Category Archives: Family

Night of the Big Wind

Storm damage

On January 6th 1839 a storm hit Ireland that is still talked about nearly two centuries later. It did not occur in Emily Weddall’s lifetime, but it did during her parent’s. That year her father was in his early career as a priest, and her mother was a girl of about twelve. No doubt they would both talked about during any night of high wind thereafter.

Today it is 180 years since that storm and 110 years since the Old Age Pension was paid to those over seventy in Ireland. Even though it doesn’t look it the two events are bizarrely linked. In the early 1900’s most people had no formal forms of identification the authorities had to rely on other ways of determining age. A lot of the census records from the 1840’s and 50’s had been destroyed so they had to rely on other sources. One of such was the would be recipients ability to recall the Night of the big Wind in 1839 but:

The truth of course was different: since their ages could not be proven one way or another, tens of thousands of Irishmen and Irishwomen aged well under 70 could not be denied the pension. Throughout the country, old people – and many not so old – testified to “eating a potato out of hand” on the night of the “Big Wind” in 1839, so much so that remembering “Oíche na Gaoithe Móire” soon had to be discarded as a test of old age.

From: “The greatest blessing of all: the old age pension in Ireland”, by Cormac Ó Gráda is professor of economics at UCD published in Past Present in 2002

Below is an example of how the ‘pension qualifying story’ traveled well:

Irish News and Belfast Morning News 16 March 1910

Nonetheless it was still held in memory in 1937 when school children collected folklore from their parents, grandparents and neighbors. Here is an excerpt recorded by Kathleen Glynn, a schoolgirl from in County Galway, told to her by her father:

Long ago the old Irish people witnessed a lot of great storms, thunder and lightening. The biggest storm ever witnessed in Ireland was the Night of the Big Wind in 1839. This was a terrible storm.
It swept the sea water in from the seas, and brought it miles inland. Cattle, sheep, and all kinds of animals were lost. It knocked houses, hay-ricks, and every kind of corn. There was hay and corn brought miles from people.
It knocked houses and plenty of trees all over Ireland. It also left some poor people homeless. Some people were so horrified that they began to say the Rosary and continued praying until the storm was over.

School’s Collection (National Folklore Archive)

If the storm did untold damage in Rural Ireland, it was just as fierce in the Cities and Dublin did not escape its destruction but on a lesser scale

Dublin was described as resembling in many places *a sacked city”. The majority of Dubliners quitted their beds and remained all night in ‘indescribable terror’. The river Liffey rose many feet and overflowed the quay walls. On 6 January the Bethesda chapel in Dorset Street had given thanks at its Sunday noon service for being delivered from a lire which was thought to have been extinguished on Saturday. During Sunday night the wind must have revived the flames, for the chapel, orphan house and female penitentiary, together with five adjoining houses, were burned to the ground. Destruction of property in the capital was estimated, from police statistics, at £6405, or £3 per house on average (Pettigrew and Oulton. 1840). Nevertheless, the Dublin Evening Post (10 January 1839) concluded that the city has suffered less than might have been expected … certainly less — relatively — than other parts of the country.

Emily’s mother lived in Dublin at an address on Clare Street in 1839. She was about 12 years old and no doubt had a memory of the night. She was probably one of the “bed quitters” that took refuge in churches and other more robust buildings. Emily and her siblings may have heard the tale from her mother when they took refuge of a different kind in churches too.

Sources:

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/curious-tale-of-pension-boon-1.1276289 

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0105, Page 095 National Folklore Collection

https: //www.met.ie/climate/major-weather-events

Irish News and Belfast Morning News 16 March 1910

11/11/1918

The Armistice was signed at 5.12AM on 11 November but, for tidiness, it was agreed the ceasefire would take place at 11.00AM on the 11th day of the 11th month.

Just as the guns were silenced at 10 a.m. local time, Emily was at the bedside of flu stricken Millie Figgis. She may well have been finishing her shift at the Meath Hospital, which was operating at full capacity with flu victims. She may have heard the news on the street as every news stand and paperboy would have had the word since early that morning.

Emily had a lot on her mind, with her sick friends, Millie and Darrell Figgis , and An Paroach, who caught the virus in the remote Achill Beg. All recovered but they could easily have not like Sadhbh Trench. She was also about to loose her her home Rockfield House on Achill. She also had the added worry of her niece’s welfare, who followed her into nursing and was working flat out nursing children. She revealed all her worries to her friend Mairead, Sadhbh’s sister in a letter of condolence.

The end of the war may have been far from her thoughts, apart from the fact that her only two nephews were both fought in it and now they were safe.

You can listen to the final moments of the war on YouTube: https://youtu.be/bQ2w8xM6HYo

Sources

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-signing-of-armistice/

MS 46 328/2 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007. National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts.

Emily losses another friend

On October 30 Emily lost her good friend Frances Coffey to the Spanish Flu. She was only a young woman, less than thirty, but the virus did not discriminate, in fact Frances was in the age group with the highest casualties.

Both Emily and her niece Enid (Siobhan) wrote to her family regretting her death. Frances, or Sadhbh, in Gaelic had attended Scoil Acla first in 1911, and had been friends with Emily Weddall from then. Both ardent Gaelic League members attending events together such as the one below in 1912.

A visit was paid recently to teh Connaught Irish College, Tourmakeady, by a party including Rev. J. W. Meehan. C.C., Mrs Captain Weddall, Achill, Professor Paorach, Achill School of Irish; and Seaghan McEnri, organiser, Gaelic League. the visitors were welcomed into the lecture hall by over 300 students and their friends, those present including Senor Foley, Argentina, Mr. do. O’Byrne, President Brooklyn Gaelic League, the misses Chenevix Trench [Frances and Margot], Dublin; and P. O’Mallie. Ghairman Ougherard Gauardians. In the course of an address Father Meehan advocated that National teachers qualified to teach the school programme in both Irish and English sould be paid highter salaries than thos abel to teach only in English, and aht an advanced knowledge of a second language should be essential for admission to teacher’s training colleges.

The following year, the two friends met up at the Oireachtas, or AGM of the Gaelic League in Galway City, before traveling on the Achill to what would be the final Scoil Acla of that generation. Sadhbh, pictured with Emily, An Paorach, Claud Chevasse, along with others recorded the events of the summer school in her diary; Cesca’s Diary, 1913-1916: Where Art and Nationalism Meet.

Scoil Acla 1913 www.scoilacla.ie

When Cumann na mBan was formed in 1914, both Emily and Sadhbh  joined, and over the next few years became involved in the Easter Rising and the struggle for freedom that ensured. Emily lived to see it but Sadhbh did not. In October 1918 she came down with the dreaded flu, from which she did not recover.

At her burial the rosary was recited in Irish around her grave by members of her  branch of the Gaelic League and Emily’s branch known as the Five Provinces or Craobh na gCúig gCúigí.

Sources

Chenevix Trench, Frances Georgiana, and Hilary Pyle. Cesca’s Diary, 1913-1916: Where Art and Nationalism Meet. Dublin: Woodfield Press, 2005.

MS 46 328/2 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007. National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts.

09 September 1912 – Irish Independent – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

www.scoilacla.ie

150 Years Ago in Edenderry

150 years ago, when Emily was barley one year old an incident occurred at her family home at Windsor Terrace Edenderry, Co Offaly. She was too young  to remember the incident but it was only one of many that plagued her childhood. The article below give a glimpse into what young Emily and her family suffered as a family of converts in the days when the prejudice against them resulted many times in violence.

The court case involving Rev. Burke was one of at least ten to be heard over a decade in the petty sessions and at Edenderry. All which involved violence against him or his family. It was not unusual for the authorities to take against him too. In the above case the judges would not allow the policeman to question the witnesses, so nobody could be prosecuted for the crime.

The courthouse in Edenderry, stands exactly like it did when Emily’s family lived there

Sources
Cork Constitution 19 October 1868

Emily and the Countess; Part 2

A week or so after the event, Emily went to England to marry Captain Weddall in London. One year later she was living on Achill. She quickly joined the local Gaelic League and became part of the fabric of the Island. Two years later her husband died, leaving her alone in the world but independently wealthy.

As she had no children or had to work for her living, Emily used her time and resources to augment the Gaelic League on Achill.  Her enthusiasm and generosity made her popular with the locals and new arrivals to the island, who were more than happy to help with her ventures. By 1910 the idea for an Irish language and culture summer school was realised and by the following year it was a reality.

Countess Markieviez had also returned to Island as a married woman and set up home in Dublin. She also became involved Gaelic revival. She was in good company as her childhood friend, W. B. Yates was already established in Dublin and had just set up the Abbey Theatre  with Lady Gregory, where she acted. Both she and her husband were artists exhibiting frequently. One such exhibition in 1913 was attended by Emily, their paths crossing again. In the same year the Countess lent support financially and physically to the families of the workers during the lockout.

“Madame Markievicz in a big overall, with sleeves rolled up, presiding over a cauldron of stew, surrounded by a crowd of gaunt women and children carrying bowls and cans”.

Over the winter of 1912/13 Emily was involved in another socially unjust situation- the Land Wars. Emily along with her friend, Anita McMahon sat through the court case that finally ended in victory for the tenants. Read more: https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4497767/4344557/4497807?ChapterID=4497767

the-aristocrat-who-became-an-irish-revo
Connaught Telegraph 1830-current, 19.05.1956, page 4https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/about/history/
https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/striking-bravery-1.1522156
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0086, Page 318 Tonatanvally, Co. Mayo
The Mayo News, April 12 1913
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 15 April 1916