A chilling memory


THE big freeze of 1947 began 50 years ago this week, and its harshness and longevity remain indelibly etched on the memories of those who lived through it. One such was Dr Adrian Somerfield, now of Churchtown, Co. Dublin. In early 1947 Dr Somerfield was a medical student in his first year at Trinity College, and he has sent Weather Eye a graphical, almost lyrical, account of his recollection of that time in Dublin.

"My memory is that there was one really great fall of snow, and then not much more, but about six weeks of very cold weather - the frost: at night to freeze the ruts and a slight thaw each afternoon when what traffic there was redistributed the mess to freeze in a new layout that night. The roads were never gritted or cleared, but I don't recall the councils being blamed for inactivity as they would be today: they didn't have the fuel, or the lorries. I don't think we minded we accepted that that was the way things were, and eventually the snow would melt.

"There was, of course, much less traffic then. There were some buses, never heated and with open platforms, and trams still went to Dartry, Terenure and Dalkey; but fewer people had cars and I think petrol was still rationed, though there was a man in Grafton Street who sold coupons. I think gas, too, was rationed, as I know we had to juggle our chemistry practicals to coincide with the supply. I know we had to be careful about electricity, but whether this was because of rationing or parental caution about the bills I don't remember - possibly both.

"But like most people, I cycled, and I can remember bouncing over the frozen ruts between my home near, Milltown and TCD. I don't think I ever fell off, but there were places where you had to put your feet down".

"By St. attacks Day the worst was over. That day the youth group of my parish walked from Rockbrook to Kilternan via the Pine Forest and Glencullen. On the high road there was still plenty of snow, which from time to time gave us gallant boys the opportunity to carry the girls across the worst bits - happy days! But even in June there were patches of snow in north facing gullies on mountains such as Tongalee.

"Yes, I do remember the season - the struggle to keep warm and to get dry, to prevent the roof tanks and the pipes from freezing, to keep things working. In retrospect, I suppose I enjoyed it. At least there was toboganning at Stepaside, even if we had to haul our sledge behind our bikes to get there."