Landslide! Pullathomas Co. Mayo.

Visiting the uniquely interesting Ceide Fields was a damp experience and as I left there heading west on my trip along the Wild Atlantic Way in June of this year, conditions became even wetter, with persistent view-blocking rain. It was disappointing to be in this beautiful area for the first time in inclement weather but I saw enough to be sufficiently captivated to resolve to return again….sooner rather than later.


The rain was lashing down..

As I drove along with Sruwaddacon Bay to my right, windscreen wipers at full tilt, I came across a very ‘odd looking’ graveyard on the side of the hill. I pulled up to investigate and couldn’t quite make out why this place did not look ‘quite right’ for want of a better term.

Something didn't look 'quite right'

Something didn’t look ‘quite right’

I was quite amazed then to discover that this beautifully situated graveyard had suffered after very heavy rain some years ago when a landslide send thousands of tons of mud down the hill and carried coffins into the sea, never to be recovered. This catastrophic event took place in  September 2003 and the signs of it are clearly visible today.


The catastrophic landslide was blamed on overgrazing by sheep as the heather and upland plants were no longer able to bind the peaty soil together. The torrential downpours came after a particularly dry summer and the hillside was turned into mud that slid down the hill into the sea. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for families whose graves had vanished under the tons of mud.


A plaque commemorates the awful event in 2003

There are three distinct sections to the graveyard at this site, but only the one in the foreground was affected by the landslide.

imageSteps have now been taken to make sure that there will be no repeat of this awful event,with  barriers installed to hold back any further soil slippage.


The location is quite beautiful, with the seashore only feet away.

This graveyard is also known as Kilcommon graveyard or  Pollatomish graveyard. There is an excellent website here that has details of those buried there and, unusually, includes people for whom there are no headstones.

Had it not been pouring rain, I may not have noticed this site as I drove by.  A beautiful place for sure, one that reminds us of the power of nature which we should never underestimate.


Further reading:



Filed under Ireland

11 responses to “Landslide! Pullathomas Co. Mayo.

  1. How very sad, especially for the families. What a storm it must have been! Perhaps that is what triggered the book to be written and the index to be prepared so that offsets it a little. I was very surprised, in Gortahork, Donegal, to find a full index to a large graveyard and a code to find the grave.

    • Steven Doohan

      What a coincidence. My maternal grandparents are buried here in Pullathomas while my father and his parents are buried in Gortahork, Donegal. Small world…
      I would add that while grazing has been blamed by official sources, this cemetery is in the very heartland of the Shell To Sea protests against the Corrib gas pipeline which comes ashore nearby. A great many locals insist fracking and drilling of the adjacent sea bed by Shell caused the landslide. A large military/aviation radar installation and a TV mast are also situated on the hill above. These are seen by locals as far more likely explanations than minimal sheep grazing, though the establishment would likely never admit that to be the case even if it was true

      • Hi Steven. Small world indeed! I think reports of the landslide at the time mentioned many possible factors. It may well have been a combination of all of them, although I have seen whole sides of hills slip away where sheep have grazed over time. Then of course there is high rainfall….such as on the day I passed through! Wow did it rain! Either way, it must have been very distressing for people to have family graves washed away. Our beautiful landscape is very precious and we need to be aware of the impact we humans have.
        Thank you so much for dropping by and for your comment!

      • Steve Doohan

        My pleasure. Keep up the great work, I love your blog

  2. What a sombre story, but somehow in keeping with the stark surroundings.

  3. Roy sums up my feelings all too well.

  4. I’ve probably been by there a half dozen times or more and never noticed. How horrible.

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