“The most distressing thing is that this should not have happened at all.” The coroner, Dr. McGinley.
Earlier in the day the local garda sergeant had been informed but for some reason ignored advice all gardai were given at the time: "Whenever a report that an explosive article has been washed ashore is received by a Garda Station, the member in charge will immediately take such steps as are necessary to ensure that no-one approaches to within 500 yards of the article ...".
His ignoring this advice resulted in the deaths of nineteen young men and teenagers that day.
People from the locale gathered on the shore to view the large bomb and eventually most wander off home leaving a small group there.
Two of them, James Rogers and James Roarty, took fishermens ropes and waded out to it intending to pull it to a calmer area of sea where it would not be hitting roughly off rocks.
They were not, as is often cited, having fun. No, they were attempting to move it to a quieter area of the sea to stop it moving so roughly, dangerously hitting rocks.
They were trying to avoid the thing that then happened: a massive and deathly explosion. An explosion so loud it is said it was heard as far away as Letterkenny, over 40 miles away.
A local man, Pat Gallagher, who was a child of 10 years at the time and who lost his father and two uncles in the explosion said “The group, who ranged in age from 14-34, were not a bunch of teens who didn’t know better, they were trying to move the device to an area where it would be less affected by the currents.”
Meaning Pat’s grandparents lost three sons that day and three other families lost two sons each.
Local historian, Paddy McGarvey, said “No-one ever thought that a tiny Donegal community would suffer the effects of WW2 in this terrible way. It was one of the major tragedies of the war for a neutral country and the least documented.” He went on to say “The sight of so many coffins lined up in the church is something that no-one would ever want to see again. It was a devastating blow to the area and the communities affected to this day never fully recovered.”
Seventeen died instantly on that beach with a further two dying, one a day later, the other a week later.
The dead were:
James Rodgers, 34
James Roarty, 24
Anthony Rogers, 34
Domnic Gallagher, 27
Owen Gallagher, 20
Patrick Gallagher, 18
Joseph Harley, 17
Denis Harley, 16
Owen Harley, 14
John Boyle, 17
Edward Gallagher, 22
John McKinley, 19
Michael Sharkey, 14
Hugh Duffy, 17
James Duffy, 16
Manus O’Donnell, 16
Anthony Sharkey, 15
John J. Carson, 15
John Sharkey, 14
The people have asked for decades that the government acknowledge this and apologise to the bereaved and the people of the area.
But still, 80 years on, no apology has been forthcoming.
A documentary about the disaster by Denis Harley "Ballymanus Mine Disaster May 10th 1943".
A song about the disaster "Caoineadh Baile Mhanai" by Paul Douglas.
DIRECTIONS TO THE BALLYMANUS MONUMENT
There are two, well three actually, monuments. One is the large stone high cross at Mullagdoo Scotch near Mullaghduff, the other two on the shore at Ballymanus. One is the stone monument, the other the metal cross on the rocks nearby.
To get to the one at Ballymanus you park in the car park at Mullaghderg beach and then follow the marked path to it. Many sites say it is half a kilometre but having walked it this week for the anniversary, I can assure readers it is much longer, probably about 1 km. The terrain is okay but is fields so appropriate footwear should be worn. It would not be suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs as apart from the terraine, there is a wooden stile with a narrow gate to get through too.
We Love Donegal
We Love Donegal is a site dedicated to bring the beauty of County Donegal on the north west coast of Ireland to the world.