Tag Archives: Donegal

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: The scenery

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“I pity the traveler of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had today, on a [jaunting] car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

***

For this post, I want to step away from Hurlbert’s political and socioeconomic views of 19th century Ireland and focus on his references to Irish landscapes and landmarks. Remember, he wrote the book 130 years ago. He traveled by rail, by jaunting car, and by foot. No airplanes overhead. No map app in the palm of his hand. These examples are from the early weeks of his trip, late January and February, 1888.

***

“Drogheda stands beautifully in a deep valley through which flows the Boyne Water, spanned by one of the finest viaducts in Europe.”

The Boyne Viaduct, built in 1855.

***

” … despite the keen chill wind, the glorious and ever-changing panoramas of mountain and strath through which we drove were a constant delight, until, just as we came within full range of Muckish, the giant of Donegal, the weather finally broke down into driving mists and blinding rain.”

Muckish, from the Irish for “the pig’s back.” Photo by Rita Wilson/Donegal Film Office.

***

“[In eastern Donegal, we] entered upon great stone-strewn wastes of land seemingly unreclaimed and irreclaimable. Huge boulders lay tossed and tumbled about as if they had been whirled through the air by the cyclones of some prehistoric age, and dropped at random when the wild winds wearied of the fun. The last landmark we made out through the gathering storm was the pinnacled crest of Errigal. Of Dunlewy, esteemed the loveliest of the Donegal lakes, we could see nothing as we hurried along the highway…”

Mount Errigal is Donegal’s tallest peak. Emma Russell/Donegal Film Office.

***

“The wonderful granitic formations we had seen on the way from Gweedore stretch all along the coast to the Roads of Arranmore. At Burtonport they lie on the very water’s edge. At a place called Lickeena, masses of beautiful salmon- and rose-colored granite actually trend into the tide-water, and at Burtonport proper is a promontory of that richly-mottled granite which I had supposed to be the peculiar heritage of Peterhead, and which is now largely exported from Scotland to the United States. Why should not this Irish granite be shipped directly from Donegal to America, there to be built up into cathedrals, and shaped into monuments for the Exiles of Erin?

The jaunting car was a light two-wheeled carriage for a single horse.

NEXT: Lixnaw murder

NOTES: From top, quotes are from 115, 73, 80, 81 and 118 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Glenveigh evictions

This is a work-in-progress blog serial tracking the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited 

***

“We soon left the wooded country of the Swilly and began to climb into the grand and melancholy Highlands of Donegal.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

After a one-day visit to Sion Mills, Hurlbert and Lord Ernest William Hamilton traveled 20 miles northwest to Letterkenny, then into eastern Donegal. They passed near Glenveagh Castle, an estate built 20 years earlier by Irish landlord and businessman John George Adair.

John George Adair

Adair began to acquire tens of thousands of acres in the Glenveagh/Derryveagh area shortly after the mid-century Famine. In April 1861, before building his castle, he evicted some 45 families totaling nearly 250 men, women and children in a fit of spite.

“Exactly what prompted him to clear the estate is disputed. It may have been the murder of his steward, James Murray, in 1861, or it may have been an incident during which he was surrounded and intimidated by tenants while he exercised the hunting rights he claimed over their land,” historian and broadcaster Myles Dungan wrote in a 2016 blog post.

Adair later acquired land in Texas and married an American widow. He died in St. Louis, Missouri, age 62, three years before the reporter’s arrival.

“A Dead Despot,” is how The Nation headlined its May 1885 story. “An American packet is bearing to a grave in Irish soil the remains of one who in life swept ruthlessly from the land hundreds of families where for generations their forefathers had dwelt. … Who speaks but good of the dead need never name John George Adair.”

As for the tenants, some found shelter in nearby workhouses and remained in the region. Many received relief passage to Australia. Others emigrated to America.

Hurlbert showed no compassion for the former tenants. He suggested that considering “the wild and rugged aspect of the surrounding country it is probable enough that these evictions were to the evicted a blessing in disguise, and that their descendants are now enjoying, beyond the Atlantic, a measure of prosperity and of happiness which neither their own labor nor the most liberal legislation could have ever won for them here.”

He approved of the plans by Mrs. Adair (“my charming country-woman”) to create a fenced “deer forest” on some of the land, “provided the people can be got to like stalking stags better than landlords and agents.”

Hurlbert wrote that “no traces are now discernible … of the too celebrated evictions.” In fact, ruins of some of the former tenants’ homes remain in what today is Glenveagh National Park, where Adair’s castle is a better maintained attraction.

Glenveagh Castle/Glenveagh National Park

NEXT: Father McFadden

NOTES: This post is based on pages 77 to 81 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

2016 Census results detail modern Ireland

Ireland’s population increased to 4,761,865 in 2016, up 3.8 percent from 2011, according to data collected last year on the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising. The state had experienced 8 percent growth in the 2011, 2006 and 2002 census counts.

The proportion of the population who were non-Irish nationals fell to 11.6 percent in 2016 from 12.2 percent in 2011, the first decline since the census question was introduced in 2002. This is partially explained by a near doubling of people holding dual nationality, a separate category.

The 6 April data release is the first of 13 reports on Census 2016 that are due to be published this year. The Central Statistics Office will publish 11 thematic profiles, which will each explore topics such as housing, the homeless, religion, disability and carers in greater detail.

Highlights of the initial report include:

  • Self-identified Roman Catholics fell 3.4 percent, from 84.2 percent of the population in 2011 to 78.3 percent in 2016. Nearly 10 percent of census respondents said they have no religion.
  • The country is slightly older, with average age of 37.4 in April 2016 compared with 36.1 five years earlier. County Fingal, north of Dublin, had the youngest average age at 34.3, while Kerry and Mayo in the west were each at 40.2
  • The largest number of Irish speakers who use the language daily outside the education system remain concentrated in the Gaeltacht areas of counties Donegal, Galway and Kerry.
  • Private residences with no internet connection fell to 18.4 percent of dwellings, down from 25.8 percent in 2011.

Wonders and threats in Ireland’s natural environment

A few environmental stories:

  • Irish marine scientists have discovered a new cold water coral habitat nearly 200 miles off the Co. Kerry coastline. Story in The Irish Times.
  • The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, were visible in Co. Donegal and parts of Northern Ireland due to a huge solar storm, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Times also covered a recent “climate justice” conference, where scientists complained the government isn’t doing enough to address greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say 2014 was the warmest in Ireland since 1880 (start of the Land War period) and average temperatures had increased by 0.5 degrees since 1981. At current rates, temperatures in Ireland are expected to rise by between one degree and 1.5 degrees over the next 30 years.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency offers this scorecard of key environmental indicators, including ratings for climate change, water, air, land and nature.

All Irish towns within five miles of rail in 1890?

UPDATE: As mentioned below, I emailed Cathal Ó hÓisín so he could reply to this post. I got a response in less than 24 hours. He wrote:

I do accept that there were areas that may have been further than my assertion but the accusation that I had said that anything ‘was better under the British’ is at the core of my gripe with the IT (Irish Times) piece. It was also factually incorrect on a number of other issues, but thanks for your interest. GRMA (Go raibh maith agat, or Thank you) Cathal

ORIGINAL POST

A statement by Derry MLA Cathal Ó hÓisín at Sinn Féin‘s recent ardfheis caught my attention. He suggested that Ireland’s rail transport system had been better under the British, then added:

“…in 1890 no town or village in Ireland was more than five miles from a rail track. Many counties now, such as Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal have not heard or seen a train for over 60 years.”

In the spirit of PolitiFact.com, the U.S. politics fact-checking website edited by my wife, I decided to take a closer look at the two statements.

Surely the first statement couldn’t be true, I thought. The date is close to the 1888 opening of the Lartigue monorail in north Kerry. The unusual train linked the mainline railroad at the market town of Listowel to the seacoast village of Ballybunion.

The nearby village of Ballylongford, my maternal grandmother’s home, never got such a connection. It is seven miles from Listowel and almost nine miles from Ballybunion. Hardly within five miles of any “iron road.”

This map shows a robust Irish railways system in 1906. Yet many parts of the country were more than five miles from a rail line. I haven’t found any evidence of significant track loss in the 16 years from the 1890 date suggested by  Ó hÓisín.  (Click on the map for a larger version.)

Map_Rail_Ireland_Viceregal_Commission_1906

So what about the second part of the statement, that Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal lost train service more than 60 years ago? That’s 1954.

This linked list shows the opening and closing dates for dozens of Irish railway stations. Carrickmore in Tyrone closed 15 February 1965; Enniskillen in Fermanagh shuttered 1 October 1957; the first of January, 1960 was the end of the line for the station at Donegal.

(As for north Kerry, the Lartigue line closed 14 October 1924, and the last mainline train of the Great Southern Railway chugged away from the Listowel station on 6 November 1983.)

Ó hÓisín’s larger point was that “huge swathes of the west and particularly the northwest [of the island of Ireland] are devoid of any meaningful transport system on the road or any rail network,” which he further described as another “insidious form of partition.”

That could and should be argued at greater length by Irish politicians and their constituents. As for Ó hÓisín’s comments about no Irish town being more than five miles from rail in 1890, and the three northwest counties being without rail for more than 60 years, this fact-checker rates both statements as false.

(In the interest of fair comment I am emailing a copy of this published blog to  Ó hÓisín for any reply he cares to make. MH)

 

Two great stories on Irish, Irish-American history

Dan Barry, one of my favorite New York Times columnists, has produced back-to-back pieces about Irish and Irish-American history. Both are worth the read.

The latest piece is about the excavation of a mass grave of Irish railroad workers who died near Philadelphia during a cholera epidemic in 1832. The remains of one worker were just returned to County Donegal for burial.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Times published Barry’s story about the amazing collection of Irish historical items accumulated by a County Mayor fish merchant. Be sure to check out the Time’s multimedia presentation and visit the Jackie Clarke Collection website.

In a 2009 “Talk to the Newsroom” feature answering reader questions, Barry had this to say about his career choice:

I became a journalist because I was raised to honor and appreciate the power of the written word. As I’ve written before, my Irish mother was a storyteller by nature; this is how she communicated. And my New York City father emerged from a difficult, Depression-era childhood with a healthy distrust of authority.

Bonus: here is Barry’s 2008 piece, “Does the Real Ireland Still Exist?”