The Big Snow of 1982

By: John Smyth

Jan 15 2013

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Exactly thirty years ago, Ireland was recovering from a massive snow-storm. It wasn’t just the amount of snow that fell – it was the fact that blizzard conditions caused huge snowdrifts. It was also very, very cold – the lowest temperature ever recorded in Ireland was -19.6 degrees celcius in Dublin on January 12th, 1982¹.

I was 15 that year and a few things stick in my mind. Our car – a venerable and leaky Ford Escort – got stuck at the end of the boreen that leads to our farmhouse. It sat there for a few days – buried in a snowdrift – until the JCB digger sent from Tyrellspass by Westmeath County Council to liberate Rahugh finally reached Monasset and our lane. News of its progress was tracked eagerly the residents of Rahugh. By the Sunday after Christmas, the digger had cleared the road to St. Hugh’s Church which allowed a priest from Kilbeggan to drive to Rahugh to celebrate Mass. My abiding memory of that time was , on the Sunday morning, most of Rahugh’s residents walking together to Mass on the snow-covered roads.

Since most people in Rahugh were farmers, there were plenty of tractors available, which meant that most people had some means of transport (and for towing out vehicles that were stuck). However, it was so cold that fuel froze, and I distinctly remember my Dad fetching a bucket of diesel (for the tractor) that had been left out in a shed – it had frozen to the consistency of jelly. At the time, our cattle were in sheds and were safe (given enough hay and shelter, most cattle could chew their way through an Ice Age).

I discovered a picture (the top one above) that my mother took of myself, my brother and sister during that time. We are standing on a frozen drainage ditch – normally it would have about half a meter of water in it but the water froze to ice right to the bottom. I wanted to take a picture in the same spot this weekend, but in the intervening 30 years, some hawthorn scrub has grown along the bank so the bottom picture is a few yards upstream of the 1982 location (and it is a wider angle).

There is a small chance of light snow this week in Ireland on higher ground – I don’t think we will have a repetition of 1982, though.

¹Met Eireann – Temperature in Ireland (

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