Gaoth Dobhair people filled the old chapel in Derrybeg for the first time in more than 40 years on Monday week last for a Mass to remember a 19th-century tragedy.
Floodwaters poured into the old chapel during a Feast of the Assumption Mass on August 15th, 1880, leaving five parishioners dead.
Father Pádraig Ó Baoighill, PP, was principal celebrant of the Mass, 136 years later, in memory of those who died and the congregation present. Father Brian Ó Fearraigh and Father John Britto concelebrated.
Rows of chairs were set up – and quickly filled by the standing-room crowd. The choir of St. Mary’s in Derrybeg provided the music, singing a capella.
Up to 1,000 people were at that 1880 Mass – Derrybeg and Sacred Heart in Dunlewey were the only churches in the parish at the time.
The youngest to have died was 13-year-old altar server Séamus Ó Fearraigh of Stranacorkra, Derrybeg. The others who were drowned were Grace McGarvey, Carrick, Derrybeg; Conal Boyle, Inishmaan Island; and Enrí Ó Gallchobhair and Neil Doherty, both of Magheraclogher, Bunbeg.
A new St. Mary’s was built nearby in 1972. Father Ó Baoighill said the old chapel is, “a very historic spot and a very special place” and said he could not understand why it had been replaced.
The people of Gaoth Dobhair in 1880 had a very strong faith and people today also have that faith, he said, “the faith that generations have handed on to us”.
Pictured A section of the large congregation in the former St. Mary’s Church in Derrybeg for a special mass for the five who were drowned there on the 15th August, 1880. Photos: Tommy Curran