THESE DAYS it might seem that Ireland is being hit with weather warnings almost every week--so much that they almost lose meaning or even become a bit of a nuisance.
But to the people of Ireland in 1839, a weather warning would have saved a lot of terror-- along with ships, buildings, and lives.
On this day 181 years ago, on the afternoon of January 6th, a rare winter snowfall followed by unseasonably warm weather gave way to the most ferocious windstorm Ireland had seen in over 300 years, and one which has never been seen since.
Hurricane-strength winds ripped through the country, killing several hundred people and causing untold damages to buildings across the island-- in North Dublin alone, almost a quarter of all the area's buildings were damaged. Steeples were torn from churches, newer houses lost their roof and older, traditional houses were destroyed entirely.
42 ships, mostly along the west coast, were pulled out to sea or wrecked , with their inhabitants going down with them.
The hurricane raged through the night, gathering force and spreading destruction, including deep flooding across the country as the storm surge drew sea water inland.
As families cowered in what was left of their homes, the catastrophe took on a religious element.
Irish folklore had already rumoured that the end of the world would come about on the Feast of the Epiphany-- January 6th-- and since nobody had seen power of this scale before, many became convinced that this was the End of Days: the biblical Judgement Day.
Even as the storm eventually subsided the land remained flooded, the ships remained wrecked, thousands of Irish people found themselves to be homeless, and the loss of stacks of feed led to the brutal starvation of livestock.
The storm became known as Oíche na Gaoithe Móire, the Night of the Big Wind, and was forever ingrained in the minds of all those who had witnessed it.
In fact, the event was so significant to the people of Ireland that, because there were no birth certificates or age identification used in the country at the time, to establish proof of age, people would be asked if they had a memory of the Night of the Big Wind.