Story of Davey Hay launched in Dunfanaghy

The life and works of local ballad master Davey Hay (1866 – 1939) were celebrated recently with the publication of a book chronicling the career of this illustrious Dunfanaghy man.

The life and works of local ballad master Davey Hay (1866 – 1939) were celebrated recently with the publication of a book chronicling the career of this illustrious Dunfanaghy man.

It was part of ‘The Waves of Change’ – a cross-community project funded by the International Fund for Ireland. Compiled and edited by local historian and author Cary Meehan,

The book begins with a short biography of Davey’s life before introducing a collection of twenty four ballads – some sentimental, others insightful and sharp – which, along with accounts of people’s memories and family stories, give a great insight into Davey himself, the times he lived in and the places he called home. It concludes with Twixt Us Twain, a short story by Davey giving a colourful and detailed portrayal of north-west Donegal at the turn of the last century – beautifully capturing its people, scenery and surroundings.

The idea for the book came about when a bundle of ballads printed on small buff-coloured sheets were discovered tucked away among old ledgers in the Dunfanaghy Workhouse. Working with Ms Meehan, seniors of Holy Trinity and Ballymore National Schools embarked on a joint project to find out more about Davey Hay for the book and became closely involved in every aspect of the publication process. Although Davey died over 70 years ago, the students found a handful of people who still remembered him while many others had stories and ballads passed down to them by parents and grandparents. Without exception Davey was remembered with great affection.

Indeed Holy Trinity NS scooped the Harley McDonagh trophy, the first prize at the annual Donegal Historical Society’s schools competitions in April for their impressive entry on Davey Hay.

“Funding for The Waves of Change over the last three years has been instrumental in allowing many young people from these communities to take part in extensive cross-community and cross-border activities,” says Ms Sian McCann, Workhouse Manager and Project Coordinator.

“The Story of Davey Hay project is an excellent example of how a project can take on a life of its own, getting parents, grandparents and the wider community involved. And of course, it’s great to see local children mixing together through a project that explores our shared heritage and history.”

Commenting, Winston Patterson, Board Member of the International Fund for Ireland said the International Fund for Ireland was proud to be associated with Dunfanaghy Workhouse and its partners and to support this exciting project.

“Through a focus on shared heritage, ‘The Waves of Change’ has succeeded in bringing young people together to promote reconciliation. I am confident that this project will continue to assist it young participants gain a greater understanding of their communities, of the value of mutual respect and understanding.”

Those interested in obtaining a copy of The Story of Davey Hay can find out more by contacting the Dunfanaghy Workhouse on (074) 9136540 or by e-mailing

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