Commemorating D-Day's 80th Anniversary at Blacksod in North Mayo - Visit North Mayo

The small, significant village of Blacksod located on the southern end of the Mullet Peninsula, in North Mayo, is gearing up to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings with a series of events on Thursday, June 6th. This historic occasion marks the crucial role played by Blacksod Lighthouse in the success of the Normandy invasion, a turning point in World War II.

Blacksod Lighthouse set to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day on 6th June 2024 – Mayo North Tourism

The Normandy Landings: A Critical Weather Forecast

On June 6th, 1944, Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, initiating the liberation of France from Nazi occupation. However, this vital operation was originally scheduled for June 5th but was postponed due to a critical weather report from Blacksod Lighthouse. The report, made by then 21-year-old Maureen Sweeney, predicted bad weather, leading to the rescheduling of the landings. Historians assert that this weather forecast significantly contributed to the success of the operation, as adverse conditions on the original date could have spelled disaster for the Allied troops.

The weather station and post office in Blacksod, Ireland, in the 1940s. (Courtesy of Fergus Sweeney)

Community Commemoration Events

The local community, led by Fergus Sweeney of the SOLAS Visitor Experience and Tourism Hub, has organised a day-long program to honour this significant contribution. Fergus, who is also Maureen Sweeney’s grandson, shared that the events will begin with a Dawn Remembrance Ceremony at 5am at Blacksod Lighthouse. “This sunrise event marks the first hour the troops landed at Normandy,” he explained.

Throughout the day, exhibits will be open to the public, showcasing the roles of Met Éireann, An Post, and the Defence Forces during the war. These exhibits, enhanced with materials related to the D-Day weather forecast, will offer insights into Maureen Sweeney’s life and Blacksod’s crucial involvement. Highlights include displays from Met Éireann, An Post, Military Archives, Irish Lights, and movie props from Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, “Saving Private Ryan.”

Ted Sweeney (who was the lighthouse keeper in Blacksod, Co Mayo) and Maureen Flavin on their wedding day in 1946 (Courtesy of Fergus Sweeney)

Guest speakers, including US Army veteran Ron Howko and retired Irish Army officer Donal Buckley, will provide engaging talks on topics such as ‘US Forces on D-Day’ and ‘Irish Neutrality, Then and Now.’ Musical entertainment by Bridget McMahon and an aircraft flyover dedicated to the men of the Lookout Posts will add to the day’s commemorative atmosphere, although ironically, the flyover remains weather dependent.

The day’s events will conclude at the newly opened SOLAS Visitor Centre at Eachléim with a panel discussion chaired by Michael Kennedy, author of ‘Guarding Neutral Ireland,’ at 5 pm.

Mairead Melody Carr, Manager of Mayo North Tourism, emphasised the significance of this event and Blacksod’s role in the region’s tourism landscape. “Blacksod’s unique history, particularly its impact on D-Day, is a key part of North Mayo’s heritage. Commemorating this anniversary not only honours the past but also enriches our cultural tourism, drawing visitors who are keen to learn about the pivotal moments and figures such as Maureen Sweeney and all others who helped to shape history.”

Honouring Maureen Sweeney

The 80th anniversary celebrations also serve as a tribute to Maureen Sweeney, who passed away in December at the age of 100. Recognised by the US House of Representatives with a Congressional Record in 2021, Maureen was celebrated as the “woman who saved D-Day.” Fergus Sweeney noted, “This is a time for us all to celebrate Maureen’s role properly and remember her remarkable life and contribution.”

The role played by Maureen in ending the war has been recognised significantly in recent years with the US-House-of-Representatives-awarding her a Congressional Record in 2021 Credit Fergus Sweeney twitter
The role played by Maureen in ending the war has been recognised significantly in recent years. The US-House-of-Representatives-awarded her the Congressional Record in 2021 Credit-Fergus-Sweeney-twitter

The commemoration at Blacksod will be both a moving and educational experience, honouring the local heroes who played a vital role in one of history’s most significant events.

Schedule of Events for D-Day Commemoration in Blacksod on 6th June 2024

5am:                     Dawn Remembrance Ceremony at Blacksod Lighthouse

10am:                  Exhibits open (Met Éireann, An Post, Military Archives, Irish Lights, and Saving Private Ryan props)

11am:                  Guest Speaker Ron Howko (US Forces on D-Day)

12pm:                  Guest Speaker Donal Buckley (Irish Neutrality, Then and Now)

1pm-2pm:         1940s Music by Bridget McMahon

Afternoon:        Aircraft Flyover (weather dependent)

5pm:                    Combined Talks at SOLAS Visitor Centre, Eachléim, chaired by Michael Kennedy, author of ‘Guarding Neutral Ireland’

Learn more about Blacksod Lighthouse

To learn more about Blacksod Lighthouse, please enjoy this video which was recorded by Fionn Rogers last year on behalf of Mayo North Tourism.

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