Eagarthóir/Editor: Seán Ó Cnáimhsí, An Priomh Shráíd, An Clochán Liath, Condae Dhun na nGall.
2nd March 2021
The following is a tragic story about the drowning of five men. Rosie Dillon who is from Ballintra, Arranmore told the story well, produced ‘as Gaeilge’, in the 1970s in Nuachtán Ára Mhór. The said Nuachtán was a newsletter produced by the Island Cooperative Comharchumann Oilean Árainn Mhór where Rosie worked. She played a large part in the production of the Nuachtán as in everything else in a small organisation. I have reproduced in full what she wrote on the drowning and have added an English translation of her account.
Source of Irish version of story/Foinse an scéil a leanas: https://www.facebook.com/groups/arainnmhorhistory/
Bád An Tór Dubh- Roise Uí Dhíolún
Ba bhrea an tráthnóna a bhí ann in Árainn ar an 9ú Eanair, 1895. Bhí cómharthaí móra scadán i mBáighe Bhaollach agus chuaigh na bádaí amach árd-thrathnóna agus chuir siad amach a gcuid eangach. Chuir siad na heangachaí ar ancaire mar ba ghnáthach nuair a d’fhágtaí eangachaí ar chur oiche. Ansin bhain siad fhéin an baile amach.
Oíche réab-ghealaí a bhí ann – oíche comh deas agus a shéid as aer. Bhí fidileoir i dtigh Chondaí Ruaidh ar an Léab Gharbh agus ar ndóigh tharraing an taos óg ar an chuideachta. Cé bith nach rabh ann bhí Jimmy Pheigi as an Bhaile Árd ann. Ní rabh Jimmy ach i gcionn a dhá bhliain fichead agus bhí a chuid eangach an oíche sin sínte thiar i gcúl na dTor Dubh.
Bhí an damhsa thart go luath agus thug Jimmy aghaidh ar an bhaile. Bhí triúr de chuid cailíní na comharsan leis – Méabha Ní Cholla, Máire Ni Gabhann (Máire Nóra) nuair a thainig said go áit a dtugtar an Sruthán Dubh air ins Na Goirt Gearra, chuala siad caoineadh cráite síos fán chladach. Shiúl siad leo ach chonacas daofa go rabh an caoineadh a leanstan siar chois na trá. Bhuail eagla iad agus dúirt siad go bhfágfadh siad Jimmy sa bhaile. Bhí teach Jimmy míle ón tráigh suas bealach an chnoic agus lean an caoineadh rith an bhealaigh iad go raibh siad chóir a bheith ag an teach. Ach chuaigh Jimmy a luí agus thit sé na chodladh nó bhí sé tuirseach indiaidh a bheith ag cur eangach agus ag damhsa.
D’fhan Tuathal Ó Colla (Tuathal Mhuiris) as an Uileann amuigh an oíche seo indiaidh a chuid eangach a chur amach. B’annamh a d’fhanódh bád amuigh mar seo ach is cosúil go bhfaca sé cosúlacht mhór scadán agus dar leis fhéin go gcoineódh sé súil ar na heangachaí ar feadh tamaill. Ní rabh i bhfad le fanacht aige. I dtrathaibh an mhéan oíche chonaic sé a chuid eangach ag dul síos; bhí siad luchtaithe. Thóg sé lasta agus bhain Tráigh a’ Chaisil amach. Ar a bhealach ‘ un an chuain chonaic sé cuid eangach Jimmy Pheigí agus iad lán.
Bhí comharsa do Thuathal, Eoghan Mac Ruairí (Eoghan Mhicí), ag iascaireacht ar bhád Jimmy Pheigí agus ar an bhealach na bhaile do Thuathal mhuscail sé Eoghan leis an deá-scéala. Bhí a chuid eangach lán scadán. Bhí Eoghan pósta agus beirt iníonach aige – duine acu bliain de aois agus an cailín eile dhá bhliain. D’éirigh sé, chuir air a chirteach agus d’imigh sé a mhuscladh an chuid eile de na fir. Shiúl sé leis suas an Baile Árd áit a rabh Jimmy Pheigí, fear an bháid, ina chónaí. Ar an bhealach chuaigh sé fhad le fuinneóg Phádraig Mhic a’ Bháird agus scairt sé leis. “Éirigh amach as sin, tá lasta scadán ag fanacht linn” agus d’imigh sé leis.
Mhuscail sé Jimmy agus ansin thug sé aghaidh ar theach Phaidín Mháire ar na Goirt Ghearra le Seán a mhuscladh. Sin déanta aige thug sé aghaidh ansin ar theach Phádraig Mhic Amhlaoidh. Ní rabh Pádraig bocht ina choladh go fóill. Ní raibh sé ach naoí mbliana déag de aois agus tháinig sé na bhaile as Albain an trathnóna céanna sin. A mháthair a chuir sreangscéala chuige ag innse dó go rabh iascaireacht mhaith i mBáighe Bhaoigheallach. Bhain an fhoireann Tráigh a’ Chaisil amach agus thaom siad an bád.“Cá bhfuil Pádraig ‘ ac a Bháird” arsa Jimmy. “Ní bhéidh sé i bhfad” arsa Eoghan Mhicí, “mhuscail mise é”. D’fhan siad tamall beag eile ach ni rabh cuma ar bith ar Phádraig bheith ag teacht agus d’imigh siad ag tarraingt ar chúl na dTor Dubh.
Ba aisteach a d’éirigh do Phádraig Mhac a’ Bhaird. D’éirigh sé nuair a scairteadh air. Tharraing sé amach an tine a bhí coigilte agus chuir séaspan ina lár le braon tae a dheánamh dó fhéin. Chuaigh sé ansin ar a ghlúine le paidir a rá fhad agus a bhéadh an tuisce a théadh, nó sin rud anháin nach ndeánfadh iascaire ar bith neamart ann roimh dhul na farraige. Cé bith deifir a bhéadh ortha deirfí an phaidir.
Nuair a bhí an t-uisce ag dul a ghail thionntoigh an séaspan agus dóirteadh a raibh ann. Líon Pádraig athuair é agus chuir síos arís é ach go direach nuair a bhí sé réidh le tae a chur air d’eirigh an cleas céanna dó agus ba dheacair le Pádraig imeacht gan bolgam tae. Nuair a bhain sé an tráigh amach bhí an bád ar shiúl. Níor chuir sé móran imní air san am nó bhí fhios aige go raibh Pádraig Mac Amhlaoidh leo anocht. Ní raibh siad ar lag chuidigh dar leis mar go raibh cúigear uirthí – Jimmy Pheigí, a dhearthair féin Sean Mac a’ Bhaird, Eoghan Mhicí, Seán Phaidín Mháire, agus Pádraig Mac Amhlaoidh ( Paidí Davy). Ba leór sin agus bhain Pádraig ‘ac a’ Bhaird an baile agus a leabaí amach arís.
Thiar in Athphort bhí Niall Ó Baoill ag deánamh réidh le dhul amach a thógáil a chuid eangach. Bhí a bhean Bríd Mhór ina suí ag deánamh réidh braon tae do. Le sin bhuail seideán tobann an teach agus siabadh na bucaidí agus na cléibh a bhí fán chabhsa. D’amhard Bríd Mhór. amach. Bhí sé dubh dorcha. Ghluais néall mór dubh treasna na spéire gur fholaigh sé an ghealach. “Cúmhdach Dé orainn a Néill”, arsa Bríd, “tá caill ar an oíche anocht. Go sábhala Dia na creatúir atá ar bhárr na dtonn”. Le sin tháining cioth trom cloch sneachta agus leath-ghálach de ghaoth láidir anoir ndeas. Mhair an cioth agus an ghaoth corradh le fiche bomaite agus ansin ghealaigh an oíche arís. Bhí sé comh geal agus go dtiocfaidh le Niall an tráigh agus an chéidh a fheiceáil óna theach féin. Thit an óiche ‘un ciúnais. Bhí se anois idir méan-oíche agus maidin.
Chuaigh Niall Ó Baoill chun na trá agus thaom sé an bád. Triúr de fhoireann a bhí leis – Pádraig Ó Dómhnaill (Paidí Mhánuis), Mánus Hiúd agus Mánus Beag Eoghain Mhóir. Bhí fear eile, Seán Mac Amhlaoidh, le theacht (ni fhaca aon duine ariamh ar tús é!). Ní rabh Seán ach sé bliana déag. “Siúd anuas an tráigh anois é”, arsa Mánus Hiúd. “Ni fiú dúinn imeacht air”. Chonaic siad uilig an fear agus thoisigh siad ag scairtaigh leis. “Scread mhaidhne ort, géaraigh do choiscim”, arsa Mánus Beag. Ba dhuine mór-mhionnach é Mánus. Ach níor chuir an fear eile deifir ar bith air fhein. Shiúl sé leis ar a shuaimhneas go dtáinig sé fhad le bád Hiúdaí Ruaidh a bhí tarrsingthe ar an tráigh. Chrom sé isteach le taobh an bháid agus ní fhacthas an dara hamharc air. Thoisigh an fhoireann ag scairtigh leis, iad uilig ach fear amháin. Níor labhair Padai Mhánuis focal i rith an ama. Sa deireadh ar seisean le Niall Ó Baoill, i nguth íseal, “Niall ar aithin tusa an fear sin?” “Nach Sean Mac Amhlaoidh atá ann”, arsa Niall. “D’aithin mise an fear sin ag teacht anuas i lár na trá dó”, arsa Paidí. “Sin mo dhearthair Jimmy a fuair bás fá Shamhain. Níl mise ag dul na farraige anocht”. Suas leis na fir fhad leis an bhád a bhí ar an tráigh ach ní rabh duine nó lorg duine le feiceail. Stán siad ar a cheile go dochreidthe. Chonaic siad uilig an fear agus bhí siad ag scairtigh leis. Chosgair a gcroí agus níor fágadh focal ionta. Tharraing siad an bád agus bhain siad an baile amach. Nuair a ghlan an lá bhí tamhnach táisc agus cuartú fán chladach. Ní thainig bád Jimmy Pheigí agus bhí gaolta na fóirne a gcuartú.
Bá bád Ned Mhicí as Screig a’ tSeabhaic an chead bhád a chuaigh amach ar maidin agus ba ghairid phill siad leis an scéal brónach. Bhí bád Jimmy Pheigí amuigh i gcúl na dTor Dubh agus a béal faoithe. Ba chreathnach an mhaidín a bhí in Árainn an mhaidín sin. Chuaigh na bádai amach a chuartú na gcoirp. Nuair a thionntóigh siad an bad fuarthas corp Jimmy i bhfastó ins na rópaí agus tugadh i dtír é i mbád Hiúdaí Ruaidh – an bád sin a bhí ar an tráígh agus a luaidh mé cheana féin. Ní bhfuarthas aon duine den mhuintir eile ariamh
Sé barúil na sean iascairí go raibh na heangachai tógtha agus lasta mór eisc ar bord acu nuair a thainig an cioth trom sneachta agus an ghaoth láidir ansin agus nach raibh an bád achmainneach agus is dócha gur líon sí agus gur thiontoigh sí nuair a d’eirigh an clabán. Ní raibh aon duine dár cailleadh pósta ach Eoghan Mhicí agus Seán Mac a’ Bhaird agus d’fhág gach fear acu beirt iníonach ina ndiaidh.
Tá daoine ann a thugann isteach do thaibhsí agus daoine nach dtugann ach is scéal dearfa é nár thárla tubaiste mór ar bith fá na cladaigh seo ariamh nár tugadh taisbeanadh roimh ré. Mar a dúirt Shakespeara, “Coming events cast their shadows before them”.
Roise Ní Dhíolún.
The Tór Dubh Boat by Rosie Dillon.
It was a fine evening in Arranmore on the 9th January 1895. There were great signs of herring in Boylagh Bay and the boats went out in high evening and put out their nets. They anchored the nets as it was usual when setting the nets for the night. They then themselves went home.
It was a night of a full moon – a night as nice as blew a breath of wind. There was a fiddler dance in Condy Rua’s in Leabgarrow and of course the young people were drawn to it for a bit of company and fun. Whoever was not there Jimmy Peggy from Ballard was there.
The dance was over early and Jimmy made for home. There were three neighbouring girls with him – Maeve Coll, Mary Mc Gowan (Mary Nora) when they were at Gortgar a place called An Sruthán Dubh they heard pitying cries down at the shore. They walked on but they could see that the crying was following them westward along the shore. They became frightened and said that they would leave Jimmy home. The house of Jimmy was about a mile from the strand up the mountain way and the crying followed them until they were almost at the house. But Jimmy went to bed and he fell asleep as he was tired after putting out the nets and dancing.
Tully Coll (Tully Mhuiris) from Illion stayed out that night after putting out his nets. It was unusual for a boat staying out like this but it is likely that he saw the appearances of a lot of herring and the said to himself he would keep and eye on the nets for a while. He did not have long to wait. About midnight, he saw his nets sinking, they were loaded. He lifted the cargo and made it to Traigh A’ Chaiseal. On his way to the harbour he saw Jimmy Peggy’s nets and them full.
There was a neighbour of Tully’s, Owen Rodgers (Eoghan Mhicí) fishing on the Jimmy Pheggy’s boat and on the way home Tully wakened Owen with the good news. His nets were full of herring. Owen was married and had two daughters one of them a year and another two years. He arose put on his clothes and went to waken the remainder of the men. He walked up to Ballard where Jimmy Peggy was living. On the way he went by the window of Paddy Rodgers and shouted to him. “Get out of there, there is a load of herring waiting for us” and away he went.
Jimmy awoke and then he headed for the house of Paudeen Mhaire in Gortgar to waken Seán. That done he headed for the house of Paddy Mc Cauley. Poor Paddy was not asleep yet. He was only 19 years of age and he had come home from Scotland the same day. His mother had sent him a telegram telling him that there was a good fishing in Boylagh Bay. The crew made Traigh A Chaisel and bailed the boat. “ Where is Paddy Ward” said Jimmy. “He will not be long” says Eoghan Mhicí, “I wakened him”. They waited a while but there was no sign of Paddy coming and they left drawing on the back of the Tor Dubh.
It was peculiar what happened to Paddy Ward. He got up when he was called. He pulled out the fire that was raked and put a saucepan in the middle of the fire to make a drop of tea for himself. He then went on his knees to say a prayer as long as the water was heating, for that was one thing that no fisherman would forget to do before going to sea. Whatever hurry they were in, they would say the prayers.
When the water was beginning to boil the saucepan turned over and spilt what was in it. Paddy filled it again and he put it down again and just when it was ready for to put tea on it, the same trick occurred and it was hard for Patrick to leave without a mouthful of tea. When he reached the strand the boat was gone. This did not make him apprehensive at the time because he knew that Paddy Mc Cauley was with them tonight. They were not short of help he thought since they had five onboard, Jimmy Pheggy, his own brother Seán Ward, Eoghan Mhicí, Seán Phaudeen Mhaire and Paddy Mc Cauley (Paddy Davy). That was enough of them (as a crew) and Paddy Ward made for home and to his bed again
Over in the west, in Aphort, Neil Boyle was preparing to go out to lift his nets. His wife Bríd Mhór was up out of bed getting ready a drop of tea for him. With that a gust of wind hit the house and swept away the buckets and creedles that were about the street. Brid Mhór looked out. It was pitch dark. A large black cloud moved across the sky until it hid the moon. “God protects us Neil” said Brid “it is a bad night tonight. God save those unfortunates who are on the top of the waves”. With that a heavy shower of hail stones and a half gale of strong wind came from the south east. The shower and the wind lasted for almost twenty minutes and then the moon lit the night again. It was so clear that Neil could see the strand and the pier from his own house. The night fell calm. It was now between midnight and morning.
Neil Boyle went to the strand and bailed the boat. Three of the crew were there with him Paddy O’Donnell, (Paddy Mhanais), Manais Huid, Manais Beag Eoghain Mhór. There was another man Seán Mc Cauley that was to come (nobody ever saw him early!) Seán was only 16 years of age. “ that is him coming down the strand now” said Manas Huid. “It is not worth our while leaving without him.” They all saw the man and began to shout to him. “Scread mhaidhne ort, quicken your footsteps” said Manas Beag. Manas was a great swearer.
But the man did not hasten at all. He walked at his ease until he came to the side of the boat and they did not see him the second time. The crew began shouting to him, all but one of them. Paddy Mhanais did not speak a word during this time. Finally, he said to Neil Boyle in a low voice “Neil did you recognise that man?” “Is it not Seán Mc Cauley?” said Neil. “I recognised that man as he came down the strand” said Paddy “That is my brother Jimmy who died about Halloween. – I am not going to sea tonight.” Up went the men as far as the boat on the strand but there was no person or trace of a person to be seen. They stared at one another in disbelief. They all saw the man and they had shouted at him. Their hearts were cut open and they were speechless. They hauled the boat and made for home. When day dawned the commotion and searching was to be seen about the shore, Jimmy Pheggy’s boat did not come back and the relatives of the crew were searching for it.
It was Ned Mhicí’s boat from Screig a’tSeabhaic that was the first boat that went out in the morning and shortly after it returned with the sad news. Jimmy Pheggy’s boat was out at the back of the Tor Dubh and its bow under. It was a terrifying morning in Aran that morning. The boats went out to search for the corpses. When they righted the boat they found the body of Jimmy entangled in the ropes and they took it ashore in the boat of Huidaí Rua. That was that boat that was on the strand that I referred to earlier. None of the others of them were ever found
It was the opinion of the old fishermen that the nets were hauled with a large catch of fish on board when a heavy snow shower and strong wind came and the boat was not sea worthy and it is likely that she filled and capsized when the sea got choppy. Those who were lost were unmarried save Eoghan Mhicí and Seán Mac A Bhaird and each man left two daughters surviving them.
There are people who believe in ghosts and people that do not believe in them but it a true story that a disaster never occurred on these shores without some presentiment being given beforehand. As Shakespeare said “Coming events cast their shadow before them”.
Roise Ní Dhíolún.
The above story is in part a ghost story and in part the story of what went wrong on that early morning of the 9th January 1895 off the far west coast of Arranmore. Jimmy Mhanais is a friendly ghost who comes to warn his brother Paddy. Paddy correctly interprets the appearance of the ghost of his recently departed brother as a portent from beyond the grave that he will be putting his life in danger if he goes to sea that night. Niall Ó Baoill and the crehw did not see Jimmy Mhanais they saw Seán Mac Amhlaidh . They shouted at him. One of them cursed him. But when they came to the boat where they saw him go behind he was he was not there. They had seen enough. They went home and lived. It seems highly likely that without the appearance of the ghost on Aphort Strand the Niall Ó Baoill crew would have suffered the same fate as the crew of the Tór Dubh boat. The ghost deserved to be thanked but he did not hang around for that. The rest of the crew excluding Paddy had seen the ghost of Seán Mac Amhlaidh not Jimmy Mhanais. Seán Mac Amhlaidh was still alive, he was just not at his work, so his ghost was unusual in that respect in that he appeared as a different person to different people. Jimmy Mhanais was dead and Seán Mc Cauley was alive. This ghost was one of some sophistication and could take the place of the living or the dead.
Jimmy Pheggy and the three girls that were with him, were coming home from the dance in Condy Rua’s in Leabgarrow, and they heard the wailing sounds that follows them from the shore at An Sruthan Dubh to almost as far as his house at Ballard. Jimmy was well warned. The friendly Beán Sí/Banshee had cried for Jimmy to warn him but it is no good. Jimmy has a good nights sleep, untroubled by what he had heard. Despite the strong confirming evidence in what the three girls heard as well as himself Jimmy ignores what he has heard. He went to fish with his crew next morning who were presumably oblivious to these sounds that might if taken as a warning might have avoided their impending deaths.
Condy Rua O’Donnell and his wife Biddy Neil Nancy Boyle and family in 1889. Biddy was the sister of Phil Neil Nancy who lost his life with his wife Sarah in the Owencarrow Train Crash in January 1925. Biddy was a first cousin of my great grandmother Sheila Bheag Boyle. Her father was John Nancy Boyle and Biddys father was Neil Nancy Boyle.
Paddy Ward misses the boat for no good reason but that his kettle fell over on the fire not once but twice delaying his departure to the shore. Was this just the vagaries associated with trying to boil a kettle on an uneven sod fire or was it more than that? Was there a cruel fate at work exercising a deadly discernment that had decreed that Paddy Ward was to live but his brother Seán was to die on the disaster boat?
It is not disputed that man has five senses, hearing, taste, smell, touch and sight. But it not disputed either, the world over, that there is a sixth sense and it relies on none of the five senses referred to for the awareness it provides. It is an intuitive faculty that gives us an awareness that can be appreciated but its basis is not understood.
All of these players lived in the twilight world between the living and the dead. The players interact moving from one world to the next with relative ease. The ghost and spirits move into this world and when the living acknowledge their existence the living have then moved into the other world. There is coming and going as you would expect in a fairly fluid fashion. Ghosts we know do not exist. But who said a ghosts have to exist to be real. Ghosts play by their own rules and what a stressed mind imagines or senses is very real indeed.
But then again there were other more tangible and earthy explanations for what went so horribly wrong at the back of Tór Dubh that morning and Rosie Dillon tells us some of them. They probably took too much fish into the boat. The temptation to overload a yawl with fish was always great. Many otherwise sensible men went to their grave having done just that – they overloaded the boat with fish. When the fish are there for the taking, if not taken, they might not be there again. For a fisherman to put great effort into catching fish and then to have to let them go will always be a bit of a dichotomy too difficult for some to resolve. And the boat was probably unseaworthy and it was weatherwise a bad night as Brid Mhór had remarked to her husband Neil. At the very least it was too bad a night for an unseaworthy yawl that was overladen with herring. Is doiche gur lion sí agus gur thiontaigh sí nuair a d’eirigh an clabán. She likely filled (with water) and capsized when the choppiness arose. I suppose that in less than two lines is what ultimately could have happened. But we will never know for certain since there were no survivors of the Tór Dubh boat.
THE CURSE – AN MALLACHT- SCREAD MHAIDNE ORT
“Scread maidhne ort” the words shouted by Manus Beag at Seán Mac Amhlaidh or at his ghost to be more exact, is in the context of the use of the Irish language generally, just a colourful way of saying ‘the call of the dawn’ or if you like daybreak. In Donegal, however, it is not only a reference to the dawning of the day. It is a curse – screech or call of the morning to you. It is as curses go one of the most vile and has always been seen in the context of its use in the Donegal Gaeltacht and Arranmore in particular as evil and malicious. When you say – Scread mhaidhne ort – you are really saying I put a curse on you so that you will awake some morning to really bad news, awaken some morning to news that you or someone close to you is going to suffer serious harm, news that may well kill you. When that was said to a person in chilling anger the deft countering move was for the person to cross or bless himself or herself immediately so God would keep him or her safe from the strongly wished for harm of the curse or ‘mallacht’.
2nd March 2021
Seán Ó Cnáimhsí, An Priomh Shráíd, An Clochán Liath, Condae Dhun na nGall.
TWO DRONTHEIM YAWLS RACING AT THE ARRANMORE REGATTA IN AUGUST 1889
This is one of the photographs taken by the Sinclairs of Holly Hill, Strabane, County Tyrone and Bonnyglen, Mountcharles, County Donegal when they took a holiday in the Glen in Arranmore in that year. The building is now the Glen Hotel but at that time it was a private house. The photograph is courtesy of Hamilton Thompson, Holly Hill, Strabane, County Tyrone. The sailing yawl in the photograph would be very similar to the yawl lost at An Tór Dubh less than six years later. They call them Dhronteim yawls because the first yawls of that design came from Thronteim in Norway about the year 1820. The proved ideal for the north coast of Ireland where there were many shallow harbours and were to be found from the Glens of Antrim to Blacksod Bay in County Mayo in great numbers for well over a hundred years. Anthony Begley from Ballyshannon said in a book he wrote that one of the Allinghams of Ballyshannon married a Norwegian and when he went home to Norway he exported Drontheims to Ireland as he felt they would be very suitable for our coast. And they were.
In the above regatta Hugh Gallagher won the first class yawl race with his yawl “Aphort”. The second class yawl race was won by Pat Rodgers in “Kincasslagh”. Pat was my great grandfather or the father of my grandmother Dolly Boyle.
2nd March 2021
Seán Ó Cnáimhsí, An Priomh Shráíd, An Clochán Liath, Condae Dhun na nGall.