January 6th, 1839 – The Night of the Big Wind


The Night of the Big Wind (Irish: Oíche na Gaoithe Móire) was a powerful European windstorm which swept without warning across Ireland beginning in the afternoon of January 6th, 1839, causing severe damage to property and several hundred deaths; 20% to 25% of houses in north Dublin were damaged or destroyed, and 42 ships were wrecked. 

The Night of the Big Wind

The Night of the Big Wind became part of Irish folk tradition. Irish folklore held that Judgement Day would occur on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th. Such a severe storm led many to believe that the end of the world was at hand.

When the British state pension system was introduced in 1909, one of the questions asked of those applicants in Ireland who lacked documentation was whether they could remember the storm of 1839.

A popular story holds that the storm inspired the Director of Armagh Observatory, the Reverend Romney Robinson, to develop the cup-anemometer, which remains the commonly used wind measuring device today.

The storm attained a very low barometric pressure of 918 hectopascals (27.1 inHg) and tracked eastwards to the north of Ireland, bringing winds gusts of over 100 knots (185 km/h, 115 mph) to the south before moving across the north of England and onto the European continent where it eventually died out. At the time, it was the most damaging Irish storm for 300 years.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


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