Delia Henry Memoirs, Charlestown in Co. Mayo

The Big Snow of 1947

It was the weekend of the 23rd of February, 1947, and I had a few days stress free from Cloonlyon National School. P. Reed was the other teacher in the school at that time. A few days free of school books and preparation of lessons. I had intended to do some housework or maybe make a trip to Sligo for some shopping. The shops at that time, had advertised some very interesting bargains.

It was Saturday and I wanted to go to eight o’clock Mass for a special intention, leaving my husband Tony and my two children, Cathal and John asleep in bed. Very quietly I got to the kitchen and enjoyed a lovely cup of tea. And what a surprise I got when I opened the front door, there was a solid block of snow and ice to bar my way out. The noise that followed roused the family, who came quickly down the stairs, to see the cause of the upset. This was a new situation, the house was cold, dressing was quick and breakfast very welcome, Thank God for electricity.

There was nothing we could do except join forces and make a hole in the snow, and then spoke to our neighbours in Church St. They were also amazed at the site that was in front of them. Neighbours like John McBride, his daughter Mary, Tom and Annie Brennan, Pa FitzMaurice, James Campbell and family, B Cryan, the Devanney family and Bridgie McKenzie, who was a dressmaker. We were all together in trying to clear as much snow as possible, from in front of our houses, so that we could have access to the outside world.

One man that I would like mention, the late Martin Brennan, who delivered milk to all the houses, under terrible conditions, as he had to come at least three miles from his home in Bushfield. What a brave man he was. We also had to do with the canned milk from the shops, for the next few weeks. Donoghues Bakery, owned by the late Jack Donoghue, kept the town fed, and what a wonderful service they provided for us all, fresh bread was always available.

Our town, Charlestown, was all-white for many weeks afterwards. Indeed, I remember going to Dublin by bus the following May, and the snow was still on the ground.

There was a death in Sonnagh, a Mr Weaver, who had to be buried in Carracastle. Our PP at the time was Canon Blaine, and he did not like being in the Church on his own, especially if there was a corpse present. As a result, the corpse was only allowed to stay there for one night, and the next day, "So necessity knows no Law" the locals in Sonnagh, got two horses and a sleigh, and brought Mr Weaver to Carracastle Cemetery for burial.

The local Railway station was snow-bound, and Mr Horgan, the Station Master, with the help of the delivery man, Tom Carroll, made sure that when the goods arrived, they were delivered around the town. Mick Fitzgerald also helped. The local Cinema, The Eureka, was owned by the Mulligan family of the Square - Luke, Joe, Marian and Louise - and they made sure we saw the great movies of the day. Cinema lovers all around the town, had the pleasure of watching the best that the Mulligan family could get. Movies like: Going My Way, Miracle on 34th St, Double Indemnity, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Bells of St Mary’s, Casablanca, From Here to Eternity, and many more. Stars like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Fred McMurray, Barry Fitzgerald, Edward G Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart and Maureen O’Hara lit up the screen.

John McIntyre and Paddy Henry, their Minerals and Stout, kept some of our people happy. Joe Morris, our local Sacristan, managed the Church affairs. Guards Conroy, Hanratty, Jordan, Flood, Kennedy and Harte kept law and order. Dr Byrne was a very busy man. Nurse Healy and Paddy Byrne helped to deliver a baby in the area now occupied by the airport. Local teachers in the town like John Cassidy, Michael Francis Swords and Mrs Coleman, had a rather quiet time.

Lastly, from my memories, my own young boys made snowmen in our back yard. They were hard times, but we had to get used to the unusual.

© Delia Henry 2002 Cathal Henry