The centre takes great pride in the rich history and heritage of the area and provides information and talks on as many as possible ranging from Tony Blair, Mr Blair’s roots are firmly planted here by the Breesy Centre. One of the walks takes the visitor past the ancestral home of his family, where the group stops for a discussion and a breather! to local Famine pots and the crash of the WW 2 plane, Sunderland NJ175 .
The Famine Pots serve as a reminder to the present and future generations of that grim period in our history when a million Irish people died of starvation and famine related disease and a million plus were forced to emigrate, many of them to die in the coffin ships bearing them to the land of promise. It has been said that if it had been possible to lay a slab to commemorate every Irish person who died at sea during the famine period, one could walk dry-shod to America. Cashelard was hit a hard as any rural farming community and a famine pot still exists in the area as a grim reminder of that period in our nation’s history.
Last flight of Sunderland NJ 175
In the main lobby of the centre we have displayed details of the ill fated last flight of the Sunderland NJ 175. Local historian Joe O loughlin kindly donated the artefacts which include the Ordinance Survey map of the Donegal Corridor, photos of crash survivors and witnesses and an image of the Sunderland flying boat.
Cashelard was the scene of the crash of a Sunderland Flying Boat on 12th August 1944 when three of the Canadian crew lost their lives. The remainder received medical treatment in the Sheil Hospital.
Northern Ireland was engaged in the 2nd World War and a secret arrangement with the British government allowed planes to fly over Ballyshannon in an area known as the Donegal Corridor. This enabled the allies to provide aerial support for their shipping fleets in the Atlantic and was also of great benefit as planes could fly along the Erne to Ballyshannon from places like Castle Archdale in Fermanagh, and also transatlantic flights had a much shorter journey than having to avoid Donegal’s airspace.
The Sunderland NJ175 took off on the morning of the 12th August 1944 from its base at Castle Archdale heading for the English Channel, hoping to catch the German subs heading for Norway from their base at Brest on the French coast.
The men, all members of the RCAF, were expecting to be away for between 10 and 12 hours, burning an enormous 2000 gallons of fuel.
Around 30 minutes into its flight, the heavily loaded aircraft suffered an engine fire and loss of propeller, a crash landing was attempted on a relatively flat area. The Skipper. F/L Cam Devine and two crew members died in the resulting crash.
A memorial stone now stands at the site as a tribute to those who lost their lives.