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Remembering lost boys over a century on

It may have taken almost 120 years to properly remember them in perpetuity but one of the saddest days to ever occur in the village of Ballinamore Bridge was recalled in forensic detail last weekend.

The occasion was the unveiling of a plaque in memory of four boys who tragically drowned in the Shiven River in 1904, in an event organised by the Ballinamore Bridge Heritage Society on Sunday.

The Society’s Secretary Tommy Crehan recalled that the Lohan brothers – Laurence (13), James (9) and Patrick (7) – and their friend and neighbour James Coffey (9) went for a swim in the Shiven River on a warm summer day of July 10 1904.

All four had come from the nearby village of Cloonabricka.

Halie and Ann Crehan, relatives of those drowned on the Shiven River in 1904, at the plaque unveiling in Ballinamore Bridge last Sunday.

He described this as terrible trauma for the families and the entire community at the time.

Met Eireann records show it was a warm summer’s morning when the four boys, at 5am, decided with another friend Matthew Keane decided to go for a dip in the local Shiven River.

Four were drowned and Matthew Keane survived and gave evidence at the inquest. In his evidence he said was afraid to venture in and remained on the brink of the river.

He recalled that James Coffey went into deeper waters and that Laurence Lohan went to went to save him and he too went under the water and the two siblings went to save them but unfortunately also went under the water.

Matthew screamed for help and local man John Carr arrived but as he undressed all four had gone underwater.

The local Royal Irish Constabulary stationed at Ballinamore Bridge arrived and entered the water said to be ten feet deep and recovered the bodies of all four drowned.

They were removed by horse and cart and laid out in the local R.I.C Station – now Hughes’ pub in Ballinamore Bridge. The Jury at the inquest returned a verdict of accidental drowning.

Sunday’s unveiling saw the Chairman of the Historical Society, Farrell Tumelty ,welcome all and

Fr. Louis Lohan with Mary Connolly from Newbridge, the nearest relative of the boys drowned tragically in the Shiven River in 1904, and her grandchildren Fionn, Fiagh and Éabha Connolly at the Ballinamore Bridge plaque unveiling last Sunday.

pay tribute to the local committee for their research and fundraising for the project – and to all who gave donations as well as Galway County Council for their support.

Gabriel Larkin a local poet read a beautiful poem he had composed in memory of the four boys.

Fr. Douglas and Fr Louis Lohan recited prayers for the boys and blessed the plaque erected in their memory.

Martin Cuffe, a relative of the boys, and Sean Keane, President of the Historical Society, laid wreaths in memory of the boys.

Matthew Hughes thanked all who had prepared for the event and the committee who had prepared for this historic day.

The large attendance then retired to Hughes where refreshments were served, and traditional music was enjoyed for the evening.

Although 120 years later, the remembrance ceremony was a credit to the organising committee and enjoyed by the attendance of over 500 people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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