Jimmy Duffy recalls one of Donegal’s darkest days when a drifting war mine exploded on the Ballymanus coast
Living in west Donegal where very little trees grow owing to blowing sand and salt from the wild Atlantic Ocean, anything yielded by the sea was highly sought after.
Over the years many prizes were yielded from the incoming tide; mostly coming from shipwrecks or having been washed overboard on ocean-going ships that plied their trade along a transatlantic shipping lane close to Donegal’s northwest coast.
All sorts of treasured flotsam was washed ashore ranging from candle wax, pitch resin to prime timber; material essential to the coastal communities. The biggest “prize” of all came in 1856 when the sailing barque Salaia ran aground in Keadue Bar carrying enough timber to reroof the parish church of Lower Templecrone at Kincasslagh.
In 1940, two young men were washed off the rocks at Carrickfinn while trying to retrieve incoming timber log.
Nineteen-year-old Charlie Patterson was drowned while somewhat miraculously his fourteen-year-old friend, Hughie Duffy, was washed back ashore. Hughie later perished along with eighteen of his neighbours and friends when a floating wartime sea-mine exploded at nearby Ballymanus, on the 10th of May, 1943.