Dundalk Harbour by Sean Lucas

Considerable damage was done to slate and windows in Castle Road houses

The weather permitting, I often sit in Dundalk harbour on my lunchbreak, trying to protect my sausage roll from over-eager seagulls. Depending on the time I sit on one of the quayside pollards, I can watch the waddling ballet of the sea birds in the muck low-lying Castletown river at low tide, or watch them glide over the waters in salt marsh and the harbour basin, always with the the Cooley Mountains in the background. Sometimes there are fishermen having a chat, other people on their break sit in their cars, and people are stapling empty beer kegs in front of the Spirit Store pub, ready for collection. It is hard to imagine that some of the last bombs ever to be dropped on Irish soil exploded close by.

On the night of Wednesday, July 23rd, 1941, a lone plane rumbled towards Dundalk from the north, and I am pretty sure it had the solid cross of the Luftwaffe on its wings. Whatever the reason for its presence, being lost or trying to make a getaway from the British antiaircraft cannon around Belfast, when it reached Dundalk it dropped its deadly cargo. As local author Victor Witmarsh writes in his book ‘Dundalk in the Emergency’:

The explosion awakened half the town, the blast shattered many windows in the vicinity, and debris was scattered over a wide area,…

Seemingly drop consisted of one large bomb that fell on a waste ground surrounded by a triangle of the railway line to Greenore railway line, the Quay front surface and a road leading from St. Mary’s Road, and some smaller bombs all dropped in a more or less straight line in the direction of Thomastown. Tom Kenny, assistant Town Engineer in Dundalk at the time, provides a more detailled recollection of the events in ‘Some Recollections of the A.R.P.’:

Sometime after the second Blitz on Belfast, Dundalk had its own incident in which a German bomber dropped one large and 10 small bombs in a dead straight line, the first one at the rear of the coal yard (Cooper’s) on the Dundalk side of the River, in the mud and ten at intervals out towards Thomastown. It would appear from the pattern that the pilot (bomb aimer?) was trying to avoid Dundalk. He dropped his big bomb where he thought was water and dropped his small bombs in rural areas.
The bomb mentioned above was supposed to be a 1,000 lb. bomb and it made a crater 45 feet in diameter and about 30 feet deep and the only casualty was a goat. Considerable damage was done to slate and windows in Castle Road houses from the blast of the big bomb, which fortunately dropped in mud because, if it had dropped on a hard surface, the damage would have been considerable.

This last bombing, harmlessly compared with the May 1941 bombing of Dublin in which 28 people died, lead to the Irish government filing an official complaint to Nazi Germany. As Joseph P. Walshe, Secretary of the Department of External Affairs of the Irish Free State, wrote to Lieutenant General Peadar MacMahon in 1942:

24 July, 1941 Dundalk, Co. Louth. In spite of several reminders, no reply, beyond an acknowledgment, has yet been received from the German Government to the protest made to them through the Chargé d’Affaires in Berlin.

The pub on the Quays, owned by the Mee family and now the Spirit Store, was able to keep open and sold beer to the emergency services workers.

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