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The Power of People
10 November 2014

The Power of People

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Even as far back as the 1860s, when the meteorological network was first established in Ireland, teamwork was recognised as an essential component of this special area of scientific activity. The daily endeavours of an individual who records weather conditions at a precise time on a particular instrument using standard notations are most useful if they can be compared and collated with the work of a similar individual taking readings at the same time, on the same type of instrument and using the same standard notations. It is this co-ordination of effort that enables meteorologists to develop an understanding of the state of the atmosphere as a whole rather than an understanding of the physics of the air in one location. Our climate record was built by the power of people, thousands of people working together over hundreds of years.  Here is a brief introduction to some of our earliest weather keepers; some of the people who formed part of Ireland’s nascent meteorological network in the 1870s.

Louis Emil Dreyer (1852-1926)

From 1874 until 1878 the famous Danish astronomer, Louis Emil Dreyer, took meteorological readings at Parsonstown Castle, County Offaly.  Dreyer was Assistant to Lord Rosse at Birr Castle, where Leviathan, the largest telescope in the world, was in operation.  Dreyer went on to publish the monumental “New general catalogue of nebulae and clusters of stars”, a comprehensive survey of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. In 1916 he won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and he later served as the Society's president from 1923 until 1925. The Met Éireann Library holds meteorological manuscripts from Birr Castle dating from 1872 until 1951. 

Dreyer (© Armagh Observatory)

Sir John William Moore (1845-1937)

At his home at 40 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, the famous physician Sir John William Moore, took daily readings under the direction of the Meteorological Office in London. Moore’s passion for meteorology was based on his interest in the relationship between climate and public health. He was a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, a member of the Royal Irish Academy and was appointed as the President of the Royal College of Physicians.  Moore supplied continuous meteorological data from 1869 until his death in 1937 just one year after the establishment of the Irish Meteorological Service, now Met Éireann. The Met Éireann Library holds the complete set of meteorological manuscripts from 40 Fitzwilliam Square.

John William Moore (© RCPI Library)

Anna and William Doberck

From 1874 until 1876 meteorological observations at Markree Castle, County Sligo were taken by a lady of Danish origins named Anna Doberck. Anna’s brother, William, was an acclaimed astronomer and he was in charge of the observatory at Markree from 1874 until 1882. Anna assisted William at the observatory. It was while the Dobercks were at Markree that our record lowest air temperature of -19.1°C (-2° F) was recorded on 16th January 1881. In 1882 the Dobercks left Markree for Hong Kong, where William was appointed Directory of the new Hong Kong Observatory. Ten years later, in 1892, Anna was appointed Assistant Meteorologist in the same insititution. Part of her role in Hong Kong was to visit ships in port to excerpt weather observations from the navigtation log books. Because of the nature of her work she was nicknamed “Sampan Annie” or “Typhoon Annie”. The Met Éireann Libary holds meteorological records from Markree Castle from 1869 until 1968.

William Doberck

The Royal Engineers

As early as 1829 the Royal Sappers and Engineers were recording weather conditions at the Ordnance Survey Office in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Readings were taken three times a day; at 9:30am, 3.30pm and 9:30pm from a range of instruments including a barometer, a hygrometer and various thermometers. Wind direction and force and cloud form and amount were also noted. This is a drawing of the weather station that was in operation in the Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1829. In this picture you can see a gentleman in the background wearing a top hat and coat tails. This was quite a sophisticated weather station! The Met Éireann Library holds the original manuscripts for 104 years of meteorological readings taken at Phoenix Park (1855 - 1959).

Phoenix Park image (© Met Éireann)

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