The "Vindicator" Story
Donegal's First Nationalist Newspaper
When I was growing up, tomorrow always seemed to be Friday. To us it was the
most important day in the week. It was the day we brought out the "Vin",
a weekly newspaper whose full title was "The Donegal Vindicator",
published and printed by the grandiloquently styled North of Ireland Printing
and Publishing Company, in the town of Ballyshannon, in Donegal. And somehow,
week after week, Friday's imminent arrival came with a jolt.
Come with me back to a time when publishing a newspaper in Ireland wasn't
based wholly on making money, when the "bottom line" did not dictate what was
printed, and realised profit did not include a hefty margin to pay for
troublesome libel suits, when each town of any size boasted at least one local
newspaper, sometimes two, and what appeared in them was the subject of
conversation, debate, argument, condemnation and, on occasion, congratulation.
Those who know little often prattle that, when two Irish people meet,
inevitably a dispute arises between them. Don't believe it. It's a canard,
sponsored by old Punch cartoons. Try disputes, plural. And when two Irish
newspapers existed in the same town, disputes between them were many and
various, indeed the stuff of life, and each had its own supporters.
This was the case in Ballyshannon when my grandfather, John McAdam, descended
upon it to establish "The Donegal Vindicator" at the behest of the Irish
Land League in 1889, the 52nd regnal year of Victoria, Empress of India, who
held the throne of England and claimed title to Wales, Scotland, the Dominions
of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, among other bits and pieces, the
Thirty-two Counties of Ireland.
Fast forward to 1948 when twenty-six of those counties formally separated
from what was then the British empire and established, in the words of the
"....the Irish Empire, the Empire of Colmcille, Columbanus, Sedulius,
Virgilius, Dungal, John Scotus Erigena, and the myriad monks who lit anew the
lamps of religion and culture in darkened Europe; the Empire of MacMahon,
Marshal of France, of Taffe, Imperial Chancellor of Austro-Hungary, of Leopold
O'Donnell, Prime Minister of Spain, of O'Neill, Field-Marshal and War Minister
to Napoleon III, of the other French Minister of War who contested the election
for Presidency of the Republic, General Louis Eugene Cavaignac (Kavanagh); the
Empire of the 750,000 Wild Geese who gave their lives for the glory of France,
and of the unnumbered dead who fell for freedom in every clime in every
"May we be worthy of the Republic and Empire of Ireland!"
Heady words, but from local to national to international, what the
"Vin" had to say, through the pens of its editors, from my grandfather
John McAdam, through Eily McAdam, Marie McAdam, my father Jack Ward, and in my
own small way until it ceased to publish in 1956, cast light on events in the
progression of a people from alien domination to free men and women.
Those events were witnessed from the perspective of a small, provincial
weekly newspaper, and in some cases experienced by it at the hands of English
soldiery, as in the case of my aunt, Eily McAdam, imprisoned in Armagh Jail for
her support of the Irish republican cause.
It is my hope that I shall do justice, as best I can and in the time
remaining to me, to the story of "The Donegal Vindicator" and to those
who served it.
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