Mayo crash: Moycullen village in shock at death of mother and two daughters

Una, Ciara and Saoirse Bowden died in a crash on the N17 in Co Mayo on Tuesday

The Irish flags erected on electricity poles for St Patrick’s Day in Moycullen have been left in place for Easter, but nobody in the parish on the doorstep of Connemara is in the mood for celebrations, after the death of a local mother and her two young daughters in a car crash.

Una Bowden and her daughters Ciara and Saoirse died when their car was involved in a collision with an articulated fuel truck on the N17 outside Claremorris, Co Mayo on Tuesday.

Una and David Bowden arrived from Africa to live in Moycullen a few years ago with their daughters. They had no ties to the area – Una was from Raphoe in Donegal and David is from Zambia – but they quickly immersed themselves in local life – in the camogie club, Irish dancing, basketball and rugby in nearby Oughterard.

They got involved in local groups, volunteered for jobs and made a huge contribution in a short length of time to the Co Galway community where they had settled.


“Is it any wonder then why everyone is so shocked and saddened by what has happened,” said parish priest Fr Martin Whelan. He was coming out of Scoil Naomh Bríde in Tullokyne, one of four national schools in Moycullen, a village whose population has risen from a few hundred to about 6,000 over the past couple of decades, after becoming a residential hub for Galway city 10km away.

The children are on Easter holidays, but the school opened on Thursday for pupils and parents, neighbours and friends, to meet and comfort each other.

Saoirse (9) was in third class in the school. Her older sister Ciara (14) was in Salerno Secondary School in Salthill, having attended Scoil Mhuire in Moycullen, after the family rented a house there while they bought and renovated a cottage a few kilometres away close to Lough Corrib.

Brian MacLochlainn, the principal of the three-teacher school, built originally in 1862 and expanded two decades ago as the new houses developed, said the area was numbed by the tragic deaths.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of three members of our school community,” said Mr Maclochlainn in a statement issued by the school. “Saoirse was a third-class student and was an incredibly joyful, talented young girl with an infectious enthusiasm and wit that couldn’t help but be a positive influence on everyone she met. She was an incredibly well-loved character in our small school community and we are completely devastated by her loss.

“Ciara didn’t attend school here but we got to know her over the years as the kind and caring older sister. Una was a brilliant mother. She cared so wonderfully for her family and was a brilliant support to the school in every way possible. We are heartbroken by the loss of three amazing people.”

Fr Whelan viewed a floral tribute placed outside the gates of the school as he emerged from meeting parents, teachers and children as they came to terms with the tragedy.

The home which the family developed is only a short distance away at Gortachalla. The locals had been kept up to date on the development, and all the animals and pets they were going to have there.

“The whole community is devastated,” said Fr Whelan, who has been parish priest in Moycullen since last December, having served as diocesan secretary based at Galway Cathedral for many years. “Una, in particular, was really involved in the community so there are all kinds of groups affected, sports clubs, social groups and the schools.

“Each of the groups are continuing to organise gatherings to allow people, parents and children, friends, neighbours and so on to come together and be there for each other. It is just a tough time and a very sad time for everyone.

“We had services scheduled for Easter week in the church and we are continuing with them and dedicating them to Una, Ciara and Saoirse. Everyone in the parish is thinking about them and talking about the terrible tragedy. It’s a very sad time for this community and it affects everyone.

“We are all there for David and the two families. This is about people supporting each other.”

Funeral arrangements have not been made. The funeral may take place in Donegal where Una’s father John Carlin and other members of her family live.

David Bowden, who grew up in the Zambian capital Lusaka, where his parents ran a school, was working on a project for the United Nations in Ethiopia when the tragedy happened. He has since travelled back to Ireland.

The couple were married in Zambia in 2007 in a traditional bush wedding. Their daughters were born in Africa and spent the early years of their lives there before the family decided to settle in Co Galway.

Having happily immersed themselves in life in Ireland, that dream ended this week for the Bowden family. Their pain is shared this weekend by their community in Moycullen.