Blue plaque for ‘Captain Jack’

Captain Jack Crawford
Captain Jack Crawford

A Blue Plaque is to be unveiled for the first time in Inishowen to commemorate a Carndonagh man who played a major role in US history.

The Ulster History Circle will unveil the plaque at 24, the Diamond, Carndonagh this Saturday, October 1st at 2pm to ‘Captain Jack,’ (John Wallace Crawford), known as ‘The Poet Scout’

Crawford, who was born in Carn in 1847 to John Austin Crawford, a tailor and Susan Wallace, was a writer and poet. His parents emigrated to America, leaving John, later known as Jack, with an uncle, James Wallace, in Carndonagh.

Many years later, they joined their parents in Minersville, Pennsylvania, where Jack worked in the mines.

1864 saw him with the Pennsylvania Regulars fighting in the Civil War. He was wounded on several occasions and during one such recuperation, was taught to read and write by the Sisters of Mercy in a hospital near Philadelphia.

In 1869, he married Anna Marie Stokes and later commenced a career in writing. He also held a short-term position as a postmaster in Numidia, Pennsylvania. Jack later headed for adventure and was appointed as Captain of the Black Hills Rangers of Dakota. By 1876 he had met Buffalo Bill Cody who he replaced as Chief of scouts of the Fifth Cavalry.

In the history of the West, this was only two months after the Custer massacre at the Little Big Horn and some three weeks after the murder of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood. Jack captured these events in verse which were to become famous. By 1879, the Poet Scout had published his first book of poems.

He returned to Donegal in 1894 and gave a concert of poetry readings, singing and Wild West skills in the Carndonagh Courthouse, before a further concert in the Guildhall in Derry. He died in New York in 1917.

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle said they are delighted to honour the Poet Scout in his home town and paid tribute to the “enthusiasm and assistance received from Maura Harkin and Sean Beattie of the Colgan Heritage Group, and the Colgan Community Resource Centre.

They also thanked the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support towards the plaque.