Floods in Limerick (1850)

Dreadful storm this day

[The 6″ OSI map from around 1840 may make it possible to find the places mentioned in this account.]

One of the most fearful storms that has been witnessed for many years, visited Limerick and its environs last night. The wind blew with terrific violence, commencing about 12 o’clock and continuing without intermission during the entire night. Several houses were stripped of the slates, particularly those in exposed situations, and chimney stacks were blown into the streets in many parts of the city.

On the river the storm raged with great fury. The Moon being a few days past the full, the springs were consequently at their greatest height, and as the gale blew from the WNW, nearly in a direct line up the river, the tide of this morning rose to an extent almost unprecedented in the memory of the oldest waterman on the Shannon. The waves covered the quays in some places to a depth of three and four feet, and rolled in to the adjoining streets with resistless fury. Shannon-street, Charlotte’s Quay, and the Mall were completely inundated, and in the corn stores on Honan’s-quay, Harvey’s quay, &c, the water reached a height of four feet in some instances.

All the shops on the quays were also filled with water. With the exception of some 40 or 50 bags of corn on the ground floor in Mr Rochford’s store on Honan’s-quay, we have not heard of any injury done to property in the stores.

In Lower Henry-street, the water burst into the area, and ground-floor apartments of Mr Frazer, veterinary surgeon, which it filled to such a height that two servants who slept in a room adjoining the kitchen were deprived of all means of egress. The water had risen to a height of five feet, when they were rescued from their dangerous position by means of a ladder let down over the area railings, and by smashing in the windows to admit of their being taken through.

The brig Hilton, of London, moored at Harvey’s-quay, had her sides stove in, and suffered other serious injuries in her hull. She had finished discharging a cargo of coals on the previous evening, and had not taken in ballast, consequently floating high, the winds had full effect, and she was driven by their fury in on the quays, her keel, however, remaining outside the kerb stone. As the tide abated the waves beat her against the quay and her sides were greatly shattered.

A pilot boat moored at the lye-by was sunk; a ship at the North Strand was also injured; and the other craft lying along the quays all suffered more or less damage. Two smacks near the Messrs Russell’s Dock yards, laden with turf, went down, being completely capsized by the force of the gale, and a vessel laden with flour for the same firm also foundered at this side of the Pool.

The disasters down the river must have been numerous, and a long list of the ravages of the storm is expected by the steamer from Kilrush this evening. It is doubtful though that the captain would undertake the trip in such a storm.

The Dock works did not escape without injury, the temporary tram road along the outer ridge of the basin being displaced in some portions by the furious element, and several other slight injuries, which may however be repaired in a short time, were inflicted.

The storm continued to rage with the utmost vehemence throughout the entire forenoon, giving unequivocal evidence of its resistless strength in the frequent tumbling of houses, dismantling of roofs, falls of chimney-stacks, &c, &c.

Shortly before 11 o’clock, am, a very large house the shell of which had just been built, close by Messrs Todd & Co’s warehouse in William-street and which they intend as an addition to their extensive concerns, came down with a crash like thunder, alarming the entire neighbourhood, and causing the noise to be heard at a considerable distance. Fortunately there was no person about the place at the time or the consequences should have been most disastrous. Soon after the fall of the front of the house, the rafters and joices, in several places, gave way, and the appearance of the entire building was that of a complete wreck. Apprehensions were entertained that the side walls should have also tumbled, but these apprehensions, we are happy to state, were not realised.

Nearly all the shops throughout the city continued closed during the day; and the passengers through the day were few and confined to those whom unavoidable necessity caused to leave their homes. The coaches and cars were several hours late, some of them were totally unable to travel.

At the North side of the city and in the English town the storm caused many disasters. A yacht which had for years lain near the custom house quay, below the Mathew Bridge, and had been looked upon as immoveable a fixture as the key-stones of the arches, was swept away by the irresistible current, and now lies, keel upwards, firmly fixed on the ledge of rocks known as the “Hell’s Gates”.

A striking instance of the force of the waves was afforded by a large baulk of timber which had been imbedded in the earth opposite the custom house, but by the action of the water the ground about it was uptorn and the baulk displaced from a position which it was likely to maintain for ages. The house of Mr Lowe at the corner of George’s quay was rendered a complete wreck, the roof being blown off in part, and a large portion of the front and side walls torn away.

In Athlunkard street the way was covered with bricks, slates and mortar, the debris of dismantled chimneys and denuded roof tops. At Park Bridge waves covered the roadway, and boats were plying during the morning conveying passengers across. In the Salmon-weir Bank several large breaches were made, and the water burst in on the fields; the low grounds at King’s Island presented the appearance of an extensive lake; and the inundation at the North side of the Shannon, near the Messrs Stein’s distillery, was equally large. The water reached up Athlunkard-street so far as even to enter St Mary’s Chapel.

We have not heard of any loss of life occurring in the city, but a catastrophe of a calamitous nature took place at the Long Pavement, on the Parteen road. A poor woman who was coming to town with milk, was obliged, owing to the road being covered, to walk thro’ the water, and in the attempt, passed off the roadway, walked into the deep ditch and was unhappily drowned. The occurrence was not known till some hours afterwards, when the water in some degree abated.

In the river, a Russian barque lost her boat, which was smashed in pieces; also her cable which was torn away. The Governor was damaged about the stern and the figure-head. A sloop, employed in carrying eels, well nigh ran ashore at the new docks, but, owing to the exertions of Mr Byron and Mr Fitzmaurice, who proceeded in a boat to her rescue, she was saved.

A large key, used as a sign outside an oil and colour shop in William street, was blown down; swinging signs in several other parts of the city were also loosened from their fastenings, and blown about in all directions. The hurricane, after a short interval of repose, commenced, with apparently renewed fury, about two o’clock, pm, when the rain again came down in torrents, and the wind was so high it was almost impossible to appear outside doors. The under cellars and kitchens of all the houses fronting the quays, and of several houses in George’s street, Patrick street, Shannon street, Lower Cecil street, Bedford Row, &c, were immersed in water throughout the day.

Fortunately no vessels were lying up close to the Wellesley Bridge, or it would have been impossible to save them, and the parapets of the bridge which were carried away by the violent storm of December, ’41, and rebuilt at great cost, should have also sustained a similar fate on this occasion.

The appearance of the Lower Shannon was truly awful. The entire country at both sides of the river was under water to a vast extent; the embankments being torn away, no impediment was offered to the flow of the waters, which chafed and swelled as though an angry sea had inundated the land.

In the Upper Shannon about Castle Connell, Doonas, Killaloe, and Lough Dergh to Dromineer, the storm is represented as having been equally violent in its effects, so as to stop all communication by water.

At five o’clock pm, the storm partially ceased. Accounts from sea of a gloomy character are looked for.

At a later hour in the evening a renewal of the storm has been threatened; the wind continues very high and the glass has fallen considerably.

The Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator 19 November 1850


One response to “Floods in Limerick (1850)

  1. Pingback: Shannon floods at Limerick - the role of Ardnacrusha - Bock The Robber

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