A tale of two citizens

Donegal Democrat

‘Bill Graves, Republican of Oklahoma City, has introduced House Bill HB 1504 that would require an anti-evolution disclaimer on school textbooks.’ – News item

Once upon a time, in the wild, barren, mist covered boglands of west Donegal, there was born a man called Thomas Colin McGinley. In 1830 to be precise, in the townland of Meenacross. Around the same time, an incurably curious young clerical student was finishing his studies in Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Thomas had a tough start in life. When he was less than six months old his father died, and his mother moved the family to Killybegs shortly afterwards, around the same time that the inquisitive young man accepted an unpaid job as naturalist on a ship called the Beagle.

Genetics and environment interact. Had Thomas McGinley’s father not died, his mother would never have moved to Killybegs, and it is likely he would never have learned to read, because there was no school in Meenacross until the 1860s. Instead, Thomas went to school, where he was a promising student. During the famine, he was a monitor in Fintra National School. In London, the inquisitive young man, having already published several essays and books, completed the third volume of The Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle to popular acclaim.

In 1850, Thomas was appointed untrained principal to a school in Ardara. In 1851, he moved to Dublin for training in the Model Schools, and served for a while as a teacher in Belfast. In 1855 he returned to Donegal. The inquisitive man in London began work on a book called Natural Selection.

In 1857, Thomas got into trouble with the inspectors. He’d never been popular, for he had the bad habit of teaching his pupils to read Irish as well as English, and they pounced on the chance to criticise him for going out and being seen in public with “a drinking party.”

In 1859, the curious Londoner, whose name was of course Charles Darwin, published Origin of Species.

In 1864 Thomas married Margaret Sinnott. Later that year, Darwin was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society in London.

In 1867, Thomas published a series of articles in the Derry Journal, which were later reissued as a book, the Cliff Scenery of South West Donegal, a combination travelogue, local history and folklore archive. Darwin began work on a book which would be called Descent of Man when published in 1871.

In 1874, Thomas McGinley published An Introduction to the Study of General Biology, a textbook “designed for the use of Schools and Science classes.”

On April 18, 1882, Charles Darwin died at his home in Kent. Five years later, on 11 April, 1887, Thomas McGinley died in Killybegs.

Seven of Thomas McGinley’s children died from TB during his lifetime. Its likely that he himself also died of TB. Of those who survived John McGinley was the first Bishop of the Phillipines, and Mgr. James McGinley became Vicar General of Raphoe. Another, Leo, became Professor of Theology at Overbrook Seminary in Philadelphia.

Charles Darwin was a scientist, he spent his life figuring out how the world worked. Thomas McGinley was a teacher, he spent his life passing on that knowledge to others. I find it amazing that there are people like Bill Graves in the world who would deny knowledge to children.

Send to Kindle
This entry was posted in Local history & archaeology. Bookmark the permalink.