From Ballyharry to Brooklyn 1882

PHOTO-2019-06-08-00-16-41Background

The winter of 1878-9 witnessed the return of the scourge of famine along the western seaboard. There was great hardship in Inishowen and large numbers received assistance from charitable organisations such as the Duchess of Marlborough Relief Fund in Dublin. Conditions were exacerbated by social unrest arising from the activities of the Land League.

Brooklyn Bridge

For many families, America offered an escape from hunger. There was a great demand for labour in New York because in the 1880s, it was the location of one of the world’s greatest construction projects, namely the building of Brooklyn Bridge linking Brooklyn with Manhattan. Hundreds of workers from Donegal were employed. For example, in the Spring of 1882 alone, a total of six people emigrated from Ballyharry, Culdaff and Carrowmena. In Pat McDaid’s diary – he lived in Glebe, Culdaff – they are named as Sarah and Neil McColgan, John Lynch, Biddy McCauley, Patrick Beatty, and Catherine McKinney, Bunagee. My grandfather John was among the many emigrants who left Drumaville and worked on the Brooklyn Bridge, returning home in the mid-1880s. Most Donegal emigrants congregated in the vicinity of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard. Women found work as maids and in the textile industries. In later decades, Mary Anne Beatty, Carrowmena worked as a housemaid for a Jewish doctor throughout her 40 years in America. Wages for the bridge builders averaged two dollars a day, with engineers being the highest paid. After paying for lodgings, money was sent home to enable tenants to purchase their farms, following the passing of a series of Land Acts.

Donegal Association, Brooklyn

Many of them joined the Donegal Association in Brooklyn which thrived in the 1890s. (See James H McLaughlin, A History of Donegal Association Inc of New York, 1939-1981, 1983). The Association helped emigrants find work in the construction industry and tunnel work.  County societies supported emigrants who fell on hard times. For example, on the death of a breadwinner, the family was eligible in some cases for a grant of $250.

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Chain Reaction

Brooklyn became popular with emigrants from east Inishowen, particularly Ballyharry, Malin, Culdaff and Carrowmena. Once a family member had accommodation, others followed and so the emigration chain continued to grow. The Irish were perceived as a powerful ethnic group in Brooklyn and a backbone of the Catholic church in New York. On a recent visit to St. John’s Cemetery, Woodhaven Bvd., Brooklyn, however, where many of my relations are buried, I was surprised to find very few Irish names. The Dutch were the first to populate Brooklyn which was a working class area. Later, it attracted artists, musicians and writers, such as Walt Whitman, known as the “Poet of Brooklyn” and Carson McCullers, the famous author. Neal Diamond is a son of Brooklyn. The gentrification process continues today and Brooklyn is a vibrant cosmopolitan community.

Donegal Hill, Brooklyn

In the 1930s, the Irish moved elsewhere in the city. For example, an area close to Prospect Park in Brooklyn was known as “Donegal Hill” where Gaelic speakers from west Donegal settled in large numbers. Today, Prospect Park is a beautiful green area full of strollers and dog-walkers and others seeking a break in the metropolis. Elderly Russian-speaking gentlemen play chess in quiet corners or families head to Coney Island where children play on the golden sands. Dominating Prospect Park is the Memorial Arch, a replica almost of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, an impressive monument dominated by rampant black steeds glinting in the sunlight.

The last of the Brooklyn emigrants of my generation was a friend and fellow student of the classics at St Columb’s College in Derry called Seamus Kelly from Ballyharry, who emigrated in the 1960s. Sadly he died some years ago and his wife Jeanette died recently. The Irish have left their mark in Brooklyn but little remains of their presence today, apart from a handful of names in small cemeteries and on shop fronts and in the police, fire service and the church.

Acknowledgements – Brooklyn Historical Society and  Brooklyn Public Library.  Seán Beattie – June 2019

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Carndonagh Teachers 1972

Carndonagh Staff Inis Duinn 1972-min

The two pictures show staff members of Carndonagh College in the Colgan Hall, top, and Convent of Mercy, below. The photos first appeared in INIS DÚINN, 1972, when the second edition of the school magazine was published. It ran to 52 pages and included contributions by students called Paul Fiorentini (Moville) and Paddy Doherty (Dunaff ) among others. Paul is the current Principal and Paddy taught Irish for many years. John O’Kane, (Culdaff) wrote a poem called TRAMP and Deirdre McGrory (Culdaff) wrote a poem called VOCATION. Carmel Lynott provided make-up tips. By 1972, both schools had amalgamated with a total school population of about 400. In September 1973, the two schools joined the Technical School to form Carndonagh Community School, one of the first ten established in Ireland and funded by the World Bank.

Of the college staff, four have passed away – Fr Gallagher, Fr McKenna, John O’Leary and Evelyn Beattie. Of the Convent staff, four are deceased – Helen O’Reilly, Sean McDevitt, Sister Margaret Mary McKinney and Mrs Farren.

The idea for the school magazine came from Fr McKenna in 1971. He had been a teacher in Maghera before he came to Carn College as Headmaster in 1971. Maghera had a magazine also and they included photos of all pupils and staff. Thanks to Fr McKenna, photos were published of all students thereafter except for a break in the 1980s. They can be seen today in the school corridors.

Of the College staff, Veronica McLaughlin is currently School Secretary and Fr McGoldrick is PP of Fahan. Fr Lagan became a Bishop, and was the first Guidance Counsellor in the school. John O’Leary had a great knowledge of History and English and never used text books. He came from Cork and his brother was Professor of Political Science in Queen’s University, Belfast and a published author. Jim Quigley taught Geography and was mentioned in a poem by one of his pupils who became a famous dramatist, Frank McGuinness. Andy McNelis taught mainly Irish as did Evelyn Beattie, who also taught English and Religion. Brian Gormley taught Maths and Colm Toland taught Science and Maths (and Gaelic football outside class time). I taught English, History and French (the latter for one year). In 1984, I was appointed Guidance Counsellor. Fr McKenna taught Latin for a short time before he became Principal. Fr Gallagher taught Irish.

When the two schools amalgamated in 1972, teachers had to travel between the Convent and the Colgan Hall. Fortunately, speed cameras had not been invented. In 1973, the Community School was not ready for students, so classes were still held in the old buildings. Overcrowding was so bad that some classes were taught in a Lough Swilly bus parked outside the Tech. That experiment was not a success.

In 2023, CCS will celebrate 50 years.

Corvish Stone – the CLOGH FAD 1834?

The OS maps reveal more information about the Corvish Stone which was discovered recently. (See earlier post) The first edition of the OS 6-inch maps 1834  shows a “Stone” here but it had disappeared in the 1900 edition. The stone with the carving is most likely the original standing stone listed 200 years ago. Clearly, it has undergone a process of recycling. Thankfully, it was not used as  a door lintel or in land drainage, as was the fate of many of our standing stones. I assume the McLaughlin family recognised its importance and preserved it behind the house, where it was found. The Corvish Stone is an important part of the heritage of Carndonagh parish. 

Note the houses in Corvish in 1834 and the number of “long houses” or perhaps “house rows”, which are very unusual in Inishowen. One of the rows is still standing and another is partially in place. The existence of the corn kiln on the map is indicative of a thriving farming community here, situated along the river bank and with Trabrega Bay in the hinterland. Fishing was important here and the sea weed was a useful source for kelp and manuring land. Kelp was sold in shiploads to Scotland. It was collected by small farmers, dried on stone walls and collected by agents for export to Scotland. When the railway arrived, the kelp was exported by train. Passengers did not complain about the scent!. In the 1890s it was valued at £5 per ton – a nice sum when the total farm income was no more that £40 per annum. (Sean Beattie)

Thanks to Maura Harkin for the maps. See DONEGAL IN TRANSITION ( S. BEATTIE)  for more information on the kelp industry in Carndonagh. 

 

Carndonagh Hidden History: the Corvish Stone

The inscribed stone at Corvish, Carndonagh was noted in 2019. It is like a standing stone roughly six feet long and one foot wide. It may have originally been a standing stone. There is an illustrated panel on the centre with a carved line running along the entire side.  A beautiful inscribed panel frames the memorial, thus indicating the work of a local stone sculptor and recalling similar panels on the High Crosses. The words IHS are at the top of the panel, and suggests a head stone or perhaps an altar stone that was in use in Penal times in the early 1700s. Similar inscriptions can be seen at Cloncha graveyard, dating from the 1700s. Altar stones were placed on Mass rocks and carried from place to place as priests tried to evade the  Redcoats and their spies. A  local family took care to hide the altar stone. There are several stories about Mass rocks and priest hunters seeking a bounty from this area so the stone is of great interest for these reasons. The main Mass rock of Carn is close by and signposted on the Ballyliffin road. The original date appears to be 1820 but the digits 19 appear to have been added later thus giving  a reading 1918. Thus the stone appears to have had several lives which adds to the mystery.

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Mickey McClure and Bernie Logue at the Corvish Stone with the house row in the background which is part of the Corvish Clachan

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The Corvish Stone showing the IHS inscription and the OML in the right corner. The stone had several lives – pagan standing stone, Penal Laws altar stone and memorial headstone.

 

The stone lies at the back of a wall stead owned by McLaughlins and the inscription on the left is OML, suggesting Owen McLaughlin?

The house row at the back of the picture is often found in Inishowen clachans. A similar row of houses stands at Ballyharry and is known as “The Row” and on Ballyliffin golf course. The houses are deserted but belonged to Mclaughlins (James), Dohertys (Nochars) and Kearneys. There was also a McColgan family, the name of the Erenaghs of Donagh (Bell Keepers). There appears to have been another row of houses on the row entering the site. Estimates for population are around 100 persons in 1901 living in the clachan.

Thanks to Mickey McClure, Benie Logue and Stephen Logue, who first alerted us to the stone and assisted with identification.

Armistice Day in Donegal 11/11 1918

This post contains the text of my piece for the RTÉ Sunday Miscellany Armistice Day Special, broadcast on RTÉ Radio One on November 11th, 2018.

Sean Beattie

Listen back to the Sunday Miscellany broadcast: Sunday Miscellany, RTÉ Radio One, November 11th 2018 

thumbnail_1918 US LAS Lough Foyle long dock extending out to channel in otherwise shallow Foyle for picking up supplies from ships.

Air base at Ture 1918/9. Photo courtesy of Meg Carroll, Albany, New York. From the files of her grandfather, Philip Gallagher, who served at the Ture base. The wooden platform was used to provide access from the sea-planes to the concrete apron ashore. There were 7 sea-planes and they were serviced in the hangars shown here. The planes were constructed of wood which was imported from USA and the planes were assembled in Derry. After Armistice Day, the Americans piled the sea-planes on the shore and burned the lot! It was quite  a sight. The poor carrier pigeons were not too concerned as they were happy to return to civilian life. They too had a good time in Ture. (Sean Beattie)

For generations, thousands of emigrants in the north west have set sail from Derry Quay on their way to the New World. Most were heading for America, never to return. But in 1917, the tide turned. Europe was at war, and America came to the rescue.

Under the Draft Law enacted by President Woodrow Wilson, all males between 21 and 30 were enlisted. Most expected to see service on the battlefront, but a small number were dispatched to bases, scattered across the country. One of them was in the townland of Ture in the Inishowen peninsula, Co Donegal, hundreds of miles from the hostilities. They had drawn the lucky straw. So instead of the grime and stench of the trenches, they enjoyed the bracing air and verdant pastures of Lough Foyle, ten miles north of Derry City.

The first to arrive in January 1918 was a small group of tradesmen, carpenters, engineers and supervisors who were tasked with constructing a base, with imported American timber from scratch. By July 4th, all buildings had been constructed, just in time to celebrate Independence Day by flying the Stars and Stripes. The recruits were mostly in their late teens or early twenties, so Commanders at the base organised a Sports Day, followed by a dance in the evening. Several musicians were among the recruits, and they hastily organised their own orchestra, which they christened the Troubadours. To get the gender balance right for the big social event of the evening, army cars were ordered to bring local girls from Derry City, and the neighbouring towns of Moville, Carndonagh and Buncrana. With a new generator imported from America, the banks of the Foyle glowed, as darkness fell amid the music and dancing.  It was indeed a fairyland of mirth, sound and happiness.

For the young ladies, it was a night to remember. No more country waltzes and “Shoe the Donkey”, a traditional mazurka, which was a light-hearted, two-hand dance played in every parish hall. Instead, the sounds of Tin Pan Alley may have floated across the Foyle that evening. The customary tea and sandwiches were replaced by minerals and cookies, with no scarcity of American cigarettes. Not unexpectedly, romance blossomed, and there were at least two weddings that could be traced directly to the base, where couples met for the first time.

During the day, recently assembled sea-planes took off from the base in the hunt for enemy U-boats. For the few months that the base was in operation, there were many U-boat sightings but only one may have been destroyed.

And finally, the news that all were waiting for arrived – the cessation of hostilities, and the signing of an Armistice at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the eleventh month in 1918. Instructions came to the base that all hostilities should cease. The Armistice Day Banquet and Dinner organised by the Welfare Committee at the Air Station was a special celebration, and the menu included many delicacies to mark the occasion, such as Roast Stuffed Liberty Chicken, Peace Bread with cider and cigars as extras. Celebrations led by the Troubadours went on into the night. There was a slight touch of sadness, too that friendships, formed along the banks of Lough Foyle, were about to end.

Sea plane

Armistice Day brought a sigh of relief to many Irish families, with sons in the American forces in Europe. The Beattie family in Inishowen had reason to celebrate – their son John, my uncle, who had enlisted in America, had survived the War. There was an added bonus when he turned up at the family home to greet his widowed mother in his Army uniform.  He created quite a stir when he appeared at local dances dressed in his American uniform.

The Americans departed in style, travelling in batches of a hundred, and parading in the streets of Derry on their way home, cheered on by thousands lining the city thoroughfares. Unlike their colleagues on the Western Front, only two recruits who were sent to Donegal did not return home, one being drowned and another who fell victim to the Spanish flu.

Little did anyone guess that the Americans would be back, in another couple of decades when Europe would again be a battlefield. The story of the U-boats would have a different ending, as the city quays became the base where they were berthed, before being sunk to the bottom of the ocean off the north Donegal coast.

Little remains of the American base of a century ago – a redbrick pump house on one side of the Derry to Moville road, and a vast concrete apron on the other side, all now wrapped in the silence of peace.(Sean Beattie)

Thanks to Meg Carroll, Albany, NY, who has provided copies of the letters of her grand-father Philip Gallagher, which were written in Ture and sent to his mother in USA in 1918; Meg also supplied original photos; to the Rankin family, Ture, owners of the site of the original station for their help; to Eamonn Gallagher who provided documentation; to Cassie Beatty, Carrowmena for information about John Beatty; to Richard Doherty, military historian, Derry for his invaluable research on this subject; Derry Journal, Belfast Telegraph and Londonderry Sentinel files in Central Library, Derry and library staff; to Conor Beattie and Mrs Eva Gilmartin for advice on the first draft; Ronan McConnell, Derry Museum; and to Mickey McGuinness, Derry who highlighted this story many years ago; and finally to Sara Binchy, RTE producer, and her staff for advice on the radio script and broadcast and for selecting the story for broadcasting on the national airways on Sunday Miscellany, RTE. Read Meg Carroll’s article on the base in Donegal Annual, 2017. A copy may be obtained from unamcgarrigle@hotmail.com or from the library. 

 

 

Launch of Donegal Annual no. 70 2018

 

See full Table of Contents below with authors. The Annual includes over 60 photographs, diagrams and maps. There is a wide range of contributors from leading professionals and academics to independent scholars with deep knowledge of their own areas. 

The Annual was launched in Ballybofey on 26 July 2018 by Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council (Ireland), whose family have a long association with the county and the founding of the Society in 1947.

At the launch, the editor thanked all the contributors for their research and dedication, the Editorial Board and Una McGarrigle, Hon  Sec for her comprehensive commitment to the delivery of the Annual. 

 

CONTENTS

From Malin to the Middle East: Inishowen High Crosses

Dr Michelle Brown

Donaghmore Parish, Barony of Raphoe                                                                     Belinda Mahaffy

Amateur Drama in Donegal 1952-61                                                                          Siofra Sloyan

“Open Air Mass in the Donegal Mountains”, 1867

Aidan O’Hara

Aspects of the History of Clann tSuibhne                                                                   Tomás G. Ó  Canann

Anglican Churches in Inishowen 1622-1733

Dr William Roulston

John McGettigan 1882-1958: Migrant, Minstrel, Entrepreneur

Marcas Ó  Murchú

By the Banks of the Eanymore                                                                                     Helen Meehan

The role of the P.S. Cynthia and the S.S. California in the development of Donegal Tourism.

Mervyn Watson

John W. Nixon and a Derry Libel Case

Dr Desmond Murphy

The Cenél nEogháin of Inishowen:

Aldfrith of Northumbria’a Donegal Cousins?

Dr. Brian Lacey

The Deliverance of Donegal

A Political Ballad and the Donegal Election 1874

Rev Raymond Blair

Néillí Boyle, Seamus Ennis and “The Moving Cloud”

Seán Boner

Upper Lough Foyle                                                                                                         Ross Cooper

Ballintra Map 1773 and Associated Families

Dr Sam Hanna

The Ancient Order of Hibernians in Donegal 1904-1927

Dr Seán Beattie

Ulster Plantation Leases, Manor of Castlefin 1680-1827

Terry Dolan

 

The Three Patriots of Carndonagh

The THREE PATRIOTS OF CARNDONAGH, CO DONEGAL.

 

One hundred and fifty years ago, Michael Harkin, the great Carn historian described Carn as a town with 4 intersecting thoroughfares. One of them was Pound Street. Today, Carn a new super highway, the Painter’s Way thanks to Margaret Teresa Doherty and her family, located on the site of Philip Fintan’s shoe shop and Miss Doherty’s dress-making business. So who were the Painters? Margaret Teresa Doherty and her family have made a generous donation of this site to the church and community and for generations they have been known as “the painters”. There were 4 in Margaret’s family, her brother John, who was once played a trumpet in the Carn Brass Band. He donated his trumpet to the band before he passed away and it is in use today. Margaret had two sisters, one of whom was Minnie Weeks. Minnie lived away all her life but her final wish was to be buried in Carn and so we remember her today. Her other sister was Annalene who lived in Largs in Ayreshire – Robbie Burn’s country where she is buried.

Their parents were John and Maggie Doherty.

Margaret’s grandparents came from Moville parish and hence the nickname the “Bunaphobails”. He lived in the same street near the courthouse. Her grandfather, Willie was from Glencrow, Terryroane near Ballinacrae church and her grand- mother was Maggie McFeely, Carrowmena.  Other families included Catherwoods, Dohertys (hatters), Merricks (cattledealers) and Mullins (butchers). The first ice cream in Carn was sold in this street. In others words. It was truly a street full of crafts’ people and artisans.

Margaret had a distinguished connection in the church on her grandfather’s side. He was an uncle of the Bishop of Dromore, who died in 1979 and his name was Bishop Eugene O’Doherty, for whom I once served Mass in Ballinacrae. His family came from Terryroane.

The “Bunaphobails”

Her grandfather was a painter by trade and he came to Carn to paint the Colgan hall in 1914, the year it opened. He always said that he got married in 1916 with the money he made painting the hall. Her uncle Pakie Bunaphobail was involved in helping to paint the new church in Carn in 1945. He had a habit of singing aloud as he painted. The PP Fr Bonner was not impressed and suggested he would do better if he concentrated on the painting. His answer to Fr Bonner was to stop the singing but he also slowed down the painting. Fr Bonner got the message.

Margaret has a little-known connection with the history of education in Carn, as Conal Byrne, Margaret Harkin and Sheila McCarroll have noted.

Arthur Gormley- hedge school master

Margaret’s great-grandfather was Arthur Gormley who came to Carn from Bellaghy, Co Derry as a hedge-school teacher as the Penal Laws were coming to an end. He taught in a slated barn in Hillhead donated by the Presbyterian church. and his small headstone can be seen beside the graveyard gate on the right, with his name clearly inscribed. Children brought a penny a week to school to pay his wages and used slates for writing on. Latin and Maths were taught. Hedge school masters travelled from town to town, but Arthur settled in Carn and became quite wealthy. He probably knew Seamus Heaney’s ancestors who came from Bellaghy also. Several Gormley families still live close to Bellaghy but not in the village itself.

Margaret Teresa herself attended the Convent School in Buncrana as a boarder. When I asked Margaret why she became a chemist, she said she had two friends at school and they decided on their careers after they did their Leaving Cert. One of the girls was Rita Quigley, who became a nun and joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Drogheda. Another friend was Margaret Bonner who became a nurse. Margaret Teresa decided to become a chemist and went to Dublin to serve her 6 year apprenticeship with a well-known group of Dublin chemists called Hayes, Cunningham and Robinson. She worked in the Dun Laoghaire branch and cycled nightly from Dun Laoghaire to the College of Pharmacy in Mount Street in the city.

Rome

To go back to Sister Rita Quigley. Rita worked in a hospice and one night she was in charge of a woman who was on her death bed and declared incurable. That night Rita said 3 rosaries for her to Blessed Oliver Plunkett and next morning the woman had recovered and returned to good health fully cured. Her cure was considered miraculous and the Vatican accepted the cure as a miracle. It so happened that this was recognised as the third official miracle required for the canonisation of Blessed Oliver Plunkett. On the occasion of his canonisation, the Sisters of Mercy in Buncrana were invited to Rome and Margaret Teresa and her other friend were invited also. Sadly Rita, the nun, was not present. She died in a swimming accident in Italy trying to save a young postulant from drowning. At the canonisation, Fr. Donal McKeown, now Bishop of Derry, did a reading in Rome. He was present when Margaret Teresa cut the tape to open the new road on Sunday, 3 June 2018, following Mass in the church. The Carn Brass Band and Donagh Choir were in attendance.

Finally, we come to the THREE PATRIOTS OF CARN. The house beside the Painter’s Way has three sculpted heads. Before Home Rule, there was great veneration in Carn for the famous patriots of Irish history. The beardless head, with pointed chin, in the centre is Robert Emmet, who died in a Rebellion in 1803. On the Co-op side is Henry Grattan, who led an independent Irish Parliament at College Green in Dublin before it was abolished by the Act of Union in 1800. The other head is that of Wolfe Tone, who was arrested at Buncrana and died in 1798. All the heads bear a true likeness of the leaders, based on drawings and prints of the period.

The sculptor was a cousin of her grandfathers. He emigrated to America and made a career for himself as a sculptor in the States. Before he left, he sculpted the LION OF CARN. You can still see it today in Reid’s yard behind the grill.  The new emigrant was refused work in America with a sculptor at first. The owner of the business went away and Margaret’s cousin took the opportunity to sculpt the head of the owner who had refused him work. When the owner came back, he was astonished to see himself in stone and enquired who did the work. When he heard who was the artist, he gave him a job, even though he had refused him at first.

Like Michael Harkin, we can be proud of this beautiful, historic thoroughfare and our sincere thanks are due to Margaret Teresa and her family, Fr Con McLaughlin, PP and also the team of workmen who completed it.

For more information on Carn history, see CARNDONAGH by Maura Harkin and Sheila McCarroll, which is available from bookshops. A photo of the Hillhead hedge school can be seen in the book with pictures of Margaret Teresa and her family at various stages of their lives. Thanks to all who helped with this history – Margaret Teresa Doherty, Mrs Mary McLaughlin, Mickey McClure, Colgan Heritage Committee, Maura Harkin and the late Conal Byrne who wrote about hedge schools in DONEGAL ANNUAL.

Seán Beattie – 3 June 2018

 

Colgan Heritage Weekend, Carndonagh, Co Donegal 17-19 August 2018

The annual Colgan event will take place in August from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th 2018. Note the change of month which has come about due to the Irish Open being held in Ballyliffin. We are delighted that the Colgan weekend will be Carndonagh’s input to National Heritage Week.

Vincent Browne, broadcaster and journalist, has confirmed that he will open the event on Friday 17th August and we are delighted to welcome him to Inishowen. Have your questions ready!

The programme  is being compiled and includes a wide range of events – lectures, guided walking tours, a writing workshop, panel discussions, schools’ competitions and a cultural diversity event. The Heritage Hunters – involving the local library – will take part this year also. Other attractions include exhibitions, and a special bi-lingual session to celebrate Bliain na Gaeilge. Join us on Sunday evening for a variety concert featuring some of our most talented performers.

The theme is linked to the National Heritage Weekend theme of “Carving a Future from Our Past”. We have so much to celebrate.

 

Further details will be announced on our Facebook page and website.

The Notorious WASP and Moville

 

queen castle maritime musem.PNG

Greencastle Maritime Museum

 

The Wasp has gone down in history as one of the most infamous British gunboats that ever entered Irish waters. It was lost off the coast of Tory in September 1884 on a mission to collect a few pounds of arrears in rent from islanders on Inistrahull. It was the era of the Land War, when the Land League was in control and led a campaign of non-payment of rent. It was also a decade which saw the beginnings of a land revolution in Ireland with the passing of a series of Land Acts which would lead to tenant proprietorship. The Wasp on this occasion was en route to Moville, where a contingent of troops was on standby to enforce the rent collection order. It was the first time in Irish history that a British gunboat was employed for this purpose.

Several myths have surrounded the loss of the gunboat. The light keepers on Tory were wrongly accused of shutting down the light and were blamed for the loss of life. Tory islanders were accused of turning a blind eye to the plight of the ship-wrecked sailors. In fact, the islanders took to the seas in an attempt to carry out a rescue mission. The sinking of the ship was due to poor seamanship in bad weather conditions, as a public enquiry later concluded.

The town of Moville has another connection with the gunboat. In the summer of 1884, 96 islanders from Arranmore off Burtonport were taken on board the gunboat. On this occasion, it was a mission of mercy, one of many carried out by the gunboat. The islanders were emigrants from Arranmore who were offered farms in Canada and America and it was considered the land and sea journey from the island to Moville was too difficult. Instead, they were taken on board the Wasp and ferried to a liner in Lough Foyle on a regular voyage from Moville to America. All landed safely and 86 were settled on Beaver Island, while ten others travelled on to Canada. In America, heads of families were offered 40 acres of land to begin a new life and their descendants still live there. This was part of an assisted emigration scheme organised by a Yorkshire Quaker philanthropist, James Hack Tuke. He was one of the founders of Barclay’s Bank.

There is another connection with Greencastle. You can see part of the ship standing outside Greencastle Maritime Museum. Pictures of some of the crew can be seen in my book DONEGAL IN OLD PHOTOGRAPHS (2004). The crew members had called to a studio in Derry to have their photos taken when they visited the Foyle on another occasion.

The captain of the ship, Captain Nicholls is buried in an unmarked grave in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Malin Town, but his name is on the Register of Deaths for the parish.  His body was washed ashore off Inishowen and taken to Malin for burial. A fictional account of the loss of the WASP can be read in MEMOIR FOR THE WASP by Enda McLaughlin.

For more information on Donegal history, see DONEGAL ANNUAL 2018 which will be available in July 2018.

Like many aspects of our history, there are two sides to every story!

 

Seán Beattie 2018.