The end of a unique era of Ballyshannon journalism and its once thriving newspaper industry was recorded in recent days following the death of John Ward, the last proprietor and Editor of the once famous ‘Donegal Vindicator’ newspaper, which was printed from 1889 to 1956.
It is a remarkable tale of the man, the town he loved so well, the changing nature of the newspaper business and emigration.
Here, Paddy Donagher reflects on this Donegal man’s unique personal journey and the wonderful legacy that he has been left to the winding banks of Erne:
Born on the 5th August 1927 in Letterkenny John Ward RIP passed away on the 28th October 2009 in Ottawa, Canada.
John Ward was a grandson of John Mc Adam who was the founder of the Donegal Vindicator at the behest of the Irish Land League in 1889, the Vindicator was the 1st Nationalist newspaper to be printed in Donegal.
The paper was located at No.7 East Port Ballyshannon and John was its last Editor. Some of its employees were Jimmy Coughlin a compositor, Red Mick Slevin of GAA fame, Eddie Gallagher a printer and Frank Burke a reporter who later went on to work for the Irish Press. The Vindicator ceased publishing in 1956.
From Ballyshannon John Ward decided to expand his horizons and moved to Dublin where he eventually found himself as the Official reporter in Dáil Éireann.
John, like so many of his time and in the tradition of the Wild Geese decided to move to Canada where he was a reporter for 35 years and then Editor of Debates in the Canadian House of Commons.
While so far away in Canada, John’s love for his native land never dwindled and with the advent of modern technology, he created a fascinating web site “vindicator.ca”. From this site Donegal and his beloved Ballyshannon, in particular, was opened up to the modern world and a new generation.
John shared stories that most people believed were lost and forgotten in time. He wrote about “The Hawk of the Erne”, “The Big Wind”, “The Green Lady”, “Early Life in the Purt”, “Ballyshannon’s GAA cycling championship football team”, and a compendium of stories recounting the History of the Falls of Assaroe and stories of Life and about the people from Ballyshannon and so much more.
I had the personal pleasure of talking to John about the celebration’s at the Mall Quay on the 14th September 2003 to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the “Kildoney Men’s Fishing Legal Action”. He was very passionate and talked about his displeasure at the state of the Tail-Race, as he called it the “Ugly hole in the ground”.
I know that Vindicator.ca is John Ward’s legacy to Ballyshannon and its people and I know that everytime we look at this wonderful memorial given to us by a man who had nothing but outstanding love for Donegal and everything Irish.
To John’s wife Betty, daughters Geraldine and Catherine, grandson Brandon and nieces Carol, Helen and Annette we offer our heartfelt sympathy.
Go ndeanaí Dia trocaire ar do anam, a Sheáin. Ni bheidh a leitheid ann arís.