On the morning of Thursday, 4th September 1828, twenty people travelling from the village of Annaghdown to Galway city on the rickety old Lough Corrib ferry boat Caisleán Nua were drowned. The boat was overloaded with too many passengers trying to get to Galway Fair, and the additional freight of timber and ten sheep did not help matters. In fact, it was one of the sheep that initiated this sailing disaster.
The Connaught Journal newspaper of September 4 published this harrowing account of events in the evening edition:
An old row-boat in a rotten and leaky condition, started from Annaghdown early in the morning, a distance from Galway up Lough Corrib of about eight miles, having, it is calculated, about 31 persons on board, who were coming to the fair of Galway; the boat and passengers proceeded without obstruction until they arrived opposite Bushy Park within two miles of Galway, when she suddenly went down and all on board perished except about 12 persons who were fortunately rescued from their perilous situation by another boat. Eighteen of the bodies of these unhappy creatures were taken out of the lake in the course of the day and presented a most heart-rending scene, being surrounded by their friends who came to identify them, and by whom they were removed in a boat to Annaghdown.
The boat was in such an unsound state as to render her unfit for the passage. The unfortunate accident happened by a sheep putting its leg through one of the planks, which produced a leak, in order to stop which one of the passengers applied his great coat to the aperture and stamped it with his foot. In doing so he started one of the planks altogether, which caused the boat’s immediate sinking, having been overloaded; ten sheep, a quantity of lumber, and about 31 persons being on board.
Eighteen of the bodies have been found; 12 have escaped, and one is missing. Major Dickson and a party of the 64th Regiment attended and rendered every humane assistance in their power. An inquest was held on the bodies by John Blakeney Esq., Coroner, at which James O’Hara, Esq., M.P., and J. H. Burke, Esq., Mayor, attended, and the jury returned a verdict of “accidental drowning”.
The following are the names of the persons drowned and taken out of the lake: Bridget Farragher, Mary Costello, Judith Ryan, Bridget Hynes, Mary Newell, Winifred Jourdan, Mary Flynn, Bridget Curley, Catherine Mulloy, Mary Carr, Michael Farragher, Michael Cahill, John Cosgrove, John Concannon, Thomas Burke, Patrick Forde, John Forde and Timothy Goaley.
P.S. two more drowned bodies were later discovered these being Thomas Cahill and Mary Ruane, making a total of 20. John Cosgrove, a local man, saved two women, but was also drowned in trying to save a third victim of the tragedy.
Annaghdown Pier memorial
The following poem was composed by the renowned travelling blind Irish poet, Antoine Ó Raifteiri, as a lament to the twenty people drowned at Menlo, Galway, on that fateful day in 1828.
Original Irish version of “Eanach Dhúin” [Annaghdown]:
Má fhaighimse sláinte is fada bheidh trácht
- Ar an méid a bádh as Eanach Dhúin.
- ‘S mo thrua ‘márach gach athair ‘s máthair
- Bean is páiste ‘tá á sileadh súl!
- A Rí na nGrást a cheap neamh is párthas,
- Nar bheag an tábhacht dúinn beirt no triúr,
- Ach lá chomh breá leis gan gaoth ná báisteach
- Lán a bháid acu scuab ar shiúl.
Nár mhór an t-íonadh ós comhair na ndaoine
- Á bhfeicáil sínte ar chúl a gcinn,
- Screadadh ‘gus caoineadh a scanródh daoine,
- Gruaig á cíoradh ‘s an chreach á roinnt.
- Bhí buachaillí óg ann tíocht an fhómhair,
- Á síneadh chrochar, is a dtabhairt go cill.
- ‘S gurb é gléas a bpósta a bhí dá dtoramh
- ‘S a Rí na Glóire nár mhór an feall.
- English language translation:
- If my health is spared I’ll be long relating
- Of that boat that sailed out of Anach Cuain.
- And the keening after of mother and father
- And child by the harbour, the mournful croon!
- King of Graces, who died to save us,
- T’were a small affair but for one or two,
- But a boat-load bravely in calm day sailing
- Without storm or rain to be swept to doom.
What wild despair was on all the faces
- To see them there in the light of day,
- In every place there was lamentation,
- And tearing of hair as the wreck was shared.
- And boys there lying when crops were ripening,
- From the strength of life they were borne to clay
- In their wedding clothes for their wake they robed them
- O King of Glory, man’s hope is in vain.