Big Snow of '47
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
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
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 couldnt 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
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.