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.
Special thanks to Susan Hemming and Petie McGee for sharing their stories.