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The Big Wind

The Big Wind

The night of Sunday the sixth of January was a night of madness. Ireland was hit by what was perhaps the most cataclysmic storm to strike the country in six hundred years. It killed, maimed and ruined, "threatning to sweep every obstacle before it from the centre of the earth".

The Sunday morning began normal enough. When the sun rose around 8-30am much of the countryside was white from the previous evenings heavy fall of snow. The children would have been excited, not just because of the snow, but because it was Little Christmas, Nollaig na mBan, Womans Christmas, Old Christmas Day.

This was the day that had been Christmas day before the introduction of the Georgian Calendar, after which it commuted into a day of treats, (if the budget allowed) good food and celebration


Around 9-00pm a light westerly breeze sprang up and over the next 1-1/2 hour it rose to a high gale which increased in fury until around midnight it had became a raging Storm, with torrential rain, which continued until well after 5-00am.

Roofs suffered particurally badly all over Ireland, and once the roof had gone the houses contents were fair game. People tried to secure their homes, the windows were blocked, sacks of corn were piled against the doors. It was vital that these were kept in place, for they were the first and only line of defence, and if either went the roof could follow.

In many cases fires were set, as usual, for the night (by being smothered in enough ash to see them through till morning) so when the houses were opened these dorment mounds became little volcanoes. These airborne cinders rained down on the houses, setting fire to the thatched roofs. In many cases having the roof blown clean away was a blessing, as it could save the house from fire. Even slated roofs didnt escape the force of the storm, and were plucked clean like a christmas turky. The "Northern Whig" on the 10th January reported that in Carrickfergus a sheeted lead roof was "rolled up like an ancient scroll". And if the storm was not enough, the temprature rise of the early evening produced a sudden thaw which brought sudden flash floods.

The storm approached Drumlamph from the Knockloughrim direction (West) and was at its height around 4-00am.

To date I have no reports of what damage was caused in Drumlamph itself, but it is very unlikely that the townland escaped.

In Ballymena Six men were crushed to death when a factory chimney fell on them.
The far-famed Mausoleum at Downhill, Co Antrim was totally distroyed.
No houses in Draperstown survived without damage
The Monolith in Castledawson (Station Road) was blown down.

Ulster, the west and midlands appeared to have born the brunt of the storm which in spite of the elaborate weather lore of the country, no-one had managed to predict it and it had taken everyone completely by surprise.

Other severe storms struck Ireland in 856, 988, 15/1/1362 (St Marys Wind) 1548, 1796, 1839, 1903. (the 1548 & 1903 storms seemed to be in the same league as the 1839 storm)


This document maintained by George McIntyre.
Material Copyright 2001 George McIntyre, Northern Ireland.