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Buggy owned by Battle of Gettysburg priest on display in Co Tyrone

Published 07/01/2016

Ulster American Folk Park head of operations Peter Kelly alongside a horse-drawn buggy owned by Father Arthur Michael McGinnis (JPRNI/PA)
Ulster American Folk Park head of operations Peter Kelly alongside a horse-drawn buggy owned by Father Arthur Michael McGinnis (JPRNI/PA)

A horse-drawn buggy owned by an Irish American priest who opened his church to the wounded and dying at the Battle of Gettysburg has gone on display back in his homeland.

Father Arthur Michael McGinnis emigrated from Co Armagh to the US in 1856 and was sent to minister in the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg five years later, at the outset of the American Civil War.

In 1863, his new home became the focal point for the defining battle of the conflict and the Ulster-born priest transformed his church into a centre to receive the dying and wounded from both Confederate and Union forces.

The cleric's buggy has been put on show at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Co Tyrone, to kick-off a programme of events to mark the museum's 40th anniversary.

Liam Corry, assistant curator at the Ulster American Folk Park, said: "The buggy is a very important object which has a wonderful story. Ownership of it has moved down the generations through Father McGinnis's family maternal line.

"This new addition to the Ulster American Folk Park's collection tells an engaging story of the buggy itself and also an insight into emigration in the 1860s and the significant part the Irish played in both sides of the American Civil War."

The award-winning museum welcomes around 130,000 visitors each year. It opened in July 1976 following the restoration of the original homestead of Judge Thomas Mellon, the banking and industrial magnate of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who sailed to the US with his parents in 1818 at the age of six.

Since then the museum has developed with over 90 acres and 33 exhibit buildings.

Peter Kelly, head of operations at the park, said: "We are fortunate in Northern Ireland to have a world-class museum which provides a unique setting for telling the story of emigration.

"The museum is one of the North West's busiest visitor attractions and also provides an important learning resource that engages people with all learning styles, abilities and ages.

"The museum has seen much growth and expansion over 40 years and we remain committed to offering visitors the very best in living history."

An exhibition of 11 drawings by Belfast artist Frank McKelvey (1895-1974) of American presidents is also part of the 40th anniversary programme.

Other special events include Easter celebrations, an American Independence celebrations in July and a Bluegrass music festival.

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