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“THE NIGHT THE PLANE CAME DOWN”


Phil Mc Manus recalls The Templeport Emergency

ST. PATRICK’S NIGHT 1943

Templeport Hall was packed. So were Cloone, Drumnamore, Creevalea, . . . it was St. Patrick’s Night and back in 1943 that meant our only dance during Lent.
The war had been raging now for four and a half years but who cared, on St. Patrick’s Night? We danced to our hearts content to top hits like “Now is the hour”, “Darling live till morn”, and “The Valley of Knockanure” — eat your heart out Michael Jackson!
The part I hated most about the war was having to eat brown bread — and I hated the rationing. Everything was rationed. Fags were scarce — and they were dear too — ten fags for seven pence, but they could cost you a shilling on the black market.
It was the time, too, of plenty of work but no money. Whole families had to stay at home from school to help with the compulsory tillage — each farmer had to till a quarter of his farm.
There were plenty of people about, and this meant big crowds at the local dances, but this St. Patrick’s Night was to prove very special.
A local lad burst in, full of excitement. He hadn't been at the dance as his mother had died a few months previously — and in those days no one went dancing for twelve months if there had been a death in the house. We have lost our sense of values in this regard too.
Anyway he told us that an aeroplane had flown in a circle around Templeport, Aughawillan and Corlough — it was very noisy, there were lights flashing, each time it circled it was coming lower, almost touching the houses and trees. He thought it had crashed somewhere between Templeport Creamery and Corlough.
Many of us had never seen a plane so we abandoned the girlfriends and headed off on the bikes in search of this phenomenon. Other fellows took to the fields, Eventually we discovered that the plane had crashed into Port Lake beside St. Mogue's Island. The Church of Ireland rector, who lived near the lake, led a group of people on a rescue mission for survivors. They found no survivors — or bodies — but they did find plenty of live ammunition on board.
Souvenir hunters brought home some of the bullets and shells and amused themselves for the remainder of Lent exploding them in a big fire. They knew very little of the dangers of such a carry on — but luckily no one was injured.
March 18th was Ballyconnell Fair Day. They were there from Corlough, Aughawillan, Kiltyhugh, Ballinamore, Garadice, Newtowngore, Drumeela — but the farmers from Templeport were the centre of attention and they were all authorities on what had happened — even though a lot of them had been in bed during it all.
It gradually transpired that the pilot and co-pilot had baled out — one of them near Kinawley and the other near Corlough. The Parish Priest gave him a pair of wellingtons and he headed off for the North.
The local L.D.F. were put on duty at the lake to keep sightseers and souvenir hunters away. One night they were joined by the L.D.F. from Aughawillan and they became souvenir hunters themselves! Parts of the plane, I’m sure, are still to be found somewhere in the Aughawillan area. The army eventually came and took away the remainder of the live ammunition. Whatever was left is now at the bottom of Port Lake.

For many years every event around Templeport centred around “the night the plane came down” — everything happened that night, on the day before, or the day after.
Local people claimed that our local saint, St. Mogue, took the controls of the plane after the pilot baled out and guided it safely away from the homes of the parish. But he probably had St. Patrick as Co-pilot!
St. Mogue saved us in other ways too. People going to America always brought St. Mogue’s Clay with them to guarantee a safe passage. Indeed some Corlough people who survived the ill-fated Titanic believed it was St. Mogue’s clay that had saved them from a watery grave.
When building a house people had faith in St. Mogue too — they put some of the clay into the walls of the house to guard against fire. Indeed it was the only fire insurance policy many of us had!
Little wonder, then, that hundreds of people from Leitrim and West Cavan attend St. Mogue’s Stations every January, and many families still bury their dead in the cemetery on St. Mogue’s Island.
St. Mogue — often called St. Aidan — is said to have actually been born on this same island. He became Bishop of Ferns and retired in his old age to county Leitrim where he died. He was buried on the island which was then named after him.
But to come back to the plane.
There were numerous stories as to what it was doing around Templeport on that St. Patrick’s Night in ‘43.
Perhaps the most popular one was about a local man who had joined the British army at the beginning of the war when he had been working in England. However, he had left the army for health reasons. (He was sick of it). On that night he was convinced it was a German plane sent out to kidnap him, or maybe kill him.
He wasn't’t seen around Templeport for days after. After the night the plane came down!

Phil Mc Manus
LEITRIM GUARDIAN

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John Patrick Flynn (left) and Paddy Quinn (right) remember the excitement around Aughawillan on the night the plane came down
Patrick McCartan, Drummucker.
remembers the night the plane came down — and the stories at Ballyconnell Fair the next day.
Part of the Plane is still functioning! P. J. (Sonny) Callahan, Aughawillan, points to the hydraulic pump on a water tank at his home.
Sonny heard the plane crash, cycled to Port Lake. took the pump as a souvenir and eventually put it to use when he built the tank in 1952.
© Phil Mc Manus - Leitrim Guardian 1989 (Page 46 - 48)
Thanks to Annie Joe Mc Manus for making this article and photographs available to us.

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