It’s what’s called ‘the anti-cyclonic gloom’. It keeps our little old island shrouded in a damp, grey, misty, miserable blanket of cloud for most of the month of January.
And they tell me that the third week in January is most likely to be the dampest, greyest, most miserable week of them all. But it’s a balmy 10°C in Dublin as I’m writing this – which is ridiculous – this is supposed to be mid winter!
But in this very week in 1839, we had a very different story. Yes, we had that damp misty weather as usual, just after Christmas. By Sunday, the 6th of January, it was unusually warm and deadly calm but then things began to change. Raindrops began to fall and the wind picked up. It soon became the most devastating storm that had ever happened in Ireland – and that storm still has a name: Oíche na Gaoithe Móire (the Night of the Big Wind).
It hit the west coast with such power that the roar of the sea could be heard for miles inland. The waves tossed huge rocks up onto the cliffs of the Aran Islands. The hurricane winds caused terrible damage across the country with entire roofs lifted, windows shattered and countless trees blown down.
(So maybe we shouldn’t complain about a bit of anti-cyclonic gloom).
Now, the photo at the top was not taken in 1839 (!) – I took this photo in 1997 when I was on a student field trip to the Aran Islands with the National College of Art & Design. But those winter waves were enormous. This is not the highest cliff on Inis Mór – this photo was taken at Dún Duchathair, further to the east – but you can see that the waves were pretty impressive all the same. It was February and it was cold and bright. Wonderful to behold!
And these images above come from my Fingerprint series from way back when. They were made using my thumbprint and yes, they are very small – about 10mm each. But even though they’re so small, I think that they give the impression of a great big storm – wouldn’t you agree?