To the Derry Boat - The Bridge of Tears

Near Muckish Mountain, in the Gaeltacht district of Cloughaneely, is a small stone bridge known locally as 'Droichead na Caointe' (The Bridge of Tears).

In the nineteenth century, before the railway was built, local people emigrating to America, Britain and Australia crossed this bridge on their way to the port of Derry, the main departure point for Donegal emigrants. The emigrant was accompanied by family and friends as far as this point, but crossed to the opposite side alone. This walk had all the finality of a funeral, as most of the emigrants never returned.

A stone erected nearby reads (English translation):

Friends and relatives of the person emigrating would come this far.
Here they parted. This is the Bridge of Tears.

The renowned writer, poet and artist Percy French was painting in this area not far from the bridge, when he fell into conversation with an old woman whose children had all emigrated. "T'was a lonely land to live in when the childer was away", remarked the old lady. This line so haunted French that on his return to his hotel in Falcarragh that night he composed one of his most famous songs "The Irish Mother."

Interestingly, the inspiration for the song called "The Emigrant's Letter", popularly known as "Cutting the Corn in Creeslough", came from a remark French overheard during his voyage to Canada. One emigrant on board the ship was heard to say to his friend as they leaned over the rail of the ship: "Well, then, Mick, they'll be cuttin' the corn in Creeslough the day." This gave French the refrain, and the rest was easy.

Renowned Donegal musical group, Clannad, have also included a song about 'The Bridge of Tears' on their Landmarks album.

previousPrevious - Connecting communities: Gweebarra Bridge
Next - A Second Victoria: a new bridge for Buncrananext