Thursday 22 June 2017

'Absolute dynamo, extraordinary man' - Tributes paid to retired priest killed in flash flood

Heavy rain causes flooding, landslide and road closures

Roger Grainger died after his car was swept away in floods
Roger Grainger died after his car was swept away in floods

Greg Harkin, Conor Feehan and Geraldine Gittens

A retired Anglican priest in his mid-80s has died after his car was swept away in floods which ravaged an island community overnight.

The incident happened near Doogort on Achill Island shortly after10pm during torrential rain which brought chaos to many roads in the west of the country.

Rev Roger Grainger was a retired Church of England priest who had moved to the west of Ireland three years ago after a lifetime of visiting the country with his late wife Doreen.

He had just bought a house in Doogort six weeks ago, close to St Thomas’ Church of Ireland where he helped local minister and close friend Rev Val Rogers.

“We have lost an incredible man and great friend here,” Rev Rogers told the Herald.

“Roger had a great love for the west of Ireland. He decided to move over permanently and he he had just bought a little house close to our church five to six weeks ago.

“He had been out for dinner and was driving home when his car was lifted off the road and into a ditch. The torrent was tropical, a dreadful flash flood that had gone just a couple of hours later.”

Gardai were in contact with police in England in a bid to trace relatives of the dead cleric.

Rev Grainger had completed seven degrees during his life and had just been accepted on another degree course at Galway University.

“He was an absolute dynamo, a former actor with the Old Vic,” said Rev Val.

Natalia Condron (3) out walking in the heavy rain in Sandymount, Dublin, yesterday Photo: Fergal Phillips
Natalia Condron (3) out walking in the heavy rain in Sandymount, Dublin, yesterday Photo: Fergal Phillips

“He had been psychotherapist and a chaplain in psychiatric hospitals and all of those experiences came together in his books which featured the healing power of drama and liturgy.

“Roger was an extraordinary man. He was a professor at a university in South Africa and was still marking PhD papers for them. He would cover for me at St Thomas when I was away and I always got him to read the gospel and lead holy communion. We have lost a very good friend.”

Carol-Ann Heron from Sandymount shelters from the rain with her dog Chess at the Sandymount Dog Show held in association with Dublin City Council and local community groups Photo: Jason Clarke
Carol-Ann Heron from Sandymount shelters from the rain with her dog Chess at the Sandymount Dog Show held in association with Dublin City Council and local community groups Photo: Jason Clarke

The Co Mayo incident brought to three the number of people have been killed in road accidents over the weekend.

On Saturday Simon McGeoghegan (31) died after he was struck by a car while he was walking on the M11 motorway in Co Wicklow.

He had been living in Arklow  and was originally from Moville in Co Donegal.

A man in his 20s died after his motorbike left the road and struck a barrier in Heathstown in Coralstown Co Westmeath.

Warnings

Achill Island was one of the worst affected areas in the country last night as heavy rain fell overnight and roads were closed due to flooding and a landslide.

The status orange rainfall warning remains in place for Kerry until midday, while the status yellow warning for Galway, Mayo and Clare, Cork and Limerick will also remain in place until the same time. Forecasters have warned that up to 70mm of rain will fall over Kerry before noon.

Niamh Philips and her daughter Ceili from Omeath, Co Louth, dash for shelter from the rain at the annual Vintage Day in Knockbridge, Co Louth Photo: David Conachy
Niamh Philips and her daughter Ceili from Omeath, Co Louth, dash for shelter from the rain at the annual Vintage Day in Knockbridge, Co Louth Photo: David Conachy

However, the worst affected areas last night were Clifden, Co Galway and Achill, Co Mayo, according to AA Roadwatch spokesperson Arwen Foley.

Late last night, gardaí in Clifden, Co Galway, warned motorists to travel only in exceptional circumstances due to extremely heavy rainfall.

Overnight rainfall hampered driving conditions, and Sky road in Clifden was closed due to a small landslide onto the road, while Beach road was closed due to flooding. Road closures were also enforced in the Cleggan area.

Last night, a part of the Ring of Kerry – between Kells and Caherciven – was impassable, but this road has since reopened.

“In Kerry it stopped raining at around 11pm last night. There was flooding in a few places and parts of west Kerry seem to have been worst affected.”

Road conditions are described as slippery due to surface water.

Ms Foley said a few roads around Tralee were flooded and rendered impassable last night, and though these roads have reopened care is still needed.

The road between Mulranny and Achill in Mayo is now passable again, AA Roadwatch says.

The latest warnings came after flooding incidents in the south-west over the weekend.

Twenty homes were flooded in Miltown Malbay in Co Clare. Fire crews rescued a couple trapped in their car in the coastal village of Liscannor, also in Clare, with the county council forced to issue a travel warning to other motorists.

"It is like someone picked up our house and dropped it into the path of a river, I've never seen the like of it," said Liscannor resident Grainne Flannery.

"We're used to water coming in from the sea but not down from the hills. It was so strange to see. Sandbags would have been useless because the water was coming from everywhere."

In Ballyvourney, Co Cork, gardai closed roads as flood waters turned to rivers.

In Cork city last night, residents of areas hit by flood waters were taking no chances as they deployed sandbags to protect their homes.

The rainfall at the weekend was exceptional, said Irish Weather Online's Fergal Tierney.

"At least two trillion litres of rain fell on Ireland on Friday and Saturday," he said.

"I took the average rainfall over the 26 synoptic stations - 23.6 mm. However, mountainous regions will have received several times this value, except there are no stations up there to record it.

"It's a lot of water, whichever way you look at it. It's enough to fill almost 800,000 Olympic swimming pools."

Forecast

But the same counties which were pounded by heavy rain on Friday and Saturday were at the centre of the new alerts last night, as more heavy rain hit the west and south-west.

"We can expect heavy rain and thundery downpours with the possibility of localised flooding, particularly in the west and south-west," said Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack.

"While the south-west and west will receive the brunt of the bad weather, the north and north-west will be mainly dry and bright, with just a few scattered showers."

The weather is expected to settle later today and remain mainly bright and dry tomorrow. But a new low-pressure front could bring very heavy rain to the east and south-east of the country on Wednesday.

"There is a risk of another spell of heavy rain in parts of the south and east as another frontal depression tracks near Ireland," said Cusack.

"It will be cool and breezy, with highest temperatures of only 12C to 15C in fresh to strong north-easterly winds."

Thursday and Friday will be bright, blustery days with sunny spells and good drying, alongside passing heavy showers.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News