Tag Archives: County Donegal Ireland

Martin Luther King in a Donegal living room

Stone of Hope Memorial

Stone of Hope Memorial to Martin Luther King, Washington D.C.

In August 1963, when I was 15 years of age, I was running to do something in the kitchen. (We tended to run in those days instead of walking!) Passing by the open living room door where my father was watching the news on television, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the rousing words ‘I.. HAVE… A DREAM ‘.I was aware that there were ongoing civil rights issues in the USA at that time, and the name Martin Luther King was familiar. I had not however ever heard him speak before and I was riveted to the spot.


Martin Luther King Jnr at the Civil Rights Demonstration in Washington DC on August 28 1963

This was Martin Luther King, the voice of Black America, delivering a speech in which the spoken word became a servant of his cause. It was beamed across the world and affected the lives on many of the millions who watched, including myself, a teenager in County Donegal, Ireland.

It has been revealed in a book, Behind the Dream, by Clarence Jones, a close associate of King,  that when he was delivering the speech a singer who had performed earlier in the programme called out ‘tell them about the dream Martin, tell them about the dream.’  King put his speech to one side and so the ‘I have a dream’ part of this speech was not scripted, but was delivered spontaneously  and from the heart with raw emotion.

Martin Luther King was  assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee  on this day 45 years ago,  April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old. His messages of justice and equality, his rhetoric and his inspiration live on, resonating across the decades.  He delivered many memorable speeches, but it is ‘I have a Dream‘ that made him a household name across the world.

MLk memorial

One of the inscriptions on the wall at the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington D.C. These words are from his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964

This is the full text  of ‘I have a Dream‘ delivered at the march on Washington, DC, August 28, 1963.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”



http://www.nps.gov (Memorial Pictures)


Filed under Life in the 1960s, Oral History, Public Speaking, Social Change, Social Justice

Derryveagh Evictions:Walking to remember

In Donegal,Ireland this weekend there will be a walking event to mark the  150th anniversary of the infamous Derryveagh Evictions.

Deserted Road in Derryveagh. Image commons.wikimedia

The walk will trace the footsteps of the 85 adults and 159 children who were brutally evicted from their homes and livelihoods by their cruel landlord in April 1861. ( See my earlier ‘trilogy’ posts here, here and here).

The townlands of Derryveagh where the evictions took place. Click to enlarge. Compiled from Historic and OSI maps - With many thanks to Sara Nylund

The memory of this event is deeply rooted in the surrounding area. On the long car journey from Carrigart to Glenties in the 1950s my late father used to tell us children the story of Adair as he pointed out the ruined and deserted cottages in the lonely landscape. I had imagined then in my child’s mind that was the end of the sad story for these poor people.
Decades later on revisiting this story, it has been exciting to discover that the people who used to live in those destroyed homes are remembered still; that their tragedy has been researched, documented and recalled and that they have been honoured at the 150th anniversary of the event in April of this year.
Their descendants and extended family proudly remember them.
James Sweeney lived in Altnadogue(9). He was evicted with his wife and 8 children and the house was locked.  Two of  James’ sons – Edward and James – later lived in Stramore, an adjoining townland , and married their 2nd cousins Bridget and Grace Sweeney. Bridget and Grace had a sister Fanny, whose grandson, Petie McGee represented that family at the commemoration events in April.
A small number of families were readmitted as tenants, some until the following November and some as weekly tenants. On the shores of Lough Barra is Bingorms (10) with two families the McCormicks  and the M’Awards. The McCormicks were evicted but then reinstated as caretakers. Bingorms was strategically located near an access path to the castle in Glenveagh, and it is thought that Adair wanted someone to look out for sheep stealers using this path and so the McCormicks were spared.  It is hard to imagine what they must have felt as they saw their neighbour the Widow Hanna M’Award and her 7 children being pulled screaming from their house that was levelled to the ground. John (Joseph) McCormick and his wife Grace are the great grandparents of Susan Hemming who represented that family at the commemoration in April.
Susan writes: ”With my 21st century hat on, I am not at all sure that I like the idea of my great, great-grandfather being so “helpful” to his terrible landlord, but then I ask myself “What choice did he have?”. Stay on the land, or be thrown off like so many others?
I hope that he stayed as tenant with a heavy heart, that he and his wife were moved to tears as they witnessed the eviction of the widow McAward and her children. I wonder also, had Owen McAward still been alive, would Adair have chosen that family to stay as caretakers of this lonely route out of Glenveagh? Would the McCormicks have been evicted?”
Also in attendance were two great granddaughters of evictee Catherine Ward, who had travelled from Australia for the 150th anniversary commemoration. To see a TV news report on their setting foot at the site where their ancestor was thrown out,click on this link .
The work and research of many people has served to keep the Derryveagh story alive and has been inspirational to many.  Susan Hemming acknowledges the work and help of Paddy McCormick of Inniskill, Sally Greene (nee McClafferty) of McClafferty’s bar in Churchill in her research.
Two other names are inextricably linked to the ‘rediscovery’ of the events in Derryveagh in 1861:
Lindel Buckley’s ancestors emigrated to New Zealand from this area. Lindel, through her amazing website Donegal Genealogy Resources,  has been instrumental in linking many descendants of the evicted families back to their roots in Derryveagh. Lindel has located and transcribed hundreds of  historical records from Donegal and of relevance to Donegal, and they are available without charge on her website. Her work has been an inspiration to many, including this writer.
May McClintock of An Taisce, has a passionate interest in the Derryveagh Evictions and was instrumental in having a permanent plaque put in place to remember the families.  Through her writing and efforts she is highly regarded by anyone who delves into the story of  the Derryveagh evictions.
A local school teacher Christy Gillespie and his pupils  have documented the personal stories of the people who were evicted in Derryveagh. The book,  “A Deathly Silence”will interest a new generation and give new insights into the people who are the key figures in this story,the people of Derryveagh.
Today, Saturday August 27th 2011 May Mc Clintock  will participate in the ‘We Remember’ commemorative walk that will begin at the ruins of  Bradleys Cottage in the townland of Cleggan, and follow a route to Churchill. She will add insights along the way and at Churchill graveyard she will deliver a short talk. The commemoration of the 150th anniversary will draw to a close tonight with a musical gathering and fitting tributes.
This post is in tribute to the tenants who had to endure this dreadful event in 1861, to their descendants who have discovered who they are, and very specially in appreciation of the people who continue to freely give the benefits of their extensive research and knowledge that is an inspiration to us all.
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

Families evicted from Derryveagh

Donegal Genealogy Resources – The work of Lindel Buckley
Special thanks to Susan Hemming and Petie McGee for sharing their stories.


Filed under Genealogy, Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History