Historical Experience

John Cunningham

Interviewed 2021

THE FLOOD OF 1947

In this selection, John Cunningham discusses the experience of his father, retired Garda Michael Cunningham, during a major weather incident in 1947 in Blarney. 1947 was the year of the ‘Big Snow’ (and subsequent big flood). The first snow arrived in late January and persisted right through to early March. Drifts in the exposed country areas of 2-3 metres were not uncommon, obscuring the narrow roads. The thaw came rapidly in March and the ensuing flood caused considerable hardship for many. You can read more about Michael Cunningham HERE

JOHN CUNNINGHAM: Oh yeah, the other thing that was interesting was, he was in Blarney Barracks obviously from about 1944 onwards and sometime around 1946 or ’47, not long after I was born, there was a massive deluge of rain for two or three days nonstop and Blarney, if you know it, is down in a kind of a hollow and the guard’s barracks would be at the lowest point of the village. So needless to mention, when the flood came, the waters came rushing down off the hills and the dam up the road There was a kind of a canal, there was a River Martin that used to feed a canal that used to be used for dyeing the wools in Blarney Woollen Mills. So that dam burst and the whole thing came rushing down the village and smothered the guards barracks anyway to make a long story short. So my father said he was just gone home for his tea when all of this happened and he had to work his way down along, holding onto the wall, the old Mrs. Coffey’s wall between ourselves and our neighbours, and work his way. And he managed to wade down with the water up to here, up to chest high, wade down as far as the barracks to see what was happening, and there was Garda Gaffey inside up on top of one of the shelves! [Laughs] Garda Gaffey wouldn’t have been the biggest He was a very tall thin man and he wouldn’t have been very heavy, but he managed to get rid of all the files that were on top of the shelves. They were obviously well put up because he climbed up on top of the shelf to save himself from being drowned. My father was praising him for standing by his post in the barracks while the flood was going on and not deserting his post, but apparently he found out afterwards that poor old Garda Gaffey couldn’t swim so it was literally a matter of life and death and to hell with the files! [Laughs]