ON Sunday 19 May 2013, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled marking the loss of 73 men from Newcastle, Annalong and the Mourne area in a disaster at sea several miles from Newcastle in 1843.
The unveiling of the plaque which will be near the Harbour in Newcastle, and it is part of an early evening event, planned in co-operation with the local Harbour Regeneration group, to commemorate the tragedy and testify to the resilience of the fishing community along the County Down coast.
Sinn Féin Councillor Willie Clarke said: “I am delighted with the way Down District Council, museum staff and the local Harbour regeneration group have embraced the sentiments of my motion, requesting council to organise a commemoration to recognise the loss of 73 fishermen who tragically died in a fishing disaster at sea seven miles off shore from Newcastle in 1843.
“Down District Council will unveil a commemorative plaque on the 19 May 2013 marking the loss of 73 men from Newcastle, Annalong and Mourne who died in the fishing disaster, the local rescue services will lay a wreath at sea in honour of the brave souls who perished in such tragic circumstances. Following the unveiling there will be poems which will be recited by children from local schools in Annesley Hall, Newcastle; the event will conclude with entertainment from local Folk band Granite, who have written a song in memory of the 73 men.
“I have been working alongside Terry Cowan from Granite in producing a commemorative CD that will be available for purchase, with the proceeds going towards heritage projects associated with the harbour area of Newcastle. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all associated with organising and taking part in the commemorative event, I am certain this event will be a fitting tribute to the 73 and to all local people who have lost their lives through the dangerous occupation of fishing.”
On Friday 13 January 1843, ten boats from Newcastle and six from Annalong set out to fish for herring. A sudden, severe storm blew up resulting in several capsizing and many fishermen drowning in the ice cold waters of the Irish Sea.
Several boats rowed out from Newcastle and Annalong to try to rescue those struggling for life but to no avail. The 73 men who died left behind them 27 widows and almost 100 dependent children. Shortly afterwards a public subscription was established to provide a relief fund to assist these families. The ‘Widow’s row’ cottages were built to house some of the widows and their children bereaved in the tragedy.
The plaque will be unveiled in a ceremony on Sunday 19 May, which begins at 5pm. A boat from the local branch of the RNLI will sail out from shore to place a wreath in the water to remember the tragedy.
Local people are invited to attend the unveiling and then make their way to the Annesley Hall to take part in an event of words and music from 5.30pm to pay tribute to the continuing spirit of the fishing community and those who gave and still give their time to the lifeboat rescue services.
Schools from Newcastle and Annalong have been invited to take part in a poetry writing event to commemorate the tragedy and the best poems submitted will be read at the event. Highly popular local folk band, Granite will play some music, including a new, specially written song about the events of 1843.
Tea will be served for those attending and there will be the opportunity to find out more about the work of the Harbour Regeneration group. All members of the community around Newcastle, Annalong and surrounding areas, and those with a special interest in the disaster, are warmly invited to attend this event.