The Lough Neagh, with an area of 153 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake in Ireland and the UK. It is located about 22 miles east of Cookstown, County Tyrone and 20 miles west of Belfast. The Counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry, and Tyrone surround the lake.
4 Dec. 1880 Sad Accident on Lough Neagh. Four Men Drowned
Another melancholy occurrence has to be added to the long list of which this lough has, from time to time, been the scene. The storm of Thursday night, the 25th ult., so general in its effects, visited Lough Neagh with all its severity and from the easily disturbed state of the waters soon raised a heavy, dangerous swell. The Toome side, of course, suffered most, the violence of the waves being almost unprecedented. The season being rather late, the eel-fishing was in full operation, and the poor fishermen of that district, taking advantage of a rather fair run of fish, were out overnight in large numbers. Amongst the boats there was one owned by a John CAMPBELL, and on the night in question he and his son and another fisherman named Francis CONNOLLY, were the occupants. Having cast the net, they remained at anchor till daybreak and then made for the shore, but, as it is said, fearing the water-bailiffs, owing to some illegality connected with their operations, they deemed it desirable to lie off for some time. The storm increasing, they were unable to manage their little craft and she, capsizing, precipitated the whole party into the water. Some of them were reputed excellent swimmers, but, of course, under such circumstances no human being could exist. They were at once lost to view of their brother fishermen and the upturned boat was all that remained to be taken charge of.
In another boat there was Edward BEATSON and he, by some unfortunate means, fell out and got drowned quite close to the shore. As might be expected, the occurrence created great excitement amongst the people of Toome and those of the adjoining districts and even at that early hour, half past seven on Friday morning, large numbers of people collected to hear the melancholy tidings. As soon as the brunt of the storm passed over, dragging for the bodies was commenced, but up to Monday evening, it had proved unsuccessful. Those acquainted with the lough, question the possibility of their recovery just now, as under the circumstances the bodies might be carried far out, or cast upon any part of the shore. Some of the deceased leave families behind them to mourn their loss, who are new bereaved of any means of eking out an existence, which with them at best, has only been precarious. (Ballymena Observer)
Lough Neagh Tragedy in 1880
Now gather round all water-men, and listen unto me.
And those who are unacquainted with the dangers of the sea.
Until I relate the tragic fate of those, who sailed away.
That evening from the Ardboe shore to fish upon Toome Bay.
Oh! Lough Neagh thou are treacherous! thy victims are not few;
How oft the wife, the mother, do thy cruel tantrums rue!
But the mother’s cries, the widow’s sighs will rise for them in vain,
They fought the waves to lull the children’s wails, but never will again.
In 1880, in November of that year,
On the morning of the 26th, when danger did appear
And seemed to be approaching fast, Death stared at every man,
Right fervently they wished that day to be upon dry land.
The wind raved in its fury, and the waves did heave and swell
As rolling, on, like mountains, our doom they seemed to tell.
The terrors of a watery grave appeared in every form,
And gaped at full 200 soul upon that fatal morn.
The wind increased in violence our boats were small and frail.
But most of us that day, thank God, survived that cruel gale.
But alas! a few amongst us the rest were doomed to leave
To stand before the Judgment Seat, their sentence to receive.
I trust these men were well prepared, their number is four,
And o’er Lough Neagh’s angry waves they’ll steer their course no more.
On many stormy evening, they left their fireside.
For their mothers, wives and children subsistence to provide.
James CAMPBELL struggled manfully upon that fatal morn,
And battled hard against his fate to brave the angry storm.
But dreadful hour! his time was come, Fate whispered in his ear:
“You will never return home again to your wife and children dear.”
Oh! Sad must be the hour and sorrowful the heart,
And dread the separation from all we love to part.
To launch into Eternity without a warning sign.
To help prepare the poor soul to meet the Lord Divine.
I hope this will a warning be in future days to come;
Still think of Francis CONNOLLY, James CAMPBELL and his son.
And likewise Edward BEATSON, those four we’ll never see.
Good Christians pray for their souls repose, for all Eternity.
John COLEMAN, Mullinahoe
Transcribed by Jonathan Engstrand. Page compiled by Teena