|Athar Mhic Daidhir /
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.
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
about to emigrate in order to wish them a last farewell on their trip.
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.
The 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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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
McDyer's autobiography and histories of the Parish of Glencolmcille
are available in the Craft Shop, Folk
Village, Glencolmcille, County Donegal.