Aftermath: A View of Derryveagh

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Since Mr. Adair depopulated Derryveigh, and gave it over to silence, the roads have been neglected, and have become rather difficult for a car. The relief works in famine time have been mainly road-making, and there are smooth hard roads through the hills in all directions, so the people complain of roads that would not be counted so very bad in the Canadian backwoods. However, the difficulty being of a rocky nature, we left the car at the house of a dumb man, the only one of the inhabitants spared by Adair. He and his sister, also dumb, lived together on the mountain solitudes. She is dead, and a relative, the daughter of one of the evicted people, has come to keep house for him. He made us very welcome, seeing to it that the horse was put up and fed with sheaf oats. I and my guides, for we were now joined by the man who had had the oats to fan - he had got his brother to take his place and came a short cut across the hills to meet us - so we all three set out to walk over Derryveigh.

It was a trying walk, a walk to be measured by ups and downs, for the Derryveigh hamlets were widely scattered. There they were - roofless homes, levelled walls, desolation and silence. And it is a desolation, indeed. Broken down walls here and there, singly and in groups, mark the place where there was a contented population when Mr. Adair bought the estate. He had made plans for turning his purchase into a veritable El Dorado. The barren mountains are fenced off, surely at a great expense, that no sheep or lamb might bite a heather bell without pay. It was to be a great pasture for black-faced sheep. The sides of the mountains, which are bog in many places, are scored with drains to dry up the bog holes and give the sheep a sure footing. I did not see many sheep on the hill or many cattle on the deserted farms. It is an awfully lonesome place; desolation sits brooding among the broken-down walls. My guide, a lonesome-looking man, enlivened our way by remarks like these: “This was a widdy’s house. She was a well-doin’ body.” “Here was a snug place. See, there’s the remains of a stone porch that they built to
break off the wind.” “That was Jamie Doherty’s, he that died on the road-side after he was evicted. You see, nobody dare lift the latch or open the door to any of the poor creatures that were put out.”

And this has been done; human beings have died outside under the sky for no crime, and this under the protection of English law. Many of these people lost their reason, and are in the asylum at Letterkenny. Some are still coshering here and there among their charitable neighbors, while many are bitter hearted exiles across the sea. After walking up and down amid this pitiful desolation, and hearing many a heart-rending incident connected with the eviction, a sudden squall of hail came on, and we were obliged to take shelter on the lee side of a ruined wall till it blew over. To while away the time one of the guides told me of a local song made on the eviction, the refrain being, “Five hundred thousand curses on cruel
John Adair.”

Letters of “Norah”
On Her Tour Through Ireland
By Margaret Dixon McDougall