The 10th of April 1861 was the third day of the brutal evictions ordered by the cruel landlord John George Adair, on his estate at Derryveagh, Co Donegal. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon of that day, the work was done. The Deputy Sheriff, Crookshank, and his 200 men had changed the landscape and changed the lives of a group of unfortunate and powerless people who were already living in hardship. Liam Dolan in his ‘Land War and Evictions in Derryveagh’ states:
”By two, Wednesday afternoon, the terrible work had been accomplished and a deathly silence fell over the whole area”.
This third post in the series marking the 150th anniversary of the Derryveagh evictions looks at the fate of the dispossessed.
The names of these people and the townlands where they lived, live on in lists. Unfortunately as there are differences in family names and numbers in particular townlands, it is hard to know which list is the definitive one. However, at the end of this post, I have included the names of the families and the townlands, according to one such list, from the Londonderry Standard.
So what became of these unfortunate families? Where did they end up?
Records from the Workhouse in Letterkenny list the people who went there and provide information on their occupations, their townland of origin and their date of entry. Many of these would have left the workhouse when their prospects changed – if work became available, to go to live with relatives, or perhaps to emigrate.
Others who had been offered temporary shelter, in Cloughaneely for example, may well have stayed in the area, as perhaps would those who found shelter with relatives and friends. May McClintock suggests in her publication that many may have indeed stayed in the general area, around Creeslough, Glendowan and Churchill.
A third tranche, mostly younger people, and many probably children of the people evicted, took advantage of the Donegal Relief Committee Fund and availed of assisted passage to Australia. The Donegal Relief Fund had been set up in Australia in 1858 for the assistance of people from Donegal who were in dire circumstances. The geography of the county in the bleak and cold north west with its barren, mountainous terrain, together with the decision by land owners to end the practice of allowing tenants to graze their sheep on the upper slopes in summer, gave rise to an annual famine lasting about three months. Following supplications from the local clergy in Donegal, the Donegal Relief Committee in Australia raised funds to help with immigration. The relief fund appears to have operated from 1858 when large numbers of people from Gweedore, Cloughaneely and Tory Island availed of the opportunity for a new life ‘down under’. Following the Derryveagh evictions, new pleas for help were made by the local clergy with the result that many young people had an opportunity to leave for a new life in Australia. And so in January 1862, 143 persons from Derryveagh joined 130 Gweedore people who departed Plymouth on a sea voyage of 3 months or more. That more family members left Ireland is a certainty. England and Scotland were close to home and were accessible relatively cheaply. It is known that many went to Australia, some ended up in New Zealand and a number also went to America. The nature of the records at the time – where addresses recorded on ships lists often state the county of origin and not the townland, together with the preponderance of similar family and first names provide a challenge for researchers.
One researcher in particular stands out in the telling of the story and tracing of the families of Derryveagh. She is Lindel Buckley, a direct descendant of a family from Glendowan. Her great great grandmother who lived in Stramore, just to the south west of Altnadogue, and whose sister had married a Sweeney from Derryveagh, emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860s. Lindel has located and transcribed hundreds of historical records from Donegal and of relevance to Donegal, and has made them available without charge on her website Donegal Genealogy Resources. Her extraordinary compilation has been and continues to be an inspiration to many. Through her work and her enthusiasm, she is one of the people who keep the Derryveagh story alive.
A new book, written by local school teacher Christy Gillespie and his pupils, documents the personal stories of the people who were evicted in Derryveagh and was launched last Saturday by the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Bruce Davis and the local historian May McClintock. Aptly named “A Deathly Silence” this new book will hopefully interest a new generation and give new insights into the people who are the key figures in this story,the people of Derryveagh.
THE DERRYVEAGH PEOPLE BY TOWNLAND
Hanna M’Award (Widow) and 7 children. – evicted and house levelled.
Joseph M’Cormack, wife and 5 children – restored to possession as caretaker.
Hugh Sweeney ( Widower) and 2 sons – evicted and house locked.
James Sweeney, wife and 8 children- evicted and house locked.
Owen Sweeney, wife, mother and 8 children – evicted and house locked.
James M’Monagle, wife and 6 children- readmitted as tenant until November.
John Brady, wife and 5 children- readmitted as weekly tenant.
Francis Bradley, wife and 5 children -readmitted as weekly tenant.
Patrick Bradley, wife and 4 children -evicted and house levelled.
John and Fanny Bradley, a brother and sister, both deaf and dumb – allowed to retain possession.
Roger O’Flanigan, wife, brother, mother and 4 children- evicted and house levelled.
James Gallagher, wife and 7 children – evicted and house levelled.
Daniel Friel, wife, mother, brother, and 1 child- evicted.
William M’Award, wife and 2 children- evicted and house levelled.
James Doherty, wife and 1 child- evicted and house levelled.
James Lawn, wife and 9 children – readmitted as tenant until November.
John Bradley, wife and 3 children – evicted and house levelled.
Michael Bradley, wife and 4 children – evicted and house levelled.
Catherine Conaghan (Widow), sister in law, brother in law, and 2 children – evicted and house levelled.
Edward Coyle,wife and 1 child – evicted and house levelled.
Knocker Friel, wife and 6 children – evicted and house levelled.
Knocker Kelly and two servants – evicted and house levelled.
William Armstrong (Widower), and 3 children-evicted and house levelled.
Rose Dermot, Orphan – evicted and house levelled.
Daniel M’Award, wife and 6 children- evicted and house levelled.
Charles Doohan, wife, son and 2 grandchildren – evicted and house levelled.
William Doohan, wife and 4 children- evicted and house levelled.
John Doohan, wife and 5 children -evicted and house levelled.
Connell Doohan, wife – retained as weekly tenants.
Patrick Curran, wife and 5 children – evicted and house levelled.
Owen M’Award, wife and 4 children – evicted and house levelled
Mary M’Award (Widow) and 3 children -evicted and house levelled.
Bryan Doherty (Widower), mother, sister and 1 child – evicted and house levelled.
Hugh Coll, wife and 4 children – evicted and house levelled.
Patrick Devenney, wife and 2 children -evicted and house levelled.
John Friel, wife and 2 children – evicted and house levelled.
Michael Friel and 1 child – evicted and house levelled.
Robert Burke, wife – evicted and house levelled.
Charles Callaghan- evicted and house levelled.
John Moore, wife and 2 children – evicted and house levelled.
Manus Rodden, brother and two sisters – orphans- evicted and house levelled.
Bernard Callaghan, mother and brother – evicted and house levelled.
Edward Sweeney and 3 children – evicted and house levelled.
Daniel Doherty, wife, father and 2 children -evicted and house levelled.
Bryan Doherty, wife and 4 children-evicted and house levelled.
- From the Londonderry Standard, Glenveagh, April 10th 1861.
Dolan, Liam. 1980. Land War and Eviction in Derryveagh, 1840- 65. Annaverna Press.
McClintock, May. After the Battering Ram- the trail of the dispossessed from Derryveagh, 1861- 1991. An Taisce Pamphlet
Vaughan, William Edward. 1983. Sin, Sheep and Scotsmen: John George Adair and the Derryveagh evictions 1861. Ulster Historical Foundation. Accessed at TARA: Trinity Access to Research Archive