In April 1861 - The Month of the Shattered Hearth - landlord John George Adair evicted nearly 250 tenants from Derryveagh, a star-crossed townland in Donegal, Ireland. Adair blamed the unsolved murder of his land steward on the whole community and uprooted them, utterly. The Derryveagh young were soon assisted, by ship, to farthest Australia. By swapping his Gaelic eyesores for imported Scottish sheep, and then a mini-castle for his American bride, Black Jack Adair depopulated the region, scandalized Parliament and sparked a cause celebre that roiled Ireland, England, Australia and America.
The past endures, often hidden in plain sight. All around our neighborhoods, there are shards and bits, pieces to reassemble and dots to reconnect. Knee-deep in broken links, we look but fail to see. We walk or drive but don’t know what lies underfoot, or what is just around the corner, or even wonder why it’s there at all. Some label this our “historical amnesia,” and just leave it at that. But there really are reasons for things and being true to our basic curiosity - asking the spontaneous “why?,” that bubbles over in children - is the best way to learn them.
Many of us know all too well that History as it’s been presented in school is often a bore and a turn-off. The fact is that our most exciting sagas and personalities are so often ignored altogether or dulled-down by our classroom practices into “answers” for a quiz - the so-called “facts.” Yet, somehow, in spite of this numbing down, something deeper still gnaws and lingers within us, a hunger that cannot finally be crushed. Real history, whether painful or inspiring, is really irresistible. Indeed, any casual web-surfer can spot telltale signs of people’s genuine hunger for history: even as it bubbles up in our nationwide - if not worldwide - passion for family genealogy, historical reenactments and legacy tourism.
This website acknowledges our enduring hunger for history. It aims to feed and to deepen it, by exploring new ways that heighten awareness of the non-stop interplay of past and present, as it shapes our everyday lives. And, if it is to truly succeed, it may even help enliven History in our classrooms, hearts and minds.
As a learning center, we welcome all visitors - history buffs, teachers, students and passersby - to participate and add thoughtful comments throughout. It will experiment with fresh and innovative ways to explore and refresh our awareness of the great historical themes – Dispossession, Race Relations, Social Justice and Healing Nature. And it will cast new light on unduly forgotten people and watershed events; and on select challenges to these past and present scourges.
In sum, Derryveagh.com and SullivanClinton.com are ongoing collaborations of educators and artists, designers and you, our visitors. We strive for a special historical awareness: one that promotes a more humane and pluralistic society; that advances democratic values; and that helps narrow the chasm between our best ideals and the status quo. Noting that racial, cultural and economic divisions continue to polarize us, it offers a fresh look to help sustain our better angels: to nourish dreams of a lasting harmony with each other and - most urgently - with our imperiled natural world.
The creator of Derryveagh.com, Dr. Robert Spiegelman, offers powerful and informed presentations to groups of all ages and backgrounds on the Derryveagh Evictions and their significance - then and now. Spiegelman has been named to the highly-regarded Speaker’s List of the NY Council for the Humanities where he presents the whole Derryveagh/Adair story as Victorians Gone Wild.
So please use the Contact page on this website for further inquiries or suggestions.