Hard Times

I suppose there are fewer today in these countries, at any rate, who are denied the basic necessities of life – food, shelter and clothing. But sixty years ago people could and did often go hungry. In that connection, I remember a sad little story told to me by an old lady and although many, many years have passed since I heard it, it still comes back to me with all the pathos of an old person’s tale.

It concerns a lifeboat disaster which occurred on the night of the second of Febuary 1873 – just one hundred years ago. The lifeboat had gone to the rescue of a brig called the Sarah of Runcorn which, driven by a fierce E.S.E. gale, was wrecked on the rocks at Balbriggan. Disaster overtook the lifeboat and six members of its crew were drowned. Among those that perished on that terrible night of storm was Richard Cochrane who lived with his wife – they were a childless couple – in a small cottage which formed part of the premises of Flower and McDonald.

Times had been hard for them and that night they went to bed hungry. The wife had a dream. She dreamt that a tall stranger on a shining black horse rode up to her door. He beckoned to her husbund who climbed up behind and together they galloped off into the night. Some time later there was a loud knocking at the door and a cry was heard above the moan of the wind:- “man the lifeboat”. And Richard Cochrane, like the man he was, didn’t hesitate. He hastily dressed and hurried off into the night. His wife was never to see him again.

Paddy Halpin [SHS, 1973]