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Snowstorm & Blizzard, Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh, January 1947

Submitted by Viola Wiggins viola.wiggins@tesco.net

 

Webmaster's Note: Viola has been a stalwart over the years in assisting genealogists and providing information in Co. Fermanagh. One prominent Tyrone researcher said, " Viola is a living legend, much loved, knowledgeable and with a considerable following". We are pleased to present her memories of this dreadful blizzard/snowstorm and thank her on behalf of Co. Tryone researchers.


 

I remember the Snow started on January 22 and Marlbank Road in Florencecourt was dug out 3 times between that and early April.

Tommy Sheeran and his trusty horse and cart, assisted by neighbours with their horses and carts. Shovelled the snow on the road onto the carts and deposited it into fields. But as soon as the road had been cleared another snowfall arrived and drifts 3 or 4 foot deep gathered again. My parents encouraged my brother and I to 'Roll a Snowman'. To clear a path to our yard and to the stable, byre and calfhouse. Those snowmen were still standing like soldiers, long after most of the snow had melted!

During the worst of the blockage of the roads the grocery vans (mobile shops) could only get as far as our house, which was at the bottom of the hilly road leading up to Cuilcagh Mountain. It was commonly called “The Mountain Road”. The vans were -- Armstrong on Saturday. Cathcart on Monday. Coalter on Tuesday and the bread vans Inglis's on Wednesday, Whaley's Bakery on Thursday.

The people from up the Mountain Road came down with their donkeys and creels to collect meal for the animals and groceries. They would be up to their knees in the snow on that journey and would be glad of a cup of tea or sometime a bowl of soup before facing their homeward journey.

My sister was ill with rheumatic fever during that time and when she had to go to hospital the ambulance coming to transport her, skidded into the ditch a mile or so down the road. The driver battled his way to our house and asked for help.

Two ladders were bound together and attached to our big Clydesdale horse, Charlie's, harness. His hooves had been greased with wagon grease to prevent the snow compacting under his hooves and within his shoes. A mattress was laced to the ladders. Doreen was carried downstairs and was laid on the mattress with heated pot lids, hot water bottles and hot bricks placed around her under a stack it blankets. It was like watching Indians in the films, as the make-shift sledge left our house that day.

When my father and I arrived at the ambulance with Doreen on that sledge she was put into the warm ambulance, which was still in the ditch with it's engine running. Charlie was used to pull the ambulance out of the ditch and then on about two miles onto the main road, which had been gritted and salted. I'll never forget that experience. I was only 13 and she was 21.

In those days it was Shanks Pony (walking), or horseback. Charlie's feet were like trays and he could walk on top of the compacted frozen snow. He was 16.5 hands high and a great gentle giant.

The 1963 snow came when my father was sick between November and the following April. On the day of his funeral, April 10th, we had bright sunshine, but that night we got about 9 inches of snow which lasted for about a month.

I remember driving back to Larne with my husband and my daughter as passengers, and the nightmare journey down from Stranraer to Leeds, stopping every mile or so to throw snow onto the windscreen because the washers had frozen. The wind blowing the spray from traffic on the northbound lane onto our windscreen which was like white paint even with the wipers in use. It took us 6 hours getting home that night, and we only got a couple of hours sleep before we had to go to work.

Ahhh! The joys of winter motoring! I would NOT undertake that journey today - at my Age? No way!!!

Hugs, Viola in Snowey Fermanagh – February 2018