History Repeats Itself…

On January 27, 2012 by admin

Here, WIHH member Ruth Garvey Williams reflects on a film about the Carrowmenagh evictions of 1881, emigration and the parallels with our own time.

“It seems to me such a cruel irony
He’s richer now than ever he was before.
Now my cheque is spent and I can’t afford the rent
There’s one law for the rich, one for the poor.”
Christy Moore

The year is 1881. After a bad harvest, families in the small Inishowen village of Carrowmenagh are struggling to pay exorbitant rents demanded by their absentee Scottish landlord.

Young ones dream of a better life in America or Canada. Plans for their emigration are a glimmer of light in the dark days of winter. Their elders have given up hope. Desperate muttered prayers are their only comfort.

In the comfort of his Derry townhouse, the landlord’s agent receives his orders. Ignoring pleas for compassion and the Moville priest’s suggestions of a compromise, he orders the army to enforce eviction notices on 13 families.

Widows, children and even the elderly are thrown out into the late December cold with little more than the clothes they are wearing.

This week, West Inishowen History and Heritage group (WIHH) hosted a showing of John A Mc Laughlin’s poignant dramatisation of the Carrowmenagh evictions – marking the 130th anniversary.

The film captures the quiet strength and dignity of those left destitute with sincere performances from descendants of the original families. Dinny Mc Laughlin’s haunting music is the perfect accompaniment.

Moved by the story from our past, the audience at the Coffee Cup in Buncrana also recognised disturbing echoes of our present-day reality. Debt, eviction (repossession) and emigration… It seems there’s one law for the rich, one for the poor!

The DVD of the film is available to buy for 10 euros with all proceeds shared between the Foyle and Donegal Hospices.

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