Ó ‘gus éalóchaidh mé i mbárach go Mullach Dubh Gállda dom’ chómhair,
‘Gus is tuirseach gan áidhbhéil a ghním na tráigheanna romhama threabhadh;
Acht ó’s nídh é bheas déanta ‘s nach bhfuil a áthrach anois rómham,
‘Sé mo chéad beannacht a fhágaim ag tráigheannaibh an Dúin Mhóir.
Acht tá mé ‘nois d’á bhfágail go bráth uilig ‘mo dhéidh; Tá mé ‘g dul imeasg mo cháirde agus is mór an sásamh sin fhéin; I n-íochtar Mhullach Dubh Gállda béidh m’fhárus níos mó, Acht mo chéad beannacht ‘sé fhágaim ag tráigheannaibh an Dúin Mhóir.
le Donnchadh Ó Searcaigh (roimh 1906)
The facts that we do know about of the death of Private Con Duggan of the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in Dublin in April 1916 gives rise to as many questions as answers.
He died in the Easter Rising allegedly killed in action. He was 22 years when he died and was buried in his native parish of Kincasslagh although he is mentioned on a tombstone over a ‘grave’ at Bully’s Acre, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin.
He was the son of Bartley Doogan from Calhame, Annagry and Brigid (Mhór) Doogan from Carrick A tSeascain in Gaoth Dobhair. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles of the British Army who were based that week at Portobello Barracks, (now Cathal Brugha Barracks) Rathmines, Dublin. The 3rd Battalion was in the effective control of Captain Bowen Colthurst from Mallow, County Cork as his superior officer was ill. On the Tuesday of Easter Week part of the battalion left the barracks under the command of Bowen Colthurst with the view to arresting ‘Fenians’ as Bowen Colthurst called suspects. Bowen Colthurst had with him as a hostage, with his hands tied behind his back, the pacifist Frances Sheehy Skeffington who had been arrested as a rebel sympathiser the previous day. It seems he had told the military when stopped on Portobello Bridge on his way home from trying to organise a group to stop the looting of shops that while he sympathised with the rebels aims he did not agree with their methods. Frances Sheehy Skeffington in his early thirties attracted attention from the way he dressed. He walked with a cane and generally had an eccentric appearance. He took his wife’s name Sheehy as part of his own name on their marriage. He was considered harmless but strange. He was friendly with Thomas Mc Donagh one of the signatories of the Proclamation and seemed to frequent the places Mc Donagh frequented largely to meet and often argue with Mc Donagh. This may have meant that he fell under suspicion of being a militant when he was not one.
The unit controlled by Bowen Colthurst were a motley crew made up of the 3rd Battalion recruited mainly from Ireland and East Belfast in particular but that week their numbers were increased by the presence of other British soldiers including it seems one Australian who were on holiday leave in Dublin when the fighting started. Bowen Colthurst stopped a 17 year boy who was coming from a religious service in a nearby Catholic Church. After questioning him about being in breach of curfew Captain Bowen Colthurst shot him dead. He also shot a Labour Party Councillor who was an inactive member of the Irish Volunteers and although he did not die there and then he died a fortnight later. Bowen Colthurst fire-bombed with it would seem the Australian’s help a shop of a Unionist Alderman Councillor at Kelly’s Corner confusing it with the property of a Nationalist Alderman Councillor of the same surname Kelly. He also killed the owner of the shop. He arrested two journalists, Mc Intyre and Dixon who although they were editors of Unionist publications he seemed to think they were Nationalists. They together with Frances Sheehy Skeffington were brought back to Portobello Barracks and the following morning Wednesday all three were executed by seven man firing squad. Sir Frances Vane who had overall command of Portobello Barracks was otherwise engaged that day with heavy fighting at the South Dublin Union held by Eamon Ceannt one of the signatories of the Proclamation of 1916 but he returned to the barrack on Wednesday evening to discover what had occurred.
Efforts by the highly principled Sir Frances Vane to have Captain Bowen Colthurst arrested did not find favour with the authorities in Dublin and Sir Frances Vane was forced to go to London to press the government there to arrest Captain Bowen Colthurst. This was done reluctantly although in the meantime the Defendant had been promoted by the military in Sir Frances Vane’s absence. While Vane is clearly a person of high principles the military in general seemed to feel that it would be detrimental to army morale to punish Bowen Colthurst. Bowen Colthurst was tried and convicted of the three murders at the Barracks and found guilty but insane. He was held at Broadmoor Prison Hospital for less than two years and then released on the basis that he was no longer insane. He went to Canada and lived there until his death in 1965. Sir Frances Vane was discharged from the army in 1917 and one of the reasons for his discharge was given was his involvement in the Sheehy Skeffington affair. His attempt to record what had happened was frustrated by the military censor. There was a Judges Inquiry and Bowen Colthurst did not come out to well out of the affair. He was probably insane at least by the standards of our time although he was not lacking in calculation when it came to trying to cover his tracks. He for example searched the house of Sir Frances Sheehy Skeffington in an attempt to find evidence that the pacifist was a closet militant.
The British Army Roll of Honour has an entry for Con Duggan and it says the following;
Con Duggan, Private No 5470 G Coy, 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, second son of Bartley Duggan of Calhame, Annagry, by his wife Bridget Duggan, born 22/3/1893, educated at Mullaghduff National School. Was an electric tram car driver, Lanarkshire Tramways. Enlisted 14th January 1916 and was killed during the fighting in Dublin about 30th April 1916, unmarried. Buried in the grounds of the Royal Hospital there, 2nd May. His younger brother was killed at Loos.
In other British Army records Templecrone the parish he was from was confused with Templemore in County Tipperary and the county he was from was given as Tipperary. His date of death is given as 29th April 1916 but that is not inconsistent with ‘about 30th April 1916’. He could have died from wounds received early in the week but it does seem unlikely that he would have been killed on the 29th (Saturday) or the 30th (Sunday) as the fighting was over at that stage particularly on the south side of the city. And Con Duggan was not buried in Bullys Acre, Royal Kilmainham but in Kincasslagh, County Donegal.
The soldier who accompanied the body of Con Duggan to Annagry for burial in Kincasslagh graveyard reputedly said to Con’s mother at his wake that her son had been asked to take part in a firing squad and when he refused he was then killed himself. The soldier allegedly said Con had been a foolish boy to refuse to take part in the firings squad as all he had to do to give the impression that he was complying with the request was to take his place in the firing squad and then he could deliberately aim to miss the target. He reputedly added that he had to do that himself. Con’s mother supposedly replied that ‘that would not be Con’s way’. It may be the case that Con Duggan death was collateral damage in the Portobello Barracks murders.
I am indebted to Jimmy Duffy of Carrickfinn, Kincasslagh, County Donegal and John Mc Fadden of Calhame, Annagry who provided me with information regarding Con Duggan.
By Seán Boner, Meenmore, Dungloe.
Owen Boyle lived with his mother near Kincasslagh, and worked as a carpenter. One Hallow Eve, on his return home, he found a calf was missing, and went out to look for it. He was told it was behind a stone near the spink of Dunathaid,
and when he got there he saw the calf, but it ran away and disappeared through an opening in the rock.
Owen was at first afraid to follow, but suddenly he was pushed in, and the door closed behind him. He found himself in a company of fairies, and heard them saying: “This is good whisky from O’Donnell’s still. He buried a nine-gallon keg in the bog; it burst, the hoops came off, and the whisky has come to us. “One of the fairies gave Owen a glass, saying he might be useful to them that night. They asked if he would be willing to go with them, and, being anxious to get out of the cave, he at once consented. They all mounted on horses, and away they went through Dungloe, across the hills to Doochary, then to Glenties, and through Mount Charles to Ballyshannon, and thence to Connaught. They came to a house where great preparations were being made for a wedding. The fairies told Owen to go in and dance with any girl who asked him. He was much pleased to see that he was now wearing a good suit of clothes, and gladly joined in the dance. After a time there was a cry that the bride would choose a partner, and the partner she chose was Owen Boyle. They danced until the bride fell down in a faint, and the fairies, who had crept in unseen, bore her away. They mounted their horses and took the bride with them, sometimes one carrying her and sometimes another. They had ridden thus for a time when one of the fairies said to Owen: “You have done well for us to-night.” “And little I have got for it,” was the reply; “not even a turn of carrying the bride.” “That you ought to have,” said the fairy, and called out to give the bride to Owen. Owen took her, and, urging his horse, outstripped the fairies. They pursued him, but at Belcruit Strand he drew with a black knife a circle round himself and the bride, which the fairies could not cross.
One of them, however, stretched out a long arm and struck the bride on the face, so that she became deaf and dumb. When the fairies left him, Owen brought the girl to his mother, and in reply to her questions, said he had brought home one to whom all kindness should be shown. They gave her the best seat by the fire; she helped in the housework, but remained speechless.
A year passed, and on Hallow Eve Owen went again to Dunathaid. The door of the cave was open.
He entered boldly, and found the fairies enjoying themselves as before. One of them recognised him, and said: “Owen Boyle, you played us a bad trick when you carried off that woman.” “And a pretty woman you left with me! She can neither hear nor speak!” “Oh!” said another, “if she had a taste of this bottle, she could do both!” When Owen heard these words he seized the bottle, ran home with it, and, pouring a little into a glass, gave it to the poor girl to drink. Hearing and speech were at once restored. Owen returned the bottle to the fairies, and, before long, he set out for Connaught, taking the girl with him to restore her to her parents. When he arrived, he asked for a night’s lodging for himself and his companion. The mother, although she said she had little room, admitted them, and soon Owen saw her looking at the girl. “Why are you gazing at my companion?” he asked. “She is so like a daughter of mine who died a twelvemonth ago.” “No,” replied Owen; “she did not die; she was carried off by the fairies, and here she is.” There was great rejoicing, and before long Owen was married to the girl, the former bridegroom having gone away. He brought her home to Kincasslagh, and not a mile from the village, close to Belcruit Strand, may be seen the ring which defended her and Owen from the fairies. It is a very large fairy ring, but why the grass should grow luxuriantly on it tradition does not say.
Oh weird and wild the wail of woe now borne
Upon the startled night-winds from the west-
Deep gasps of grief and soul-sighs from men torn
By death, grim hideous unbidden guest-
From where great breakers piling on the shore
Awaken eerie echoes o’er the dunes.
Fell waves! Foul, treacherous for-ever more-
While lethal-laden, chanting age-old runes.
Not more decit the steed that enter Troy
And dumped destruction dire within her walls!
Ye bore to Braide that deadly dark decoy
Its victims now lie ‘neath their eighteen palls.
Brave lives, all full of youthful faith and fire.
Strangers to fear, all anxious more to learn-
And hence inquisitive, in deep desire
To probe at things unknown-for knowledge yearn.
Unto the flotsam of that baneful beach
They saw it sail and wondered what it was…
Then rushed along in headlong haste to reach
Their coming destined doom-their tomb, alas!
Wild howling winds begat a drear banshee…
The gruesome monster slowly sought the shore…
A blinding flash! A thund’rous crash The sea
Rose up in rage and pain around its roar.
Some to the land were flung, and some to sea…
Some to the skies-to fall in mangled mass:
A silent lull… then shrieks of agony
Now rent the echoes o’er that gory grass.
Three vacant chairs in two once happy homes,
Two widows weeping nigh their orphan’d weans
How suddenly God’s visitation comes!
How swiftly pleasure turn to poignant pains!
Kincasslagh holds eleven tombs to-day,
While seven rest in peace at Annagry:
The goom at eventide when skies are grey
Is deepen’d by this tearful tragedy.
All Irishmen of every creed and class
Now sympathise with those lone folks forlorn:
For those who live, their grief may slowly pass!
For those now dead, new hopes of life be born!
“Would like to thank you Jimmy , For doing my family tree ,and for all the hours of research that you put into it. You have done a fantastic job , I am delighted to find out so much information of my Donegal family history , dating back to 1670. It is fascinating to learn of ancestors who left Donegal to go to America and Australia. To work and live and to start a new life there. Also to find out that I am connected to so many people around the Rosses that I never knew I was connected to , The family history book that you produced for me is fantastic Jimmy so well documented , and laid out in a format that i am able to understand , The book itself is of great Quality Jimmy thank you once again for a brilliant job , I’m sure my granny Gracie Sharkey from Mullaghduff will be happy in heaven that you have done this for me.”
Agnes Taylor Connelly
“I came to County Donegal, to the area called the Rosses, to seek some connection with my Harley ancestors, though I knew it would be a long shot. Taking the advice of my husband’s cousin I spoke with lots of local people about my search. Everyone was friendly and tried to help and nearly everyone suggested I should talk to Jimmy Duffy. So I did. He clearly knows his sources – more than I knew existed – and he is full of local knowledge being from the area. He was a wealth of information spanning practically a millennium and though he could tell a number of stories, when it came to genealogy he stuck to facts, which made me trust him. Though we weren’t able to crack my particular question, I think we will get there in the end thanks to DNA tests being increasingly popular with family researchers. And who knows, we may learn that 200 years ago our two families were next door neighbors.”
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 14/5/2016