Documentary on One

Searching for Answers

In 1975 and 1976 two fishing trawlers sank at the exact same spot off the coast of Donegal with the loss of 11 lives - over 35 yrs later, a daughter goes in search of answers.

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4.4/5 (211 ratings)

Documentary maker: Helena Gallagher

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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Searching for Answers

Helena has created her own website dedicated to the Evelyn Marie and Carrig Una with further info/pics/audio - Click here to visit

This is the story of a young woman finding out about her father.

When Helena Gallagher was just 4 years old, her father Hughie drowned at sea. He was one of 6 men lost at sea when a fishing trawler the 'Evelyn Marie' sank - it's suspected a big wave dropped the boat onto a reef off Rathlin O'Byrne Island - an island up off North West Donegal - but no-one knows for sure. Whatever happened on January 7th 1975, the boat quickly sank and only 2 of the bodies were ever recovered.

The following year, on November 23th, 1976, another fishing trawler, the 'Carrig Una' with a crew of 5, left the village of Burtonport on the West of Donegal, for a fishing trip in the wild Atlantic Ocean. Unbelievably, it seems that this boat also sank on the very same reef that sunk the 'Evelyn Marie'. Similarly, some of the crews bodies were never recovered.

And so, within a short space of time a small community in the north-west tip of the Ireland lost 11 men - a huge impact on a small community - an impact that is still felt today.

Now, over 30 years later - 4 yr old Helena has grown up and is 'Searching for Answers'. How do people remember her father and the rest of the men lost in those tragedies? How did the wives and mothers cope with such a massive loss? And what of the children and the wider family? And friends? This left a mark on everyone who knew the crews of the 'Evelyn Marie' and the 'Carrig Una'.

But Helena is not just looking for personal answers - she's also looking for official ones too. What actually happened on the night of those accidents? The Irish government did do a inquiry at the time, but for some reason still refuse to release those findings. All Helena and all the other families want is access to those files to find out what happened their fathers, husbands brothers, relatives and friends. Surely that's not too much to ask?

During the course of the documentary, she comes face to face with An Taoiseach Brian Cowen in 'Searching for Answers'.

On Burtonport pier - a commemorative stone faces the Atlantic - it reads:
"In memory of the young men from this community who lost their lives at Rathlin O'Beirne Island in the shipwrecks of the Eveyln Marie 17th Jan 1975 and the Carraig Una 23rd Nov 1976. Evelyn Marie crew ~ Paddy Bonner, Hughie Gallagher, Johnny O'Donnell, Rolo Faughnan, Tom Ham, Joe O'Donnell. The Carriag Una crew ~ Ted Carbery, John Boyle, Michael Coyle, Doalty O'Donnell, Anthony McLaughlin. - They are in the hands of God. No torments shall ever touch them. Their going looked like a disaster. But they are at peace. Let not their memory perish."

Produced by Helena Gallagher.

Sound Supervision by Richard McCullough

Production Supervision by Liam O'Brien

First Broadcast January 8th 2011

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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