Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Big Wind

My ancestor, Catherine Markey, told her granddaughter, Rita Brady, that she was one year old in the year of the Big Wind. I have learned that the Big Wind was a hurricane which struck Ireland on the evening of 6 January 1839. Catherine also told her granddaughter that she was from "County Meath near the River Boyne, 5 miles from the sea." According to A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Nicolas Carlisle (originally published in 1810, republished by Heritage books on cd-rom in 2001)this location is St. Mary's Parish in Drogheda.

Here is a description of what the residents of Drogheda experienced on the night of the Big Wind:

"As the hurricane hit Drogheda, many families fled in mortal terror for their lives as the wind thundered through their shaking homes. The nightmare atmosphere was further raised as slates and chimney pots crashed down into the streets in the darkness. Frightened horses bolted wildly about adding to the general terror and confusion. Some families made their way to the safety of the Tholsel and the Watch House. Others quit the town to spend the night huddled together in the freezing rain, under the hedgerows of the open fields.

As daylight broke on Monday morning the streets of the town were seen to be blocked with debris of every type and description. Very few houses had escaped the night undamaged. But the greatest loss and suffering was felt amongst the poor of the town. A large number of their cabins were demolished, two or three were burned to the ground, and the remainder were stripped of their thatch roofing.

Remarkably in all this destruction, not one single life was lost, nor were any serious injuries reported in the vicinity of Drogheda." -quoted from the Journal of the Old Drogheda Society, 1990 no. 7.