How one farmer escaped from his sinking tractor in the floods

A man looks at a tractor which has fallen into a hole after a road collapsed in Iskaheen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A man looks at a tractor which has fallen into a hole after a road collapsed in Iskaheen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Michael Gubbins from Crockhill, Buncrana lost 162 silage bales to the floods and has been forced to house his stock. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Farmer Martin Grant pictured with one of his father-in-law's dead cows. He also lost another cow and a calf. Ballymagowan, Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
The damage caused by flooding.
Paddy McLoughlin from Carndonough

Claire Fox

The true cost of last week's floods in Donegal and the north west will only become known in the weeks and months ahead as farmers assess livestock losses, damage to buildings and the impact on pasture and crops.

For now, one dairy farmer says he is grateful to be alive following a near-death experience when he and his son managed to escape from their Massey Ferguson tractor with seconds to spare during last week's freak weather event.

Seamus McColgan, from Iskaheen, Muff, in the county was travelling home with his 40-year-old son at around 10pm last Tuesday when they pulled in on a bridge for an approaching car to pass. The bridge had 12 inches of water on it and he quickly noticed that his tractor was beginning to sink into the bridge.

"The front of the tractor started going forward into the ground so I pulled the handbrake and switched off the engine. It started to go further and further in so we tried to get out and we managed to scramble out the back windscreen window.

Farmer Martin Grant pictured with one of his father-in-law's dead cows. He also lost another cow and a calf. Ballymagowan, Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Farmer Martin Grant pictured with one of his father-in-law's dead cows. He also lost another cow and a calf. Ballymagowan, Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn

The 65-year-old injured his hip and his son hurt his wrist during the incident, but Mr McColgan says that they are lucky to be alive.

"We were so lucky to get out because within five seconds it was down at the bottom of the river and we would've been too. All we could do was watch it go down."

Tillage farmer Seamus Lynch is battling to save up to €90,000 worth of crops from flooded fields.

Around 15ac of potatoes and 40ac of barley were left under water as a result of the torrential rain and floods.

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Mr Lynch's 120ac farm borders the River Foyle at Islandmore, Porthall, near Lifford. The river burst its banks on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and flooded close to 60ac.

He has tried to drain the water off the potato ground and was using seven slurry pumps in the effort. "There are going to be losses," he conceded. "The spuds have been under water for 48 hours at this stage."

In the tight-knit town of Ballymagowen, Martin Grant described how his father-in-law's cattle became submerged in water.

"The three cows and three calves we have at the bottom of the hill were taken by the current. It was unbelievable how quickly it had risen - I've never seen anything like it before."

Four cattle managed to climb out of the rising water and with the help of Mr Grant they reached his father-in-law's farm on higher ground.

One of the rescued cows died a short time later. Another two cattle were also taken by the flood.

Michael Gubbins, who works on his sister Fiona Gubbins' beef suckler farm in Buncrana, Co Donegal, told the Farming Independent that he could only look on helplessly as 162 bales of silage became submerged in water.

"162 bales are destroyed. What can you do? I've never seen damage like that. Fences are damaged. It's a once in a lifetime kind of thing," said Michael.

He added that they will be unable to cut silage on the field as the land is destroyed with stones and gravel.

"Those bales were worth €30 each. We've no silage now for the winter and will have to buy it in. It's going to cost an awful lot for us."

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Paddy McLoughlin from Carndonough

Carndonagh local Paddy McLoughlin (above) works for the council's road department and was called into action when the floods hit. He had to leave his own farm and by the time he returned the floods had taken 20 lambs.

Like many, Buncrana farmer, Bridget McLaughlin managed to round up her 72 sheep before the floods set in but she is worried that her insurance will not cover the structural damage done to her storage shed which is only 10-years-old. High winds and flooding caused the doors of the shed to buckle and have made it unsafe to walk into. "The insurance company said that the insurance only covers storm damage. It definitely won't cover it. It's going to be a serious expense and we're not sure where to go from here," she said.

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