Given that it’s been one hundred years since the partition of Ireland it seems fitting that I am writing this post now.
I didn’t really understand a lot about the partition of Ireland, or that it was actually Donegal that paid a high price in the division, due to its close proximity to the North.
The map above clearly shows the border, between what is effectively the UK and Ireland, or not!
It’s funny how we tend to think of borders as straight (well I do!). When in fact they are far from it, especially in the case of Ireland and it’s partition.
RD and I were none the wiser when we put in an offer on our little house, of just how close to the border we are. So close we actually get messages on our phone about data roaming when we are sitting in our living room!
I work in Northern Ireland and when I set off for work each day I literally drive seven minutes through the hedged in windy lanes and suddenly pass the sign that says you have entered County Tyrone, which is in Northern Ireland, I am another country in seven minutes, that has to be a record for a commute!
If I were to turn right out of our drive and just follow the lane I would drive into Northern Ireland, back out, and back in, that’s how close we are to the border. In fact our nearest supermarket is in Northern Ireland.
It’s great for us in that we have the best of both worlds: beautiful Irish produce but other things that are a lot cheaper in the UK. But there is a sad part to all of this.
RD and I are not religious. For us religion is divisive, constrictive and controlling. Ultimately the partition of Ireland appeared to come about mainly due to religion, but without being political I know the whole issue of partition is a lot more complicated than the British press would, at times, have you believe.
It was very sad when our neighbours explained to us that the division still runs deep at times, because during the civil war, and after the treaty in 1921 was signed family members were pitted against family members, and neighbours against neighbours. I pick up even now that although most people want peace, division still bubbles just below the surface at times. Especially now when the Protestants feel abandoned by the UK Government and the Irish border is now in the sea due to Brexit. I understand why they feel that way.
RD and I have watched documentaries and programmes about the history of Ireland, and read about the huge amount of history that there is here in particular, the place we have chosen to live. Some say that Donegal was mostly in agreement with the 1921 treaty, but as our neighbours explained there is still history of faction against faction.
This week we will drive to Drumboe castle, only ten minutes from our house. Whilst we will visit to see the surroundings we are also interested in the site because, as you can see from the poster, four men who were anti-treaty were executed there in 1923.
It appears that the men had to travel as far as Dunlewy Church, that I wrote about in a previous blog post, to find shelter and it was there they were captured. Such a beautiful place corrupted by war. It underlines ‘War’s’ place as one of the four horsemen.
When reading the history it is sad to read of people who had been friends and best men at each others weddings pitted against each other with one signing the execution warrant of the other. Or even a brother arresting his own brother who was subsequently executed.
I really don’t think it’s as simple as religion.
Ireland was a feudal system ever before the English came along, with families pitted against families, and many internal wars, but then so was England! Read the history of Castlederg, our nearest UK town, and what happened there ever before the English arrived to understand that.
But for me internal feuding is different to when external countries become involved. We only have to look all over the world today for evidence of that.
This country is truly beautiful, as is Northern Ireland, which for me underlines just how sad it’s history truly is.
Drumboe Martyrs Folk Song
Twas the feast of Saint Patrick
By the dawn of the day;
The hills of Tirconnaill
Stood sombre and grey;
When the first light of morning
Illumined the sky,
Four brave Irish soldiers
Were led forth to die.
Three left their loved homes
In Kerry’s green vales,
And one came from Derry
To fight for the Gael.
But instead of true friends,
They met traitor and foe
And uncoffined were laid
In the woods of Drumboe.
Four Republican soldiers
Were dragged from their cells
Where for months they had suffered
Wild torments like hell’s.
No mercy they asked
From their pitiless foe
And no mercy was shown
by the thugs at Drumboe.
The church bells rang out
In the clear morning air
To summon the faithful
To penance and prayer,
When a crash from the woodlands
Struck terror and woe
‘Twas the death knell of Daly
Shot dead at Drumboe.
Let Tirconaill ne’er boast
Of her honour and fame;
All the waters of Finn Could not wash out her shame;
While the Finn and the Swilly
Continue to flow,
That stain will remain on
The woods of Drumboe.