Mass recalls tragic Gaoth Dobhair flood

Mass recalls tragic Gaoth Dobhair flood

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