In early February 1912 County Sligo suffered a heavy snow storm. Roads were blocked by snowdrifts and even vehicular traffic was severely handicapped by this as it lasted for several days.
The SS Sligo was on passage from Garston to Sligo with a cargo of coal, which was an unusual cargo for a vessel of the Sligo Steamship Navigation Company. Built on the Clyde for Messrs. J. and G. Burns as the Limpet, this 478GT vessel was purchased by the Sligo company in 1899 and renamed Sligo.
Her master as Captain James Devaney from Rosses Point, and most of her deck crew also came from the village. The engine room staff came from Sligo Town, and all hands were looking forward to some hours at home as she approached Sligo Bay late at night in a blinding snowstorm
Visibility was near zero and the lookouts were straining for a glimpse of the Black Rock Lighthouse as they navigated by dead reckoning.
Suddenly there was a sickening jolt, together with the noise of torn bottom plates, as she piled onto the sharp reefs of the Northwest corner of Ardbowline Island.
By daylight, when the tide ebbed, the crew were able to get down on the island using a ladder from the foredeck, and they could see that her bottom plated were badly damaged. There was also water in her engine room and holds, so all hands went on to the island.
As the blizzard continued, their distress flares could not be seen ashore, and it was late that night before the coast guards at Raughley spotted them and came to the rescue.
About this time the ship slipped astern into deep water and disappeared from view.
The crew stayed at the coast guard station that night, and the next day they had to walk all the way home, as no transport was possible.
Poor Captain Devaney had the unenviable task of reporting the loss of his ship to the owners.
He never went back to sea, and died a few years later.
Had the SS Sligo been 100 yards further west, she would have cleared Ardbowline Island, and the story of the blizzard of 1912 would have been told very differently around the Captain's Table in the Elsinore Pub in Rosses Point.