Return to Achill Sound

A week had I been watching a passage to the Sound, and November 9th, 1847, at six o'clock on Monday morning, I stepped into a filthy looking boat, with filthy looking men jabbering Irish, and sat down on a pile of wet straw, for the rain and sea were still pouring and splashing upon us; and there soaked and drenched, amid rain, wave and tempest, I sat till nearly sunset, when the storm ceased, the clouds made an opening for the sun, the air became sultry, and the sea like a molten looking-glass. "How long have you sailed this boat around this fearful coast?" the captain was asked. "Twelve years, and not an accident has once happened to me." The boatmen were obliged to row us in with oars, for not a motion was upon the sea, nor a breeze in the air. Strange and sudden change!

The poor fishermen at the Sound had loosened their boats from the fastenings, and gone out with their nets upon the calm waters.

My wet clothes were not adjusted, when in awful majesty the Almighty seemed riding upon the whirlwind and storm; the rushing of the tempest lashed the affrighted sea to a fury, the waves in fearful roar dashed over the lofty pier, the blackened clouds were tossing and rolling like a scroll together, and the earth seemed moved as if at the coming of Christ. I actually sat down in a window that overlooked the Sound, and waited in glad suspense the approach of that cloud which should bear the chariot wheels of the Savior to judgment; slates were hurled from the roof—windows were broken—doors burst open, and the confused crash so astonished all that none attempted to speak. So black were the clouds, that night scarcely was perceived, and had the "graves opened," and the "sea given up her dead," the living would not have known it, for the breath of the Almighty had not kindled the grand conflagration; till past midnight the wind and the sea kept up the sublime roaring.

But where were the poor fishermen and the captain who had never met an accident? He was wrecked. The morning dawned, the sun looked out upon a molten sea again, whose placid face seemed to say, "I am satisfied." But the stillness of the sea was soon broken by the wail of widows and orphans who were lamenting in loud cries the loss of those they loved. Nineteen of these fishermen, the "stoutest and best," said Mr. Savage, are swallowed in the deep. Honest and industrious, they had stood waiting in fearful suspense, in hunger, and looking in despair upon the tumultuous waves that morning, saying, "If the good God don't still the storm we're all destrawed." He had stilled it, and nineteen were lost. Three among the hapless crew struggled with the fearful tempest, and reached the shore, crawled up the cliffs, and were found upon the mountains dead, on the way to their cabins.

On the 28th of November, a fisherman's widow called in, who had been twenty miles, to "prove," as she said, her husband, who had been washed ashore, and buried without a coffin; she bought a white coffin and took it to the spot with her own hands, she dug him from his grave, and "proved" him by a leather button she had sewed upon some part of his clothes.

Read "Annals of the Famine in Ireland" at your leisure

Annals of the Famine in Ireland

Read Annals of the Famine in Ireland at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

This book still has the power to shock and sadden even though the events described are ever-receding further into the past. When you read, for example, of the poor widowed mother who was caught trying to salvage a few potatoes from her landlord's field, and what the magistrate discovered in the pot in her cabin, you cannot help but be apalled and distressed.

The text of this new edition has professionally been reset and an index added to the paperback.


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