Achill Drowning in Co. Mayo

In 1894, the Westport - Newport railway line was extended to Achill Sound. The train station is now a hostel. The train provided a great service to Achill, but it also fulfilled an ancient prophecy.

Brian Rua O'Cearbhain had prophesied that ‘carriages on the iron wheels, emitting smoke and fire would carry coffins to Achill on both its first and last train journey’.

In fact in 1894, the first train on the Achill railway carried the bodies of the victims of the Clew Bay Drowning. Thirty-two young people left Achill on a “Hooker” to meet up with a steamer at Westport Quay. Seeing the ship they moved to one side of the Hooker to have a better look, suddenly a blast of wind overturned the boat and they all drowned. They were on their way to Scotland for potatoes picking (tattie hoking).

The second tragedy, which fulfilled the prophecy, occurred in 1937. Ten young people from Achill were buried alive in a ‘bothy’ (hut) in Kirkintilloch, Scotland. As in the past they traveled to Scotland for potatoes picking.

The railway line was closed in 1934 but it reopened for that , so the last passenger train to Achill brought back home the bodies of the victims for their burial to Kildavnet cemetery.

Another drowning tragedy that shocked Ireland and UK occurred on 12th May 1951.

It is remembered as the Shark Island Tragedy.

The entire cast and crew filming the docu-drama “Shark Island” drowned around the dangerous Daisies Rocks just off Keem Bay.

On that day there was a thick fog over the island and sea; even then the crew decided to go out at sea and film the planned scenes.

Suddenly a massive eight metres in height freak wave struck and capsized the boat sinking it.

All people on the boat didn’t survive except Hugh Falkus, the film producer, who swam back ashore to get help swimming in the freezing water. A Scottish fishing boat off Keem Bay rescued him and raised the alarm.

Claire Mullen, the youngest actress of the cast, didn’t follow the crew on the boat because of the severe windburns she got the day before the tragedy.

She was asked to identify the victims who had succumbed to the freezing water and, that was an unpleasant task for a young girl.

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