Sarah Leech plaque unveiling

Sarah Leech plaque unveiling report with photographs of the event

For the last plaque on its 20I4 plaque programme, the Ulster History Circle travelled to Co. Donegal where a Blue Plaque to the Donegal weaver poet, Sarah Leech, was unveiled by Joe McHugh TD, the Minister of State for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This was only the 2nd plaque in Donegal and it was hoped that more would follow in due course, honouring those people from the County who had made a significant historical contribution to its history.

The town of Raphoe was preparing for Christmas, and as part of the Ulster-Scots festivities, a Christmas Fayre was being held in the Square where a large marquee held a selection of stalls overflowing with Christmas ‘goodies’.  Ulster-Scots musicians and dancers entertained the crowd. 

Meantime, invited guests gathered at the Ulster-Scots agency office in William Street, to hear a warm welcome to the very special unveiling, from Derek Reaney, Ulster-Scots.  This was followed by speeches from Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Jim Devenny and Anne Morrison Smyth who read several of Sarah Leech’s poems.

Before guests adjourned outside the building to watch the unveiling, Joe McHugh TD said that it was an honour to have been asked to unveil this plaque, and that it was important to remember those largely forgotten people who had made contributions to the history of the Island. This was a very special young woman who had been born 205 years ago in the local townland of Ballylennan, and who had from an early age of twelve worked at the spinning wheel. This was a tedious task but whilst she worked, she read and composed her poetry. The rhythm of her verses matched that of her spinning wheel, and her poetry used the Ulster-Scots tongue of her hearth and home.

Sarah died at a very young age of 21 but not before her poetry had been published, and this offered her some small income.

The Minister paid tribute to the Ulster-Scots Agency and to the Ulster History Circle for the tremendous voluntary work which the Circle did in remembering and honouring those in the nine

Historical counties of Ulster, and whose achievements had largely gone unnoticed.

The unveiling of the Blue Plaque was recorded in interviews by Liam Logan, and aired on BBC Radio Ulster ‘A Kist O Wurds’.



Double click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Photographs left to right:-

1. Sarah Leech, the weaver poet.
2. Derek Reaney, Ulster Scots, Joe McHugh TD, Minister of State for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Ida Fisher and Val O’Kelly, board of Ulster-Scots.
3. Joe McHugh TD, addresses guests.
4. Anne Morrison Smyth and Alan Boyd, Secretary Ulster History Circle
5. Jim Devenney, Derek Reaney, Anne Morrison Smyth, Joe McHugh, TD who unveiled the Blue Plaque, Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle, Maynard Hanna, Ulster Scots and Alan Boyd, Ulster History Circle.