by mohara on September 7, 2010

Summer snow on the Kildare hills

Have Irish summers taken an irreversible turn for the worst? For the fourth year running the month of July has been marked by deluges sluicing down from rain-laden black clouds. At a time of the year when the sun should be beating down, the Irish public have once again been sloshing around in wellington boots and rain coats. And while the trend this year has been for stay at home holidays, even the most philosophical stay-at-home holidaymaker would find it hard to maintain morale in the likes of Tramore, Bundoran or Kilkee as the rain drums relentlessly on the caravan roof. 

If it is any consolation, summers in years past – contrary to the nostalgic impression of golden summers – have been just as bad. A glance at the Leinster Leader for June 1926 reveals an intriguing report of mid-summer snow. The report relates that there was a heavy snow fall over portions of County Kildare during the early hours of the Saturday morning of 12th June 1926. By 4 o’clock the summit of the Red Hills (between Kildare and Rathangan) was completely capped with white. Local residents were could not believe what they were seeing with the report relating: ‘Some of the older inhabitants of the district say that they cannot remember anything like such a fall of snow in the month of the roses.’

Farther back in time, the rain threatened to put a damper on summer activities in July 1910, just one hundred years ago. Among those whose fun was threatened in that summer by the weather gods were the parishioners of the Blessington and Kilbride union of Church of Ireland parishes. They had been looking forward to their annual outing which was described  by a report in the Kildare Observer newspaper as being ‘inter parochial reunion, as numbers of  people meet who all the year round have practically no other opportunity of seeing each other.’ The destination for the 1910 trip was Howth Head and the excursionists travelled on that much-storied fixture in West Wicklow’s travel network, the Blessington tram, which stopped at The Lamb to pick up the Kilbride parishioners. From the Blessington tram terminus at Terenure two more trams took the party across the city to Amiens Street station. It was on this journey that heavy rain made its first onslaught on the day-trippers with the report recalling that ‘this was a trying experience to some of the party, as a somewhat heavy shower was falling at the time.’ From Amiens the train took the party to Sutton where another famous transport link, the Howth tram, carried them on to the summit of Howth Head. Again the rain intruded: ‘Some rain was falling when the summit was reached.’ However shelter was at hand by way of the Great Northern Railway’s pavilion where an ample lunch was served. Back out to the exposed heights of Howth summit and the rain filled the skies over Dublin Bay. However the Blessington people are hardy folk and made the best of the occasion. As the Observer report remarked: ‘ The showers which fell at intervals detracted somewhat from the day’s pleasure, but the general good humour of the excursionists, and the remarkably cheerful way in which they bore the discomfort caused by the rain, could not escape notice.’ 

Making light of the rain the group visited the Bailey Lighthouse which stands sentinel at the north arm of Dublin Bay. A return to the pavilion for afternoon tea was next on the itinerary and happily the rain cleared for a short while allowing the group to indulge in sports and games with the amusement maintained in a vigorous manner through the evening. The return journey, involving three tram trips and one rail link, was again marred by heavy rain. However spirits remained high and the excursionists reached their home destination of Blessington ‘feeling that in spite of the adverse conditions they had a pleasant outing.’

The Blessington excursion was not the only event interfered with by rain in early July 2010. At the County Kildare club, located off the Dublin road out of Naas, the opening Tuesday of the club tennis tournament for 1910 was a washout: ‘the courts were deluged with ‘the most incessant rain and not a match could be played.’ On the Wednesday the weather cleared and although the courts were in a most sodden condition, a great number of matches were got through.  Their neighbours on the club grounds, the cricket enthusiasts also had a frustrating summer with the first eleven team inactive for several causes – ‘the wretched weather’ being the main culprit.

So perhaps the many reminiscences of halcyon summers in times past do not tell the full story and the summers of bygone years were not a great deal better than the sodden July weather that has become the lot of the Irish holidaymaker in recent years. Series no: 187.


Liam Kenny in his column ‘Nothing New Under the Sun’ from the Leinster Leader of 29th July 2010 reflects on the dramatic change in our summer climate. Our thanks to Liam.  

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