Aran island marks 50th anniversary of ship's ordeal


IT ISN’T quite as famous as the Titanic, but it has become an iconic television image and a tourist attraction, thanks partly to the Channel 4 series Father Ted.

This weekend, the 50th anniversary of the grounding of the Plassy off Inisheer is due to be marked on the southernmost Aran island. Introductory shots of the Father Tedseries show the wreck.

Mick Tobin (74), the last living survivor of the 11 crew on board, is due to travel from his home in Limerick to the event which is being hosted by the island’s co-op and its arts centre, Áras Éanna.

Mr Tobin was a deckhand on board when the ship was caught in a storm en route to Galway from Fenit, Co Kerry, in March 1960. The motor coaster, originally built as a trawler for the Royal Navy, had been converted to a cargo ship and was owned by the Limerick Steamship Company.

“There was no lifeboat, no helicopter, we had no radar, and all of a sudden we were on rocks about three-quarters of a mile off the island,” Mr Tobin recalled yesterday. “It was thanks to the islanders using breeches buoy rescue equipment that we were all hauled into shore.”

The crew spent several days on the island until the regular ferry from Galway, Naomh Éanna, was able to pick them up. Mr Tobin went back to sea two weeks later, working with Irish Shipping, and spent 35 years in the industry – working latterly on tugs in Foynes.

Islanders involved in the rescue included Ruairí Sheánín Ó Conghaile and Micheál Anthon Ó Dómhnaill who are now in their early 70s. Both will also be attending the commemorative event, which will be opened by Mr Tobin at Áras Éanna tomorrow evening.

The weekend programme will include music sessions, with Corn Uí Riada 2009 winner Dominic Mac Giolla Bhríde performing. TG4 will be a screening of a documentary on the Plassy.