Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Irish memorial erected to 253 who died in British naval tragedy

A remote community on a rugged Irish headland have commemorated an almost forgotten British naval disaster more than two centuries ago.

HMS Saldanha sank in Lough Swilly with the loss of around 250 lives in December 1811.

Locals on the Fanad peninsula have raised €1,500 (£1,200) to erect a memorial on the site where the washed-up bodies were buried, now the 18th hole of Portsalon golf course.

The extraordinary gesture is being put down to a new relationship between Ireland and Britain in recent years.

Hazel Russell, from Rathmullan, which overlooks the Swilly, said: “It wouldn't have taken place 10 or 20 years ago. With the peace process, everything has changed.”

Most of the 253 crew were conscripts, press-ganged from their homes in Britain, but a number were from Co Donegal.

After locals raised a granite plaque marking the event last year, the Royal Navy got in touch to thank them.

The new mass-grave memorial on the golf course is to be officially unveiled next Sunday.

It carries a short history of HMS Saldanha and the names of all the officers and crew, information retrieved from the National Archives in London.

The doomed vessel was sailing from Buncrana to enforce a naval blockade against Napoleonic France in the north Atlantic when it became engulfed in furious seas and fierce gales near Ballymastocker Bay.

Sailors had little chance of surviving the freezing, dark waters swirling around them.

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