Monday 26 August 2019

1969 Pier tragedy is commemorated

Only survivor of accident which claimed three lives attends

Members of Wicklow RNLI at the ceremony on Saturday
Members of Wicklow RNLI at the ceremony on Saturday
Bernadette Mulvanney, who survived the tragedy, attending the unveiling of a plaque in memory of James Mulvanney, Michael Wilson and Mary Wilson, who died in an accident at the Packet Pier in 1969

Myles Buchanan

There were emotional scenes at the Black Castle Wall on Saturday as a ceremony was held to commemorate a tragic car accident at the Packet Pier 50 years ago which claimed three lives.

James Mulvanney, Michael Wilson and Mary Wilson all lost their lives following the accident on August 3, 1969, after the car they were travelling in entered the water at Wicklow Harbour.

A fourth person who was a passenger in the car at the time managed to survive. Bernadette Mulvanney was present for Saturday's ceremony and the official unveiling of the commemorative plaque, along with other relatives and extended family members of the deceased. Brenda and Rosemary Wilson, twin daughters of the late Michael and Mary Wilson, were present. There was also a large gathering of locals in attendance, many of whom lived on nearby.

Cllr Paul O'Brien sombrely started proceedings and thanked everyone for gathering 'under such tragic circumstances.'

He said: 'As you can see we have some of the best scenery here in the county, but sadly it masks some terrible tragedies.'

He paid tribute to James, Michael and Mary and praised Wicklow town's Pat Brennan for his efforts in making sure the tragedy wasn't forgotten locally. Five years ago, Pat wrote a poem about the accident called 'Six Knots Towards Wicklow' which resulted in him contacting Bernadette, the remaining survivor, and meeting her in person.

Speaking at the ceremony, Pat said: 'We are here to commemorate James, Mary and Michael, who were involved in an accident on the Packet Pier. We still have Bernadette, who was in the car, here with us today.

'I wrote a poem about the accident a few years ago and it mentions Vincent Byrne and Mick Bip, who in the middle of the night, went down with just two torches and placed chains on the car to take it out of the water,' he said.

Pat then proceeded to read 'Six Knots towards Wicklow' in its entirety before warmly embracing Bernadette.

Flowers and wreaths were placed by relatives and the ceremony concluded with local clergy blessing the plaque, which sits overlooking the Packet Pier.

Speaking afterwards, a teary-eyed Bernadette was touched by how many local residents attended the ceremony.

'This is the first time I have ever been back in Wicklow. I never really never knew where I was meant to go but now I know where this plaque is, I will definitely be back again. It was a nice occasion and I was moved by such a large crowd. I'd like to thank the people of Wicklow for all they did for us. I know it was a long time ago but there isn't a single day I don't think of it,' said said.

Her son James said: 'It was a lovely ceremony. I haven't been in Wicklow for years. There's a lot about the accident that I am only finding out about today. It was a live-changing event but it's nice to know that Wicklow never forgot the tragedy.'

Bray People