and ditches disappear
Heavy snowfalls make life unbearable for many trapped in
rural communities, and while there were heavy snow falls
in 1963 and 1982 none were as severe as that of '47.
In this article,Jim Nolan, the well-known Ballinrush story
teller in rhyme or prose, gives us an insight into what
he considers the worst snow fall during his lifetime.
The big snow of 47
FIFTY-SIX years have gone by since the big snow of 1947
but I can still remember it, as if it only happened five
years ago, how Mother Nature prepared the ground so well
before she sent on the snow. For two weeks we had a black
frost day and night with a strong east wind and then on
February 2nd, when everywhere was bone dry at 3pm, the snow
started to fall. It was almost dark at that time and you
could see if flying along the ground until it came against
a ditch or a wall.
I can still remember the peculiar sound of the wind that
evening and all through the night it was a real steady and
constant blow as if it was coming from some big blower in
Our house was facing east and the snow was so fine it blew
in through the keyhole in the kitchen door. I went into
the room with the light from the candle. I could see the
snow falling on the bed where I was going to sleep. That
time the houses were not like modern ones of today, there
was no ceiling or felt, just the old small slates and rendering
with lime and sand.
Over the years it had lost its grip and often on a windy
night a lump would fall on the bare boards and with the
noise you would think the roof was after falling in.
I shook the snow off the blanket to the floor and got into
bed. It was the same as lying on the floor of a cold room
in a meat factory.
I had to make myself as small as I could and push my feet
inch by inch to try and warm the bed. When I got up the
next morning and looked out I could not believe my eyes,
the yard could not be seen and the lane was completely filled
with snow. I walked to the cross and looked all around and
all I could see where the tops of the trees, the three roads
were completely blocked with snow. You could walk across
Ballinrush Hill on top of the drifts from one field to the
I often remember my mother, God rest her, telling me how
herself and Mrs/ Pat ONeill and Mrs. ONeill
of Hollybrook walked from Ballinrush Cross to a wake in
Ballaghmore. She said they never saw the road or a ditch
the whole way. Thomas Davey of Rathnageera died around the
middle of February and I went to the funeral across the
fields. I can still see Pat Kelly of Drumphea coming over
the lane with a Fordson tractor. He had a dray behind it
and a coffin tied on the dray with a rope (a dray with a
fork of a tree). About ten days later had elapsed from the
time he died before the coffin could be got into the house.
The road had to be cleaned before even the tractor could
travel. Frank Curran and myself carried in the coffin and
the few people that were there left the room.
I said to Frank to lift the corpse by the feet and I would
lift the shoulders but when I began to lift the shoulders
he gave a big long snore and Frank flew out the door and
wouldnt come back. Mrs Hennesey and myself did the
job and a couple of more men carried out the coffin and
put it down on the dray having tied it securely. Pat swung
the Fordson into action and set off towards Drumphea. We
were only gone a few yards when the present Dick Nolan ran
up and put his hand for Pat to stop. He said you may lift
up the skimmers you are going too deep.
There were a lot of sheep lost that time in the drifts but
there was one expectation, a ram found alive at Gormans
of Aclare after seven and a half weeks. He was in a sort
of a cave and his own breath had melted the snow and he
had eaten grass, rushes and even bushes. He was very weak
but Tom Gorman nursed him back to full health and he said
afterwards that his performance was second to none when
mating time came the following October. The frost and snow
of 1947 brought hardship, especially to people living along
way from a town or a village. One man stands out above all
the others, Mogue Connors from Upper Coolasnaughta.
He was a big strong man and he carried a bag of oats on
his back twice a week from his own house to Donoghues of
Myshall to have it rolled to feed his livestock and carried
it back the same day. Most people fed with oats but they
left it to the animals to roll it or they ground it themselves
the best way they could.
There was a family known as Byrnes of the hill where there
were three brothers, all bachelors. The house was very isolated
and none of them had been seen for three weeks. A few neighbours
organised a posse to go and see how they were. They didnt
go empty handed, they brought tea, sugar, home-made bread,
eggs, home cured bacon and twist tobacco.
They knew they were all pipe smokers. It took them hours
to get to the house and when they arrived they could hardly
see it as it was almost covered with snow but there was
a path from the kitchen door to a little shed in the yard
which was full to the roof with good dry turf.
They opened the door and went in to find the three men sitting
around a glowing turf fire though the kitchen was filled
with smoke, not from the fire but from the three pips which
were glowing full blast and if the good Samaritans thought
they were going to find the Byrnes in a bad way they had
another thing coming as the house was full with all kinds
There was a chest of tea, a bag of sugar, a side of bacon
but into five pieces hanging in the chimney. There was a
biscuit tin on the table half full of rings of twist tobacco.
Jimmy Byrne was the cook. He thanked them for coming and
insisted they stay for a meal. He took a fletch of bacon
from the chimney and with a sharp knife he cut a big pan
of rashers and fried them with two eggs each on the turf
fire. The boys did justice to the meal and started down
the hill for home, bringing with them the food they had
brought with them earlier in the day.
Not too long ago I was talking to the late Johnny Nolan
of Shean in Roberts Lounge and the talk came around
about the snow in 1947 and he told me about a man, Dan Caffle
(Caulfield) was his proper name). He told Johnny he never
went outside the door for a whole month. Johnny of course,
to hear his answer,asked him what did he do when he got
a call of nature. I wont write down the answer he
got but if anyone would like to know I will tell them privately!
As I have mentioned, the snow brought a lot of hardship,
especially to old people but the younger generation had
some great fun. A lot of lads my age (I was 25 at the time)
would meet every night in Myshall, we had a slide down the
middle of the street from Doyles corner down around
Donoghues and for about 30 yards down the croppy Road. It
was soo slippery you could not stand on it. We would all
sit behind each other with one hand on the ground, when
everyone was in position you just lifted your hand away
Nicky Kelly (RIP), did not slide himself but every night
when we were finished sliding he would pour buckets of water
on the slide to have it ready for the following night. that
went on until the thaw on St. Patricks Day and then with
the thaw came the floods, which caused havoc to the roads
and lanes especially on hilly ground. There was a trench
two feet deep and three feet wide down our own lane and
the last of the snow didnt go until until May.
I wonder if we got the same snowfall nowadays how would
we cope with it. I think it would be worse on people now
that it was then. You can imagine what it would be ike if
the E.S.B. was off for even two weeks, no way of cooking,
no water, no heat and no television. I just hope and pray
Mother Nature wont get it into her head to send a
Courtesy of The Nationalist