Thursday, May 17, 2007

Donegal Annual Focus on Flight of the Earls

“This was a distinguished crew for one ship; for it is indeed certain that the sea had not supported, and the winds had not wafted from Ireland, in modern times, a party of one ship who , would have been more illustrious or noble, in point of genealogy, or more renowned for deeds, valour, prowess, or high achievements, than they, if God had permitted them to remain in their patrimonies until their children should have reached the age of manhood. Woe to the heart that meditated, woe to the mind that conceived, woe to the council that decided on, the project of their setting out on this voyage, without knowing whether they would ever return to their native principalities or patrimonies to the end of the world.”

So wrote the Four Masters on the departure, known as the Flight of the Earls, from Lough Swilly, County Donegal, on the Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14th 1607. On this 400th anniversary, the event should be remembered, and the current edition of the Donegal Annual has done this in a manner befitting such a watershed event.

Almost half of the articles in the magazine, published by the Donegal Historical Society, are dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls. The cover features a dramatic painting by Thomas Ryan RHA of the final departure from Ireland. The diary of the Flight, written in 1609, presents a graphic description of the journey of Hugh O’Neill and Rory O’Donnell from Rathmullan to Rome. Readers can follow the Flight in detail.

Helen Meehan has written a detailed account of the life and times of O’Donnell, the first Earl of Tyrconnell, while Seán Bonner concentrates on the lives of more than a dozen children whose lives were forever altered by the event. Mary Haggan writes about Rory's brother, Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill, of Ramelton, while Belinda Mahaffy evokes the tension of the final stage of the journey from Ballindrait to Rathmullan (which took place amid great secrecy). Dr. John McCavitt, a renowned historian of the Flight, describes his pilgrimage to the tombs of the Earls in the church of San Pietro in Rome, which is featured on the back cover. Eunan O’Donnell, from Ardara, provides interesting insights into current views on the Flight and why it was undertaken. The acclaimed pageant of the Flight, written by former Raphoe teacher Arthur Lemon, which was first performed at Rathmullan in 1982, is reprinted to mark the occasion. There are detailed maps, illustrations, specially commissioned photographs and drawings to illustrate the Flight.

A free DVD is included with the Annual, showing local venues associated with the event and scenes from Port na nIarlaí near Rathmullan, the departure point. There are also specially commissioned maps of the journey, and stunning images filmed in the church of San Pietro. Graphic views of the last resting place of the Earls and relations are also shown. This is essential reading for everyone with an interest in this great story of human courage.

Soldiers, painters and railwaymen

In another article, Dr. John Silke, Raphoe Diocesan Archivist, writes about issues arising from the first World War, after the discovery of a letter from a British army soldier whose parents came from Ardara. “Irishmen are very foolish for being deceived by Britain’s smooth policy of Ireland’s future and Home Rule,” he writes. “Our men are beginning to see some of their mistakes now”.

The life of the artist Helen Allingham is evoked by Ballyshannon historian Anthony Begley using contemporary records; he illustrates the profile with an impressive collection of her artwork. May McClintock recalls days of old as she walks along the banks of the Swilly and Leonard Roarty revives memories of turbulent times on the Donegal rail network in the 1920s. Sandra Buchanan surveys the dramatic growth of the Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) in the county.

There are details too of the work of parish committees throughout the county over a century ago and an insight into what is described as “elite entertainment” in past centuries. Other features include an article on Iona by Clonmany historian Rosmarie Doherty, and a list of books, journals and CDs recently published in the county supplied by Eileen Burgess, together with news of Society events.

The Donegal Annual this year celebrates its 60th year of publication, a remarkable feat for a county journal. Copies are available in bookshops or from the Secretary, Una McGarrigle, Parkhill, Ballyshannon,, price 20 euros plus postage.


judiann said...

Ive always wondered the names of the people accompaning ONeil and ODonnell there wer 99 or 100 in the party besides the crew.
Have there ever been any lists of these persons and what houshold they were from?
I am lad to see modern writers upgrading these hisotrys as the university librarys are full of gaelic revival stuff a lot of it in elizabethan english but the public librays have apaucity of good irish hisotry and folklore. judiann

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