Sheephaven SAC update & The Owencarrow Rail Disaster

Feb 03 2015 Posted by Office Administraton

Sheephaven SAC were back in the water again on Sunday morning for their snorkel at PortnaBlagh harbour, It was low water with a really big sea running, with at least 3 meters swells pushed in by the northerly wind that has been blowing for a few days. There was just a bit too much sea outside the harbour so they stayed inside the perches and followed Willie Sheridan around the marker buoys for 30 minutes or so.

Air temperature was 3 degrees Celsius while in water it was a decidedly chilly 5 degrees Celsius. On the surface it was bright and sunny but in-water the visibility was near zero, completely blown out by the swell. Nonetheless it was great to be in the water despite the winter conditions.Sheep1 Sheep3Sheep2

Last weekend saw the 90th anniversary of the Owencarrow Rail Disaster when the Burtonport train was blown of the Owencarrow viaduct on the 30th January 1925, resulting in the death of 4 passengers and injuring most of the other 14 passengers.

Two of the deceased, Philip Boyle and his wife Sarah were from Arranmore Island, having travelled in to Letterkenny to collect their son, also called Philip, who had been injured previously. Philip senior was the Lighthouse Keeper on Arranmore Island and his son, who was the Assistant Keeper, was reported to have caught his hand on the winding mechanism for the light.

Young Philips’ injury was bad enough for him to be sent to hospital in Letterkenny, where he was attended to by Dr JP Mc Ginley, who was also the County Coroner. Unfortunately the next time Dr Mc Ginley saw Philip and Sarah Boyle it was to carry out those sad duties as the Coroner.

The cause of the accident was attributed to the exposed nature of the Owencarrow viaduct during storm force conditions, such as blowing on the night of the 30th January 1925. It was subsequently reported that the wind lifted the carriage nearest the engine of the rails, which then pulled the other carriages over the embankment. The subsequent inquest was of the opinion that if a proper railing had been on side of the viaduct then no lives would have been lost as a result of the initial derailment.

The death of the lighthouse keeper and his wife is of particular interest to Sheephaven club members, as Arranmore Island is an important part of our summer diving and snorkelling routine. The Annual John Mc Garvey Memorial Burtonport to Arranmore snorkel is a firm favourite for all club members and rises vital funding each year for the Sheephaven Search and Recovery Unit, while the overnight stay on the island is the stuff of legend.

The diving around the Coast of Arranmore Island is top class; in particular the dives at Paradise Cove, The Grotto and Green islands are first rate, while the dive near the lighthouse itself has in the past been spectacular in pristine water and crystal clear visibility.  Marine life is both abundant and diverse; from as small as Butterfish to as large as Basking Sharks, all observed during Sheephaven SAC dives off Arranmore Island.

Finally it has been recently announced that one of the iconic founding figures of Scuba Diving has recently passed away. Lotte Hass, who died on the 14th January 2015 was the wife of Hans Hass who died in 2013 and was the subject of many of her husband’s underwater films in the 1950’s. Lotte and Hans Hass visited Donegal the year that the annual CFT Conference was hosted by Donegal Bay in Donegal Town.

While many a Scuba Diver was inspired by the works of Jacque Cousteau in the 1970’s Hans and Lotte Hass had earlier provided some pioneer underwater films from the Red Sea to an audience that was fascinated by what included the first recorded images of Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.

Lotte Hass was the attractive model figure of a Scuba Diver that delivered an image of what diving was about, albeit in the warm tropical Red Sea and not Donegal in the first week of February. While Lotte may have been a model diver in her day Sheephaven can also boast of lady divers of equal if not greater comparison, following the trail she blazed over 60 years ago. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam