Leonard Vincent Campbell was born in Figart, Isle of Doagh, Clonmany. His family home is now a deserted ruin situated on a hill off the main road but in the early 1900s it was a busy and energetic farm in an idyllic landscape where the 5 Campbell children romped and played. The last member of the Campbell family to die in the house was taken by boat across the Bay to Lagg Presbyterian Church. Because of the tides, the coffin arrived early and rested for two hours on the low wall – designed to keep out the tide – outside the church opposite the home of the deceased across the waters. His Catholic neighbours, who rowed the coffin boat also stood outside during the burial service. The entire cortege was a flotilla of craft. He had 3 brothers – Sean, James and Andrew and one sister Lizzie.
L.V. – as he called himself – published an anthology of poetry in 1961. It is in folio size on high quality cream card and printed to a high specification by an American printer. The poems were written in the 1930s and 1940s when he was chief steward on the SS Santa Lucia. He distributed his poems among the crew. He describes himself as being born in Clonmany and having a love of the sea. He appears to have crossed all the great oceans of the world and visited every continent and written poetry as he travelled. He was at sea during World War 11 acting as a steward and would have been in danger many times.
His final posting was as one of 1,200 civilian members of a large US construction company which built docks in the Persian Gulf and roads connecting with routes to Russia. He was company manager form 1942 to 1943.
He wrote INISHOWEN LANDSCAPE below:
I was born in Donegal near Clonmany’ heavenly shore
Where Tandagree and Bunacrick are spoken of in folklore
Where Craig-a-leenan stretches out in vain ‘cross Binion Bay,
And Malin Head and Inishtrahull stand guard from day to day.
Where Bulliba and Raghtain, the peaks that stand so proud,
Look down in silent Majesty as in reverence e’re avowed.
Walked as far as Leenan, sailed around to the Fort Dunree
Ate “Irish Whites” and herring and supped of the Barnues Bree
I have scaled the cliffs up the Glen beside the Waterfall
Been soothed by the quiet of grazing sheep and the Cuckoo’s lonesome call.
Other poems include A GAELIC SCENE, THE GREATEST IRISH ENEMY, MY DONEGAL HOME, THE MARINER AND THE OCEAN, THE DREAMER, FLIGHT AND MEDITATION, HARRY’S BIRTHDAY ON THE SS SANTA LUCIA, TRAVEL, MY LAUGHING BUDDHA, and SOMEWHERE IN ASIA.
Strangely, he is not listed in any Donegal bibliography but the quality of his landscape poetry – his visual imagery, his versification, his delicate metre, and his beautifully printed anthology – allow him to join the ranks of McGlinchey and Toland as one the great literary figures from Clonmany parish. He deserves some recognition in his home place and a simple plaque would do him an honour. The original copy is in the Wesley Hall in Carndonagh and many thanks to Des McCallion, Rosaleen and Kathleen. In 3 years time the hall will celebrate its 150th anniversary. (The Colgan Hall is a mere 100). The original museum in the hall should have been retained to highlight the wealth of heritage that is hidden away in the town. It may not be too late to have another go.