Rescue of the ‘Myra’
Murrisk skipper Austin Burke aged 68 left Murrisk pier on the 3rd May 1947 in a 34ft Trawler ‘The Myra’ accompanied by Thomas Farrell aged 40 and John Kavanagh aged 45 both from Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The intention was to deliver ‘The Myra’ to her new owner in Arklow.
En route they encountered a ferocious storm off the Connemara coast, which blew them 65 miles off course out into the Atlantic ocean. They saw land on a few occasions, but successive gales swept them back up along the west coast of Ireland to the outer Hebrides off Scotland.
They had run out of petrol, lost their compass, rudder and their sail was torn to shreds. Starting off with 4 days food and water they were reduced to eating seaweed, which they endeavoured to catch as it passed by. They drank salt water but that made them sick. Day after day, night after night they were kept busy bailing out the water.
After 20 days drifting in busy fishing waters and several boats and trawlers passing them unnoticed the Fleetwood trawler ‘Iagret’ finally noticed them. When rescued they were off Barra Head in the outer Hebrides, Scotland. They were taken on board and made as comfortable as possible by skipper John Browne who made the 100 mile dash to the nearest port of Oban with ‘The Myra’ in tow.
“We prayed continuously” Austin Burke told the waiting press, “we were sure that skipper John Browne and the crew of ‘The Iagret’ were sent from Heaven”. When news of their rescue was relayed to his wife Maria, his fellow fishermen and neighbours they all rejoiced. Mass and prayers were said in thanksgiving.
On his arrival at Westport railway station, County Cllr. Paddy Gibbons of Lecanvey read an address of welcome. Bonfires lined the route from Westport to his home village of Murrisk where hundreds had gathered to celebrate the safe return from the sea of one of their own.
It was considered ‘unlucky’ if a crew member was whistling a tune on board.