Saturday, 5 September 2020

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5 September 1926. The Drumcollogher/ Drom Collachair Cinema Tragedy on this day. The village of Dromcollogher is nine miles south-west of the town of Charleville, Co Cork but situated just to the north of the Limerick/ Cork border in the County of Limerick. On the night in question 48 people lost their lives when a candle overturned and caused film to ignite during a showing of The Ten Commandments. A room in the centre of the town, which was being used as a temporary cinema in Dromcollogher, caught fire when the candle ignited a reel of film carelessly left nearby.

'This was on the upper floor of a building used for storing hardware and access to it was by an external timber ladder, fixed to the wall to form a stairs. The hall, which had been used for meetings and entertainments for a number of years, was a rectangular room with a separate small dressing room area in the right-hand rear corner. The show began about 9.15pm after Benediction had finished in the local church, at which many of the audience had been present.

Estimates of the attendance varied but it appears that at least 150 people crowded into the hall, many of them children. At around 10.00 pm as the second film was showing, one of the reels, which lay unprotected on a table near the door, went on fire when a candle on the table overturned and set it alight. The people immediately rushed to the single narrow door from which the ladder/stairs descended. Those seated nearest the exit escaped as the fire spread rapidly. Others fled to the rear of the hall where the two windows were located and crowded into the small dressing room area. Some got out through the window here but unfortunately it was blocked when a woman became trapped in it. Within minutes the floor of the hall collapsed and the victims were hurtled to the ground where they died from the combination of burns, asphyxiation and shock. Forty six people were dead within 15 minutes. Two survivors later died from their injuries.'

The fire spread rapidly resulting in the deaths of 46 people, which included a family of six, with two more dying later in hospital. The 46 original victims of the tragedy—often referred to locally as ‘the Dromcollogher Burning’— are buried in a large grave in the grounds of the local church. The bodies of the victims were buried in a communal grave. A large Celtic cross was erected as a memorial to the victims of this tragedy.

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