The Road

by Glenswilly NS

Nora Harkin stands by her bike
Contemplating her journey
Only 13, committed to the mission
Stuffed in her shoe, her father’s letter
Hoping to deliver to Peadar.

Cycling through Stranorlar,
Humming her father’s song;

It is these cruel English laws, they curse our native isle
Must Irishmen always live like slaves or die in exile?
There’s not a man to strike a blow or to keep down tyranny
Since Lord Leitrim, like a dog, was shot not far from Glenswilly.

At the crossroads in Cloghan,
Did the chains begin to slip?
Was Peadar looking at his watch
As he stood in old Leck graveyard?

No more beside the sycamore I’ll hear the blackbird sing
No more to meet the blithe cuckoo to welcome back the string
No more I’ll plough your fertile fields, a chuisle geal mo chroldhe
On foreign soil I’m doomed to toil far, far from Glenswilly.

Cycling over the Cloghan hills
Seeing a checkpoint near
Afraid they would stop you
You’d never felt such fear.

Did Peadar rise from behind a grave
And whisper, ‘Nora’, or simply wave?
Did he hug you or shake hands?
Did you hum a verse in thanks?

Some stalwart men around me stood, each comrade loyal and true
And as I grasped each well-known hand to bid a last adieu
I said, my fellow countrymen, I hope you’ll soon be free
To raise the flag more proudly oer the hills of Glenswilly

Written by John McLoughlin, Matthew O’Donnell, Shay McGettigan, Colm McDonough and Liam Lafferty as part of Poetry as Commemoration workshops for 6th Class, Glenswilly N.S., Co. Donegal, led by Frank Galligan in May 2022.

Inspired by the traditional song ‘Glenswilly’, a recording of which can be found here via the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Nora (McGinley) Harkin was born near Glenswilly National School. She first met Peadar O’Donnell at age 13 when she had to cycle from Ballybofey to Letterkenny carrying a secret letter for him. 60 years later, she would live with him for the last 6 years of his life.