An Austrian Jewish Refugee in Clonmany

Tullyrap creamery near Lifford today – it was captured in its heyday by Ludwig Schenkel with horse carts laden with milk churns from the Laggan while farmers chatted in the queue in the sunshine.

In 1937 the new state of Northern Ireland passed an act called The New Industrial Development Act, which was designed to attract foreign entrepreneurs with industrial skills to start  new businesses. Belfast had a strong Jewish population and the Mayor, Sir Otto Joffe was a Jew in 1904. Derry attracted a small number, perhaps a hundred at most, and they had a small synagogue in Kennedy Place. Nat Gordon of Gordon’s Gallery is perhaps the best known today.

One of the Austrians who fled the Nazi Anschluss was Ludwig Schenkel who set up business in Foyle St. making umbrellas and carrier bags. (James Joyce made  a famous reference to Jews as umbrella makers when he referred to Clonmany’s John Toland – “who farshook our showers” in Ulysses). He married an Austrian lady who was also a refugee. They established a holiday home in Clonmany and were warmly welcomed by the local population over many years. What intrigued locals most was Schenkel’s use of his camera. Urris farmers, Glashedy carrigan moss gatherers, ploughman, thatchers, turf cutters and walkers were captured for posterity through his lens. Kearney’s magical farmyard is quite unforgettable with its free-range roosters and farm utensils. Best of all are his landscape scenes which depict the Urris hills in all their glory: a magnet in the world of cultural and recreational tourism.  He was a close friend of the Gallen family and many of the pictures show both families enjoying a hearty meal in the hotel. He attended local weddings and one of his amusing pictures has a Moville bride in what appears to be a mini-dress wedding gown in which male guests took an interest.  (She was a doctor in Derry). His pictures won him several international  awards. Today his archive runs to 10,000 images from across the county. From my collection of 500, I used several in my book of Donegal photos and unpublished new images of Donegal life will appear in my forthcoming work,  A CULTURAL AND SOCIAL ATLAS OF DONEGAL, due November 2012 and now with Cork University Press.  In time Ludwig Schenkel will replace Lawrence as the post-war iconic image maker for the north-west. 


6 thoughts on “An Austrian Jewish Refugee in Clonmany

  1. Brilliant background to Ludwig Schenkel’s stay in Clonmany. Looking forward to seeing more of his outstanding work in your upcoming book. His work, our rich collection of historical and family history data (such as the Dresden Letters) and artifacts of bygone days should be on permanent display in a Heritage Centre in Clonmany

    • Gillian

      I think they were given to Derry City Library by David Bigger, a friend. I know David may still have some of them, some of which I published in ATLAS OF DONEGAL Cork University Press. As far as I know the full collection is still in private hands
      Sean Beattie

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