Inconvenience and injury hail from the sky


Hail in Ireland is usually a mere temporary inconvenience. In parts of central Europe, however, particularly in the mountainous regions towards the centre of the continent, it can be very much more serious.

Tacal is a wine-growing district in eastern Hungary on the slopes of the Carpathian mountains. A contemporary issue of the Bulletin Of The American Meteorological Society contains a graphic account of a hailstorm which occurred there 76 years ago today.

"This storm of July 14th, 1924, was worse than any ever recorded in this district. Two dark clouds were rapidly approaching at 5 p.m. from the north-east and from the west. In a few minutes after the hail began, the fields were covered in some places with ice five inches deep, in some places falling without any rain and with such force that many hens and ducks were killed.

"Still greater damage was caused by it: for instance, the tower of a church was broken off and fell to the ground. In a pathway of five miles every crop, and the vineyards, were completely destroyed, 6,000 acres of wheat, 3,000 acres of cultivated crops, and 1,500 acres of vineyards."

On nearly the same date in 1788, just a year before the fall of the Bastille, there was a rather similar occurrence near Paris. A vivid description of the hailstorm on July 13th, 1788, is contained in a letter some days later from the British ambassador to his foreign secretary in London:

"A storm of thunder, lightning and hail experienced in the environs of Paris last Sunday morning was uncommonly violent and has done much mischief in those parts where its force was felt. The hailstones that fell were of a size and weight never heard of before in this country, some of them measuring 16 inches in circumference. Two men were found dead not far from St Germain, and a horse so much bruised that it was determined to kill him from a motive of humanity to put an end to his misery."

Of course, it could never happen here. Or could it? Listen to a contemporary chronicler describe events of March 25th, 1635, at Castletown, near Ballycumber, Co Offaly: "Every hailstone was the size of four inches in circumference. Each went two inches into the earth, and those that fell on water went right to the bottom like a natural stone. A hen was killed in Ballykilmurry; and some of the stones at the time of the shower struck a woman on the head, even under her hood, and wounded her so that her head was sore for a week afterwards".