Stan McCormack reports on the first recording of a tornado in Europe. This was in Rosdella, Co. Westmeath, way back in 1054AD.

The history of Ireland from the 9th to the 12th century covers the first Viking raids up to the Norman invasion. The most significant event in the 11th century in Irish history was on the 23rd April, 1014, when, at the famous Battle of Clontarf, the Vikings and the men of North Leinster were defeated by King Brian Boru, who was murdered in his tent by Danish king, Brodar, after the victory.

Just 40 years later another significant event took place when the first ever recording of a tornado in Europe took place on 30th April 1054 at Rosdalla, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath.

The story of the tornado was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters, Chronicon Scotorum (Scottish Chronicles) and by Patrick W. Joyce (1827-1911) in his book ‘The Wonders of Ireland’ and his source was the ‘Book of Ballymote’ and a famous norse book called ‘Kongs Skuggio’.

Joyce was born in the Ballyhoura Mountains on the Limerick/Cork border and died in Dublin in 1914. He wrote many other books including ‘Origin & History of Irish Names of Places’ and ‘A Social History of Ancient Ireland’.

The Annals account of the event on 30th April, 1054, is as follows: “A steeple of fire was seen in the air over Ros-Deala, on the Sunday of the festival of George, for the space of five hours; innumerable black birds passing into and out of it, and one large bird in the middle of them; and the little birds went under his wings, when they went into the steeple.

“They came out, and raised up a greyhound, that was in the middle of the town, aloft in the air, and let it drop down again, so that it died immediately; and they took up three cloaks and two shirts, and let them drop down in the same manner. The wood on which these birds perched fell under them; and the oak tree upon which they perched shook with its roots in the earth.”
Joyce’s account is as follows: “On the feast day of St. George, the people of Rosdalla, near Kilbeggan in the present county of Westmeath, saw standing high up in the air, a great steeple of fire, in the exact shape of a circular belfry, or what we now call a round tower.

For nine hours it remained there in sight of all: and during the whole time, flocks of large dark-coloured birds without number kept flying in and out through the door and windows. There was among them one great jet-black bird of vast size; and while he remained outside the others flew round him in flocks; but whenever he entered the tower they nestled in thousands under his wings, remaining there till he returned to the open air, when they again came forth and flew round him as before.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own