Derryveagh Evictions

18th January 1862
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On the 18th of January 1862, a group of Donegal people were hosted at a special dinner in Dublin in advance of their departure for Australia following the notorious mass evictions at Derryveagh months earlier.

The evictions which began on 3 April 1861 under the orders of landlord, 'Black Jack' Adair, left 244 people homeless including 159 children, to clear 11,600 acres of mountainous land in proximity to what is now Glenveagh National Park.
The horrific events prompted an international outcry and led to the establishment of the Australian Donegal Relief Committee to assist the emigration of the Derryveagh people to Australia. This was a charity organised in Sydney by a Donegal migrant named Michael O’Grady. He arranged for fares to be paid for anyone wishing to emigrate and for land to be purchased for them in Australia.
At the dinner held in their honour in Dublin before their departure it was said of the Derryveagh emigrants that 'a finer body of men and women never left any country'.
Below is an account published by The Australian Town & Country Journal of the farewell address of Gweedore parish priest, Father James McFadden at the Dublin hotel.
"When dinner had concluded, Rev. Mr. McFadden, amidst the most solemn stillness, briefly addressed the assemblage; and it was a most touching sight. He spoke in the Gaelic tongue, the language of their homes and firesides, and Adair had leveled the one and quenched the other for ever.
As the young priest spoke, his own voice full of emotion, the painful silence all around soon became broken by the sobs of women, and tears flowed freely down many a cheek. He reminded them that that was their last meal partaken of on Irish soil; that in a few hours they would have left Ireland forever.
He spoke of their old homes amidst the Donegal hills, of the happy days passed in the now silent and desolate valley of Derryveagh; of the peace and happiness that they had known then, because they were contented, and were free from temptations and dangers of which the busy world was full. He reminded them of their simple lives-- the Sunday mass, so regularly attended; the confession: the consolations of faith.
Many a check was wet as he alluded to how they would be missed by the priest whose flock they were.
But most of all, their lot was sorrowful in the fact that, while other emigrants left behind them parents and relatives over whom the old rooftree remained, they, alas! left theirs under no shelter of a home-- they left them wanderers and outcasts, trusting to workhouse fare or wayside charity.
But he continued;
"You are going to a better land, a free country where there are no tyrants, because there are no slaves. Friends have reached out their hands to you; those friends await you on the shore of that better land. And here, too, in this city hearts equally true and kindly have met you.
Let your last word on Irish ground be to thank the good gentleman who now stands by my side, Mr. Alexander M. Sullivan.
He it is who has, amidst all his numerous cares of business, found time to make these arrangements to meet your wants and make you comfortable in passing through this city. Busy as this day has been with him, there he was to meet us at the train, and here he has been attending to you as if you were members of his own family. But it is only part of a long work of goodness done for the people of Donegal since first on that memorable Christmas Eve he raised the first call for our relief.
He has never since taken his hand from the work he began that day. Let us, with our last words, thank him and his friends who have met us this evening, and cared for us so well.
And now, dear brothers, we shall be departing.
Before you take your foot off your native land, promise me here that you will, above all things, be faithful to your God, and attend to your religious duties, under whatever circumstances you be placed (Sobs, and cries of "We will, we will").
Never neglect your night and morning prayers, and never omit to approach the Blessed Eucharist, at least at Ireland (intense emotion, and cries of "Never, never, God knows!")-- don't forget the old people at home, boys.
Sure they will be counting the days til a letter comes from you. And they'll be praying for you, and we will all pray God to be with you."
143 persons from Derryveagh boarded a Steamer in Dublin port, headed for Liverpool on the first leg of their journey. From there, they sailed to Australia where each family was given a plot of land to cultivate and they could begin a happier and successful life.

©GoVisitDonegal

SOURCES:
-The Australian Town & Country Journal
-WhyDonegal Facebook