Approaching the 78th anniversary of D-Day , we salute the Irish woman who was responsible for saving perhaps thousands of lives on the beaches of Normandy on that pivotal day in 1944.
Ireland was neutral during World War II , and with our penchant for understatement, it is officially known in Ireland as ‘The Emergency’. Our coastline remains dotted to this day with white painted rocks forming the Irish language name – ‘Éire’. These were strategically placed to alert air crews and help prevent our splendid Irish landscape being unwittingly cratered with bombs.
Despite our neutral stance, it was an Irishwoman’s weather forecast that decided the final timing of the invasion which heralded the beginning of the end of six years of war and devastation.
An unusual Irish landmark birthday
On June 3rd 1944, Maureen Flavin turned 21 years of age. She spent this landmark birthday carrying out her daily duties of collecting information from the lighthouse keeper at Blacksod, Co. Mayo, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Collating keeper Ted Sweeney’s reports with her own hourly barometer readings, Maureen was able to forecast that a storm would hit Normandy, France some 500 miles away on June 5th. This was the date that Eisenhower and his allied generals had chosen for the landings.
Irish Weather in June – Stormy then Sunny
When Maureen’s readings and forecast were sent to the UK Met office from Dublin, the Allies took the decision not to launch the invasion on the scheduled date. Yet, Maureen wasn’t aware her readings were going any further than Dublin. How surprised she must have been, when the next day while working in the Sweeney family post office, she received a rather mysterious call. The lady caller, with an English accent, requested her to repeat and confirm the information previously sent.
Not only did Maureen confirm, but soon after, she and Tom sent further data and forecasts which predicted a window on 6th June. This coincided with favourable tides and still skies that were needed for the air and sea assaults.
The decision was taken to attack on June 6th. The Nazis were behind the game. They had no weather ships in the North Atlantic, so were unaware of the approaching good weather.
Recognition and Birthday Wishes
It would be another year before Maureen became aware of the significant role she and Tom had played in the invasion. And much longer before any official recognition arrived. In 2021, Maureen’s contribution was marked with the presentation to her, of a US House of Representatives Special Recognition Award.
So, today we salute you Maureen Flavin Sweeney, native of Kerry, woman of Mayo, unsung heroine, and wish you a Happy 99th Birthday.
And what of her forecasting collaborator – lighthouse keeper Tom? Well, they worked together so well, they married and had a family. The family lighthouse tradition also endures. Their son Vincent followed in his father’s footsteps and is the current Blacksod Lighthouse keeper.
You can read more about Irish heroines here. And, whether it’s one of our scheduled South West Ireland or Northern Ireland and Best of Ireland West tours, you can experience the beauty of our Wild Atlantic Way coastline and perhaps get up close and personal with one of the Éire signs. Don’t forget our very special private bespoke tours. Being customer-centric, we love collaborating (just like Maureen and Ted!) with our guests to develop customised tours for family and friends. Reach out to us by email for more information on any of our tours.