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Plaque to Kirkintilloch ten to be unveiled in Achill

Plaque to Kirkintilloch ten to be unveiled in Achill

Anton McNulty

A PLAQUE commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Kirkintilloch bothy fire, which claimed the lives of ten young Achill men between the ages of 13 and 23, will be unveiled on Achill Island this Sunday.
The commemorative plaque is located near the old Achill train station, where the remains of the men were brought on the last train to arrive at the station.
The Kirkintilloch tragedy occurred in the early hours of September 16, 1937, when a fire broke out in a bothy. The ten who perished included three sets of brothers who were members of a ‘tattie hoking’ or potato-picking squad and working in the Kirkintilloch area north of Glasgow.
The remains of the ten young men were brought back to Achill on the last passenger train to arrive in Achill, and they were buried in Kildownet cemetery. The incident fulfilled the prophecy made in the 17th century by Erris man Brian Rua U Cearabháin who foretold, ‘Carriages on iron wheels, blowing smoke and fire, which on their first and last journeys would carry corpses’. The first train arrived in the station in June 1894, carrying the bodies of 30 Achill people who drowned when a hooker capsized just outside Westport.
The 75th anniversary commemorations are being organised by the Achill Kirkintilloch Committee and the local branch of the RNLI. Following the unveiling of the plaque, there will be a walk from the train station to Kidownet cemetery, where wreaths will be laid on the graveside by relatives of the victims.
An exhibition on the Kirkintilloch disaster will be on display afterwards in the nearby lifeboat station. It will cover the tradition of migration to Scotland at the time.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Pat Kilbane of the Achill Kirkintilloch Committee thanked the RNLI for organising the commemoration and said the plaque will be a fitting reminder for future generations of what happened to the ten young men.
“This is a sad and poignant moment, but is is part of our past and I expect a big crowd on the day. It brings up unhappy memories for a lot of the families, but it is also a reminder of the difficult times a lot of our people had to go through to be given credit and have the slate cleared for the year,” he said.
For over half a century there was no memorial commemorating the deaths, as the pain was still considered too raw for many of the family members. The first joint commemoration between Achill and Kirkintilloch occurred for the 60th anniversary of the disaster, when East Dunbartonshire Council marked the event as part of the centenary of trade-union activity in the area.
Mr Kilbane, who was Cathoirleach of Mayo County Council in 1997, led a delegation from Mayo, including many family members, as well as many people of Achill descent from all over Britain. He explained that the ‘chain of events’ resulted in greater co-operation between the two areas and in 2007, a plaque was unveiled at the site of the bothy in Kirkintilloch.
The 75th anniversary commemorations take place this Sunday, September 30, at the old Achill train station at 1pm, when the plaque will be unveiled.

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