John Newton(1725-1807) was a slave trader whose ship, The Greyhound was en route to England from Africa when it was caught in a violent storm in March 1748 which almost claimed his life.
On 8 May, after four weeks of being buffeted by rough seas, they finally saw Tory Island and the following day dropped anchor in Lough Swilly on the north east coast of Donegal, just in time before the storm blew up again.
“If we had continued at sea that night in our shattered condition, we must have gone to the bottom. About this time I began to know that there is a God that hears and answers prayer,” Newton wrote of the harrowing experience.
The crew received a warm welcome in Donegal and local carpenters on the shores of Lough Swilly worked for five weeks to make his ship seaworthy again. In the city of Derry, Newton had his second brush with death when he was almost killed in a shooting accident, his fate was sealed.
Newton slowly turned his life around, giving up his life as a slave trader, and dedicating himself to religious life as an Anglican clergyman. Among the hymns he wrote in his Church of England parish in Buckinghamshire, was Amazing Grace, which described his own spiritual journey and went on to become one of the world's most famous Christian hymns, sung an estimated 10 million times annually. The seventh annual Amazing Grace Festival is currently underway in Buncrana until 11 April 2019. This local celebration of community arts features music, art, history and heritage, fashion, dance, drama, storytelling, comedy, food and family fun.
For lots more information about the festival in Buncrana, Amazing Grace County and John Newton see www.amazinggrace.ie
Image © Why Donegal?