The Night of the Big Wind Dated Lives of Irish
Fredricksburg News; Fredricksburg, Chickasaw, Iowa; May 18, 1939

     Many Americans whose grandparents were born in Ireland have heard these elders speak of the night of the big wind. As some of the ancestors referred to it as the date of their birth the youngsters may have regarded it as a bit of frivolous avoidance of fact. But there was such a night, recalls the New York Sun.
     It began about 11 o'clock on the night of January 6, 1839, and continued until after daylight the next morning. Limerick and the Dublin neighborhood suffered heavily. Two hundred houses were blown down and as many more were burned. Twenty persons were killed in these catastrophes and 100 were drowned. The coasts of Ireland and western England were lined with wrecks.
     As Ireland did not keep vital statistics until 1860, the night of the big wind was used as the base of many claims made under the old age pension act 30 years ago. The Irish Digest reprints some paragraphs from "Things Past Redress" a book by Augustine Birrell, who went to Ireland as chief secretary in 1907:
     "It was a wonderful wind! Dickens alone could have done it justice. It ought to have blown itself out in 1839, but there it still was, sweeping pension officers and local government officials off their feet in 1908. Question any old man as to his claim, and you learned that his age had gone astray on him but he was a fine hardy lad on the night of the big wind!"
     As news distribution, like the collection of vital statistics, was in its infancy in 1839, the readers of the Sun did not learn of the calamitous happenings in Ireland until the arrival of the packet ship Cambridge on February 13, and that news was limited to what had happened near Liverpool, whence the Cambridge sailed. Three days later the Great Western reached New York with further details, but these were not as lively as the announcement of Victoria's engagement to Albert, which also arrived on the Great Western.