ON THIS DAY: 12th July 1822: THE BATTLE OF SPRACKBURN
On this day, 194 years ago, the so-called “Battle of Sprackburn” took place.
An altercation between a marching group of Orangemen from Milford and the Catholics of Letterkenny threatened to spill into terrible bloodshed in an area near to Sprackburn, only for the intervention of Fr. James Gallagher.
Father Gallagher had been promoted to the united parishes of Conwal, Leck and Aughaninshin in 1808 and was instrumental in building the first church to be built on the current site of the Cathedral in 1820 (replacing an earlier one that had been on the site of the current College.) He was respected to such a degree that he was able to quell the altercation before it resulted in serious casualties.
We know Sprackburn today as the area behind the Credit Union but even though it was commonly referred to as the Battle of Sprackburn, it actually appears to have taken place in a field just below it nearer to Gortlee. Noted local historian, Canon Edward Maguire, wrote in 1920:
“The majority of the invaders, who threatened to sweep the streets of Letterkenny with the bodies of the “Papishes”, came from the Milford district, but they received re-inforcements from Raphoe and elsewhere. Gortlee was the trysting ground; the battle was short and decisive.”
Despite this though, thankfully there have been very few reports of sectarianism in Letterkenny throughout its history. In general, the Catholic, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian communities have lived together in relative harmony in the town. In 1891, for example, the Derry Journal reported that constabulary from Letterkenny were sent to Derry for the July 12th demonstrations and that:
“It speaks favourably for this harmony existing amongst all our local religious denominations that our town and adjacent stations are almost depleted of police who are drafted to less similarly favoured districts.”