'Oiche na Gaoithe Moire' - The night of the big wind! That phrase usually refers to one of the most devastating hurricanes that ever hit Ireland, which made land during the night of Little Christmas, on the 6th of January 1839, almost 174 years ago, just before the outbreak of the potato blight that precipated the Great Famine. That unexpected hurricane left many thousands of families, both rich and poor, but mostly poor, homeless. Every second house in ireland suffered damage that night. Entire thatch roofs were whipped off cottages and deposited miles away by the terrifying winds. Whole forests were knocked and hundreds lost their lives, on land and at sea, but especially on the west coast.
Last night's storm in Ireland was not quite as bad as the hurricane of 1839, but nonetheless it was a very dangerous and destructive storm. This morning over 75,000 houses are without electrical power and many houses are damaged, not the least my own. The storm pushed the already high Atlantic tides in over coastal defences and flooded many seaside towns and cities. River levels are at crisis levels in many areas with flooding likely in the coming days. Many traditional Wren Boys or Mummers parades were disrupted and few musicians braved the country roads last night when the storm was at its fiercest.
'Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb' - The day of the wind is not the day for fixing the thatch - An old Irish proverb.(A 'scolb' is the bent willow twig that,much like a hair-clip, is pushed through each stook of straw or reed thatch, thus affixing the each layer of thatch onto the roof. Scolb, think early roof nails). The song 'My roof's got a hole in it and I might drown' by The Brothers Four, comes to mind. 'There was a crooked man...etc. Fun song, should get more air play, not just in my head.
During last night's storm that lasted over 18 hours, with heavy rain and winds that often gusted to 120 mph, my whole house shook, and the roof rattled alarmingly while the Banshee breeze whipped round the house, from every direction it seemed. What a clatter the roof-tiles made, all night. The entire roof was alive, as every tile whipped up and fluttered every few minutes, much like a deck of cards in the wind, making a sound like the waves receding on a rocky beach, clack-clack-clack as they fell back into place after each howling squall, until inevitably, two of the tiles in one row didn't re-sit and were wrenched out of the roof including their retaining nails at about 1am. Luckily they were held up on the roof by the eaves-chute and didn't break on the ground.
This morning the wind is still gusting 50 mph out there,and lashing horizontal rain, so not a lot I can do about the improvised ventilation my house was treated to last night. Another song, oft sung late at night, is rattling round my head, like a crisp bag circling a wind-swept school-yard. 'Up The ladder I must go' ... 'Sam Hall'. Ah, gallows humour ... nothing like it.
More coffee I reckon ... time enough for rock- sorry, roof-climbing later on. Life on the hill at Paddy's Cross, in Connemara, County Galway, is never dull. Merry Christmas.