The Night of the Big Wind - St. Stephen's Day 2013

'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.

Views: 1610

Tags: Banshee, Boys, Connemara, Folklore, Galway, Hall, Hurricane, Living History, Mummers, Roof, More…Sam, St., Stephens, Storm, Traditional Music, Wren, cross, day, paddys

Comment by mary mc ginnis on December 27, 2013 at 8:14pm

How much can Ireland take? What with the downturn in the economy and hurricanes lashing the country. What is it they say, about making you stronger.

Comment by Marcie Kelly on December 27, 2013 at 9:01pm

Glad you are ok. I know hurricanes are scary, lived in Florida 30 years. They aren't fun. Take care and stay safe.

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on December 28, 2013 at 7:40am

Here's a video which was shot BEFORE the height of the storm hit in Galway City.  It actually got much worse than this about an hour or two later ...

Comment by Margaret M. Johnson on December 28, 2013 at 8:19am

Brian: Glad you survived. Must remind you of hurricanes on the Jersey Shore and Long Island. Happy New Year from Westhampton Beach.

Comment by James McNamara on January 1, 2014 at 12:06pm

On that day in 1839 the world seemed to be an end (Armageddon) as the corpses floated out of the graves and down the flooded streets and some thought they were risen.  One well to do gentleman's pasture completed flew away and fell onto a poor man's farm who refused to let it be retrieved under act of God thinking.  This classic (Night of the Big Wind) is considered Ireland's Gone With the Wind.  I read about half and promptly gave the book away.  The first part of this book really held my interest to read about how areas near my ancestors in East Clare fared.  But in the end the book was an intimate look at society and social events. 

Comment by Brian Nolan on January 6, 2014 at 1:30pm

We have had 3 mors sever storms since the big storm on the 27th of December, ironically tonight, the 6th into the 7th of January is the exact 175th anniversary of 'Oiche na Gaoithe Moire', which storm struck on the evning of the Epiphany, or Little Christmas in 1839. The storm tonight is bad enough, but the winds will probably peak at 120 kilometers per hour or about 75mph. The storm 3 nights ago was the big one, which devastated beach fronts and causeways all around Ireland but especially in Galway, Spideal, Roundstone, Barna and Inisboffin. In County Clare one of our most iconic beaches, Lahinch, has all but lost its sea defences. Flooding on a scale never experienced before has destroyed business and houses the length of the coast. Thankfully there has been no direct loss of life, despite the high winds and tides. My roof, however hastily repaired on the 28th December, has survived unscathed since. Hopefully the weather will return to wild winter normality after tonight. Thanks for all your comments and concern. Brian


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