Eighty years of history camouflaged by nature on a steep sandy cliff at Cahore Point and bearing the giant letters ÉIRE has been bothering a group of volunteers with a passion for local history and in blustery coastal conditions last Saturday, armed with pick and shovel and reliant on local knowledge, part of the historic World War 11 sign re-emerged from its secluded hiding place.
Folklorist Michael Fortune, who wouldn’t be a stranger in this neck of the woods, led the expedition. “In recent years these giant ÉIRE signs have been uncovered around the country, but this is the first for Wexford. They were erected around the Irish coast during the Second World War with the purpose of alerting Allied pilots to the fact that they were flying over neutral territory. Made of stones and then whitewashed, these giant signs were placed in prominent positions around the coast of Wexford from Kilmichael to Hook Head.”
After the war many of the signs were removed or totally forgotten like the one at Cahore. The existence of the signs excited historians after the summer gorse fire on Bray Head which exposed one in almost perfect condition and the locals have restored it as a community landmark of historical interest.
It was Ozzy Kelly from Gorey who works with the Air Corps who came upon a photo was of Cahore Point complete with the ÉIRE sign and corresponding number 11. Michael Fortune and his friend, archaeologist Barry Lacey from Ballycarney, arranged to meet up in an effort locate the position of the no 11. Using social media, Michael invited people to join them in Cahore and despite the wind and rain, over a dozen people appeared young and old, locals and non-locals from Gorey to Poland and Ballycarney to Dublin.
So, at 11 am on January 11th the No. 11 appeared and there were shouts of anticipation and jubilation from Maciek Neumann Kockanski from Poulshone and Ozzy Byrne from Gorey who were first to pull back the sods, and after a brief sense of achievement and discovery, the work continued.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, if it were to be restored, we have the location and that’s what matters,” concluded Michael.