Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers are honoured in new memorial

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A SPECIAL memorial honouring the life and work of Donegal’s Tunnel Tigers in Scotland, the UK and throughout the world was unveiled in Dungloe recently.

The structure (above)—situated in the grounds of St Crona’s Church in the town and created by Kevin McGee—was unveiled in front of more than 1000 people, who had come from the UK, Ireland and as far afield as the US to attend the event.

The beautiful monument contains a number of poignant elements added to tell the story of Donegal’s tunnellers, not least of whom the 77 people from the area who died in the course of their work. An archway entrance leads people to a hand-carved granite statue of a Tunnel Tiger. A small tunnel runs underneath, with a cart, a German jigger and an FL22, which will bring back memories for many workers.

“From day one we wanted it to be more than just a statue,” Hugh Rodgers, chairman of the Donegal Tunnel Tigers Memorial Committee, who was a Tunnel Tiger himself, said at the unveiling. “What we’ve got ties it all together. It’s important to people who worked in the mines and I think it will bring people to Dungloe.

“People came from America, Scotland and England for the unveiling. It means a lot to a lot of people.”

Mr Rodgers then thanked everyone who had assisted with the project including the researchers, the funders, the sponsors and those who assisted with the unveiling.

The Tunnel Tigers are a group of workers—most of whom were from the Rosses area of the county—who travelled the world constructing tunnels. Many died while working on the tunnels, while others suffered life-changing injuries. They also suffered injuries related to the difficult conditions in which they worked.

Among the high-profile projects in Scotland which saw the Tunnel Tigers arrive from Donegal to put their much-sought after skills to use were the construction of the Clyde Tunnel and the hydro schemes of central and northern Scotland.

One of their most notable achievements is a world record set for tunnelling in Perthshire, with the Tigers grinding through 170m of rock in just seven days.

Irish dance teacher, Owen McAuley, whose father Denis worked as a foreman on many jobs that the Tunnel Tigers had worked on, spoke to The Irish Voice about how the memorial was a fitting tribute to the Donegal men.

“My dad would have known a lot of those who were named on the memorial,” Owen said. “He shared the same environment as a lot of them and in fact, two people were killed working on the Clyde Tunnel during his time on that project. He had worked on previous hydro schemes before starting on that project and he was on that one from start to finish.

“He said the memorial was long overdue and I feel the same way. The people who worked on and paid for the monument are to be commended. A lot of thought went into the design too.”

gerard@theirishvoice.com

PIC: MARY RODGERS

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