Natural Disaster at Ballinafunshoge, 1867

Tragedy struck at the site of the Ballinafunshoge lead mine in Glenmalure on the night of March 23rd 1867.

The weather had been particularly bad in Co. Wicklow in the spring of that year and on that fateful night, torrential rain led to a rapid thaw of lying snow. This brought torrents of water rushing down the mountain streams, overflowing and causing landslides carrying tons of rocks and mud to come thundering down the mountainsides destroying all in their path. Unfortunately, the small dwelling of Ballinafunshoge miner, Patrick Byrne who lived beside the Mill Brook was washed away in one such landslide. His wife and five children were swept away in the flood. Two children were drowned and another suffered serious injury. Their humble dwelling was part of the old smelting house at Ballinafunshoge which, had been converted into an office and cottages for mine workers and their families.

This tragedy was reported in the Leeds Mercury 27th March1867 under the headline Floods in Wicklow’, as follows:

…a miner’s hut was swept away in Glenmalure and two children were drowned-the body of one being yet undiscovered and the other discovered. A third child-a young girl is reported to be desperately injured. The floods affected all areas of Co. Wicklow and downriver from Avoca to Arklow…

Local folklore tells us that one of the surviving children had a dream about the location of her missing sister, which helped the search party to locate her body.

The site of the tragedy is now identified as Ballinafunshoge Recreation area in Glenmalure. A huge boulder near the stream and the manner in which the stream is visibly wider behind the site of the former cottage is still a poignant reminder of this cruel tragedy.

Nothing remains of the smelting house and the converted miner’s cottages except a small masonry wall built into the bank which may have been a yard or storage area. The building was knocked in the seventies to develop the recreation area.

However, this old photograph published in 1895 shows remains of the chimney of the Byrne family’s cottage which was destroyed in the landslide.

The Mill Brook, Ballinafunshoge, Glenmalure. Scene of a landslide in 1867
Carmel O'Toole
Former smelting house at Ballinafunshoge
Image courtesy of National Library (1895)

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