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AMONG the few physicians of the seventeenth century whose names have been preserved from the stream of oblivion, is Nial O’Glacan of Donegal. Forgotten to-day, in his time he was one of the most distinguished members of the medical profession in Spain, France, and Italy, where for many years he had a long and distinguished career. Born in Donegal in the latter half of the sixteenth century, it is probable that he received the rudiments of his medical education from one of the families of hereditary physicians which at that time were attached to the Irish chieftains.
In the province of Ulster the hereditary physicians of the O’Donnell family were the MacDuinntsleibhes (later MacDunleavy and Donlevy), and several of their names are mentioned in the annals of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. The family had originally resided in County Down, but were driven out by the Norman chieftain de Courcy. We owe to several members of this family some of the finest Irish medical manuscripts in existence. There is a manuscript in the British Museum (Harley 546) at the end of which is written: “Here ends Gualteru’s book of the doses of medicines.
Cormac MacDuinntsleibhe has put this summary into Irish for Dermot MacDonall O’Line, and to him and his sons may so profitable a commentary render good service. On the fourth day of the Kalends of April this lecture was finished at Cloyne in the year 1459.”
The assumption, then, that O’Glacan was trained by a member of this family, in his native county, may be regarded as probably correct.
The training largely consisted in learning the aphorisms and other works of Hippocrates and certain works of Galen. This fact was mentioned by Campion in his History written in 1571, and also by O’Glacan himself in the preface of his treatise on the Plague. Early in life he left Ireland, and settled in Spain as early as 1602. This latter fact is inferred from his statement that he treated the great Hugh O’Donnell, Lord of Tirconnell, with a special poultice for a “venereo bubo” in the royal palace of the King of Spain. It is known that Hugh O’Donnell died at Simancas on 10th September, 1602, after an illness of fourteen days. For many years he travelled about the cities of Spain. In 1621 he was at Salamanca, and in 1622 Valentia, where he remained for two years. In these latter years he was engaged in treating the plague in special hospitals, and was, no doubt, highly paid for his services. Bubonic plague at that time swept Europe with terrific force, invading Spain, France, England, and Italy. Thus in 1630, eighty thousand people perished in Milan, and over five hundred thousand in the Venetian Republic, while in 1665 London lost sixty-nine thousand of its inhabitants. “The physicians delegated to treat the plague wore a strange prophylactic garb, consisting of a long red or black gown of smooth material, often of Morocco or Cordovan leather, with leather gauntlets, leather masks having glass-covered openings for the eyes, and a long beak or snout, filed with antiseptics or fumigants, for the nose. In his hand the pest-doctor carried a wand to feel the pulse.” He was held in considerable estimation for his dangerous services.
In 1627 O’Glacan was in France, and in 1628 he was appointed physician to the Pest Hospital of Toulouse. In the following year he published the Tractatus de Peste, an interesting commentary on the treatment of plague.
Some years later he was appointed Professor of Medicine in the University of Toulouse and Physician to the King of France. In 1646 he proceeded to Bologna, where he became the leading Professor of Medicine in the University, and published a system of medicine, Cursus Medicus, Bononiae, 1655, two volumes. The date of his death is unknown, and no further details of his life are available. The system of medicine is an extensive quarto containing three parts in two volumes. The first part deals with Physiology, or a general prolegomena to medicine as taught in the early seventeenth century. This part numbers some 436 pages. The second part deals with Pathology, or the causes and general symptoms of disease. This part, containing the theories of the time, is not so interesting, and numbers 372 pages. The third and last part deals with clinical medicine, especially the signs of disease, on crises, the pulse and the urine, great stress being laid on the examination of the two latter (as vividly portrayed in some of the canvases of Jan Steen, Franz Van Mieris, and Gabriel Metsu). The third part is the most extensive, and contains 876 pages. It is probable that only a small edition of this large work was printed, as the only copy in the country is the one in the British Museum.
No other copies are to be found in the medical libraries of Great Britain. Much more interesting than the above work is O’Glacan’s little treatise on Plague, the Tractatus de Peste, Tolose, 1629. I have illustrated this article with a reproduction of the actual size of the title page from my own copy.’The volume is a small 12mo, containing16+ 258 pages, and is divided into twenty chapters, with an appendix. This little volume is even rarer than his major work; the only other copy of which I am aware is to be found in the British Museum. The interest of this work consists in the many personal observations scattered through the text, and incidentally the treatise shows a very extensive knowledge of the dread disease.
We do not expect to find correct ideas on the etiology of plague, but on all other points that were a matter of observation only, there is a wealth of valuable and interesting material, and even some three or four reports of post-mortem examinations. Although the symptomatology of plague is protean, still in a few concise and accurate phrases the symptom-complex of the disease is clearly presented. Thus in chapter three: “The signs of plague are numerous …at one time headache and sleeplessness is troublesome, at another time heavy sleep, thirst, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, or again hunger, livid colour of the skin, or yellow. A prominent facies, an anxious expression, sudden lassitude, weakness of the limbs, and pain in the joints. High and continued fever, delirium, depression of spirits, rashes on the skin, buboes, tumours, syncope, a sense and feeling of weakness, andl other signs which denote a great putridity of the humours.
Although humoral pathology is now replaced by bacteriology, the above description includes most of the leading symptoms of plague. In addition, wherever possible, there is a constant reference to the authority of Hippocrates and Galen, whose opinions are regarded as final. The fourth chapter deal with Prognosis, and states that “Plague, like other acute diseases, is of doubtful and dubious prognosis. The following signs were frequently observed by me, that stout and well-nourished patients with looseness of the bowels, vomiting, with or without a bubo, rarely happened to be restore(d to health.” There is a considerable number of personal observations scattered throughout the work.
The headings of the chapters are interesting, as those on Purgatives, Clisters, Remedies of the Author,Remedies for the Poor, Buboes, Morbillis (Skin Rashes), Headache, Coma, Vomiting, and the Fumigation of Houses and Garments.
Under Phlebotomy we learn that it is especially for the sanguineous, bilious, and other robust persons, for the depressed individual and nurses rarely, and never for pregnant women. Also that blood-letting is useful in high fever, but always with prudence. Purgatives and clisters are recommended in certain cases. The most valuable sideline in the treatise is the notes on three post-mortems in Chapter 8, and another in Chapter 15. In this last the petechial haemorrhages covering the surface of the lung are described, as also the great swelling of the spleen, and that it was four pounds in weight. These observations entitle O’Glacan to be claimed as an early pioneer in pathological anatomy, the father of Pathology being generally regarded as
Morgagni (1682-1771). Modern readers might be interested in one of O’Glacan’s prescriptions. It is as follows: R. Mithraditii et Confectionis de Hyacintho āā, one ounce; Rad. Tormentillae, 2 drachms; Boli Armeni et Coralli rubri prep. āā, 1 drachm; Diamargaritanis frigidi et Diatriasantali āā, 1 drachm. Sacchari Candi, 3 drachms. Conservae acetosae, 2 ounces. Camphorae, 20 grs. Syrupi de succo limonum, quod suffcit. Signa.-Make a mixture after the manner of an opiate, and take one drachm by itself, or with a convenient liquor, as often as necessary.
In an age of polypharmacy the above was an agreeable mixture, but there were sone others not so palatable, such as “unum vidimus uno aut altero suae vrinae haustu curatum.” There are many other points of interest in this little volume, but lack of space forbids me to mention them. Those interested in historical medicine will find plenty of original material for study in the lives of Irish physicians.
Written in 1935 by Samuel Simms, M.D., B.SC., D.P.H., M.R.C.P.
John Ward, the second oldest son of Sean “Antoin” and Mary Ward nee Gallagher was born in Glenahilt, Burtonport in 1886. Like many of his contemporaries, the only source of making better future for themselves and their parents was emigration, so on the 2nd September 1911, John said goodbye to the Rosses and sailed from Derry Quay to New York City aboard S.S. Columbia.
From there he travelled to Pittsburg where he met a neighbour from home John Forker, who helped Ward settle in and find employment.
On the 5th June 1917, with the treat of American involvement in the war in Europe, John was drafted. He gave his address as 252 Hazel Way, West Homestead, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was then a thirty year old steel worker.
He joined A Company, 320th Infantry Force, US Army as a mechanic. He was killed in action on this day October 9th 1918. John’s remains were buried in Nantellois Cemetery close to were he was killed in the Verdun region of northern France.
After the war, The US military repatriated some of the remains of its servicemen. The remains of John James Ward was re-interred in the grave of his kindred in Kincasslagh churchyard in 1921.
From an article that appeared in the Derry Journal in 23 September 1938.
AT RUTLAND ISLAND
In the “Irish Press” of the 20th inst.[September 1938] there appears a beautiful article containing certain reminiscences of Mr. James F. O’Donnell. ex-Co.C.. of Burtonport. who is described as “the grand old man of the place.” One can unhesitatingly assert that no more absorbing historical account has been written on the literary page of this high class daily since its inception. With the celebration of the ’98 Commemorations throughout the country at present, this revival of a memory of Napper Tandy and ’98 possesses a special appeal for all Gaels, but particularly for us in Tír Chonaill. What a pity that there are not more of the type of Mr. J. F. O’Donnell, who takes such pride in his ancestry, and in the storied past of his native Rosses. Another scion of this illustrious clan was telling me the other day that he is building a modern bungalow on the sea-shore site where his grandfather’s great-grandfather had a cabin and cabbage-garden in the dark and evil days of the Penal Code. My own children oft-times play around a hill-top site overlooking the Gweebarra, a seventh generation there of those who verily represent the survival of the fittest. It is also worthy of note that Captain Timothy O’Boyle, whose grandfather is mentioned in the Rutland reminiscences as nearly having been hanged for piloting Napper Tandy’s brig the “Anacreon.” in 1798, himself gave a gallant son to the struggle for Irish freedom during the days of the Black and Tans, in the person of the present Supt. Bernie O’Boyle of the Garda Siothchana.
PLANTED BY SASSANACH
In treating of Rutland Island, so named after the then Lord Lieutenant of Eire. the Earl of Rutland. but locally known in the Gaeltacht as InIs Mhic An Duirn. Mr. “J. F.,” as he is familiarly called, could not have chosen a more intriguing historical subject. Owing to its strategic position. it was seized and utilised by the Sassanach in the years immediately following the Great Plantation of Ulster—the aftermath of the Flight of the Earls from the shores of Lough Swilly—that ill-fated, creek-coasted Lake of Shadows which witnessed as well the capture of Red Hugh and the doom of Tone’s expedition of liberation. The island of Inis Mhic An Duirn was “planted” and we are told that the Marquis of Conygnham erected a bawn there about 1618. Large grants were expended later on in constructing buildings. saltpans. etc. for the development of the fishing industry.
It partly succeeded at first. for we are informed by Lewis that in each of the years 1874 and 1875 the people of the island realised £40,000 from the herring fishery. Co:. Conyngham speculated £50,000 on the building of houses and salipans and stores, and the establishment of a town here for the benefit of the Planters. About this same period, circa 1760, a grant of £400 was allocated for the slating of the old monastery church at Templecrone near Maghery, three miles west of Dungloe. It was here that “Croine Bheag. Virgin of Teampul Croine [sic] . . . of the race of Conall Gulban” (cf. Donegal Martyrology) had founded her nunnery two generations after the time of Colmcille. The splayed sixth-century window still remains to be seen in the eastern gable. The church lands were in Protestant hands now, and the then Marquis of Conyngham had a rectory and vicarage built there at Maghery in 1763.
NAPOLEONIC WAR DAYS
To return to Rutland, however, we note that its importance was greatly enhanced during the American War of Independence and the consequent initiation of the Irish Volunteers. But it was really with the advent of the Napoleonic Wars, at which time the Martello towers at Crowhey Head and Mullaghderg were erected, that Rutland Island became a key-position on the North-West seaboard. The nearest military posts were at Letterkenny, some thirty miles away, and at Ballyshannon forty miles distant. The prosperity of Rutland had, by now, begun to decline, and the “Parliamentary Gazeteer” of 1884-5 refers to it as the “site of an unsuccessful fishing establishment. Of the houses built in 1788 there existed a few years ago a . . dilapidated inn, a custom-house. a surveyor’s house, seven good houses in one street. and sixteen occupied dwellings in another street, and a few other structures of various characters.”
FADING OF MUSHROOM GLORY
And so the beginning of the end had set in for “phantom prosperity ot this garrison metropolis of the Rosses.” From 1785 till 1840 Rutland had reached the zenith of its mushroom glory. Through its post-office all correspondence for the Rosses and Gweeddore was transmitted. This flourishing island village possessed a quay, a custom-house. hotels, saltpans, stores, an inn. and many private houses in several streets, besides a strongly-fortified military barracks capable of housing over a hundred men. Yet. mirabile dictu, in the short space of less than half a century after Napper Tandy’s raid on this British outpost on Sunday, 16th of September 1798, there was not a vestige visible of all its insular greatness.
Lord George Hill. writing in 1847 “Hints to Tourists,” p. 33) describes how Rutland “forty years ago was a beautiful green island. with a military station—a most gay place. But what is it now! —a desert scarcely habitable, a little modern Pompeii. the blowing sand proving a surer though a slower agent of destruction than the flowing lava ” Sic transit gloria mundi.
Dr. Maguire in his “History of the Diocese of Raphoe” Pt. I, Vol. II. p 256) very aptly epitomises its fate in the following words:—
“Rutland, though it was long the garrison metropolis of the Rosses, never had a Catholic church. Nature herself protested against this exotic plantation, and its pampered ascendancy was buried in the indignant sands. The Fosters of the post-office and the Maxwells of the custom-house were mere mushroom gentry, like the mule they possessed neither pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity; and the indigenous O’Boyles have regained some portion of their inheritance. The last alien’s house was purchased by Father Dan O’Donnell for the proverbial song” The swan-song or those who oppressed our unfortunate ancestors.
“Thus shall memory often in dreams sublime,
Catch a glimpse of the days that are over,
Thus sighing look through the waves of time
For the long-faded glories they cover.”
The forging thus of real live links with the more or less tangible past of our own particular localities in, indeed. a far more valuable form of folklore-collection than the intricacies of that recommended national teachers by Dublin civil servants. For those of them who were with us in the Gaelic “push” of over twenty years ago there is respect due. For true-hearted Gaelic-speaking, Gaelic-loving men of the old stock, like Mr. J. F. O’Donnell, of Burtonport, not only admiration but a nation’s gratitude.
USS Bayonne was a Tacoma-class patrol frigate, built for escorting supply convoys and for anti-submarine warfare. Commissioned towards the end of World War II, she served also in the Korean War. With twin-screw engines she was fast and manoeuvrable – for her day. Her overall length was 304 ft. (93 m.). With 16 mounted guns of varying calibre, 8 depth-charge projectors and an anti-submarine mortar launcher, she was equipped to do battle with the enemy – in the air, on the surface or submarine. She had a crew of 16 officers and 175 men.
When USS Bayonne’s keel was laid down in May 1943, German U-boat submarines were daily attacking Allied convoys bringing essential war supplies across the Atlantic to Britain and to Russia. Many ships were sent to the bottom. The U-boats were active all the way to the east coast of America, even to the Caribbean. No one could predict when the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ would end. In fact, it continued until the German surrender of 7 May 1945.
USS Bayonne was built by the American Ship Building Company in Cleveland, on Lake Erie. She was launched on 11 Sept.1943, in the presence of the Mayor of Cleveland, the Deputy Mayor of Bayonne, dignitaries from both cities, federal officials, shipyard management and workers numbering about 1500. The Bayonne city authorities were pleased that, for the first time, a warship was being named for their city. It would enhance the city’s prestige. They resolved to foster a strong bond between the city and the ship.
Graciously, they invited Hannah Gallagher to be the ship’s sponsor, giving her the honour of launching and christening the vessel. Hannah’s husband, Hugh, was foreman at Bayonne’s Department of Public Works. Their sons, John and Bernard, both lieutenants in the Air Corps, had given their lives in the service of their country.
John, aged 28, was one of a crew of six who were killed, on 8 June 1941, when their Douglas B-18 bomber crashed to ground, in a lightning storm,15 miles east of Lyman – a small town in southwest Wyoming. They were about 100 miles out on a 1250 mile flight from Salt Lake City to Chicago. It was the second leg of a three-leg navigation training flight from Boise, Idaho, to New York. John was going home on furlough.
Before taking off, the pilot, Capt. David Motherwell, received reports of a heavy cloud cover and foul weather over the Rockies. He filed a plan to fly ‘on instruments’. Pilots routinely flew ‘on instruments’ when they had no visual contact with the ground below or the horizon. In doing so, they followed Instrument Flying Rules (IFR). Motherwell was rated an excellent pilot, experienced in foul weather flying and trained in IFR. But, in the days before radar and satellite navigation, when aircraft instruments and radio systems were primitive and unreliable by today’s standards, it was not uncommon for pilots, flying on instruments and lacking any visual reference outside their cabins, to become disorientated and stray off course, especially in turbulent air conditions. Aircraft were not then designed to fly above all storms.
An investigation failed to establish the precise cause of the crash. There was evidence that the weather was worse than forecasted, with multiple lightning storms rolling off the Uinta mountains (peak 13,528 ft.). There was speculation that the storm encountered may have been of such intensity it forced the pilot to descend below the cloud ceiling, to seek a visual contact with the ground, and that, in doing so, he had an inadvertent ground collision. An examination of the wreckage showed that the aircraft hit the ground at high speed and at a steep angle. The undercarriage was not lowered and wing-flaps were not extended, indicating that an emergency landing was not being attempted.
Nine months later, on 24 March 1942, Bernard, aged 25, was killed when his primary trainer bi-plane, a Boeing-Stearman PT 13 A, crashed on its approach to the runway at Perrin Field, near Sherman, in northern Texas.
Bernard was a flying instructor. He was on a training flight with Aviation-Cadet Theodore Dimke, who had the controls. They were flying in formation with two other aircraft, at an altitude of 500 ft., and were banking sharply to line up with the runway. Due to a momentary lapse in concentration, Bernard’s plane came dangerously close to the lead plane. There was an abrupt use of the controls, to make a correction. This caused the plane to stall, invert and fall away. Although it was successfully righted before it hit the ground, it had insufficient altitude and speed to avoid a ground collision. It burst into flames on impact.
Eager to serve their country in time of war, John and Bernard volunteered for the Air Corps. John was an acclaimed athlete at Bayonne High School and St Peter’s College, Jersey City. Prior to joining the Air Corps he was an associate of Howard Hughes, the noted movie maker. Bernard was a football star at Bayonne High and St Peter’s. From there he went to George Washington College, Washington D.C. He matriculated for the John Marshall College of Law, Jersey City, but instead of a career in law he chose to join the Air Corps.
Bernard received his commission as a second lieutenant on 07 March 1942, only 17 days before his tragic death. His childhood sweetheart, Jean Mary O Connor, travelled to Texas for his graduation and to become his wife. Following the graduation ceremony the couple were married by Father Brinker. Jean was at the airbase when Bernard lost his life, only days later.
The launch of USS Bayonne was an occasion of mixed emotions for the Gallagher family. Hannah struck the champagne bottle against the prow of the ship, saying: “I christen thee Bayonne and may God bless you and bring you safely back to port.” There was a loud cheer as the vessel splashed into the water. The shipyard band struck up ‘Anchors Aweigh’. Among those present was Hannah’s brother, Jimmy Sharkey, a mines inspector from Triadelphia, West Virginia. After the launch, Hannah was reported to have said: “It was a great experience for me. I wasn’t a bit nervous. I only wanted to make sure I broke the bottle and sent the Bayonne off to a perfect start in life.” On the following day, Sunday 12 Sept. 1943, about 2,500 people with marching bands paraded through the streets of Bayonne, watched from the sidewalks by a crowd estimated at 25,000. There were eloquent speeches in support of the war effort.
After the launch, USS Bayonne was brought to Baltimore for fitting out. Her crew was trained and sea trials were undertaken. She was commissioned on 14 Feb.1945 and soon afterwards went into service. However, to the regret of her commander, Elmer E. Comstock, she had no encounters with the enemy prior to the German surrender of 7 May 1945.
In the summer of 1945, she steamed through the Panama Canal and north to Alaska. There, a Soviet crew was trained in her operations. On 2 Sept.1945, the day Japan surrendered, she was handed over to the Soviet Navy under ‘Lend-lease’, an international agreement whereby the U.S. loaned war material to the Allies. The Russians returned the ship in 1949 and, when the Korean War broke out in 1950, she was recommissioned in the U.S. Navy.
On 15 Sept.1950, she was one of 261 ships participating in the amphibious landings at Inchon, Korea, where 75,000 United Nations troops went ashore. The invasion was a military success and was followed, two weeks later, by the capture of Seoul, the Korean capital. USS Bayonne was active in Korean and Japanese waters for most of the war and was awarded six battle stars for her service there.
In Jan.1953, she was loaned to the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. They returned her for disposal to the U.S. Navy, in the mid-1960s. In March 1968, seven years after Hannah’s death, she was brought out to sea from a Japanese port and set up as a target. There, she was holed below the water-line and disappeared beneath the waves. She lies forever at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
Hannah Gallagher (nee Sharkey) was a native of Keadue, where she was known as ‘Hannah Eoghain Andy’. Her husband, Hugh, was from nearby Glenahilt, where he was known as ‘Hughie John Chonaill’. Both received a primary education at Keadue School. They married in St Mary’s Church, Kincasslagh, on 28 Feb. 1911. The celebrant was Fr. Hugh Maguire and the witnesses were Hannah’s siblings, Edward and Mary Sharkey. The Census of Ireland, taken on 2 April 1911, recorded Hugh and Hannah, married though still residing at their respective parental homes. Soon afterwards they emigrated to Bayonne, where many from West Donegal had settled.
In the early 1920s, Hannah made an extended visit to Keadue with her four children – John, Beatrice (‘Delia’), Bernard and Hugh Jnr. During their vacation, the children attended Keadue School, which was next door to the Sharkey home. It would appear that Hugh Snr. joined the family in Donegal, as immigration lists for the Port of New York record all members of the family arriving there, on 14 June 1924, by ‘SS California from Londonderry’.
After the launch, Hugh and Hannah resumed normal living. They continued to mourn the loss of their sons. Hannah, a woman of faith, laid her grief at the altar. Their daughter Delia, a teacher, joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph and took the name ‘Sr. John Bernard’, in memory of her brothers. On 14 Feb. 2001, many years after her parents’ deaths, Sr. John Bernard was guest of honour at a re-enactment of the commissioning of USS Bayonne. The commemoration was organised by the Bayonne Flotilla 2000 Committee. Present were – politicians, city officials, members of the Coast Guard, clergy, surviving Bayonne crew members and members of the Gallagher family. Present also was Hannah’s grand-nephew, Andy Logue of Kincasslagh, who had served with the U.S. forces in Korea.
Sr. John Bernard (1915-2005) visited Keadue and Glenahilt on a number of occasions, staying at her parents’ ancestral homes. There, she was warmly welcomed by family relations and the local community. At Glenahilt, she enjoyed especially the still beauty of the lakes and morning walks to St. Columba’s Church. Danny Sharkey, her cousin, interviewed her for Highland Radio. Once, when she and Danny were out and about together, they observed a small plane land on Keadue Strand. Sister got talking to the pilot and recalled that her late brother, John, with many happy memories of Keadue, had expressed a desire, never fulfilled, to fly there one day and touch down on the strand.
In the United States, the last Monday of May is designated ‘Memorial Day’. It is a federal holiday, a day when families and associations gather in grateful remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country. On Memorial Day 2018, as is their custom, family relations of John and Bernard gathered for a memorial Mass at North Arlington Cemetery, New Jersey, and there placed the American flag on the Gallagher grave.
Written by John Sharkey August 2018.
Sources:(1) Wikipedia – USS Bayonne. (2) The Jersey Journal, 12 Sept 1973. (3) Commemorative booklet, ‘USS Bayonne’. (4) U.S. Air Force archival documentation – courtesy Aindriú Ó Searcaigh. (5) Kincasslagh Parish Marriage Register – courtesy Fr. Pat Ward. (6) Census of Ireland, 1911. (7) Family information & photographs – courtesy Mary Yuknis (nee Gallagher), New Jersey. (8) Additional family information – courtesy Danny Sharkey, Burnfoot.
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Walk from Calhame Bridge to the Kerrytown Shrine while hearing stories of the local saint Dubhthach and his ancient turas or pilgrimage, holy wells, monastic settlement, Gaelic scholars, commerce in olden days, a hoard of coins, train ambushes and massacres and much more.
Living in west Donegal where very little trees grow owing to blowing sand and salt from the wild Atlantic Ocean, anything yielded by the sea was highly sought after. Over the years many prizes were yielded from the incoming tide; mostly coming from shipwrecks or having been washed overboard off ocean going ships that plied their trade along a transatlantic shipping lane close to Donegal’s northwest coast. All sorts of treasured flotsam was washed ashore ranging from candle wax, pitch resin to prime timber; material essential to the coastal communities. The biggest “prize” of all came in 1854 when the sailing barque Salaia ran aground in Keadue Bar carrying enough timber to reroof the parish church of Lower Templecrone at Kincasslagh.
In 1940 two young men were washed off the rocks at Carrickfinn while trying to retrieve incoming timber logs. Nineteen year old Charlie Patterson was drowned while somewhat miraculously his fourteen year old friend Hughie Duffy was washed back ashore. Hughie later perished along with eighteen of his neighbours and friends when a floating wartime sea-mine exploded at nearby Ballymanus on the 10th of May 1943.
When war was declared the morning of 3rd September 1939, the workers from west Donegal were coming out of Mass, not in their native parishes but in Scotland, the land that they migrated annually since pre-famine times. It was customary for young men and their fathers to leave home to work on the arable lands on the eastern Scotland after the farmer would write them a letter with their boat fare and stating when he required their help. They worked on these farms until the harvest was won; returning via Derry close to Hallow-Eve.
Many incidents like the finding of the lifeboat and victims from the sunken SS Andorra Star, torpedoed by U47 on 2 July 1940 seventy five miles west of Bloody Foreland to the the heroic rescue of SS Stolwijk by the crew of the Arranmore Lifeboat off Innisdooey later that year, brought closer the reality of war. A couple of years later twenty seven members of a shipwrecked crew were saved when their lifeboat got into difficulty off Gola Island.
Apprehensively the coastal dwellers proceeded with their everyday struggle for survival, a survival that was made all the more difficult by the travel and work restrictions to their migratory breadwinners. But in 1943 a sea-mine explosion on the shore at Ballymanus, situated between the coastal villages of Annagry and Burtonport was to change the lives of the people for generations. Ballymanus is adjacent to the townland of Braade and the aforementioned Carrickfinn, the location of the present Donegal Airport, recently voted the most beautiful landing strip in the world.
On a beautiful day in the month of May, all available hands were busy fertilising their farms with a broad seaweed called leagh, that washed ashore after Scread na Bealtaine, a seasonal storm. After completing their chores, the young boys of the Braade met for fun and games. Fifteen year old Hugh Sharkey and his brother John (13) went down to their uncle Charlie Sharkey’s house to play with their fifteen year old cousin Anthony. Also joining them was their neighbours John Joe Carson (14) and Dominic Sharkey (15).
Here the boys played the popular game of pitching pennies until late in the evening. Charlie Sharkey came out of his cottage to admire the setting sun; that evening it was a huge fireball setting behind Ballymanus to the west.
Charlie speculated on what kind of bounty the incoming tide would bring as he showed the young lads the large block of cooking lard he found on the Braade Strand a few days earlier. He cut of a portion from the block and gave it to Dominic, instructing him to take home to his mother. Having finished their game, the remaining boys decided that they would go to the shore. Here they met Jimmy Duffy (16) and his brother Hughie Duffy (17).
The Duffy brothers told them about an large object floating in the incoming tide and they should go over to have a closer look. On landing at Ballymanus there was a large crowd of young men and boys gathered. Other contemporaries on the beach were their neighbours Manus O’Donnell and John Boyle,
brothers Denis and Owen Harley from Rannyhual, and their neighbour Joseph Harley who was accompanied by his collie dog. The three Harley cousins were also related to the Duffy’s.
Other teenagers present were Michael Sharkey and John McGinley both from Mullaghduff and Patrick Gallagher from Rannyhual.
The oldest of these teenagers was John McGinley aged nineteen years while the youngest were Owen Harley and Michael Sharkey, both aged fourteen.
At the start of World War One, the German Navy mined the entrance of Lough Swilly, then an important naval base. Also mined was the transatlantic shipping lanes close to the north Donegal coast. HMS Audacious became the first causality of that war when it stuck one of these semi-submerged floating bombs seventeen miles north-east off Tory Island. Over the years the mines broke away from their anchorage and sometimes floated ashore.
Local man Lanty Gallagher, a retired naval gunner together with Free State Army personnel dismantled a mine that weighted two hundred-weight in the Gweedore Estuary, a mile east of Ballymanus in 1934 and in May 1943 the national press reported that Tory Islanders got all sorts of valuable nicknacks when they successfully dismantled a mine on the island themselves.
This report was later proven to be false.
On that fateful Monday evening upwards of one hundred men assembled at Ballymanus strand after word circulated throughout the close knit community. Here they watched the mine bobbing eastwards towards land. Although excited, the crowd dwindled, due to the coolness of the setting sun, some left to attend a labour meeting in the local hall, while others went home as they were migrating to Scotland the following day. Of those that remained was married man Jimmy Anthon Rodgers, the respected leader of Mullaghduff Fife and Drum, a marching band that was founded in 1881.
The other men present were John Roarty, Dan Boyle and Edward Gallagher of Mullaghduff, Paddy Boyle and John Boyle from Ballymanus, James McGarvey from Belcruit and brothers Owen and Dominic Gallagher who were brothers of teenager Patrick. Dominic, a married man and father of two young boys, rocked his three-month old baby boy to sleep before going to the strand to look for his brothers.
As the the mine came close to land, it was observed to be over two metres in diameter, with some of its spikes bent.
Fearing the mine would explode on its approach, the area coast watcher, Lieutenant Morgan Dunleavy and those present hid behind a small hill. The mine landed on the rocks and washed out and in with the tide. On seeing that it didn’t explode those present made their way down to the waters edge to inspect the mine.
One of the last to arrive was thirty-four year old Anthony Murty Rodgers.
Anthony worked in Scotland in the building of jetties for the war effort, and saw at first hand sea-mines being dismantled and the devastation caused even in a controlled manner. He returned home after his father’s death in July 1942 also lost his younger brother James Murty at sea when his ship SS Oropos was sunk by a U-Boat off the Canadian coast a few months previous.
When Anthony heard of what was believed to be a mine, he left his home in Rannyhual, a mountain pasture two miles from the shore to warn those gathered of the impending danger.
Lieutenant Dunleavy believing the mine was relatively safe, left the scene by motorcycle at 9.50pm to seek the help of the Ordnance Corps who were stationed in Letterkenny. He was the only member of the security forces present. The local Gardai in Annagry received three different reports of a sea-mine floating in Innisfree Bay that day from local fishermen. Sergeant Allen, Garda Boylan and Garda Coneally who were on duty choose not to act, a decision that caused devastation before nightfall.
Standing close to the mine the men watched as it rolled to and fro on the rocks with the action of the tide. One of the men arrived with a rope from a fishing boat that was moored nearby and threw it out a few times before it caught the mine. They all began to pull the mine towards the shore, it rolled off the rocks on to one side.
There was a flash and an explosion; the mine went off with a thunderous detonation, blowing many of the ill-fated victims high into the air and their bodies when recovered from the sea, some time later, were badly mutilated.
The time, recorded on mantle clocks that stopped when the explosion shook houses in the neighbourhood, was 9.53pm.
The ghastly scenes which followed this horrific event baffle description. No sooner had the roar of the explosion died away, when it was of the replaced by the groans and agonising cries of the dying and the less severely injured. In the fading light of day the beach seemed strewn with mangled bodies. A few people who had miraculously escaped went to the assistance of the injured, and were quickly joined by others who had rushed to the scene of the disaster. Very soon a dense crowd congregated and scenes of confusion were witnessed, as relatives of the men, who were known to be at the shore, dashed frantically to and fro seeking tidings of their fate. One of the most pitiful sights was a father walking up the beach carrying his dead son’s leg.
Out of the twenty-four present, sixteen were killed instantly, three severely injured boys Anthony Sharkey, Hughie Sharkey and John Joe Carson were removed to Letterkenny Hospital.
Manus O’Donnell was removed to his home in Braade where he succumbed later that night. A couple of the survivors who were standing only yards away from the mine at the time and escaped completely uninjured.
The remains of dead;
John McGinley, Mullaghduff:(19 yrs 3mts)
Patrick Gallagher, Rannyhual:(18 yrs)
Hughie Duffy, Braade:(17 yrs 3 mts)
Joseph Harley, Rannyhaul:(17 yrs 3 mts)
John Boyle, Ballymanus:(17 yrs 3 mts)
Jimmy Duffy, Braade, brother of Hughie: (16 yrs)
Denis Harley, Rannyhaul: (15yrs 9 mts)
Owen Harley, Rannyhaul, brother of Denis: (14yrs 4mts)
Michael Sharkey, Mullaghduff:(14 yrs 9mts)
John Sharkey, Braade:(13yrs 8 mts)
Owen Gallagher, Rannyhaul:(20 yrs 6 mts)
Edward Gallagher, Mullaghduff:(22 yrs 5 mts)
John Roarty, Mullaghduff:(24 yrs 4 mts)
Dominic Gallagher, Rannyhual;(27 yrs 10 mts) brother of Owen and Patrick, husband of Gracie and father of Patrick(4 years) and Séamus(3 months).
Jimmy A. Rodgers, Rannyhual;(34 yrs 5 mts), husband of Cecelia.
Anthony M. Rodgers, Rannyhual:(34 yrs 6 mts).
were taken to Mullaghduff Hall which acted as a morgue and a wake house.
The remains of John Joe Carson (15 yrs) who died in hospital were taken to the hall the next day. One week later Anthony Sharkey (15 yrs) died from the loss of blood.
Hughie Sharkey (15yrs 7mts) although severely injured made a full recovery. His wrists were pierced and he was also hit by a piece of shrapnel that was too close to his heart to remove.
The people were left in a deep sense of shock. Many homes lost loved family members and people for miles around had lost their friends. It took many years for lives to return to normal in this small rural community. The emotional scars were the most difficult to heal; for some they never did.
Written by Jimmy Duffy
7th May 2018
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