When people in Little Bray talk about the floods, their stories are vivid, frightening, poignant - and sometimes even funny.
If you ask Sean Fox of Dargan Street how high the water rose in his house in '86, he will tell you: "I can't remember, but I remember having to eat our dinner off the mantlepiece".
Madeline Traynor of St. Cronan's Road, was living down Greenpark Road in '65. She remembers pushing her baby son up the road towards Castle Street, when someone told her 'the flood is coming'. She tried to turn back to her house, but: "I couldn't get back - the river was coming up the road after me."
Harry Murray lived in the lodge in the People's Park in '65, where his father was caretaker, as well as being a member of Bray's part-time fire brigade. Harry's brother, Jimmy, had died earlier that year, at the age of 29, leaving behind a widow and three sons - the youngest an infant. They had moved back into Park Lodge following Jimmy's death, and had to escape upstairs to safety with the rest of the family, when the floodwaters rose in the little house.
Mr. Murray was out with the fire brigade, rescuing other people, while trying to keep in touch by telephone with the situation in his own home. "The water stopped rising around the ninth or tenth step on the stairs", Harry recalls.
Even more vivid, though, is his memory of his mother making a bed for her baby grandson - Tony - in a drawer, and breaking up a wardrobe to light a fire to keep them all warm...
Paula Cranley, nee Gilbert, grew up with the stories of the '65 flood, because she was born on 20th November, 1965, after her mother - Betty - was taken by boat from their home at 4, Belton Terrace - a row of small houses set back from Castle Street, in the angle between Bray Golf Course and the Dargle River.
Paula's Dad was at work, so her Aunt Phyllis had come to help the heavily pregnant Betty with her one-year old son, David. In the fright and confusion of the flood, David went missing, and it is this fear that Phyllis Watson most clearly remembers from that night. "I thought he was drowned", she recalls, with horror. Thank God, David was found safe, and Betty was taken from the boat in which they were rescued to Loughlinstown Hospital, where she gave birth to her second child three days later.
When they were released from hospital, they went to live with Betty's mother in Wolfe Tone Square, as their home was unhabitable.
Colm Doyle of Brabazon Cottages was living in Big Bray in '86, but his mother, sister, and aunt were all living in the first house (furthest from the river) in River Lane, where Colm grew up. He heard about the flood as he was on his way into Dublin for an interview and couldn't wait to get back to see how they had survived it.
"There wasn't a drop of water in the house when I got there", he remembers in amazement. "The house next door was ruined with the flood water up from the river, but it didn't reach my mother's from there."
"But what was even more amazing is that the flood had come surging down the Dargle Road by Murphy's Pub as well, and the sheer speed and power of it took it up the Greenpark Road and Lr. Dargle Road, without touching my mother's on that side either!"
Pearl Loveday and her husband, George Keating, were living in Kilbride when the ’86 floods broke – but their parents were living in Little Bray.
The Keatings rushed down, and found George’s mother and sister safe on the top floor of their home in Sutton Villas. …But Pearl Loveday’s parents – Maurice and Kathleen Tinsley – lived in one-storey Ardee Street. Maurice was a watch-maker, like his father before him, with his workshop attached to the house. He was 74 and suffering from bronchitis. His wife, Kathleen, was 62, and was also very ill.
When the Keatings eventually found them safe in Ravenswell Convent, with the rest of the evacuees, they heard that the flood waters had come up to the couple’s waists before rescuers reached them. They lost almost everything, including watchmaking tools that Maurice Tinsley had inherited from his father.
The couple went to live with Pearl Loveday for a while, but were anxious to return home as soon as the house was cleaned. Their home was impossible to make healthy again, however, and Bray Urban District Council rehoused them six months later beside their daughter in Kilbride.
They never really recovered from the flood, Pearl Loveday says. Mr. Tinsley died in 1991, following a series of strokes. His wife, Kathleen, died some five years later.
Jim and Ann McKenna were living in one-storey Ardee Street in 1965, with their 10 month old son, Adrian, in November, 1965. On Monday evening, 17th, Jim had gone into Dublin, with his brother, to watch a football match, but their bus was stopped at the outskirts of Bray on the return journey: they were told that they couldn’t go any further as Little Bray was flooded.
“I have to get through – my wife and son are down there”, Jim remembers shouting in horror, and he ran along the Upper Dargle Road till he could see his own house down below. The lights were still on in the house... He begged a lift from a rescue boat, explaining his story, and when they reached Ardee Street: “The first thing I saw was the open door, and an elephant on wheels that we’d bought for Christmas for Adrian came floating out.”
Terrified, he asked rescuers and neighbours if they knew where Ann and Adrian had gone, but it took hours before he found that they were safe in his father’s house…
Ann’s part of the story is that she was rescued, with Adrian, from the flooding house, and taken up to the high ground on the Upper Dargle.
“I was wearing a grey pencil skirt, and when we reached the Upper Dargle, I had the front part of the skirt still on, but the back had been torn away. A woman I knew on the Upper Dargle said she’d take Adrian and mind him, while I found somewhere for us to stay. I managed to get in touch with my father-in-law and arranged to go there, but I had to get a lift on the Fire Brigade to go back for Adrian.”
Their little house was destroyed but they worked hard to clean and dry it, and were relieved the day they went out to buy new wallpaper and “return to normal”.
“We hung the wallpaper and we were delighted with it”, remembers Ann, “and then we went out for a walk. When we came home, the wallpaper was lying on the ground. The walls hadn’t dried out properly.”
Twenty-one years later, they had moved to Dargle Terrace, even closer to the Dargle, but a two-storey house, and when they were warned that the river was going to flood Jimmy knew what to do:-
“I put up the sandbags at the gate and the front door, and I kept watching across the Park to the river, waiting for it to come over the walls. Then I heard a huge roar from my right, and I looked around and there was the river tearing down the roadway towards us. It had broken its banks further up. I ran for the house…”
Jimmy’s sandbags kept the river out of the front of the house, but it came in at the back – and up the toilets.
“It was filthy”, they both remember.
When the waters finally receded they came downstairs to find fish in drawers – and rats among the debris thrown up by the flood waters.
“It was heart breaking”, Jim recounts, and Ann adds wistfully: “Do you know we only have two photographs of our wedding day. All the rest of our album went in the floods.”
Both say if the floods come again, they will “turn the key in the door and walk away”.
“We just wouldn’t be able for another flood now at our ages”, they explain.
Junction of Fairgreen
Trish Quinn’s stories of both the ’65 and ’86 floods are funny – but it’s because of the way she tells them. When you examine the facts, they are horrific.
Both her parents were alive in ’65, but when the flood waters reached Dwyer Park on their way to the golf course lands, where Trish still lives, her mother was out “at the bingo”. Trish was helping her father to carry what they could upstairs when her mother returned in a huge lorry, and the driver carried her up the steps on his back to the two-storey house.
“She was waving away at us while she was getting the piggy-back”, Trish remembers, “and she was a big woman to carry. My father said: ‘Would you look at her – she’s enjoying herself. It’s a big adventure for her!’”, and Trish breaks down laughing at the memory.
“Then my father was giving out to me because he was lugging all sorts of heavy furniture, and I was carrying a vase at a time!”
Suddenly, Mr. Quinn disappeared for a few minutes and reappeared wearing a swimsuit.
“Where he found it in the commotion, I don’t know!”
They soon found out why – Mr. Quinn’s pride and joy was his Mini car, which was parked outside the house.
“He went down to try and tie it to the gate, and my mother and I were shouting at him to come in, he’d be drowned, but he kept on until he was nearly getting carried away, too.”
Tarmac in Dwyer Pk.
It was to no avail, though. Mr. Quinn returned safely inside, but the Mini was swept away, and featured in several newspapers the next day proudly sitting on a little island in the middle of the lake that the golf course had become.
“Do you know, that car was dried out and it ran perfectly for years after that. It just shows you how well things were made then.”
By ’86, both Trish’s parents had passed on, and she was trying to get anything she could upstairs to safety – including a young dog she’d acquired – when the floods came. Her most vivid memory of that night is looking out her top windows and seeing the boat from which the four rescuers were thrown turn over suddenly in the raging waters.
“I screamed and screamed, and then I saw them come up and hang onto the boat and get carried along that way.”
We're asking people to write down their memories for us - and to loan us their photographs to be scanned, if they weren't lost in the floods. Here are the first few contributions...
1986: Timmins family, Ravenswell Row, Middle Dargle
"I remember on that August night I had to work late at Werburgh Street in Dublin. It was 10 o'clock before I got home as the Bray bus couldn't get past Crinken because the storm took some trees down. I had to walk from Crinken.
"My mother, who was 85, was very upset over the storm, so I gave her tea. Then I had something to eat and I went to bed to be woken up by what I thought was a motor bike. But it was a motor boat...
"I got my mother up, and managed to get her and a few elderly neighbours to high ground. They were frightened as they were mostly people in their 70s.
"I came back to the house to see if I could save anything because we'd only moved in to Ravenswell Row two months before the flood. They're one-storey houses.
"But it was too late. The river rushed up the road, smashing the door open and knocking stuff all around the house.
"We had to spend the night with a family at Fassaroe.
Side Entrance to Golf Links
"The next morning I came back to see if anything was saved, but nothing was... The river had destroyed everything.
"The house was full of hard muck. It went up four feet in the house so I had to throw everything out. We had no insurance so I had to buy everything new again.
"Most of the older people in Ravenswell Row and Ardee Street never got over it."
1986: Nelson family, St. Cronan's Road, Middle Dargle
"August 1986 was a time I'll never forget. I had just cleaned up after the dinner and sat down to watch telly.
"My husband, Tommy, came in afer being out for a walk. He was told the river was very high, so he and my son, Peter, went over to the Park. The water was very high.
"Tommy then rang a councillor and told him we were going to be flooded. Tommy said he thought the army should be brought out. The reply was: 'There's nothing going to happen.'
"Two hours later our homes were destroyed, not only by water, but all sorts of filth came out of the sewers. It was horrific.
"Myself and a lot of other people were not insured, so we had to struggle to rebuild our homes. the Government at the time gave no financial help to us.
"I hope to God it never happens again."
1986: Shirley Wright nee Davis, Coburg Estate
St. Laurence's Tce.
"At 9pm. on Monday, 25th August, 1986, I was sitting in my parents' house on the Florence Road when the phone rang. "Tell Shirley to get down here if she wants to save anything in her house", was the message from a neighbour.
"That call changed my life, as one hour later my house (which had been mine for exactly six weeks) was flooded. The water continued to rise over the next few hours to a level of two and a half feet inside and five feet outside, requiring swimming skills to get in or out.
"The next day was awful as the muck and mess was everywhere, but there was no water in sight. The path and road in Coburg had to be cleaned by a high powered hose, and the Council van came around three to four times a day to collect furniture, fridges, cookers, carpets, etc., etc. Who will collect it next time...?
"I couldn't move back into my 'new' house until the following March, because of the damage."
1931 and 1905: Rosanna Carroll, Casey's Arch, Little Bray
"In 1931, my grandmother, Rosanna Carroll, and her husband and family, lived in a place called Casey's Arch, which would have been located around St. Cronan's Road direction. When the flood came they were evacuated to the International Hotel on Quinsboro Road, like everyone else.
"My grandmother went back to the house as soon as the water subsided, scrubbing, cleaning and trying to dry the place out. After all the hard work, she lay down, exhausted, and fell asleep, but she lay on a wet mattress, which was the worst thing she could do. She got pneumonia, and later died from it.
"The family along with neighbours were rehoused in St. Patrick's Square in February, 1932. My grandmother lived there until May, when she passed on. Casey's Arch was demolished, and the flood was the cause of her death.
"In 1905, Roseanna Carroll's then 3 years old daughter fell into the raging flood waters, and was very lucky to have been rescued. I'm not sure by whom, but this is something I was told about when I was a child.
"I'm sure, when she was giving thanks for the rescue of her daughter, that she never dreamed the next flood would bring her own death."
as told by her grand-daughter
The Bray 'Cavalera' - Charlie Russell
Typical of the humour of the floods is a song written by a great Bray 'troubadour' - the late Charlie Russell - about the characters and places of Little Bray and about the floods. The words were given to us by Sean Fox of Dargan Street - no mean troubadour, himself...
'I am a Bray Cavelera
'All I lost in the flood was my glasses.
'They stripped me and gave me some brandy,
'B.L.B. was on the air night and day,
'Charlie Clarges was flooded again.
'A lady named Mrs O’Brien,
'Aidan O’ Toole has gone round the bend
'Gemma and Garrett came out in a flurry,
'We’d men from Greystones and Rathdangan,
'Once again the fourth flood has found us,