100 years ago today, on Wednesday January 10th 1917, my grandfather’s brother Donnchadh Shéimidh Eoin na Bráid Duffy left his home in Carrickfinn with two of his neighbours, fellow fishermen in route to Dungloe.
After completing their business in Dungloe, they proceeded home along the Gweedore Road towards Annagry.
Donnchadh who was on a well earned break from the herring fishing, decided to visit the home of his aunt in Cruckaceehan having heard that she was throwing a party for her sons and nephews who were off to Scotland in the morning. His neighbours parted company with him and they continued their homeward journey. That would be the last time they would see him alive.
Thirty seven year old Donnchadh was an able fisherman and was regarded as the steadiest of the Duffy brothers. He had just been squared up for the winter fishing season of 1916. It reputed that that he had £200stg on his person on the day, a fortune. Donnchadh had earn his living aboard the pioneering motorboat Summer Star and previous to that on the lugger St Augustine.
He went into the party, but didn’t stay too long, wanting to be back in good time for his daily chores. While Donnchadh crossed over the railway line on his way home, a few hundred yards from party house, he was set upon by several of the revellers. He put up a struggle, but was overpowered, bludgeoned, robbed and left to die. Grievously injured, he was placed on the railway track, so he’d be run over by the morning train, setting the scene for a tragic accident.
His siblings waited into the morning for Donnchadh return, but fearing the worse, his sister and brothers set off looking for him. They visited the men that accompanied him to Dungloe and on being told about his visit to his aunt’s house, they set off on foot to Cruckaceehan, some six miles off. Nearing Cruckaceehan, there was no sign of their brother, which was unusual, as he was most reliable.
As they approached the railway line, they found his badly beaten remains on the track. The great shock was lessened only by the fact that the train didn’t arrive on time.
His remains were taken to a neighbouring outhouse where Dr McDevitt held an inquest the following day. The inquest returned the cause of death as “Heart failure following shock and haemorrhage from injuries received.
After hearing that the culprits were their own cousins, Donnchadh’s grieving family decided to let natural law take its course.
Donnchadh left £90 in his will along with several boats. He was laid to rest in a new plot in the newly opened Annagry Graveyard. Later that year, his brothers when to Derry and ordered a marble headstone from J. Shields Monumental Sculptors, which was later taken to Annagry by the Summer Star and erected over his mortal remains. It was the first marble headstone erected in the graveyard and is still to this day, one of the most outstanding.
The family, who knew the identity of his attackers, spoke little about the incident. As time rolled on and both his family and attackers passed on, the events around Donnchadh Duffy’s tragic death faded by.
As a local historian and his grandnephew, I taught it only fitting that I recall that fateful night 100 years ago and say a prayer for the happy repose of all their souls….