By Eugene McGloin
, give or take a few miles, was close to where I lived when the last really Big Snow fell.
That was also how I got the messy end of the stick, when the original Sunday Tribune wanted someone travellin’ with the Aer Corps for that week.
Everything you see planned now in 2018 in dealing with the snow crisis was not planned by the State then, in January 1982.
Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald was sunning himself in Portugal as the snow started falling and falling and falling.
left Tanaiste the late Michael O’Leary in charge; that he will always
be remembered as ‘the minister for snow’ tells it chapter and verse in
The country shuddered to a halt, our employers cancelled an edition of The Sunday Tribune and put us all up in a city centre hotel in the lap of luxury.
week that followed was no luxury; compacted snow and drifts just lay in
ditches all along the east coast, greater Leinster and the midlands.
To be sure of being aboard with the Aer Corp meant an early start heading for ‘Casement.’
Early, as being on the road no later than five o’clock in the morning.
On the road meant what it said, walking along the side of the Dublin-Cork main dual carriageway from Newlands Cross.
It was the safest and surest way of getting to the destination, on time anyway.
luck would have it, the senior officers at ‘Casement’ included Sligoman
Francis Reidy; a friendly face is always good in a strange place.
is named in to our of a 1916 leader hanged in England, in Pentonville,
often a ‘holding prison,’ one through which my grandfather passed four years later
The Irish Aer Corp Aluette helicopter in 1982
fiasco that was national planning in our 1982 Big Snow emergency was
not the fault of the Aer Corps, under resourced then by this State as
they often were.
The craft we got to go on
were Alouette; no equipment aboard for night flying but yet still
expected, and necessary, when an ‘emergency’ arose.
one occasion we got back to Dublin in the dark; where the Red Cow
Junction, the Citywest complex and N50 are now was mostly blackness in
the night back then.
What I mostly remember
from that week of being ferried around by the Aer Corps was the BEAUTY
of Ireland, as far as the eye could see.
Yes, even in January, snowdrifts everywhere, but Wicklow and Carlow were/are preserved as the picture postcards of a Lifetime.
was like sitting upfront in a slow-motion drone as the pilot picked out
a local GAA pitch covered in snow and guided in where the local Garda
had lit a bonfire shortly after 8am.
Then and now I kept thinking of our childhood poem: ‘The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold.....” as our ‘beast’ came down from the air and landed amidst their beauty. Ireland and proud of it.
small Irish villages back then, just as we headed into a series of
ferocious recessions, the arrival of mercy missions dropping in from the
air was THE story.
Innocent and Innocence maybe but this was Ireland and we were all proud of it.
are different from planes; you fly much lower and there is lots of
glass to see around are there is so much to see in our beautiful
country, even in snow.
on the apron at Baldonnel back then was the pride of the fleet, the
Puma, a glorified troop carrier leased from the French company
Thankfully, times change in terms of resources. Powerful Sikorsky dominate the Irish airways.
But the rescue and mercy missions are also all privatized now to a major multi national.
some respects, times don’t change at all: All three of our national
newspapers failed to make it across Ireland in the snow of 2018. Some
cancelled editions, just as in 1982.
touch this weekend came from The Irish Times, which let us read full
facsimile editions for free and assisted us to do so.