Hugh Jordan: ‘How could such a beautiful place be made to look like this in seconds’

‘From today onwards, Creeslough will be known as the village in Co. Donegal where 10 people lost their lives in a tragic gas explosion’

A garda comforts a local woman as the village’s residents try to come to terms with the devastation

Locals comfort each other in Creeslough

Locals meet at St Michael’s church in Creeslough

Locals comfort each other

Hugh JordanSunday World

Early yesterday morning, the skies above Donegal were filled with bright sunshine as I took the road from Letterkenny to Dunfanaghy.

But bang on cue, they darkened considerably as I passed the turn-off to Carrigart and headed round the bend to the tiny village of Creeslough.

It was as if the rain gods knew the extent of the grief which had consumed this delightful spot with stunning views over beautiful Sheephaven Bay.

Until last Friday, Creeslough was famous for two very positive things. Percy French’s song The Emmigrant’s Letter – better known as Cutting the Corn in Creeslough – which is still sung in Irish bars around the world.

And, of course, Eamon Lafferty – the Irishman butler who inherited the fortune of American billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke – came from Creeslough.

Locals comfort each other in Creeslough

From today onwards, Creeslough will be known as the village in Co. Donegal where 10 people lost their lives in a tragic gas explosion.

For as long as I can remember, the service station in the centre of the village was a stopping post to replenish supplies before heading westwards to the green glens of the Rosses and Gweedore.

You were virtually guaranteed to meet someone you knew and, of course, it was one of the last places in the country to stock healthy supplies of newspapers.

But yesterday, as I walked along the main street in the direction of the filling station, the first thing I noticed was the large gaping hole in a building which – until last Friday – had been home to several families.

It was an eerie feeling, because I could see pictures and wallpaper and furniture which had previously been part of family homes.

Paraphernalia of family life was on display, but the families were gone.

I wondered how this could happen. How could such a beautiful place be made look like this in a matter of seconds?

I contented myself in the knowledge that the answers to those questions were perhaps for someone else to ask in another place on another day.

Locals meet at St Michael’s church in Creeslough

Minutes later, I bumped into a familiar face. Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ – Bishop of Raphoe – was visiting the village to offer words of comfort to those left devastated by tragedy and loss.

Like me, Bishop Alan knew Creeslough would never be the same again. But he was determined to offer the villagers kind words and comfort in their time of need.

Some of those I met on Creeslough main street yesterday described Friday night’s tragedy as an ‘Act of God’. I’m not so sure about that.

People from this part of Donegal are well used to tragedy. It was near here – at Owencarrow Viaduct on January 30, 1925 – that a railway tragedy happened which claimed four lives. Of the surviving passengers, only one was uninjured.

In those far-off times, the people of this area rallied round and did what they could for the families affected.

And I’m certain that in the days, weeks and months to come, the people of Creeslough will do the same.

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