Arranmore disaster remembered in memorial Mass

Nineteen islanders lost their lives in 1935 tragedy

Carolyn Farrar


Carolyn Farrar


Arranmore Tragedy remembered in memorial Mass

A view of Arranmore Island.

Arranmore Island remembered 19 lives lost 81 years ago this month, in a memorial Mass held recently to mark the Arranmore Disaster.
Nineteen islanders lost their lives in the waters off the island on November 9th, 1935, when a yawl carrying islanders home from Scotland, and family and friends, ran up on rocks.
On the afternoon of November 9th of this year, islanders gathered for the Rosary at the old lifeboat station on Aphort, where those who lost their lives in the tragedy were taken after they were recovered from the sea.
Later on the day there was a memorial Mass at St. Crone’s Church on Arranmore.
There was one survivor of the tragedy, Paddy Gallagher, age 26, whose father owned the boat. Paddy lost his father, four brothers and two sisters in the tragedy.
Those lost in the tragedy include Edward Gallagher, 61, and his sons, Edward Gallagher, 24, John Gallagher, 22, Michael Gallagher, 29, and Charles Gallagher, 20; and Edward’s daughters Madge, 28, and Hannah Gallagher, 16; brothers Anthony Gallagher, 17, and Edward Gallagher, 15; Manus Gallagher, 17, Daniel Gallagher, 27, and Hannah Gallagher, 21; brother and sister Patrick O'Donnell, 44, and Kate O'Donnell, 45; John Rodgers, 34; John O'Donnell, 50; Edward Ward, 51; Peter Leonard, 61; and John Gallagher, 20.
In his homily at the memorial Mass, Father Liam Boyle held up a pocket watch that one of those who died in the tragedy had carried on the journey. The watch was stopped at 6.20, the time the tragedy is understood to have occurred.
“The watch carries memories and emotions,” Father Liam said. “It’s a piece of history.”
He said, “Twenty past six on the 9th of November is a time that has stood still on this island. In a sense, that hour will be remembered forevermore, and it is remarkable to have an artefact from that incident.
“We can only imagine that it was a silent witness to the pain and distress of those people on that night,” Father Liam said.
Speaking later, Father Liam said the impact of the loss of so many lives is still being felt in the tight-knit island community. The population of the island communities that lost so many people all those years ago never recovered.
“Can you imagine, 19 souls from a small, close-knit community like this?” Father Liam said.
The Donegal Association in Dublin was founded as a result of the tragedy. After the news broke, Donegal people living in Dublin came together to offer assistance to dependents of those who lost their lives. There was a benefit concert held at the Gaiety Theatre on November 24th, and the association grew from that.