’s name. “Do you remember the Big Wind?” was a stock question with pension officials in those days, as certainly anybody who had remembered that night would have been well over the seventy mark by 1909!
“The Night of the Andrew Nugent”
In The Rosses the Night of the Big Wind was commonly referred to as the Night of the “Andrew Nugent.” The present writer remember asking a Rosses seanchaldhe once if he heard anything about the Big Wind and he replied that he didn’t, strangely enough, but at the same time he could tell me the story of the “Andrew Nugent” from beginning to end. No blame to him he didn’t know that “The Night of the Big Wind” and “Oiche An Andrew Nugent” were synonymous. Wasn’t there a character In Moliere who had been speaking prose for a lifetime without being aware of it? The Andrew Nugent”? After a long night of terror there was a sigh of relief when day dawned on the morning of January 7th, 1839. Neighbours helped each other in their difficulties and exchanged tales in Gaelic by their firesides regarding their experiences of the night before. (Incidentally, one could count on one hand the households that spoke English in the Rosses of 1839, but to-day, alas, the position is almost the reverse). The storm was not yet over, but its fury had abated somewhat, since six o’clock in the morning. Losses were assessed and houses and haggards were fortified and put in readiness for possibly a worse night yet to come. It was a short, dreary day, of anxiety and dread with dark clouds racing across an angry unsettled sky. The folk In the islands and on the mainland of the Rosses were settling down to yet another night of fear and anxiety when a ship rounded the head of Arran, making towards harbour and, as they thought, safety after having battled for two long days with the fury of the Atlantic. She was the ill-fated ‘Andrew Nugent,’ a brig of some 300 tons owned by Messrs. Scott & Patrickson, of Sligo, and bound for London with a cargo of bacon, butter and general provisions. As nobody aboard her survived to tell her full story, it can never be told. But it is well to piece together whatever information has come to hand.
She had left Sligo the previous morning (Sunday) and had thus been two days at sea, as can be learned from the following brief despatches from Lloyds’ agent at Sligo to the head office in London:
“SLIGO, Jan. 7. 1839- It was a very heavy gale last night and this morning from W.N.W. The *Andrew Nugent’ -sailed yesterday morning, for London, and it it is hoped she got round Tory Island before the gale commenced.”
“SLIGO. Jan. 11. 1839 – The ‘Andrew Nugent,’ Crangle, from hence for London. is totally lost with her crew at Arranmore.”
It was about four o’clock in the evening when the “Andrew Nugent” sailed into Arran Roads. Whipped up by the terrible wind of the previous night, the seas then ran mountains high. Had she been fortunate enough to make land a few hours earlier her fate might have been entirely different. As the position then stood, it was a race against time and storm as the shades of night were falling fast and the problem was could she be safely moored before darkness would set in?
Beacon Fires Lighted
The residents of the islands perceiving that she was steering on a dangerous course —probably towards Cruit and Keadue Bar—decided to light beacon tires to direct her on a safe course to the anchorage between Arranmore and Rutland. With this object in view, a fire was lighted on Pollawaddy Hill in Arranmore, and some say a second fire was lit in Eighter. The fires were successful for after they were lighted the “Andrew Nugget” tacked and sailed across the North Bay until she was near the shore off Pollawaddy in Arranmore. Although far from being safe, she yet had probably her first respite from the storm since the previous evening. Rutland Harbour was still in its hey-day at that time and piloting was a career, so to speak in the islands then. There were two pilots living in Pollawaddy (Arranmore) at that time; one Tom O’Donnell and another whose surname (Coll?) is now unknown. but who is remembered by his nick-name, Slip-on.” There was a certain amount of rivalry and jealousy it is said between these two men of the same calling, but for once, at any rate, they joined hands in face of the common danger! They both put out in the same boat to reach the “Andrew Nugent.” The heavy seas made it almost impossible for their small boat to come within safe distance of the distressed vessel. After much manoeuvring however, Pilot O’Donnell managed to get aboard by taking advantage, I suppose, of a lull in the storm and clambering on to the ‘Andrew Nugent’s” fore-rigging. Immediately Tom O’Donnell managed to get aboard, “Slip-on” and his boat-mates rowed back towards the shore in Arranrnore leaving the pilot to his unenviable charge. Tradition has it in the Rosses that the ship’s steering was by that time defective and that on hearing this, O’Donnell decided to return to his island home. He called to the pilot-boat to return for him. but his calling was in vain. Night was falling and the men in the pilot-boat realising their perilous position decided to get to safety. O’Donnell was left aboard the ”Andrew Nugent.”
Pilot O’Donnell’s Bravery
It remained for the Pilot O’Donnell then to bring the ship to the anchorage south of Calf Island in Arran Roads where there would a reasonable hope for her safety if conditions did not deteriorate entirely. At any rate there was no time to lose. They set sail again and negotiated the narrow channeI between and Meallagh Beacon and Calf !stand on their way towards the anchorage. With the conditions that prevailed and their ship probably damaged from her two days in the Atlantic, this part off the operation was dangerous, especially for a sailing vessel. Local tradition in the Rosses has it that when she was midway through this channel a dangerous reef known as The Blind Rocks broke over her washing most of her crew off her deck! There will be something further to say about this later on. Despite this set-back, Captain Crangle and Tom O’Donnell succeeded in bringing the “Nugent” to the anchorage in Arran Roads where they dropped anchor for the night. Had they be in a position to do so, they would have taken the ship probably to Rutland Harbour but the elements robbed them of any opportunity of doing so. There should have been sixteen men aboard her for the night- her master, Captain Crangle, her crew of fourteen and pilot Tom O’Donnell, but, as it will be shown later. most of these may have been drowned beforehand.
The Last Struggle
At nightfall with heavy seas running the “Andrew Nugent” seemed to have been riding the storm safely, but before dawn things were different. The wind changed from west to north during the night and both sea and wind combined, tore the ship from her moorings so that she drifted on the rocks. She was buffered southwards before the tide, wind and heavy seas and carried to her doom. She struck at Duck Island and her wrecked hull was carried farther southwards before the elements before finally settling on the beach west of Rutland. She became a total loss and everybody aboard perished. Her remains can still be seen there at low tide and only a few weeks ago the “Derry Journal” carried a report that part of the wreckage was washed up there. When found, the wreckage had fifteen fathoms of chain attached to it.
The “Andrew Nugent” was built in Portaferry, Co Down in 1826, and the “Belfast Newsletter” of the 31st January of that year tells of her launch there. She was built at Thomas Gelston’s yard and the account of her launch gives a description of her build, design, etc., and says the “ as a specimen of naval architecture few excel her.” There is a proverb in Irish which say: “Deireadh gach long baitheadh” and though its truth does not apply to modern ships, it certainly was true of the great majority of the old sailing ships. The Nugents were and still are Lords of the Manor in Portaferry and this, I take it, explains the ship’s name.
Her master. Captain Crangle, was a Co. Down man according to tradition in the Rosses, but it is obvious that his domicile prior to his death was Sligo. His body was washed up on the beach at Innishinna, a little island north of Innishfree in Dungloe Bay, his remains were left over-night in St. Peter’s, Dungloe, and later buried in Templecrone. The writer remembers hearing from an old man in the Rosses that “the church was lighted the night the remains were there” while the residents of the town or village as it was then, came in to say a prayer for the brave Captain’s soul.
The shores of the ‘Rosses were strewn with wreckage for weeks to come. Some, it was said, prospered by the calamity. There were an old ballad which ran:
“Many a drowsy merchant has built an awful shop.
For they have got fat from greasy pots.
All by the wreck the ‘Andrew Nugent:”
The authorities did their best to salvage the wreckage but times were hard in the Rosses at that time and those that found butter, etc., were loathe to hand it over to the Receiver of Wrecks. A lot of butter, etc., it is said was buried temporarily in bags to be dug up weeks later.
Ship Owner’s Report
The “Sligo Journal” of January, 1839, has this interesting account of the disaster:
“It is our painful duty to record the total wreck of the ‘Andrew Nugent; the well-known trader of Messrs. Scott and Patrickson, of Sligo, commanded by Captain Crangle, whose body has been washed ashore, and all on board perished. The ‘Andrew Nugent’ was wrecked at Rutland, on the coast of Donegal, and as soon as the distressing intelligence reached Sligo, John Scott, Esq., of the respectable firm of Scott and Patrickson, immediately proceeded to Rutland. The following is an extract of a letter written by that gentleman, dated, Rutland 15th January, 1839:
“I saw the spot on which the body of poor Crangle was found; he had on only his trousers, vest, shirt, and stockings, no shoes or jacket, but his cap on his head. He could not have been dead when the vessel was wrecked. He has been the most respectably interred in the graveyard of Templecrone by Priest Mac Devitt—the captains of the vessels here (Rutland), the coast-guard, etc., attending. It was impossible to procure a leaden coffin here, otherwise I would have had the remains conveyed to Sligo.”
“None of the crew has as yet been found. I have reason to believe that the vessel must have been run into at sea by some other vessel and disabled or she would not put back. Between the chains there is a piece of plank with canvas under it, nailed on, where she would appear to have been stoved in by a vessel running into her. I understand she did not appear to have had hands sufficient to work her when she came into the Sound, round Arranmore. It was about four o’clock in the evening with dark and heavy squalls. She appeared to have been taking the wrong course, and a light was put up in Arranmore. She then tacked—a boat went off and put a pilot aboard. with the greatest danger. This man was also lost. The men in the pilot boat say that they could not see more than two or three men on board the brig.”
“Shortly after she got into Arran Roads between Arranmore and Rutland Island, the anchor was let go and she appeared to be riding safely, but no boats from Rutland could approach her, the sea was so heavy. It became awfully dark, with heavy squalls, and during the night she must have dragged on the rocks, when all on board perished. In the morning she was found with her decks blown up, all the masts and rigging gone and the shores strewn with wreck.”
“Nine hundred and ninety-two casks of butter and about one hundred and eighty-two casks of provisions in a damaged state were saved. We are happy to learn that the owners of the “Andrew Nugent,” Messrs. Scott and Patrickson, are fully insured both for vessel and cargo.”
This letter makes no mention of the Blind Rock Reef breaking over the ship. It is possible that the damage he attributes to a collision with another ship or floating object at sets was caused by the ship damaging her under-structure somewhere in this locality. She may have been leaking after the anchor was dropped and that the canvas was then tacked on to staunch the leak.
Captain Crangle, it is said, was a very strong swimmer. It has been said that his brother (?) later visited the scene of the disaster and could not understand how the captain was drowned in such a short stretch of water as there is between where the ship foundered and where his body was found. The visitor (Mr Scott (?) was stated to have said that thought Captain Crangle could swim the whole length of Boylagh Bay. It would be hard for even the best swimmer in the world to have made shore from the “Andrew Nugent” in the place and at the time she was lost.
Tragic and Pathetic Story
The story of the “Andrew Nugent” is both tragic and pathetic. For twenty-four long hours, she battled with fearful odds against probably the worst storm of the century and then, having sought refuge and safety, she only met, tragedy and doom. Captain Crangle and his men must have come through a terrible ordeal off the Donegal coast the previous night. The fact that they survived it is, indeed, proof of their great courage and superb seamanship. They must have come through death on one of the worst coasts in Ireland. It is quite obvious that they had not passed Tory Island or Captain Crangle would have made for Lough Swilly. Instead, he turned back to Arran Roads where he met his doom.
First appeared in the Derry Journal in July 1955.
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AMONG the few physicians of the seventeenth century whose names have been preserved from the stream of oblivion, is Nial O’Glacan of Donegal. Forgotten to-day, in his time he was one of the most distinguished members of the medical profession in Spain, France, and Italy, where for many years he had a long and distinguished career. Born in Donegal in the latter half of the sixteenth century, it is probable that he received the rudiments of his medical education from one of the families of hereditary physicians which at that time were attached to the Irish chieftains.
In the province of Ulster the hereditary physicians of the O’Donnell family were the MacDuinntsleibhes (later MacDunleavy and Donlevy), and several of their names are mentioned in the annals of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. The family had originally resided in County Down, but were driven out by the Norman chieftain de Courcy. We owe to several members of this family some of the finest Irish medical manuscripts in existence. There is a manuscript in the British Museum (Harley 546) at the end of which is written: “Here ends Gualteru’s book of the doses of medicines.
Cormac MacDuinntsleibhe has put this summary into Irish for Dermot MacDonall O’Line, and to him and his sons may so profitable a commentary render good service. On the fourth day of the Kalends of April this lecture was finished at Cloyne in the year 1459.”
The assumption, then, that O’Glacan was trained by a member of this family, in his native county, may be regarded as probably correct.
The training largely consisted in learning the aphorisms and other works of Hippocrates and certain works of Galen. This fact was mentioned by Campion in his History written in 1571, and also by O’Glacan himself in the preface of his treatise on the Plague. Early in life he left Ireland, and settled in Spain as early as 1602. This latter fact is inferred from his statement that he treated the great Hugh O’Donnell, Lord of Tirconnell, with a special poultice for a “venereo bubo” in the royal palace of the King of Spain. It is known that Hugh O’Donnell died at Simancas on 10th September, 1602, after an illness of fourteen days. For many years he travelled about the cities of Spain. In 1621 he was at Salamanca, and in 1622 Valentia, where he remained for two years. In these latter years he was engaged in treating the plague in special hospitals, and was, no doubt, highly paid for his services. Bubonic plague at that time swept Europe with terrific force, invading Spain, France, England, and Italy. Thus in 1630, eighty thousand people perished in Milan, and over five hundred thousand in the Venetian Republic, while in 1665 London lost sixty-nine thousand of its inhabitants. “The physicians delegated to treat the plague wore a strange prophylactic garb, consisting of a long red or black gown of smooth material, often of Morocco or Cordovan leather, with leather gauntlets, leather masks having glass-covered openings for the eyes, and a long beak or snout, filed with antiseptics or fumigants, for the nose. In his hand the pest-doctor carried a wand to feel the pulse.” He was held in considerable estimation for his dangerous services.
In 1627 O’Glacan was in France, and in 1628 he was appointed physician to the Pest Hospital of Toulouse. In the following year he published the Tractatus de Peste, an interesting commentary on the treatment of plague.
Some years later he was appointed Professor of Medicine in the University of Toulouse and Physician to the King of France. In 1646 he proceeded to Bologna, where he became the leading Professor of Medicine in the University, and published a system of medicine, Cursus Medicus, Bononiae, 1655, two volumes. The date of his death is unknown, and no further details of his life are available. The system of medicine is an extensive quarto containing three parts in two volumes. The first part deals with Physiology, or a general prolegomena to medicine as taught in the early seventeenth century. This part numbers some 436 pages. The second part deals with Pathology, or the causes and general symptoms of disease. This part, containing the theories of the time, is not so interesting, and numbers 372 pages. The third and last part deals with clinical medicine, especially the signs of disease, on crises, the pulse and the urine, great stress being laid on the examination of the two latter (as vividly portrayed in some of the canvases of Jan Steen, Franz Van Mieris, and Gabriel Metsu). The third part is the most extensive, and contains 876 pages. It is probable that only a small edition of this large work was printed, as the only copy in the country is the one in the British Museum.
No other copies are to be found in the medical libraries of Great Britain. Much more interesting than the above work is O’Glacan’s little treatise on Plague, the Tractatus de Peste, Tolose, 1629. I have illustrated this article with a reproduction of the actual size of the title page from my own copy.’The volume is a small 12mo, containing16+ 258 pages, and is divided into twenty chapters, with an appendix. This little volume is even rarer than his major work; the only other copy of which I am aware is to be found in the British Museum. The interest of this work consists in the many personal observations scattered through the text, and incidentally the treatise shows a very extensive knowledge of the dread disease.
We do not expect to find correct ideas on the etiology of plague, but on all other points that were a matter of observation only, there is a wealth of valuable and interesting material, and even some three or four reports of post-mortem examinations. Although the symptomatology of plague is protean, still in a few concise and accurate phrases the symptom-complex of the disease is clearly presented. Thus in chapter three: “The signs of plague are numerous …at one time headache and sleeplessness is troublesome, at another time heavy sleep, thirst, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, or again hunger, livid colour of the skin, or yellow. A prominent facies, an anxious expression, sudden lassitude, weakness of the limbs, and pain in the joints. High and continued fever, delirium, depression of spirits, rashes on the skin, buboes, tumours, syncope, a sense and feeling of weakness, andl other signs which denote a great putridity of the humours.
Although humoral pathology is now replaced by bacteriology, the above description includes most of the leading symptoms of plague. In addition, wherever possible, there is a constant reference to the authority of Hippocrates and Galen, whose opinions are regarded as final. The fourth chapter deal with Prognosis, and states that “Plague, like other acute diseases, is of doubtful and dubious prognosis. The following signs were frequently observed by me, that stout and well-nourished patients with looseness of the bowels, vomiting, with or without a bubo, rarely happened to be restore(d to health.” There is a considerable number of personal observations scattered throughout the work.
The headings of the chapters are interesting, as those on Purgatives, Clisters, Remedies of the Author, Remedies for the Poor, Buboes, Morbillis (Skin Rashes), Headache, Coma, Vomiting, and the Fumigation of Houses and Garments.
Under Phlebotomy we learn that it is especially for the sanguineous, bilious, and other robust persons, for the depressed individual and nurses rarely, and never for pregnant women. Also that blood-letting is useful in high fever, but always with prudence. Purgatives and clisters are recommended in certain cases. The most valuable sideline in the treatise is the notes on three post-mortems in Chapter 8, and another in Chapter 15. In this last the petechial haemorrhages covering the surface of the lung are described, as also the great swelling of the spleen, and that it was four pounds in weight. These observations entitle O’Glacan to be claimed as an early pioneer in pathological anatomy, the father of Pathology being generally regarded as
Morgagni (1682-1771). Modern readers might be interested in one of O’Glacan’s prescriptions. It is as follows: R. Mithraditii et Confectionis de Hyacintho āā, one ounce; Rad. Tormentillae, 2 drachms; Boli Armeni et Coralli rubri prep. āā, 1 drachm; Diamargaritanis frigidi et Diatriasantali āā, 1 drachm. Sacchari Candi, 3 drachms. Conservae acetosae, 2 ounces. Camphorae, 20 grs. Syrupi de succo limonum, quod suffcit. Signa.-Make a mixture after the manner of an opiate, and take one drachm by itself, or with a convenient liquor, as often as necessary.
In an age of polypharmacy the above was an agreeable mixture, but there were sone others not so palatable, such as “unum vidimus uno aut altero suae vrinae haustu curatum.” There are many other points of interest in this little volume, but lack of space forbids me to mention them. Those interested in historical medicine will find plenty of original material for study in the lives of Irish physicians.
Written in 1935 by Samuel Simms, M.D., B.SC., D.P.H., M.R.C.P.