Rest in Peace: John Ruddy

Professor Bill Watson and Vince Gallagher. Gallagher donated the plot in the Donegal cemetery where John Ruddy will be buried on March 2.

Professor Bill Watson and Vince Gallagher. Gallagher donated the plot in the Donegal cemetery where John Ruddy will be buried on March 2.

The remains of John Ruddy, one of 57 Irish railroad workers who died at an area in Malvern known as Duffy’s Cut, will be buried on Saturday, March 2 in a donated grave at Holy Family Church in Ardara, County Donegal, Ireland—181 years after his death.

The remains were shipped to Ireland several weeks ago, said Professor William Watson of Immaculata University who, with his twin brother, Frank, discovered the remains of the victims who may have died of cholera—or were murdered by vigilantes—near a railroad embankment in the woods in East Whiteland Township.

Vincent Gallagher, a businessman and president of the Commodore Barry Club (The Irish Center) in Philadelphia, donated the grave in his family plot. The Watsons had hoped that Ruddy, who was believed to be an 18-year-old from Inishowen, would be buried near his own family, but the DNA tests on the body and a possible family member in Ireland have not been completed.

The remains of six other victims, including one woman, that were recovered from the site were buried in a donated grave in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Lower Merion last fall. Skulls of several of those victims exhibited signs of violence and a University of Pennsylvania anthropologist confirmed that one was shot through the head. The Watsons have speculated that the seven may have tried to leave the site after the cholera outbreak and were killed to keep them from spreading the disease, which is caused by a bacteria and is usually spread by consuming contaminated food or water.

Work is expected to begin this spring to unearth the rest of the Duffy’s Cut victims who are buried much deeper than the first seven and close to the Amtrak railroad tracks. Following the intervention of US Sen. Robert Casey and other legislators, Amtrak, which originally told the Watsons that it was too dangerous to dig up the remains so close to the tracks, finally gave permission.

The Smithsonian Channel will be airing the documentary, “The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut,” on March 7 at 8 AM and 5 PM, and again on March 15 at 10 PM.

Author: Denise Foley

Denise is one of the founding editors of irishphiladelphia.com and a veteran magazine and newspaper writer and editor.

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1 Comment

  1. How kind of Vince to donate a plot for John Ruddy’s remains. Rest in peace, John Duddy, in your native land. May Vince be blessed for his quiet, generous spirit.

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