The Muckish Gap is the name given to a stretch of road which links Creeslough and Letterkenny to Falcarragh. It is a lovely drive in a car and also one of the best rally-driving stages in Europe, if not the world. as it makes its way past the back of Muckish Mountain. It is still a very busy stretch of road in 2023 but if you travel from the Falcarragh side you will notice a sad memorial to former times – Droichead na Caointe nó Droichead na nDeor, which translates to “The Bridge of Tears”. A Gaelic inscription is now on the Bridge commemorating those times. The Inscription translates as: “Friends and relatives of the person emigrating would come this far. Here they parted. This is the Bridge of Tears” Long before the coming of the railway to Donegal, those emigrating from the area would travel with their families to the Bridge of Tears before parting with their loved ones to make their way on foot to get the boat at either Derry or Moville to take them to a new life in Glasgow or later on the New World in America. This was long before the advent of cheap air travel. The majority of those emigrating would not see their homes or their loved ones again and so many tears would be shed on both sides, hence the name of the Bridge. Often, the night before a young person or family would emigrate, an American Wake or ‘Convoy’ would be held in the family home and all the neighbours and friends would gather around to say goodbye to them as they would not expect to see them again. These events would last until the morning when those emigrating would leave accompanied by their families to begin the long walk to a new life. At that time, Tickets for voyages could be bought in Dunfanaghy and sometimes those emigrating would get into a Curragh and leave Dunfanaghy or Port na Blagh. They would then jump on the Transatlantic Liners as they passed by the back of Tory Island – a journey not without risk as not only had they to brave the seas between the mainland and Tory but they also had to jump onto the moving liner which only slowed down and did not stop to let them on board! Many of those who left would never see their homeland again as back then even Glasgow seemed a long way away and the life of the Donegal emigrant has been well documented by such writers as Caisleáin Óir by Séamus Ó Grianna and Rotha Mór an tSaoil by Micí Mac Gabhann. The latter is a posthumously published memoir which was dictated by Micí Mac Gabhann to his son in law Seán Ó hEochaidh and tells the story of Micki’s life working as a labourer in Scotland, Montana, and in the Klondike gold rush, where he made his fortune and was able to return to his native Donegal. In earlier times most of the emigration from West Donegal would have been to Glasgow where the Donegal people would have struggled to at first to make a living, having in most cases no English as they were Gaelic speakers and also discrimination because of their religious beliefs. They lived in tenement buildings in places such as The Gorbals which had little to no sanitation and made their lives there. These buildings would eventually be torn down in the 1960s but the Southside of Glasgow is still very important to the Donegal Irish. In fact, the buses which still run during the summer season to and from Glasgow still begin their journey home at Gorbals Cross. Nowadays though through their sheer hard work and perveance their descendants occupy important jobs in both the political and business world of that city today. In the 1840s, and especially during the Great Famine, many of those emigrants made their way to America many on coffin ships, which were run by unscrupulous companies and captains to cash in on the crisis in Ireland with little thought for those whom they were transporting. In the beginning many settled in cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia after making the long sea voyage from their homeland. Eventually, as the American West opened up the Irish followed the Wagons and the Railroad west and they settled in cities all over the United States. Some of the Irish went on to have great political influence in some cities such as New York and the Irish American vote remains a very important vote to this day in U.S. Elections. Many of them did well for themselves never returned home again whilst some fell on hard times and even passed working to try to feed their families such as those who died at Duffy’s Cut. Two of these emigrants who left Donegal were Grace Strain and Manus McFadden near neighbours who were born in the Townland of Muntermellin in Hornhead in Dunfanaghy around 1831 and 1842 respectively. They got married in Doe Chapel in 1864 and shortly afterwards they left their thatched cottages behind in Horn head to sail to the new world, little knowing that over a century afterwards a descendant of their working in a medium which had then yet to be invented would grow up to be an award-winning actress. On sailing to America, the newly married Manus and Grace McFadden arrived at the port of New York aboard the ship Webster SS. By the time of the 1870 U.S. Census, the McFadden family had settled in Pennsylvania. Their child, Mary Agnes McFadden, later married Henry Charles Wolf. Henry Charles and Mary Agnes Wolf’s daughter ‘Mamie’ is Meryl Streep’s grandmother. This is just one of many examples of how the Donegal Irish have made their mark in the land of opportunity. These days, emigration is not the life-changing event that it once was as nowadays most parts of the world are just a 24-hour plane journey away but nevertheless tears are still shed at ports and airports when our loved ones go away. So remember, that tucked away in a lonely corner of north west Donegal stands The Bridge of Tears. a sad monument to the thousands of people who emigrated from north west Donegal in search of a better life and never came home again.