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The Night of the Big Wind 1839


TommyO'Brien

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The bizarre weather Ireland has experienced this year (the most severe flooding in half a century, a cold snap that is running on and on with no end in sight) reminds me of one of the most notorious weather experiences in Irish history, what has been called "the Night of the Big Wind" on 6th January 1839.

The Dublin Evening Post described its arrival with the following: “about half past ten it rose into a high gale, which continued to increase in fury until after midnight, when it blew a most fearful and destructive tempest”. The experience in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath was described with the words "“there was at first a rumbling noise, like thunder, heard, which was followed by a rushing blast of wind, which swept across the town like a tornado, and shook the houses so much that the glass and delft were thrown from the shelves. Those who were in bed hastily jumped up and dressed them selves. Many ran out of their houses into the fields and gardens, and in several instances where the inmates fled, the houses were soon after levelled to the ground.”

In Dublin, crowds flocked to the old Parliament House in College Green to hide under the portico, believing it one of the few places strong enough to withstand the storm.

Along with the wind there were fears in Dublin that the city would be engulfed in fire like the Great Fire in London, as chimneys collapsed and buildings caughy fire. In most townlands in Ireland there were infernos as thatched roofs were swept off and caught fire in the hearths below. People of all classes where killed, and houses belonging to all classes damaged or destroyed.

The Dublin Evening Post ultimately summed up the night of the big wind with the following:

“Every field, every town, every village in Ireland, have felt its dire effects. The damage, which it has done, is almost beyond calculation. Several hundreds of thousands of trees have been levelled to the ground. More than half a century must elapse, before Ireland, in this regard, presents the appearance she did last summer. The loss of farming stock, of all kinds, has been terrible; many hundreds of cattle have had to be killed. Many of the most thrifty and industrious husband-men, whose haggards were filled with unthreashed corn on Sunday night, found themselves without a sheaf of grain in the morning The poor, of course, as being the most numerous, have been the greatest sufferers. Tens of thousands of their wretched cabins have been swept away or unroofed, and many have become a prey to the flames. Trees, ten to twelve miles from the sea, were covered with salt brine. Such was the fury of the storm, that, had it lasted six hours longer, it is not the house that would have been prostrated, but whole streets and towns levelled.”

Do any people on here know any local accounts of what happened in their area, through folklore, written accounts etc?
 


Cassandra Syndrome

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Yeah, during the 1830s there was a dramatic increase in manmade production of Carbon emissions. Everyone was driving a SUV, the extreme weather surely had to be caused by that. The tree hugging environmental human hating interfering dogmatic toss pots must have loved the depopulation that happened the following decade.
 

reknaw

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Yeah, during the 1830s there was a dramatic increase in manmade production of Carbon emissions. Everyone was driving a SUV, the extreme weather surely had to be caused by that. The tree hugging environmental human hating interfering dogmatic toss pots must have loved the depopulation that happened the following decade.
A rather typical cheap shot by one of those who deny the evidence that scientists are presenting in increasing volumes.:rolleyes:

That powerful storm was of a violence that was witnessed less than once a century, which is why it has left such an indelible mark on the folk memory. What responsible scientists are trying to tell us is that global warming and a higher carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (= heavier air masses) are likely to make storms of that magnitude occur much more frequently in the future. Whether global warming is due to natural cycles or anthropogenic actions or a combination of both is still open to debate, but simply denying that we must stop pumping such vast quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is just plain daft, no less stupid than denying evolution.:rolleyes:

On the subject of the Big Wind of 1839, I'd recommend the novel of that name by Beatrice Coogan (mother of Tim Pat). It is a work of fiction about a Tipperary family, but begins with the destruction that the storm wrought.;)
 

Mitsui2

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I know there's a novel about it called (naturally enough) The Big WInd. It's by Beatrice Coogan, who was - I think I remember reading somewhere - Tim Pat Coogan's mum.

edit - whoops! Beaten to the draw by reknaw!
 

Iarmhi Gael

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I was down home in Mullingar for Christmas....

People swim in Lough Owel on Christmas day for Charity. I was saying to my Mum that I doubt it would happen this year with the weather. She was born on the shores of Lough Owel and assured me that the annual swim has happened every year since she was born. She then went on to claim the present cold snap was nothing like the weather in her day. Back then Lough Owel would completely freeze over and locals would think nothing of driving on the ice and picnicing on one of the many islands on the lough....

I have seen a photo to prove this as well
 

gatsbygirl20

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Thank you Tommy for your interesting post. The Night of the Big Wind was spoken of when I was a child, My grandfather who lived to be 90 remembers his father speaking of it. The story always involved "a sound like thunder, a roar in the heavens". The Famine, on the other hand was erased from the national memory----at least when I was a child. It was rarely spoken of. My old grandfather would dismiss all mention of the Famine with "Oh, there was not much of that round our area" (Historically untrue as the record showed). It was as if the Big Wind became an acceptable substitute----something bad that had happened, but where most people had survived, therefore it was safe to speak of it.

It had an effect on the house-building of the poor cabin-dwelling people. My grandfather told me that the poor people in the West all rebuilt their houses into the side of a hill, facing away from the direction that the wind had come from. Hence the typical picture of a thatched cottage half-hidden under a hill.

A question you would hear old men ask each other "Did your father's father remember the Big Wind?" I was too young then to ask what later I saw was the obvious question: "If he remembered that, he must have lived through the Great Famine. Why does nobody ever mention it?"
 

Andrew49

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There is an urban/folk legend about this event - that all the fairies left Ireland during the Big Wind - never to return!
 

Andrew49

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The superstitious, which numbered among its ranks the vast majority of the peasantry, were quick to attribute the storm to the fairies. Traditionally the 5th of January was the feast of St. Ceara, when, it was believed, the fairies held a night of revelry. The fairies, they thought, caused such ructions that the storm resulted. Others believed that on that night all but a few of the fairies of Ireland left the country never to return and that the wind was caused by their departure.
The devout, noting that the storm occurred on the night of 6th of January - the Christian feast of Epiphany, the day Christ made his being known to the world - saw it as of Divine origin. All the more so since many Roman Catholics in Ireland believed that the 7th of January would be the Day of Judgement. The wrath of God was a favourite reason cited by newspaper correspondents of the day of all persuasions. For many, the Night of the Big Wind caused them to re-think their lives as it re-awakened their belief in the existence of God.


Mayo Alive
 

cry freedom

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I remember hearing that when the old age pension was being introduced in Ireland the powers that be had a hard time working out if applicants were age eligible or not.
A high rate if illiteracy and lack of records hampered the process. One scribe would pass them eligible it they could convince him that they were born before The Big Wind.

I think "Ireland's Own" and the "Divine Word" has published articles on this in the past, not that I would read such magazines you understand
 

Catalpa

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A more topical one tonight might be:

Arctic Ireland: The Extraordinary story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41



Modern Ireland has experienced not one but two Great Famines. One of these, that of 1845-51, needs no introduction. Its place in history is secure.

The other, that of 1740-41, was more intense, more bizarre and proportionately more deadly, yet its existence has been all but forgotten. Arctic Ireland lifts the veil on this older, more enigmatic famine, and attempts to restore it to its rightful place in our historical self-understanding.
On the last day of 1739, Ireland awoke to find itself in the grip of a mini Ice Age.
Rivers froze, mills seized up, and houses could not be heated above freezing point. Some people were enchanted by the novelty of it all. Carnivals, dances and sheep-roastings were held on the ice.
But the euphoria proved fleeting. In its wake came an almost biblical ordeal by drought, flood, fire, famine and plague, that has few parallels in the recorded history of the island.


Interesting read it is too.

I hope History isn't about to repeat itself!:eek:
 

reknaw

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There is an urban/folk legend about this event - that all the fairies left Ireland during the Big Wind - never to return!
I'm sure that's not true, Andrew. Just check out the George in South Great George's street.:):):)

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VD2xqYv1nF4"]YouTube- Nobody Loves A Fairy When She's Forty[/ame]
 

turdsl

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There is a book about it, I have it somewhere,but can give no information on it, it describes the destruction of a lot of towns across the country, I may have got it through the Internet.When the old age pension came in 1908, records had been poor in places,when they applied at that time they were then asked if they had been born before the night of the big wind, if you had you got the pension.
 
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Brenny

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Limerick city was wrecked by the big wind, houses flattened and ships battered against bridges. The big wind bears all the appearance of being a hurricane, something that's not really supposed to happen here.

Here's a link to an article in the Old Limerick Chronicle about the wind in Limerick city.
http://www.limerick.ie/media/Media,4130,en.pdf
 

Skinthegoat

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Limerick city was wrecked by the big wind, houses flattened and ships battered against bridges.
The church here in Cappagh, County Limerick was blown to smithereens. The roof flew off into the air and was never to be seen again!
 

turdsl

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I have, "The night of the Big Wind", by Peter Carr. It gives a a fair account of most towns in the country that night, It was published by the White Row Press,
 

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