Father James McDyer

Fr McDyer with Sybil Connolly, who was judging knitware at Agricultural Show
Fr McDyer with Sybil Connolly

Fr James McDyer (1910-1987) was born in Glenties, Co Donegal.  After attending Glenties National School, he went on to St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, going on to St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth to study for the priesthood. He served in London during the Blitz, and then went on to Tory Island from 1947.  It was while serving in his ministry in Britain that he observed the loneliness of Irish emigrants. 

In 1951 Fr. McDyer was appointed to Glencolmcille in the West Donegal Gaeltacht.  While there he became actively involved with the local community in efforts to stem to scourge of emigration from that area.  A champion of the marginalised, Fr McDyer instigated many innovative projects in Glencomcille.  As Chairman of the Parish Council he identified ‘five curses’ of his community – bad roads, no electricity, no piped water, no jobs, and a lack of social activity. 

Throughout the depressed 50’s, Fr. McDyer worked tirelessly to bring hope and renewal to this community on the western seaboard.  He built a community hall using voluntary labour going on to raise funds for a community park.  A road improvement scheme was started as was the arrival of piped water to the area.  Gaeltarra Eireann was persuaded to start a factory to manufacture Donegal Tweed.  But by far the most significant project that Fr McDyer spearheaded was the rural electrification of Glencolmcille.  In 1954 electricity illuminated Glencolmcille for the first time.  It was the key to future social and economic success. 

He also set up a vegetable processing plant under the Sugar Company which later became a fish processing plant.  Knitting co-operatives were established – another far-sighted idea of the radical priest. Fr McDyer instilled in this Donegal Gaeltacht the idea of self sufficiency and innovation which can be seen today in the presence of Oideas Gael, an all encompassing Irish cultural experience and the Glencolmcille Folk Village a forerunner of the present day interpretative centre.

Fr McDyer, this radical priest, who saved a dying community,  passed away peacefully  in his sleep in 1987 but his memory lives on in the west Donegal Gaeltacht as a man who brought hope and practical solutions to a forgotten part of Ireland.