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NIGHT OF THE BIG WIND IN THE ROSSES

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. 

Previous Storms

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. 

Captain Crangle

 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. 

By Carraig-an-Ime

First appeared in the Derry Journal in July 1955.

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The “Salacia” A Century Ago Happening in the Rosses

First appeared in Derry Journal 16th October 1953 

Judged from the viewpoints, the 19th century wasn’t indeed the greatest of centuries; but of course, for those of us who enjoyed its twilight and grew up in the dawn of the century to follow, it naturally has an appeal and fascination of its own. Some of its characters we know intimately; others we heard so much about, as to regard them as near acquaintances. For our forebears in Ireland, the 19th century was of course, the century of the “Famine,” the age of despotic landlordism, etc; but for all that it was too, the century of Emancipation in name and in reality.

Across the water in Britain truly great after the Napoleonic collapse, the last century was hailed as the Scientific Age, but Catholic Ireland had but little interest in the world of Lodge, Stephenson, etc; for them it was the era of school-building and church-building. Not a few of the churches and schools of rural Ireland date back to the post-Emancipation period and little wonder that to-day, a century later, most of them call out for replacement and renovation.

In the course of this article it is intended to treat of a rather obscure happening which took place in the remote Rosses of 1854. Even to-day, the Rosses is sometimes referred to as “the back country” by the people of East Donegal, and if the term is justified even to-day, how much more apt was it 99 years ago!

I would say that rather few of the shore-dwellers of the Rosses at that time saw beyond the natural confines of sea and mountain which seems to hedge them in. 1854 was the year of the Crimean War but I’d think that the Rosses folk at the time were more interested in their own struggle for mere existence than, say in Britain’s victories around Sevastopol. 1854, too, was a memorable tear in the Catholic world, being the year of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and of the founding of Newman’s University in Dublin; but education was only beginning in West Donegal then, and I doubt if the great Cardinal had many admirers in the Rosses!

PADAÍ MAIGHISTIR

Amongst the few schools in existence in the parish at that time was a humble thatched building that passed for a school in the townland of Keadue. Built by An Sag-Rua, Rev. James MacDevitte P.P. (1835-1848) this crude educational structure wasn’t a lot to look at but the educational value of such places shouldn’t be judged by their outward appearance or by the amount of glass in their windows. The teacher at Keadue at the time was Paddy Ward and the fact that his name is still revered in these parts assures us that not all the good he commanded was interred with his bones, which lie buried in Kincasslagh cemetery, with a simple granite monument bearing the inscription “Padaí Maighistir” to mark his final resting-place.

Mrs Mary Ward (John the Master) Keadue with Brian Ward
Mary Ward (John the Master) Keadue, a relation of Padaí Maighstir with baby Brian Ward              Photo: Deirdre Silbourne

 

On the 29th of November, 1854, the schoolchildren of Keadue had an unexpected holiday. There was no compulsory education those days but, nevertheless, learning was always prized in the Rosses and the children attended school well during the winter months when there was no work to be done at home. As I have said, the comforts of the Keadue Old School were indeed few, and yet it is said that a Bishop once attended it-viz., Most Rev. Dr. James MacDevitte, nephew of the Parish Priest, mentioned above, who became Bishop of Raphoe during the year 1871-1879. It is said that as a boy, the future bishop stayed for a while with his uncle at Mín –Chonchubhair- Duibh in Keadue and attended school there.

bishop mcdevitt
copyright ‘The Raphoe Diocese, a brief History’ by Fr John J. Silke, 2000 http://www.raphoediocese.ie/bishop/previous-bishops/79-bishop-james-mcdevitt

On 29th November, 1854, the fury of the elements rendered school impossible. Everywhere men could be seen moving about with bundles of sugáns trying to secure their thatched cottages. The Gaeltacht and CDB housing grants were then undreamt of and that time very few slated houses at the time around the coast.

COMING OF “SALACIA”

At mid-day, when the men of the Rosses had got the situation in hand a ship appeared on the scene which gave them something to talk about for generations to come! She was the “Salacia” and a rock and a strand in the Rosses bear her name to this day. “the Year of the Salacia” (1854) was a milestone or social landmark in the Rosses for many a day and seventy years afterwards Pension Officers were tired of the story; “I have no birth certificate but I was –years when the “Salacia” came to Keadue!”

A sailing ship was no unusual sight in Rosses waters those days, particularly as the sands of destruction hadn’t yet swallowed up the glory of Rutland and Rutland Harbour; but when it was seen that this strange ship was taking the unusual course through the rock-strewn waters of Keadue, men, women and children crowded the hilltops!

One man in Cruit thinking it impossible for the “Salacia” to reach Keadue Strand without being smashed to pieces, bekoning to the captain to steer for a relatively safe cove along West Cruit; but as the man in question used a red handkerchief for signalling, the captain of the “Salacia” interpreted his signals to mean danger and kept the ship off the shore. Miraculously enough, the “Salacia” managed to escape all the shoals and breakers of Keadue Bar but struck the last remaining obstacle on the way, i.e, the Salacia Rock a few yards off the shore! The Master of the “Salacia” did almost the impossible; he steered his ship through waters where a local pilot would in nine chances out of ten, have failed!

Keadue Bar is one of those places of which the “Irish Pilot” advises mariners that it would be futile to steer on a chartered course and that entry is by no means to be attempted without somebody aboard having a local knowledge of the dangerous shoals. How the master of the “Salacia” got so far is still a mystery because with heavy seas running a gale of wind, Keadue Bar breaks right across so that no channel is discernible. It has been said that he followed the movement of Cormorants, a sea-fowl which, it is believed always keeps out on deep water. “The Salacia” despite the great seamanship of her master, Captain Forrest, was left “high and dry” on the Salacia Rock beside Oilean-Carragh not knowing what moment the terrible sea would swallow her up.

holyhead_wreck_1
a similar wreck copyright http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?4800

KEADUE PEOPLE TO RESCUE

The good people of Keadue in that age of illiteracy and poverty rallied to the rescue and fortunately all the crew were saved. The Coast-guards at Innishcoo were quickly on the scene, but for reasons best known to himself, it is said that Captain Forrest refused them permission to board the ill-fated vessel. It is thought that his refusal under threat to shoot, resided in the fact that he had some unacustomed goods  aboard-whiskey and tobacco presumably-which he distributed among the local residents when nightfall came.

The “Salacia” bound from Quebec to Glasgow with a cargo of timber, was still in danger of breaking up and it was decided to salvage the cargo first in order to refloat the ship. The man entrusted with the task of salvaging the cargo and ship by the Collector of Customs and Excise at Derry, was a certain Capt. Coppins, of Derry, who had been engaged on similar jobs all around the coast of Donegal about 100 years ago. Indeed, the name Coppins is still remembered in the Rosses to such an extent that some people think that Captain Coppins and not Captain Forrest was the ship’s master. The master and the crew of the “Salacia” were taken to Burtonport by the Coastguard where they were fitted out with clothes in the premises of Mr. Keon to enable them leave the Rosses.

CAPTAIN COPPINS

Capt. Coppins maust have spent some weeks salvaging the cargo of the “Salacia” before towing away the damaged vessel by means of a paddle tug to Derry. While in the Rosses, Capt. Coppins stayed with Charles O’Donnell of Lower Keadue, one of the leading men in the parish in his day. One night in a shebeen in the Rosses, Captain Coppins met a local resident who came to the premises in order to get a drop of spirits to celebrate the birth of his newly-born child. The child’s name was Nancy and the fact that Capt. Coppins attending the christening party explains why she was afterwards called “Nancy Coppins” by the people of the neighbourhood. A native of Glenahilt, her proper name was Nancy Bonner. She has been called to her reward many years ago.

ST MARY’S, KINCASSLAGH

The “Salacia” timber was taken to Innishcoo Island as Rutland Harbour was then the headquarters of Coastguard and Customs in the Rosses.

iniscoo
Innishcoo Island on the right from The Lawrence Collection copyright National Library of Ireland

It was later anchored by the Customs Officer at Innishcoo and the principal buyer was the parish priest, Father Dan O’Donnell, who wanted the timber in order to build a new church at Kincasslagh. It is said the Father Dan got the timber rather cheaply as the only opposition received came from a local Protestant resident who bid at the sale in order to ensure that the timber wasn’t sold to cheaply, from the Customs point of view. This timber was put to various uses in the construction[sic]. The pine beams and pillars used for the gallery of the church were always said to have come from the “Salacia.”

salacia sale 1854
copyright The Glasgow Herald – Dec 22, 1854 pp.8

St Mary’s Church, , Kincasslagh, which was opened in 1856 and accidentally destroyed by fire is the subject of a fine article in Irish by the late Niall Mac Suibhne, O.S., Meenamara, in the “Irish Press” of December 1932 or 1933.

chapel 1927
St Mary’s Church, Kincasslagh pre 1900

Years ago Lloyds of London were asked to give the date of the “Salacia” shipwreck by people from the Rosses who were born around 1854 and who wanted the exact date in order to appy for the Old-Age Pension; but Lloyds weren’t in a position to supply that information. N.B. The “Salacia” had always been called or pronounced “Silecia” in the Rosses and again Lloyds demand that at least the year and the name of the shipwreck be given before they cause a search to be made in their records. The following reference to the “Salacia” is to be found in “The Derry Journal” files dated 6th Dec.,1854. “On the 29th November, the barque “Salacia,” Captain Forrest bound for Glasgow from Quebec, laden with timber, was wrecked in the Rosses on the North-west coast of Donegal, in a heavy gale of wind. The crew were all saved. The vessel, it is feared, will become a total wreck.”

HEARD ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME

For days afterwards, the Keadue school-children watched Captain Coppins and his men at their task of salvaging and heard the then official language of the school (English) spoken for the first time in their young lives by those strangers to the locality! The Rosses, it will be remembered, was 95% Gaelic-speaking in 1854, but I doubt if it would be even 10% Gaelic-speaking in 1954! I only make that remark casually, as it were, but, nevertheless, there is much food for thought in these regrettable facts. 1854, or rather 1847, to be more precise, marked the high-water mark of the Gaeltacht and when or where may we ask will the low-water mark be fixed?  The terms high-water or low-water levels as applied to the Irish language are indeed ill-becoming as they presuppose flow to follow the ebb. Will that flow ever come?  Time wil tell, and 2054 should have the answer although we won’t be alive to see it!

Leaving this digression of thought let us return to the “Salacia” and the fun of the school-children in a remote country without a bus, car, train, radio or newspaper! The present writer remembers first hearing about the “Salacia” from an old woman who watched Capt. Coppins and his band of workers salvaging the timber from the stricken ship. This old lady told how, as a girl of 12, she sat on Oilean-Carrach watching the operation and especially the killing of huge rats from the beached vessel as they attempted to escape! The sailors, she told me, clubbed these rats, and one sailor at least seemed to derive satisfaction from hanging up bunches of dead rats on nearby spars. Some of those rats escaped but whether or not naturalists can trace Canadian rats in Keadue still I cannot say!

 

I stair tíre is beag le rá é 100 bhlain ach i sceál parráirte dé, teitear dúinn é bheith na tréimhse fada go loer. Tá trí gluíne daoine imithe uainn ó bhí aimsir an tSalacia ann. Tá said na luí i “n-Acra Maire” agus reiligeacha eile na Rosanna ag fanacht leis an scairt chun Eiseirghe agus guidhimid eiseirghe ghlormhar go raibh aca uilig. Go dtugaidh an Bainrion A Tógagh Ar Neamh céim ard daofa uile go le measc Noamh na Fódhla

No author given, but it is thought to be the work of the late Pádraig Ua Cnáimhsí.

 

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