Athar Mhic Daidhir / Father McDyer

Fr James McDyer, Glencolmcille, County Donegal James Mc Dyer was born in a small town land called Kilraine in Glenties Co. Donegal on the 14th of September 1910. He was the youngest child of seven. Father McDyer's most indelible impression of his childhood and adolescence was the 'convoy'. This was the gathering of neighbours in the homes of those who were about to emigrate in order to wish them a last farewell on their trip.

Convoys were a constant feature of life in West Donegal during the second half of the nineteenth, and the first part of the twentieth century. His recall of the pathos and poignancy of the heartbreak of emigration remained with him all his life and inspired him to do all he could to put a stop to it.

Father McDyer was educated at St. Eunans College, Letterkenny, and entered Maynooth in 1930. In 1937 he was ordained and went to Wandsworth, London, as a curate where he worked with Irish emigrants.

Fr McDyerThe war years were spent in England, in London and the South East. His descriptions of the conditions in London during the Blitz are harrowing in the extreme. Fr McDyer returned to Ireland in 1947 to Tory Island where he spent the following four and a half years.

His time in Glencolmcille

Father McDyer was transferred to Glencolmcille in December 1951. At first he was curate in the parish, living in Cashel. Glencolmcille suffered from lack of employment and consequently, emigration. This was not a new problem - having been present since the time of the Great Famine a hundred years previously. During the previous seventy years, the Parish had lost 60% of its population due to the root problems of poor land, distance from any centre of population and lack of industry. Father McDyer determined to do all he could to help break this cycle.

In 1952 a community centre was built in Glen - very little money was available and the centre was built by voluntary labour. The first sod was turned on 7 January 1953 and the work was completed 12 weeks later. His next work was the installation of electricity - he put the case for electrification forcefully and pulled what strings he could to have it done quickly. 69% of the Parish agreed to accept and the ESB commenced installation.

The Folk Village Museum was built in three months. The day after Mr Childers, Minister for Transport and Tourism, opened it officially in 1967, he received formal planning permission to build it! At the opening of the Folk Village, it consisted of four houses representing the cottage types of the area during the previous three hundred years complete with furnishings and artifacts donated by the local community.

These artifacts would have been in common use by the people of Glencolmcille even to that time. Since that initial opening, a school, shebeen, craft shop and other items have been added. The Folk Village has thrived and grown over the years.

"Action! Action against injustice, inertia, hypocrisy and greed!
It is for this that my whole being has yearned. In this I am moved by the old mythological leader, Fionn Mac Cumhall, who instructed his harpist to play not the music of things that are said, but the music of things that are done."
Fr. James Mc Dyer of Glencolmcille. An Autobiography (1982)

In 1986 Canon McDyer as he was then retired. His retirement was marked by presentations, speeches on a night of great joy, and sorrow, in the Glen Bay Hotel. In June 1987 he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. This event was marked by a special mass in Carrick with Dr Hegarty, Bishop of Rahoe. On the 25 November 1987 Canon McDyer died quietly in his sleep. His enthusiastic, sometimes, unorthodox contribution to the Parish of Glencolmcille over thirty-five years can still be seen with projects like the Glencolmcille Folk Village Museum, the Errigal Fishing Factory and he continues to hold a special place in the memories of the people of Glencolmcille.

Father McDyer had boundless enthusiasm and energy, a shrewd intelligence and an endless supply of ideas for solving the problems in the area. He undertook many projects within the Parish of Glencolmcille, amongst which was the Folk Village Museum.

Father McDyer's autobiography and histories of the Parish of Glencolmcille are available in the Craft Shop, Folk Village, Glencolmcille, County Donegal.

Fr McDyer, Glencolmcille, County Donegal, Ireland