Locals mark 150th anniversary of tragic Wicklow avalanche

Last Sunday locals from Askanagap marked the 150th anniversary of the death of an entire family due to an avalanche.

After days of heavy snowfalls across Ireland in late March 1867 many of the roads and tracks of Wicklow were impassable due to snow drifts. A partial thaw set in on the 22nd of March and later that night heavy rainfalls occurred which were to prove fatal to the young family.

6 members of the Mulhall family perished on the night of the 22nd into the 23rd of March 1867.

Helen Byrne described the events of the fatal night to all in attendance and showed artifacts which had been unearthed over a period of time from the area which included the family branding tool, a hammer and buttons from children’s clothing.

The night before the avalanche a local girl had visited the family with grain for the geese and to see the newborn baby, the Mulhall’s pressed the girl to stay for the night but she declined as the weather had taken a turn for the worst.

The next day around noon it was described how two men arrived at the girls house to break the news that the entire family had died overnight after the house had been leveled by snow.

The family had died in their sleep a local girl was reported to have pulled the bodies out which included 32-year-old James Mulhall his 28-year-old wife Kate, daughter Mary aged 3 and sons Brian (7), Peter (5) and James who was only 14 days old.

The bodies were placed on doors and taken to a barn in Askanagap where a postmortem was carried out.

The family were interred at Preban graveyard between Annacurragh and Ballinglen.

Helen led prayers for the Mulhall’s and families who had died accidentally.

Local children placed flowers at the site of the Mulhall homestead which was in total contrast to 150 years ago as the spring sunshine replaced the harsh weather of March 1867.

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