A tribute to Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers

A tribute to Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers
A plaque in honour of Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers will be unveiled in Loughanure this weekend.

A plaque in honour of Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers will be unveiled in Loughanure this weekend.

The tribute will be unveiled at 3.30pm, this Sunday, October 18th, at the top of Loughanure, on the Dungloe side of the village.

Two of west Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers who were part of the team that set a world tunnelling record in the north of Scotland will unveil the plaque.

The idea for the local tribute came about after TG4 produced a programme on Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers last year. The programme looked at Europe’s largest construction project, the London Crossrail works, heavily staffed by Donegal men, as an introduction to the long history of Donegal men travelling abroad to dig the tunnels that provided infrastructure throughout Scotland, Wales and England.

A Donegal crew was also said to be the first to break through the Channel Tunnel and Donegal men also worked on tunnels for rail lines, wastewater projects and power plants, among other large infrastructure works.

John Gonna O’Donnell of Ranafast, who had been a Tunnel Tiger, was one of the local men who took part in the TG4 programme and when he returned home, Eugene Greene of Loughanure, who also contributed to the TG4 documentary, asked John about memorials to the Tigers in the UK. There wasn’t much, they learned.

Eugene recalled saying, “I think we should put up a plaque ourselves and honour our own people.” That’s how it began.

Eugene designed the plaque and with the help of Philip Byrne and Ronan McGarvey of Loughanure, got the project under way. Local stone designer Patrick McCafferty produced the piece.

The plaque depicts a mountain with a tunnel passing through it, and a man with a drilling machine who represents all the Donegal men over the decades who made that hard work happen.

Eugene said they are hoping to see all the surviving Tunnel Tigers at the unveiling of the tribute. He also said that any men who were part of that record-breaking team in Scotland, or members of their families, should get in touch with him on 086 389 9345. Organisers would like all surviving members of that team in Scotland to be part of the unveiling ceremony, and they would like to read out the names of all the team members during the event.

Eugene said that while a large number of Tunnel Tigers came from the west Donegal parishes of Gweedore, the Rosses and Cloughaneely, he has heard from Tunnel Tigers from as far away as Fanad. The tribute is being erected in honour of all Donegal men who were Tunnel Tigers.

The unveiling will be followed by tea and sandwiches at Casadh an tSúgáin in Loughanure.