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Winter 2013 Volume 27 No. 4 Issue No. 106





09 Keep it lit: at the archaeological coalface

11 Elephant’s teeth in the diocese of Kilmore

15 The Downpatrick High

Cross—sharing bread from Heaven

19 The Lords Baltimore in

Ireland and North America: the beginning of an Atlantic world


23 Combating Dublin body-snatchers: the Drumcondra mortsafe

26 ‘The insolency of the

Turks done at Baltimore’

30 Know your monuments:

Coastguard stations

34 The Jack Coleman archive:

insights into Cork’s archaeology

38 Taking the plunge

42 And now there are three!




04 News

07 Quote…unquote

08 Net news

43 Events

45 Book news

50 Hindsight


Cover: Downpa t r i ck High Cross (photo: T.Corey)

BLEAK MIDWINTER In the blea kness of midwinter the comfort of our homes stands in stark contrast to the weather outside. It is worth remembering that one of the most important developments to come out of the long history of human settlement is the roof over your head. This seemingly primitive concept has allowed people to shelter from the elements, to enclose an area that can be heated, to rest in safety and to store goods, utensils and tools securely.

In late November this year the television brought us news of a vicious storm brewing in the Pacific off the coast of the Philippine Islands. This storm, named Haiyan (the Chinese word for the petrel), was forecast to be one of the strongest ever recorded on the planet. With winds of 200 miles per hour and storm surges along the coast, it promised to inflict massive loss of life and unprecedented damage.

At first, after the storm had passed, the news reports were sketchy—a lot of buildings destroyed and a handful of people killed. Not long afterwards the numbers of those lost inevitably rose into the thousands. Over seven million people were affected by the hurricane and over half a million were left homeless. The tragic consequences would have been much greater had it not been for the accuracy of the meteorological predictions. Water and shelter, the immediate requirements for survival, were what these people needed most.

It was refreshing to hear that western governments were committing resources to the provision of humanitarian aid in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Less edifying in the face of this ongoing disaster were the comments of those phoning radio stations in Ireland to argue that we need not do anything to assist. ‘What did the Filipinos ever do for us?’ and ‘Why should we help when we are in a recession?’ were prominent expressions of these heartless and pitiless points of view.

It is also worth remembering that our own island is vulnerable to such events. On 6 January 1839 a hurricane that came to be known as ‘the Big Wind’ swept suddenly across Connacht, Ulster and north Leinster, leaving a trail of destruction with hundreds of lives lost. The Northern Whig newspaper reported from Belfast:

‘Melancholy, however, is the tale of desolation which marked the track of the tempest; and lamentable are the accounts (too numerous for insertion) of the destruction which it has brought, even in our immediate neighbourhood. Wherever we turn our eyes, the most dreadful ravages of the hurricane are to be traced—in our streets, squares, lanes and unprotected suburbs, where— and especially in the latter—thousands have been bereft of shelter. Such a scene of utter desolation we were never before called to witness. Houses erected but a few years;—And some of them only a few months—left totally roofless;—hundreds of upper stories rendered untenantable; and scarcely a roof, in the wide boundary of Belfast, unscathed by the unsparing tempest. From eleven till half-past four, the gale was so terrific that it created universal alarm for the safety of life and property. And when the grey dawn of Winter broke on the affrighted citizens, a scene of universal wreck and ruin met their eyes, in houses unroofed, chimneys overthrown, walls prostrated, and lives destroyed.’

The destructive power of nature comes and goes with various degrees of frequency in different parts of the world. The least we can do in this era of instant communications is to appreciate and react to the plight and helplessness of others. If an attitude of individualism and an apparently uncaring liberalism prevail, the future looks bleak. Such bleakness could also be extended to the past, for with such attitudes how can we begin to understand and empathise with the generations that have gone before us?

Tom Condit

Northern Whig extract cited in Frank Watters, ‘The night of the Big Wind’, “Before I Forget …”: Journal of the Poyntzpass and District Local History Society 7 (May 1994), 73–82.


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