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Friar Hegarty Shore Walk, Buncrana 09.04.24

AS part of the Community Recognition Programme, Donegal County Council in partnership with Buncrana Tidy Towns will undertake a programme of works over the coming months along the popular Friar Hegarty Shore Walk in the town. The works will include repairs to some areas of the walkway, new signage and access improvements.

An additional element of the works programme will be the commissioning of a public artwork responding to the folklore around the man after whom the shore walk is named, Friar Seamus Hegarty OP (1649-1711), a Dominican friar who ministered in the parish of Fahan and Buncrana during penal times and was killed for his actions at a spot on the walk known locally as Hegarty’s Rock.
Shore walk path towards Hegartys Rock. Photo by Adam Rory Porter.
Donegal County Council has initiated a two stage open competition through which an artist will be invited to create a suitable public artwork in response to Friar Hegarty’s story and deliver the commission. Interested artists may request a copy of the commission brief by emailing friarhegartypublicart@donegalcoco.ie .

The closing date for the receipt of submissions is 4pm on Monday, April 29th., 2024.
Hegartys Rock. Photo by Adam Rory Porter.
Seamus Hegarty was ordained a Dominican by Oliver Plunkett in Dundalk in 1672 and became parish priest of Fahan in 1704. In the same year, the Irish Parliament passed its ‘Irish Penal Laws Popery Act’, a set of edicts and penalties designed to suppress the practice of Roman Catholicism in Ireland.

According to local folklore, in order to carry out his work and avoid the attentions of the authorities, Friar Hegarty lived in a remote cave close to the sea, in the vicinity of the current shore walk. He celebrated mass at a mass rock nearby. His sister, Mary Hegarty, travelled the shore path secretly each morning to bring him food and supplies. With a bounty of five English pounds on his head, however, the priest lived under a constant threat of betrayal and imprisonment or worse.

The story goes that Mary’s husband, suspicious as to her early morning sojourns, followed her to the cave and informed the authorities of her brother’s whereabouts. On a morning thereafter, a party of soldiers arrived at the cave and it is said that Friar Hegarty made good his escape by diving into the sea and swimming towards a rescue boat that had launched from the Fanad side of Lough Swilly. However, he was persuaded by the leader of the arresting party, a Colonel Vaughan, to return to shore on the promise that he would not be harmed. When he did so, however, he was set upon by the soldiers and beheaded at a location on the walk known since as Hegarty’s Rock.

Another version of the story has Friar Hegarty attempting to escape on a white horse, but being struck off the horse and being set upon by the soldiers. In both versions, it is reputed that the priest’s severed head bounced nine times on the ground before falling into the sea and that the indentations can still be ascertained at the site.
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