The past few weeks have been a challenging time. The wind, the rain, the hurricane.... Many friends and family have had their lives changed forever due to the storm.
During the aftermath of the storm I was home reading by a wood fire in our cold home and I came across a true story about a hurricane that ravaged Ireland in 1839. Although it might not bring solace to those that have been affected it may bring understanding of how storms can be powerful memories never to be forgotten.
On the evening of Saturday 5th January 1839 heavy snow fell throughout Ireland. The morning was completely calm and the sky was covered by heavy clouds. As the morning progressed the temperature rose higher than normal. The snow quickly melted. Unknown to all a deep depression was forming in the north Atlantic. As the warm front gradually moved eastwards, and rose in the atmosphere, it was replaced by a cold front which brought with it high winds and heavy rain.
The rain started before noon and spread very slowly eastwards. In the west the late afternoon turned chilly while the east of the country still enjoyed the high temperatures. At dusk, wind speeds increased, temperatures dropped and alternate showers of rain and hail began to fall. By nine o'clock at night the wind had reached gale force and continued to increase. By midnight it had reached hurricane force with winds as high as 115 mph.
An eyewitness stated "“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."
The Dublin Evening Post stated "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."
Newspaper reports claimed that more than 300 people were killed in the wind storm. Many thousands were made homeless, and the economic devastation inflicted on a population that was already impoverished must have been massive. Stores of food meant to last through the winter were destroyed and scattered. Livestock and sheep were killed in vast numbers. There were no assistance programs during this time so misfortune was pure in it's essence.
The storm affected Ireland so much it was used as a tipping point in time. People would say that happened after the Big Wind or he was born before the Big Wind. This was a time before predicting weather and the people were so taken aback they blamed the storm on spirits and fairies. Irish folklore held the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) as Judgement day therefore many rural Irish saw this storm as the end of the world.
Unfortunatley the Big Wind was not the watershed moment for the Irish. Only 6 years later they would face An Gorta Mor or the Great Famine which would kill over a million people and send millions more running to all ends of the earth for survival.
In pre-famine Ireland, the Gaelic Irish traditions were still strong. The displaced families would be brought in to live with neighbors, friends and families. They would be fed, covered and filled with drink and cheer. Their new cottages would be builit by these same people. Until the famine there was not anything these people could not deal with in their own way. It's a great feeling seeing so many in our area that are doing the exact same thing, taking in neighbor, friend and family to begin again.
Claddagh Na nGael is an Irish cultural group based on the Jersey Shore promoting Irish culture. Most of us are your neighbors and friends and we would like to put our two cents in to try and make Christmas a little better for some of you that could use a helping hand.
Irish Christmas for Sandy Victims - Irish Music Session and Social
Sunday, Dec 16th 1-5pm
Molly Maguires Blackpoint Inn
132 East River Road Rumson, NJ 07760
Please come, bring a toy or cash donation? OR.. if you arent in a position to do that come
and enjoy the music.