It’s a tragedy Greencastle and Inishowen will never forget.
Six local men, all well-known and with loved ones waiting back home, never returned after their trawler, the “Carricatine,” sank without trace on November 15th, 1995.
Two decades on, father and son John and Stephen Kelly; brothers Jeremy and Conal McKinney; Terry Doherty and Bernard Gormley are still spoken of, mourned and remembered, not only by their heartbroken families, but also in their communities across Inishowen.
Relatives and the community are still searching for answers as to what happened on that tragic day when a close-knit community was plunged into mourning six lives lost much too soon.
The loss of the “Carrickatine” made national and international headlines. When it became almost certain the vessel had been lost, The “Journal’s” headline on Tuesday, November 21st, 1995 was ‘Greencastle’s Worst Nightmare Confirmed.’
One person who lived through that nightmare with the families and community was the then Parish Priest of Moville, Fr. George McLaughlin. He tells the ‘Journal’ he remembers hearing the news as if it was yesterday.
He said: “November 15th was a Wednesday and I was scheduled to say 7.30 Mass in Ballybrack. It was a dreadful night. I said to a friend who had come down for Mass: ‘I hope the boats are all home.” I phoned a local fisherman, who said they were all in except two, but they were on their way.
He then phoned me in the morning and said one, the ‘Carrickatine,’ hadn’t come in.”
Fr McLaughlin said there was “hope” for a few days amidst a large scale search.
He said: “There was an anxiety to hear good news which would never come. But, after a few days it became clear that good news wasn’t going to come. We had a Mass the following Saturday in Moville Church and I think that was a final way of saying that they weren’t coming home.”
Fr McLaughlin said that for a long time afterwards, many local fishing boats kept searching and trailed along the route, but to no avail.
He continued: “I think it really made it worse. The family didn’t even have the bodies to say their goodbyes.”
Fr. McLaughlin said the families of the men were “very brave and very strong,” clinging “very solidly” to each other, while the community came together to support them “in a big way.”
Fr.McLaughlin said the families also had strong support from the local fishermen’s co-op and added that nationally, the then Minister for Fisheries , Sean Barrett and the “very kind” President, Mary Robinson visited them with the latter speaking at Sunday Mass in Ballybrack.
The search was eventually wound down and on February 5th, 1996, the relatives of those lost gathered together at sea on the Irish Navy Vessel the LE Eithne.
“We held a Mass and dropped wreathes into the sea. It was the final service at that time, but those lost were never, ever forgotten and never will be.”
A Mass will be celebrated on Sunday at Ballybrack Chapel at 12pm for those lost on the Carrickatine and all those who were lost at sea.