Donegal Diaspora Blog

How a Donegal Rebel died in Wicklow

This is the fascinating story of the life of Neil ‘Plunkett’ O’Boyle, a man from west Donegal who dedicated his life to the fight for Irish freedom.  He met a tragic fate at the hands of a pro treaty officer during the Irish civil war. 

How a Donegal Rebel Died in Wicklow

Piece authored by Mattie Lennon.



Posted 2nd Sep 2013

Doherty Connection Runs Deep

Black and White image of Paddy and Mary Doherty

Born in Oregon, USA, Eva Doherty Gremmert has strong Donegal connections with her grandmother Rose ‘Rosie Newman Doherty born 27th August 1890 in Ballyloskey, Carndonagh and her grandfather 'William Thomas Doherty'  born 20th May 1881 in Ballygorman, Malin Head. Emigrating separately the couple then met and married in America. In 1985, when she travelled to Carndonagh for the first time with family, Eva fell in love with her ancestral land.

Innumerable trips have now come and gone. Professionally Eva is a genealogist specializing in Irish research - indeed her own family tree is filled with stories of the olden times, the famine times, the incredible ways and means by which her family endured and prospered. Eva has collected books, periodicals, letters, photos, and keepsakes that create a tapestry of Irish life in the lands of the ancestors she holds so dear. With four grown children and her own expanding posterity (currently seven grandchildren), she is deeply engaged in her family life of today. Eva and her husband, Arden, spend their time at their homes in Carnation, Washington and Carndonagh, Ireland.

When she leaves Donegal to return to Washington, Eva states that she misses her relations most, while her children talk about the great food that Donegal has to offer! In particular she notes the welcome that she receives when she returns to Donegal and the warmth of the people she meets everywhere, from the supermarkets to the pubs. Back in Washington, Eva also runs a number of businesses as a tax accountant, business manager and consultant. She enjoys the escape to Donegal and socialising with friends and family. In particular she comments on the musical talent that comes from Donegal: ‘the musical talent that you find in the pubs here, people who just get up and sing, that are not professional, it’s astounding’.

Eva has recently published a historical fiction ‘A Cottage in Donegal, Mary Doherty’s Story’, based around the events of her great grandmother’s life. For the book, Eva spent four years researching the local history and customs of 19th century rural Ireland. She made several trips, travelling on location, interviewing historians and members of the older generation still living in Inishowen who remember the stories their grannies told them.

She also helps organise the O’ Dochartaigh clan reunion which has been hosted in Ireland every five years since 1985, by the Ó Dochartaigh Irish Reunion Committee (an amalgamation of the reunion committees from Inishowen and Derry). A special reunion was held in July 2008, commemorating the 1608 death of Cahir Ó Doherty. The most recent quinquennial reunion took place in July 2010. As well this Eva has also set up a non-profit Irish genealogical and history website which is currently fundraising for the restoration of the O’ Doherty castle at Carrickabraghy, one of the iconic sites of the historic Inishowen peninsula.

To find out more about Eva and her work see websites below.  

Posted 12th Aug 2013

Owen McDevitt: A Donegal Irishman

Old black and white photo of Owen and Ellen McDevitt in fine dress

By Kay McDevitt Harlow

My grandfather Owen McDevitt/McDaid was born February 2, 1883 in Illies, Buncrana.  He was the son of John McDaid and Mary Ann Mc Kinney.   Mary Ann died young leaving behind three sons and three daughters.  With seven children to feed and clothe, John put Owen out to work at the tender, young age of nine.   It was not unheard of that children from large families, whose parents couldn’t afford to feed them, were taken to Hiring Fairs where local farmers took the young children to work for them in exchange for room and board. 

At some point in his life in Donegal, Owen became a tailor and was able to purchase a sewing machine.  No family information is available as to where he obtained the money for this purchase.  However, there was a hint that he was good at making poteen. The sewing machine was still in the ruins of the family home place at Altashane as late as 1995.

Owen left his beloved Ireland in search of a better life in America.  He was 23 years old when he arrived at the Port of New York on May 10, 1907. His immigration papers state that he would be staying with his brother John McDevitt in Boston, Massachusetts.

His quest for a good job and better life led him to Butte, Montana.  The City began as a gold and silver mining camp in the mid 1800’s.  It was one of the wildest, richest boom towns in the West.  In the late 1800’s, the Butte Irish community established itself as a formidable social and political force.  It has been said that laughter and impudent wit have long characterized the Butte Irish.  There were nearly 50 nationalities and at one time 42 languages were spoken in Butte.  Distinct ethnic neighborhoods grew up.  Dublin Gulch was known as Butte’s Little Ireland. 

Owen married Mary Ellen Hearne November 19, 1913 and became the father of seven children.  Mary Ellen’s families were Irish immigrants also.  It was the custom in Butte at that time that a man or woman marry within their ethnic group as mixed ethnic marriages were frowned upon.

His first business venture in Butte was a small tailor shop opposite the County Court House.   In the back of the shop Owen operated a still and made moonshine whiskey.  When the law finally caught up with him he ended up in court in front of a judge who was a customer of his.  It has been family lore that after he received the sentence of jail time for the illegal activity he asked the judge “Where are you going to get your whiskey from now your honor.”? 

The fiddle was an instrument that he loved and played in Ireland and in Butte.   The Saturday night fiddle “Shindigs” are legend.  The “fuddle” is a treasured family heirloom.  A little note left on the interior of the instrument noted that it had been repaired after “Mrs. Murphy sat on the fuddle”.

After losing the tailor shop, he went to work in the Butte underground Copper mines as a hard rock miner in order to support his large family.  A mine cave-in took Owens’s life on August 19, 1939.  He was 56 years old.  


Posted 27th May 2013

A Live Link

Image of Sr. Lena receiving a Presidential Award from Michael D. Higgins

I have had the opportunity to visit Donegal a number of times over the past several years. My most recent visit was in September 2012 when I was pleased to attend the presentation of the first Annual Tip O’Neill Donegal Diaspora Award in Buncrana. I was struck, on this occasion as on previous visits, by just how much the Northwest has to offer in terms of its natural beauty and its wonderful cultural heritage. What my time there has most underscored, however, is that Donegal’s biggest resource is in fact its people. Ireland is a welcoming place, but the welcome I received in Donegal and the warmth of the people I met there made a deep and lasting impression on me. This is particularly poignant when seen against a backdrop of emigration, for it seems that the great welcome is in part a corollary to this, a feature of a society that has had far more than its share of goodbyes.

And this is precisely why the Donegal Diaspora Project is such an important development. When I think of the word diaspora I think of an invisible network, a set of linkages that bind together a group of people irrespective of where on this earth they might find themselves. In the past, those who left Ireland behind had only their memories and their stories to sustain them and to pass on to their children. It was a static link, frozen in time and unchanging even when things at home continued to develop in their absence. This time capsule effect created a distance between those who stayed and those who left. 

How times have changed! Initiatives like the Donegal Diaspora Project are using one invisible network – the Internet – as the medium to link another – the diaspora. It is a revolutionary development that allows those who have left to have an unbroken, immediate connection home. The project’s excellent use of social media means that even 2nd and 3rd generations of Donegal people can remain part of the community, part of the conversation. My work among Irish immigrants in Boston has underscored to me how deep the love of home is and how much it means to people to feel as though they still have a stake in the community there. I congratulate all of those involved in making the DDP such a fantastic success and I thank them for caring enough to reach out to the Donegal family here and around the world. 

Sister Lena Deevy, LSA



Posted 1st May 2013


Image of flowers in a sunny spot

Fáilte to the Donegal Diaspora website. This is just the beginning of what promises to be a major project for Donegal and her people - wherever they may be. The Donegal Diaspora project is a fresh new way of championing this fantastic county, drawing attention to all that's wonderful here. Donegal is a place to be proud of and throughout the world, members of our global community represent their homeplace with a sense of that pride every day. 

This project, through the website you see today, will reach out to all those people who have a connection to Donegal and strengthen the ties home. Diaspora work is all about reaching out and engaging with the people of Donegal, telling the stories of our county and our global community in a fresh new way. Its about encouraging people to pay attention to Donegal, to promote it and invest in the county, whatever way they can. Fundamentally its about allowing people to enjoy Donegal - and there is so much to enjoy! 

Your feedback is essential. Are you a member of the diaspora? Then tell us what you want to see on this website and from this project. Are you based in Donegal? Then spread the word about the project and make it better by getting involved yourself. 

This project welcomes all constructive comment, ideas and opintion so feel free to get in touch. Have we made a spelling mistake on the website - let us know! Also, check out our facebook/twitter/pinterest/linkedin sites - there are lots of different ways to get involved. Upload your favourite pictures of Donegal, tell us a story about YOUR Donegal or someone you know who represents the county and should be featured on the website. 

The future is bright. We look forward to making the connection with you. 

With best wishes / Le gach dea-ghuí

The Donegal Diaspora Team


Posted 21st Sep 2012