‘The Grave of the Yellow Men’

It’s said that the blood that flows in all of us; every one of us in the country is blood that came from across the sea. Our identity is best understood from a maritime perspective. For the past 800 years, Ireland has been a haven for explorers, settlers, colonialists, navigators, pirates and traders absorbing goods and people from all points of the world. Over the centuries, there was a vast traffic in ships up and down the Atlantic coast, from the Mediterranean Sea up to the Baltic Sea. Ireland at that time was not seen as a remote island but a halfway house – a trading post.

The nine or eleven ‘yellow men’ are buried in a mass grave looking over the Atlantic. It was originally thought that they were oriental, possibly from China or Japan (only because of the phrase, yellow men).

These men either drowned or were smashed to pieces on the Kilcloher rocks, one kilometre from Kilbaha, Co Clare in the late 1800’s. There is only one written piece of documentation: ‘The Schools’ Scheme’ of 1937-1938 recorded Stephen Hanrahan speaking of Beala’Loca Bridge near Kilcloher: ‘Near here is the grave of the ‘Yellow Men’ where nine shipwrecked Frenchmen were buried about 60 years ago. Their ship was in difficulties and they threw a rope ashore by which nine were saved. One of the local young men however cut part of this fine rope (which was considerably too long at first) so that when the ship drifted a little away from the shore, the cut rope was too short and useless to save the others who were drowned in that spot’.

In July 2010, the local people and community designed and erected a memorial in the place that the ‘Yellow Men’ now rest. They left this earth in a place where the community cares for them as if they were their own. Their graves have been blessed by the local parish priest, they have flowers at the foot of each headstone in the Tricolour and when people pass – they offer their prayers.

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