I have been reading the minutes of Buncrana Urban Council for 1916 and have been struck by how much life in the town changed in a mere four years.
The town minutes of 1915 record that Major Baillie, recruiting officer for Donegal,, was given the support of the council to proceed with army recruitment in the town. Conscription was not yet on the cards. In 1914, the council agreed to take Belgian refugees. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Royal Engineers were stationed at Luddan Camp and at Swan’s Mill. The Local Government Board demanded that the council support troops who were stationed in the town and make them welcome. Admiral Jellicoe’s fleet was now based in Lough Swilly. Concerns were expressed about the excessive amount of water used by the military and the problems associated with military vehicles driving along the roads of the town but otherwise relations were good between the army and the townspeople.
Four years later, a very different picture emerges. In July 1920, courthouses in Buncrana, Carndonagh and Burnfoot were burned. The local MP, Joseph O’Doherty was before the court in Derry surrounded by heavily armed troops. He was accused of soliciting funds for Dail Eireann in Carndonagh earlier. Const McLaughlin said he could not proceed with the case as the courthouse in Buncrana was out of commission. Joseph O’Doherty MP refused to recognise the court and was remanded in custody. In October, conditions in the town took a turn for the worse with the arrival of the Black and Tans on 22 July 1920. They began by raiding houses and carried out searches indiscriminately. 300 soldiers arrived by train to deal with unrest but surprisingly marched off for a distance of 13 miles to their camp. In Donegal Town, P. J. Ward, Sinn Fein MP (for South Donegal, (grandfather of John Ward) had his offices raided by the Black and Tans.The AOH Hall at Cluneely was burned on 25 October 1920, and further south, creameries and co-ops were also targeted. The Irish College in Cloughaneely was destroyed by fire.
Subsequently, Harry Swan applied for compensation for the burning of the courthouse, furniture, 60 legal texts, 12,000 printed forms, and a gold mounted fountain pen, the property of Harry Swan. He lodged a claim for £100.
The Treaty of 1921 was a long distance away but it is clear that from 1920 onwards, life in Inishowen would never be the same again.
Seasons’ greetings to all readers.