anniversary of the MV John Buchan recalled
Sunday, February 10th 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of
the Killybegs John Buchan trawler tragedy where five crew
members perished when a 20 foot wave struck the boat just
300 yards out from the pier at Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.
For many local families the tragedy will live long in the
This week a sister of Benny Armstrong called to the Democrat
and reminded us of a terrible tragedy that saw five young
men from this county lose their lives in a freak shipping
Since then we have opened our own files and bring an edited
report on the tragedy. If you have more information on this
tragedy, we would like to do a follow-up story. Please contact
the editor-in-chief, Michael Daly at 074-9724211 or email
him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Donegal Democrat, February 10 1958, front page reported
on the tragic loss of five lives under the headline.Killybegs
a town of mourning
Five die as trawler overturns
Search for bodies still continues
The poignant report noted: A pall of gloom still hangs
over the busy and once cheerful fishing village of Killybegs,
four days after a fateful 20ft high wave overturned the
fishing trawler John Buchan, sweeping five of
the boats gallant crew to their death 300 yards off
the pier at Dunmore East , Co. Waterford.
The local people mourning with the bereaved relatives
wait anxiously from radio news bulletin to the next, hoping
that the sea will soon give up its dead and, meanwhile,
all Donegal, indeed the whole country had extended sympathy
to those who have suffered so heavy a cross in the worst
tragedy to affect the north west since the still vividly
remembered Arranmore disaster.
The paper added that Rev Fr F McIntyre and Garda Sgt Mark
Thornton were entrusted with the task of telling the locals
after they were informed by phone.
On board were skipper George Buchan (40) who was at the
wheelhouse, Denis McClafferty (45), James White (24), John
Byrne (30) were all having tea down below, and Benjamin
(Benny) Armstrong (18) who was on deck.
A sixth man, 24-year-old John James Lyons was swept from
the desk by a huge breaker but managed to grab a fish basket
and was hauled to safety on the Mairead. A seventh man,
Frances Cunningham, 19, had stayed on shore to drive a car
belonging to his brother who was on the sister Mairead
to Waterford.Witnessed by towns people.
On New Years day 1958, the John Buchan and five other
ships left Killybegs . On Monday, February 10 1958, amid
a storm, they opted to dock at the Co .Waterford pier. The
John Buchan was the first boat to make its way to the pier
and was followed by the Mairead, Killybegs, under skipper
Thomas Watson, and a trawler from Arklow named the Ros Aobhinn.
The tragedy, which occurred as they headed out again, was
witnessed by a number of sailors and towns people from Dunmore
According to the Democrat report, the boat was upended by
a huge wave and turned turtle. Her keel showed above the
froth for many minutes before she smashed into the rocks.
Bottom-up, the capsized trawler drifted inshore before waves
dashed her off the rocks.
Survivor, Mr Lyons, who was wrapped in blankets inside Mr
William Powers public house said, I saw a very
high sea coming straight at us. I told Armstrong to hold
on but with a great crash the water struck my face and I
dived overboard. I sank twice and when I caught the fish
backet with one hand I was able to catch the rope the Mairead
threw me with the other.
Mr Cunningham, who had stayed on shore said: I saw
the boat leave the harbour and within 10 minutes saw it
completely turn over. I heard Jimmy screaming for help and
then I saw him being hauled on board the Mairead.
The men who drowned
George Buchan was from a family of fishermen. His
brother Joseph skippered the Linnet off Dunmore East. Another
brother, Eddie, was also fishing off the area. The boat
he was on was built by and named after his father.
Benny Armstrong began fishing at 14 after his father
died. Benny was the eldest of Jenny Armstrongs four
children and worked to get money for the family.
-James White was married just nine months beforehand. He
was the son of an ex-Garda named Thomas. He married Ann
Carr, of Kindrum, Letterkenny just nine months beforehand.
- John Byrne was unmarried. His parents were dead but he
lived with his farmer brother James at Largy, Killybegs.
- Denis McClafferty was from Rosapenna Cottages, Downings.
- John James Lyons was a gaelic footballer from Cashel,
- Patrick Cunningham from Island, Killybegs.
50th anniversary of the crew of the Jack Buchan, drowned
at Dunmore East, Co.Waterford, 10th February, 1958.
Cherished memories of our dear brother Benjamin:
Not till the loom is silent
and the shuttle cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
and explain the reason why
the dark threads are as heedful
in the weavers skillful hand,
as the threads of gold and silver,
in the pattern he has planned.
Remember always with love by brother, Bill; sisters, Marion,
Flora, Olive and their
Courtesy of the Donegal Democrat