By Grace Hansen
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Thus, Jack McKeone, the Krugersdorp bank robber of Irish descent, was deeply influenced by the doings of the quintessential colonial anti-hero, Ned Kelly, whose own favourite novel, Lorna Doone, was replete with tales of brigands in south-west England. The actions of fictional heroes in far-away, imaginary, worlds and the factual basis to cunning forms of Irish resistance to British rule as lived out in their grandfathers’ time, fed into the minds of boys mired in industrial slums. They also conflated the past and the present in ways that fantasy permits.
Some of the newcomers, like the friendly Scots whose homeland just across the water was visible from Malin Head on a clear day, were largely welcome. Others, like the fearsome Viking invaders of the ninth century who swept into the lochs from afar in their long boats, were not. Both groupings, it is now claimed, contributed to the genetic makeup of the McLoughlins and, perhaps, helped shape some of the clan’s own, often ferocious, soldier-sailors. 3 In retrospect, however, Ireland and Inishowen’s most formidable tormentors came not from the north or even from the south as did the Normans, but once again from just across the sea, from the east.
14 Two decades later some of Inishowen’s anger was channelled into Daniel O’Connell’s countrywide movement for political emancipation, which, when it triumphed in 1829, gave Catholics access to all military ranks and, as importantly, allowed them to serve in the parliament of Westminster. But for the small number of truly militant nationalists on the peninsula, those keen to see the momentum of O’Connell’s success taken forward, the next moment of real significance came only after his campaign to have the Act of Union repealed in the early 1840s had already collapsed.