By the late Mr. Eugene Horgan
On December 5th 1948, there was continued and heavy rain which resulted in severe flooding in the river valleys which feed Blarney, namely, the Martin, the Blarney and the Shournagh. The rising waters flooded the village and caused severe damage to roads and bridges in the surrounding area. The following excerpt is taken from an article published in Issue 4 of the Old Blarney Journal. It is a first-hand account written by the late Mr. Eugene Horgan R.I.P. who was a Foreman in Mahony’s Woollen Mills at the time.
“It was on a Sunday, it rained all day. Sometime after 6 p.m. I was called by the watchman (J.F. Mahony) in the Blarney Mills, to come down quickly as the flood was coming very near danger point. I was called because I was the Foreman of the Finishing Dept., which was built on the banks of the River Martin and was the first department to be flooded, if there was a breakthrough.
On my way down, I met the late Jas. O’Callaghan. We both went to the Fire Station and put on top boots. With the keys of the departments, we went across the yard, which had two inches of water already. Jim went to his department and I opened the Weaving Dept. door, put on some lights, and went to the door of the Finishing Dept., all on the same flat.
I pulled up sharply within 5 yards of this door. I could see that Hell was let loose inside, and if I did not get out fast, it could burst open, as I could see the tables and pieces pressed hard against it while the flood waters were pouring through. In my hurry to get out, I forgot to put out the lights I had switched on going in. This omission probably saved the life of poor Jim, who had followed me through a side door and was trapped. His only consolation was to sit on a loom under the lights until around 11.30 p.m. when he was rescued.
When I came back through the yard, the water was then over one foot deep and rising fast. I went to the Engineer’s workshop where there was a ‘phone and called the Manager, the late Mr. Schofield, and while telling him of the disaster, I could see a lot of kegs and timber getting alive, all floating around and coming towards me. This place I left in a hurry too.
At this stage there was nothing anyone could do, only watch the waters racing through, carrying boxes, crates, hens, branches of trees etc. I noticed afterwards that the two Pegging Clocks stopped at 7.30 p.m.
Some cloth was found across the river and outside the walls of the Mills. The loss to the firm of Messrs. Martin Mahony must have been colossal, as every piece in the works had to be washed and dried before anyone could handle. This washing and drying went on non-stop around the clock for over a week, as there were over 1,000 pieces to be cleaned.
The rain was much worse to the north of Waterloo, where the first bridge to give way under pressure released a lot of water that welled up with obstacles, such as small trees and branches in front of Waterloo Bridge. This in time gave way, releasing a force of water that nothing could stop, breaking a side wall attached to Waterloo Inn. Some customers, who had taken refuge upstairs, could touch the waters by putting their hands on the windows. The flood increased in volume, came raging down to the ‘Big Pond’ dam and swept it away in its stride. Then on to the Valley in front of Shamrock Terrace where it got a respite while filling up to the top of the wall, which is over 24 feet high, then over the wall, across the road and into the houses, where up to the present day after 23 years, the walls still weep. A wall running from the Station Bridge, at the back of Shamrock Terrace to the Carpenter’s Yard acted as a river bed, for the waters coming from the Station Cross, which in turn came into the houses from the back, meeting in the houses the flood from the front. All this water had to go through the Mills and at this stage the flood was 6 feet high in the Finishing Dept., so until it came to a reasonable level, nothing could be done.
In the mean-time the flood waters flowed through the Stable Yard and met the flood in the main yard, the water coming from this, overflowed through the Carpenter’s Yard, came back to the river bed, through the Groves, through Blarney Village. The Castle Hotel had over 5 feet of water in the bar. One man told me afterwards, he was so wet, he swam around the bar. Guard Byrne’s house was in direct line of the flood and took an awful beating, doors back and front had to opened. The Garda Barracks, the Village Green, and all the houses here and on St. Ann’s Road had 5 feet of mud and water. Some families got shelter from neighbours and the Carrigys got shelter in the Legion Hall.
The Bridge near Guard Byrne’s house was swept away. From this on the floods had plenty of room and flowed towards St. Ann’s and spread out over hundreds of acres of flat lands to join the Shournagh.
I made several attempts to get home to Shamrock Terrace and succeeded about 11.p.m. to find an “After the Flood” scene, never to be forgotten. With still 2 inches of mud and water to be mopped up in the Kitchen and Sitting Room, and everything and anything taken upstairs. Everyone was tired out, but, by the time all the stories were told about the flood, it was after midnight when we thought of retiring. But it was not to be, as I was called again down to the Mills. This time it was a fire in or at the Gate Lodge. There was some lime stored underneath the Lodge which got heated (next door to the Paint Shop) and a cloud of thick vapour-like smoke met us at the door. But there was no water to throw on it, not a drop until someone remembered a fire engine with the hose attached near the Worsted end of the Mills that had escaped the flood. We brought this up and in five minutes we were on the way home at last.”