You might’ve heard about the Greenway that runs from Westport to Achill Island. It follows the trail of an old abandoned railway that was built in the nineteenth century. But did you hear about the prophecy?
Yes, believe it or not, before this railway was built, a local seanchaí (storyteller) prophesied that “carts on iron wheels” would carry bodies into Achill on their first and last journeys.
And in 1894 the first train into Achill carried the bodies of 32 victims of a drowning tragedy in Clew Bay. The people had drowned when their boat capsized as they were heading out to meet a steamer that would take them to Scotland for the tattie howking (potato-picking) time.
The second part of the prophecy was fulfilled in 1937. Ten young migrant workers who had gone over to Kirkintilloch in Scotland (also to pick potatoes), died when the bothy in which they were staying was burnt to the ground. They were carried home by rail to Achill on what was to be the last train.
All of these people are buried in a lonely graveyard in Cill Damhnait on Achill. A place that touches the very soul. During my stay at the Heinrich Böll Cottage, I spent some time there, wandering amongst the gravestones and reflecting on the tragedies and on the heavy loss to the island community.
I noticed the crudely fashioned gravestones, many of them worn and eroded by the relentless Atlantic wind. Many had little statuettes and coloured glass and seashells embedded in the concrete. Some had handwritten lettering. Beautiful and heartfelt.
Dhá chorp déag agus fiche a bádh i gCuan Mó. Mo thrua amárach gach athair is máthair, gach bean is páiste a bhí ag sileadh súl. Bhí siad ar a mbealach go hAlbain le séasúr a caitheadh ag piocadh prátaí.
A Dhia na glóire, nár mhór an feall.