On the 13th February 1813 a very sad happening occurred in Bruckless Bay. It was the drowning of crews of fishermen which consisted of eighty men. It was one calm, moonlight night and they were out looking at their nets and the young boys were singing and enjoying themselves and the old men smoking when all of a sudden a great storm arose and the boats capsized and most of the men were drowned.


A few men from this locality were saved because they all the creeks. The men who were drowned were from Teelin, Fintragh and Mullac-mor. This how the great storm arose. On a little hill overlooking Bruckless there stood a little cottage and an old witch and her daughter lived there with another woman. The witch's name was Katie Deveney and one [day?] she went down to the shore and asked the men for a few fish.


They refused to give her any as they did not like the old hag. Next day she sat on the little hill until she saw the fishermen out and she went down to her home and got a tub and filled it with water and left it outside the house. Then she went into the house and got a basin and she put it floating on the water in the tub. Then she came back into the house and began to work magic. After a few hours she sent her daughter out to see the basin, and when the daughter came in she told her it was rolling. After a while she sent her out again and when the daughter returned she told her that it was rolling faster.

A third time she sent her out and when she came in she told her mother it was turned over. "Well" said the old hag "It is time for us to be going", and from that day to this day they were never seen or heard of. The tub with the water represented the sea, the basin represented the boat and when the basin was rolling it meant that the sea was rough and the boat was rocking and when the basin turned over it meant the boats (ca) were capsized.

 

That was the greatest drowning ever happened around the coast of Donegal. The men from Teelin, Fintragh etc. were taken home on a wagon drawn by two bullocks and it is said that it was very sad to see the heart-broken wives coming out to see their husbands and sons taken home. As there was a tannery in Bruckless the boss gave the two oxen and wagon to take the dead bodies home.  

 

Click here for detailed research by Joe Gallagher about the tragedy.  

 

DROWNING IN BRUCKLESS.  (JOHN MC FADDEN)  

John’s great grandfather was one of the only survivors of the disaster.  Only a few boats came home safe.  He had been in one, and they put nets out of both sides of the boat to keep it steady.  Forty eight to forty nine from Kilcar drowned.  They had been fishing herring.

It has been said that an old lady - a witch of sorts had been refused fish.  She had a saucer in a tub of water which she kept pouring water on repeating each time the saucer hit the bottom “that’s another gone now”.  A storm caused the drowning. 

Gravestones in the old St. Cartha church give accounts of those who died in the tragedy. Superstitious fishermen would turn back and go home if they met a red haired woman.  (same if taking cattle to the fair).