Tuesday 23 July 2019

Remembering the great Irish blizzard of February 1947

Richard McGee captures Snow drifts on Main St, Boyle, February 1947
Richard McGee captures Snow drifts on Main St, Boyle, February 1947
Snow on Grand Canal, Cork, February 1947

Cathal Austin

It was 69 years ago today when snow began to fall around Ireland, marking the start of an arctic siege that would last months.

Christy Wynne was nine when the snow fell on his hometown of Boyle in Co Roscommon in 1947.

Those who lived through the time describe the huge drifts of snow that settled on the ground until May - the effects of a cold, dry, six-week period that preceded the blizzards.

For a nine-year-old boy the event was sheer magic. Frozen lakes and seven foot snow drifts provided the perfect playground in which to explore, however, for those with more responsibilities it was a harder time.

World War Two was by no means a distant memory and as such, the country's infrastructure and economy were in poor shape. The heavy snows played havoc as all traffic - road and rail - ground to a halt.

The Wynne family owned a Newsagent's on Boyle's main street, where Christy lives to this day. The shop was without papers for a week.

Clearing snow from Mullaney's, Boyle, February 1947
Clearing snow from Mullaney's, Boyle, February 1947

"Around 95% of goods at the time came by rail, so when the snow came there was a team set to digging out the tracks at the station".

"Infrastructure at the time was quite poor, Boyle is fortunate to be on the direct train line from Dublin so we had it easier than most, neighbouring towns found it hard so get goods because the roads were completely un-usable" he said..

While the snow caused chaos to businesses around rural Ireland it also brought some opportunity. In his memoir of the great blizzard, penned some years later, Christy talks about the frozen lakes and those who walked out on them.

A ceili was reportedly held on the shore of Lough Key, where the locals took full advantage of the icy conditions and danced on the frozen lake.

"North Roscommon has a rich history of traditional music and dancing, many of the families living around the lake were great dancers and they had some great evenings on the ice."

Included is an extract from Christy Wynne's writings on The Great Blizzard Of 1947, for the full version click here.

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