29 Sept 2022

Donegal characters showcased at Dublin museum

Donegal characters showcased at Dublin museum

Donegal characters are central to a major new cultural attraction in Dublin. 'EPIC', the Irish Emigration Museum opened in May 2016. A state-of-the-art interactive experience located in the docklands, the original departure point for so many of Ireland’s emigrants, it delves into the stories of Irish emigration from early times to modern day.

The Irish Emigration Museum, depicts an array of characters and among the wonderful and colourful characters are people from Donegal.

The life of Denis kelly is recounted at the museum. Denis Kelly, like many others from Donegal, was a textile worker. He moved to Philadelphia where he started a small weaving business, building up a large community of spinners, weavers, and dyers, mainly Irish emigrants, which became known as Kellyville. In 1826, Kelly built his employees a Catholic church, St. Denis.

Remembered too is Inishowen native, John Ruddy, who was born in 1814. He was 18 years old when he sailed from Derry in the spring of 1832 on the John Stamp. He began to work as a labourer for another Irishman, Philip Duffy, who had been contracted by the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad to build a section of track to connect the two places.

Sadly Ruddy contracted cholera and died only a few months after arriving in America. His body was buried in a mass grave near the track, along with more than 50 other cholera victims with whom he had been working. In 2009 his body was re-discovered, identified, and reburied in Ireland.

The story of Hugh Patrick Gallagher, who was born in Killygordon in 1815, is also recalled. He emigrated to America in 1837 where he was ordained a priest. Initially based in Pennsylvania, he was invited to California, then a new frontier.

There he played a major role in the development of the Catholic Church, and was responsible for the construction of at least nine churches and chapels, as well as a cathedral - St Mary's, in San Francisco. He also established newspapers, schools, orphanages, and hospitals.

Dave Gallaher was born in Ramelton in 1873. He was the captain of the 1905 ‘Originals’ rugby team, the first to be known as the All Blacks. The Irish-born Gallaher played only six tests for New Zealand and yet he is regarded as an All Black legend. Under his leadership the Originals lost only one of their 35 matches.

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