The Big Snow of '47

Anyone who lived through the blizzard of 1947 will always have it engraved on their memory. The harsh conditions and the scarcity of fuel and food made life difficult for both man and beast.

The harsh weather began at the end of February 1947 and continued well into the month of March.
The snow and wind was quite severe on the last Friday in February. The snow fell intermittently until the Monday when a blizzard set in with strong cold winds and harsh daytime snows and this continued for twenty four hours non stop. The blizzard was driven by a fierce east wind and swept the country on the Tuesday. It paralysed road and rail services and brought all traffic to a standstill. Similar conditions were being reported all over the country while huge snow-drifts, some up to fifteen feet high were common in many areas.

The cold weather began around the middle of February. Reports in the Anglo-Celt from February 16th reported that Lough Gowna had frozen over, and people could walk across it, which had not happened for over thirty years. Killeshandra News reported that young men in the town worked for an hour to release a news paper van from a drift in Lower Main Street, the driver saying that he had to be dug out on four occasions in the journey from Dublin.

As the weather worsened, people began to face hardships especially farmers who were running out of fodder to feed their animals.
The Anglo-Celts of March 8 and 15 made rivetting reading as reports from all over the county told of how the storm had wreaked havoc.

The Swanlinbar News reported that it had been estimated that over 1,000 sheep had been lost in the snow but the true figure would not be known until the thaw was completed which at that time looked to be a long way off. Swanlinbar had been completely isolated during the storm with no newspapers, telephone or post, no buses running and provisions were running short in the shops.

The Kilnaleck News reported that the snow had delayed the funeral of Mrs Mary Galligan, Aughaloora. The coffin had to be carried on the shoulders of the young men of the district to Ballynary cemetery, a distance of three miles. The paper reported a number of men had to cut a way through the snowdrifts in front of the procession.

The Termon and Billis News reported that a woman who was trapped in a snowdrift on the Termon road was rescued by Mr John Clarke, Grannafarna. The paper said that she was nothing the worst of her mid-adventure.

In Arva the Celt centred on the the rescue of Miss Eileen Masterson by Messrs. Ml. Masterson and Jas Murtagh who had almost been smothered in a snowdrift. The paper also reported that the funeral of Mr. Peter Stronge, Arva was delayed as the remains had to be carried through nine fields on a donkey and cart to the hearse which couldn’t get near the house because the lane had been blocked with snow. Neighbours of the deceased cut a pass half a mile long for the cart on which the coffin was taken.

The farming community was hit very hard by the storm and many animals were lost. Fodder and hay became very scarce. The Ballyjamesduff News in the Anglo Celt of March 8 reported that two horses of Mr P Cosgrove, Carnin were found dead in a snowdrift near his home and he also lost a mare and heifer on grazing lands at Crossakiel. Because of the ferocity of the storm many people had to dig themselves out of their homes to reach their animals, those that had not been kept in sheds and byers. Drifts of snow, some 15 feet deep in the Bunoe area prevented the delivery of mail to Lisboduff Post Office, the Anglo Celt reported on March 8. Bread vans also stopped running and all schools in the area were closed. One farmer in the area lost two springing heifers in the blizzard. Four lorries got embedded in the snow and had to be dug out by the County Council.

The Ballyjamesduff News reporter highlighted the story of Mrs J Smith, Moodage, Mrs P Brady, Aughalion and Mr P Reilly, Carnin, who got held up in Cavan on Tuesday night in the storm, and set out on foot on Wednesday morning. Mr Reilly led the way through the drifts and they arrived in Ballyjamesduff at 6pm in an exhausted condition.

Because of the general scarcity of fodder anyone who had hay for sale were getting any price they asked for. Even the crop left over from 1945 sold well and hay was reaching the highest price in living memory. £1 per cut was being paid for hay. A rick of straw advertised in the previous weeks Anglo Celt was sold in a few hours after the paper appeared.

In Killeshandra an old farmer in an effort to save fodder dispensed with the hay knife and obliged his employees to pull the hay with their hands. Also in Killeshandra, the Anglo Celt reported that a cottager packed a large pot with snow as all the wells were frozen, but when he boiled it he found he only had a half pint of water.

The severe frost that came with the heavy snow meant that cattle and horses had to be brought to rivers or wells for a drink, and the ice having to be broke on a daily basis. But it was not all bad news as the ice-covered lakes became a great attraction to younger people as they staked and cycled on the frozen lakes. On Lavey lake depths of ice up to 18” were common. Someone even drove a car across the lake. The local fife and drum band also set up in the middle of the lake and started playing. All was going well for the band until somebody noticed a crack on the ice and all had to run for safety. Lough Gowna also froze over and a Mr Patrick J Martin from Arnaghan walked across the lake to go to mass.

In the main it was the job of county council workers to attempt to clear the roads, and many worked Saturdays and Sundays in an attempt to make the roads passable. But in Blacklion during the height of the storm a bus got embedded in a deep drift, and police and civilians rescued the twelve passengers, the driver and conductor and took them to Belcoo barracks. There they were served with a hot meal and were later put up by householders in the village of Blacklion.

In Bailieboro, the Tuesday night bus from Dublin got stuck near Carlatt, Mullagh and several of the passengers had no option but to walk to Bailieboro. At the end of their six mile journey they called at the hotel of Mrs Shaffrey who got out of bed, made tea for the weary travellers and gave them accommodation in the hotel until morning. Mr C Clarke, Tullynaskeagh, made tea for three of the passengers and kept them until morning.

The Bailieboro News reported that Mr Patrick Farrell County Councillor who had attended a meeting of the Agricultural Committee in Cavan and Mr Flanagan, Assistant Co. Surveyor went by the morning bus to Cavan, and when the bus could not make the return journey they procured a car and (with Mr J Gibney Co. C) proceeded in the direction of Virginia, near which the car ran into a snow-drift, so that they were obliged to foot it into the town. Mr Gibney walked from there to Mullagh, whilst the other two put up for the night in Virginia and proceeded by a Bailieborough lorry at 10am next morning. They did not reach home until 6pm because with the aid of volunteers they had to dig a passage through several walls of snow.

The storms ended near the end of March but the thaw did not come until April and it was not until then that ploughing and a lot of other work that should have been done earlier was completed. The following summer was very good and it was ended perfectly for Cavan people when in New York, Cavan beat Kerry in that famous All-Ireland Final.