Archive for the ‘Local History’ Category

MacGill Summer School 1981 – 2011

By on June 21, 2011 | Category: Local History,Local Info | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments

History and achievements:

The MacGill Summer School has been in existence for thirty one years.  It was founded in 1981 in Glenties in Co. Donegal to celebrate the memory of local writer, Patrick MacGill, whose books in the first decades of the twentieth century on the social conditions in Donegal, the plight of migrant workers in Britain and the horrors of the Great War in which he fought as a soldier of the London Irish Rifles are still being published.

The school has grown over three decades from very modest beginnings to being one of the most important fora in Ireland for the analysis of topics of national and international interest. It has consistently been a source of innovative and fresh thinking on a whole range of social, economic and political ideas.  It brings together every July, government ministers, members of the opposition parties, heads of businesses,  academics, economists, sociologists, church leaders, members of the judiciary and public representatives from Northern Ireland. The School has been successfully positioned as a “broad church” open to all points of view with easy access by the general public.  Audiences come from all over Ireland including Northern Ireland from a wide range of backgrounds and increasingly from abroad.  Extensive media coverage-radio, television and the press- means that the debates at the school reach a national and international audience and the live webcasting of the proceedings for the first time in 2010 in collaboration with Donegal County Council has resulted in their being made available to thousands of Irish people working abroad  and students of Irish affairs.

In many ways, the MacGill School is unique.  For one week every year, the compact Donegal village of Glenties becomes a major, non-partisan, centre of debate dominating Irish discourse as people from all walks of life and all shades of politics get together and discuss ways in which Ireland could be a better place.  Building a better Ireland is the recurrent theme of the MacGill School. One of the attractions of MacGill is that anyone, for a few euros, can walk in and listen to major public figures and ask questions and propose answers.  Hallmarks of the school are its complete impartiality, rigour and objectivity and the choice of contributors and chairpersons as well as the attention paid to the preparation of papers to be delivered at the school are testimony to this fact.

An additional feature of the MacGill School’s activities has been the inauguration in 2000 of the Annual John Hume Lecture as a tribute to the Nobel laureate and former leader of the SDLP and in recognition of his work over the past decades to create a framework for lasting peace in Ireland.  Last year the lecture was delivered by the deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, Mr. Martin McGuinness MP MLA.

Publications:

The publication of an edited version of the MacGill proceedings has been an important feature of the work of the school over the past decade and provide students of Irish contemporary affairs with an overview of key events on the island, North and South, at the beginning of the 21st century.  They are and will remain a significant source of material for postgraduate students in particular.  Last Year’s publication, REFORMING THE REPUBLIC, is still available.

Cultural Programme:

The School has also paid particular attention to culture. It has honoured artists and writers during their lifetime including Peadar O’Donnell, Derek Hill, T.P. Flanagan, Liam McCormick and, of course, the distinguished playwright, Brian Friel, much of whose work has been inspired by his close relationship with Donegal. In 2008, the week was given over to celebrating Friel’s life and work with talks, documentaries, readings and performances of his plays including Faith Healer, Making History and Translations.  Some events of the week were brought to the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris in the summer of 2009.

Poets such as Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Matthew Sweeney and Michael D Higgins have given readings from their work.

Musicians such as John O’Conor have performed in Glenties as has the late mezzo-soprano, Bernadette Greevy.

Exhibitions have included: Patrick MacGill in the First World War, The Flight of the Earls and Antique Maps of Ireland

The Gate Theatre has presented Beckett in Glenties, the Abbey Theatre has performed Dancing At Lughnasa and the Manchester Library Theatre has performed Faith Healer

MacGill’s Contribution:

The principal contribution of the School has been in the area of public policy–ranging across economic policy, social policy and political and public service reform.  The debates do not attempt to achieve consensus around stated positions but rather to stimulate interest in ideas and proposals and to provide a basis for action by leadership groups and individuals. The impact is not limited to participants in the School. The event is intensively covered by the Irish media. Contributions are reported and commented upon in the media and debates often persist, with attribution to the School, in commentary and analysis in the subsequent weeks and months.  Observations about the impact of the School include:

“It seems as if for a week in July, public discourse leaves Leinster House and the media and re-locates to Glenties”
Letter to the Editor, Irish Times

“I’ve noticed that contributors, particularly politicians, avail of MacGill, to push out policy boats beyond previously settled positions”
Irish Independent

“This was a seminar worthy of Harvard, Yale or Oxbridge”
Irish Times

 

 

The Director of the MacGill School:

 

The director of the MacGill School is Dr Joe Mulholland who with a local committee founded the School in 1981.  Born in Donegal, he was educated there and then in the UK and France.  After several years teaching in France he joined Raidio Telefis Eireann(RTE) in 1970 as a trainee producer and went on to hold several senior positions in the organization including Editor of Current Affairs, Controller of Programmes, Director of News and Managing Director of Television.  He has been a regular contributor to the French media including the influential daily, Le Monde. He served as Chairman of the News Section of the European Broadcasting Union(EBU) 1993-7 and was Chairman of Radio Television Kosovo(RTK) 2001-2.  He is currently Chairman of the National College of Art & Design in Dublin.  He was named Donegal Person of the Year 2008-9.

 

 

Patrick MacGill

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

Patrick MacGill was born in 1889 in the Glen of Glenties, and was the first of eleven children. After a mere three years’ schooling, Patrick left at ten and after two years’ work on the home patch of land set out at twelve as one of a party of Donegal youngsters for the hiring fair in Strabane.

MacGill’s literary career began in1910, he asked The Derry Journal to print some poems. At that time he was working as a plate-layer on the Glasgow – Greenock line of the Caledonian Railway. Shortly afterwards he moved to London and had ‘Children of the Daed End’ and the ‘Rat Pit’ published. They were best sellers. MacGill wrote more novels, some with an Irish setting and some with an English background, but never again did he achieve the intensity of these two novels, that really form a single work.

Inniskeel Island

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

The Island of Inniskeel has a sacred interest in the present and the past with a long, if broken, history to commemorate its former greatness. It is still the seat of a must-frequented pilgrimage in honour of St. Connell, one of the most remarkable of Ireland’s early Saints. It contains his Church and his cell and in it repose his scared remains in the grave that had first closed over the body of his illustrious friend, St. Dallan.

There seems to be no ground for questioning the popular belief that St. Connell founded the buildings, which still remain. At the same time substantial parts were certainly rebuilt at a later period.

The year of St. Connell’s birth is not known with exactness. He died about 596. His name is forever linked with famous Cain Domnaigh, a law prohibiting servile works on Sunday. The prohibition was from Vespers on Saturday evening to Monday morning and should delight the heart of sabbatarian by its exacting observance, did it not in other respects unmistakably savour of Catholic practice. In the “Yellow Book of Lecan” the Cain is prefaced by a statement of its being brought from Rome by St. Connell, on an occasion of a pilgrimage made by him to the Eternal City. Our chroniclers make two notable statements in regard to it. They say it was written by the hand of God in Heaven and placed on the Altar of St. Peter, and secondly that it was brought from Rome by St. Connell. Now, however, one may be inclined to explain away either or both statements, there is no mistaking the avowal of respect they imply for Roman authority nor any serious reason for calling the pilgrimage itself into question. The Cain Domnaigh was never enacted by the states or councils of Erin. That it was believed to have been brought from Rome sufficed to spread its sway.

Dallan was born in Feallach Eatbach, which is taken to be Tullyhain in Cavan. Nothing that parental care could accomplish was left undone to perfect his education in scared and secular subjects. At an early age in his career he lost the use of his eyes. Notwithstanding this dismal failure he became the most eminent man of letters in Ireland. He was antiquarian, philosopher, rhetorician and poet all in one. He was the literary chief, the file laureat of Erin in his day. A saint’s life and a martyr’s death crown the glory of his fame. His best known works are the “Amhra Coluim Cille” or written panegyric on Columcille, a funeral oration on St. Senan, Bishop of Inniscattery, and a panegyric on St. Connell Coel. He was beheaded by pirates who plundered the island. His death occurred about 594. St. Dallan’s Feast occurs on the 29th January.

Directions for Making Saint Connell’s Station

  1. The Pilgrim kneeling at St. Connell’s Well says an Act of Contrition, 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys, 7 Glorias and the Creed. Where water drips from the rock over the Well he says 1 Our Father and 3 Hail Marys and sprinkles himself with the water.
  2. Kneeling at St. Connell’s bed 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys, 3 Glorias and the Creed are said.
  3. At The Three Piles of Stones the pilgrim says 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys, 5 Glorias and the Creed while making the circuit of each pile three times.
  4. At the Small Well, scared to the Virgin Mary, kneeling the pilgrim says 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys, 5 Glorias and the Creed and sprinkles himself with the water.
  5. While proceeding to Large Stone behind the Churchyard, prayers are said for the suffering souls in Purgatory. In making the circuit of the Stone three times, 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys, 5 Glorias and a creed are said.
  6. A circuit of the Church of St. Connell and his cell is made three times, during which 7 decades of the Rosary are recited. These decades may be finished kneeling inside the Church at the Altar Stone. Kneeling here the pilgrim also prays for the Pope’s intentions, and his own intentions.
  7. Kneeling and looking out of the Church door the pilgrim says 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys, 3 Glorias and the Creed in honour of Saints Connell and Dallan, and to obtain for the pilgrim the benefits of the Station.

The Harvest Fair

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

The following is an account of Glenties Harvest Fair written and published in 1972 by the late Joe Campbell, Glenties.

In my young days and that’s not today or yesterday the Harvest Fair Day was a red-letter day in the history of the town. It was looked forward to by young and old for weeks before and remembered by many a long day afterwards. In fact, in those days it was a three-day event. First there was “the gathering” the day before; then there was the big day itself and then there was “the scattering” the following day.

It was a landmark for farmers for miles around. Any farmer who hadn’t his hay stacked and his corn safely in the haggard was considered, if he was single, a poor match for any girl. If he was married and had a family he saw to it by threats and promises that the above work was completed by the time the Big Day came round. How well I remember as a boy working by moonlight to get the last of the corn in so as to be free to attend the fair, with just a white sixpence in my pocket!

Those were the days – God be with them – when the train was the chief means of transport and the day before the fair the C.D.R. ran two special trains into Glenties, each engine dragging leisurely along long strips of empty, wagons to bring to Derry the following day for shipment to Glasgow and other Clyde ports the cattle and sheep bought at the fair.

In addition to the trains all kinds of vans and other vehicles – horse-drawn of course – could he seen wending their way slowly but surely along the country roads leading to the centre of attractions. These brought in the gamblers – “the three card trick” men, the “fire-eaters”, and hosts of others, as well as the vendors of all kinds of merchandise including green gooseberries, greener apples, currant buns, lemonade, and of course, second-hand clothing, for which there was a big demand in those days.
As each one arrived he immediately selected his “stand” by the sidewalk for the following day and marked it with a long wooden spar, or by parking his van there, and God help the individual who dare try to take possession of a spot thus marked. Each one then took himself off to “the Rock” to book in for the night in one or other of the three well-known boarding houses that were there.

The evening before would be active too, the sheep farmers from the Fintown area, from Shallogans, from the top of the Glen, and of course from the Croaghs. From The latter place would come the McLoone family-those five brothers, Eoin Mhicheails -with their huge flocks of mountain wethers, with their well trained dogs that could almost speak to you in Gaelic – like their masters, they knew no other language – and they always “penned” their sheep for the night in Hughie Mhor’s field at head the of the town (now Ard Connell) which field they had always rented in advance for the occasion. The other farmers got similar accommodation for their flocks in fields convenient to the town where they could easily collect them at daybreak next morning. They then wended their way homewards, to return again before cock-crow the following day with huge bundles of “braidins” – handmade grass ropes – with which to tie their sheep one to another down along the wall on the “Chapel Brae” along the wall of the R.I.C. barracks, or along the Market House.

And what about the cattle men? They would arrive, too at daybreak, and before, with their droves of well-fed cattle but the best of these were brought in by the landlord’s men from Downstrands who had fattened their cattle on the rich grasslands of Inniskeel Island or on Major Porter’s Roshine. These huge glossy animals were “beef” to the heel like a “Mullingar heifer” and would fetch anything up to £15 a head -a huge price in those days! The cattle were on display on the “Rock”, which was then and still is, known as the “Cow – Market”.

Around 8.00am business was in full swing, and what a din. The lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, the barking of dogs, the neighing of horses, the grunting and squealing of pigs, but above all, the shouting of drovers and the “bualadh Bhos” of the buyers and sellers trying to strike a bargain.
“How much for the “oul mincher””, one dealer would ask
“Go along ye bligard” would come the quick reply. “How dar’ ye call my two – year – oul springing heifer an oul mincher.”
“She hasn’t a tooth in her head”, would come the retort.
“Faith, then ye haven’t so many in yer own gob”, would come the reply.
And so it went on until around noon when all bargains were finished and buyers and sellers made their way to the main street and to one or other of the dozen odd pubs then in the town to settle their accounts and to squabble still further over the “lucky- penny” that each dealer had to receive before a bargain was complete.

And then the “fun of the fair”. The buyers and sellers were now joined by hundreds of young boys and girls from near and far who got the day off in return for many a hard day’s work in the harvest fields during the previous months. The young people sauntered up and down the street in groups, the girls by themselves and the boys by themselves, and many a shy smile exchanged as they passed and re-passed in their, to the inexperienced onlooker, aimless wandering. But was it aimless? Well many a courtship started at the Harvest Fair and ended in a happy marriage before that day came round again!

And what about the street vendors, the “three-card-trick” men, and the “trick of the loop” men? As the crowds gathered and the people began crowding round them, these became more vociferous and could be heard all over the town, each one trying to out-shout and outsmart his nearest rival in an attempt to attract as many patrons as possible. But the wee man from Ballybofey that had the second hand clothes stall was always the centre of attraction,
“What will ye bid me for the wee pair of pants, ma’am, made from the best King’s corduroy? (Although Victoria, of pious and immortal memory, ruled at that time!) Here they are to ye – Slapping them with his palm – 3/6? 3/-? Ah, give me half-a-crown. Will ye no’ bid me atal? What will ye do with wee Johnny when he’s’ ready for school? Blacken his “behind” (nothing so polite as that!) and send him out Barenaked?”
Above the din sometimes could he beard the sound of music. Never to miss a Harvest Fair was big Hughie Gallagher, the most famous of all the pipers in Donegal, Sligo or Leitrim. And there was Mickie (I’ve forgotten his last surname), the blindBall the way down from Castlederg. Mickie sang all the latest “come-all-ye’s” to his own accompaniment on the fiddle. I can still bear him sing “Killester Fair” in his own inimitable style. And then of course, there was Neddie Bab and his tin whistle being followed up and down the street by all the children in the town. But as the melody-makers visited the various pubs in the course of the day shriller because the singing and more discordant the music.

But then coming on to “closing time” the R.I.C. strongly reinforced for the day, began moving out in pairs from the barracks and marched up and down the street in their best military style, their black leather – cased batons dangling from their belts. This was the signal for the publicans to get their premises cleared and soon would happy, semi-mebriated (and not so semi!) burst onto the street gangs of boisterious men. (Women did not frequent pubs in those days!) Sometimes a row would start and the sticks would be raised and the crowds would surge from either end of the street to the scene of action to be told gruffly by the nearest constable to “get moving”. And move they did, many of them arriving home by midnight, foot-sore, tired and hungry at the end of a perfect day, and peace and quiet returned once more to the one-time hilarious village.

The fair was now over but was it? I said at the beginning that it lasted for three days, and so it did. Next day if approaching the town from the Fintown side one could meet droves of cattle being driven “on r />their on the hoof” by the same noisy drovers of the day before, either heading for the Stranorlar station or over Meenaroy to the Swilly station at Letterkenny. These were animals that could not he accommodated by the C.D.P.- the day before on their two special trains and were in the hope of reaching Derry before the cattle boat sailed.

And on reaching the town there was still a great deal of hustle and bustle. The hawkers and vendors of green apples of the previous day were rushing about packing up their wares and yoking their piebald ponies to their spring – vans in preparation for the journey home or to some other venue where another fair would soon be in progress, while out from O’Donnell’s yard came Hughie the Piper and out from Phelan’s arch came the blind fiddler from Castlederg each of them rubbing his eyes and feeling his trousers pockets gingerly and wondering was there enough to get him “a hair of the dog” that bit him so viciously the day before!

These are my recollections of the Glenties Harvest Fair of three score years or more.

The Courthouse

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

Unusually for the small townships of West Donegal, Glenties has both a Market House and a Court House. The former seems to have been built about 1840 for the Marquis of Conyngham. It is a long low gabled two-storey building with two separate outside stairways giving access to the upper floor: today used as youth club, recreation room, stores and garage. In the lower storey, there is a single wide segmental arc and on either side an arched doorway: windows have been added rather miscellaneously from time to time. The quoins and dressings are of cut stone, as are the chimneys, otherwise the building is of random rubble harled over. Rather oddly, but endearingly, the upper walls are set back all round on the base furnished by the lower storey and stringcourse. The eaves of the Sables have cheerful little carved wooden brackets.

The courthouse is surprisingly sophisticated. It is a variant on William Caldbeck’s standard design, of five bays and two storeys, with hipped roof, built over a basement containing the bride well cells. The two end bays project, and the roof over sails the central bays. In the upper storey are five large round-headed windows, set in recesses and plain round-headed architraves, with their original glazing; the doors are set between simplified pilasters supporting pediment-shaped heads. The eaves have square modillions; the imposing chimneys form an integral part of the composition. The quality of the stonework is uncommonly high throughout. The original courtroom furnishings, including high box-pews, remain quite unaltered.

This building was the cause of acrimony between the Grand Jury and the Lord Lieutenant. The Grand Jury considered it “unnecessary and inexpedient” in view of the propinquity of the new courthouse at Donegal; His Excellency differed, and directed them to build it, at a cost of £900. This sum they resolutely refused to vote, on the advice of their Surveyor, who suggested that £650 would be more than adequate. After an exchange of stiff memoranda and resolutions the Grand Jury was constrained, with very poor grace, to give way. The building was in fact completed in 1843.

The Grand Jurymen of Co. Donegal were as parsimonious as they were stiff- necked. At the height of the Great Famine, they noted that Lifford Gaol (built for 113) was overcrowded by an additional 87 prisoners; to remedy this inconvenience and to discourage those who might commit offences in order to be fed in prison, they solemnly recommended to Government that the statutory minimum diet in the prison be reduced to accord with the current diet outside.

Legendary Glenties Footballer

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The death took place of Columba McDyer, a member of the Cavan team which defeated Kerry in the 1947 All-Ireland football final in the Polo Grounds, New York.

A native of Glenties, Co. Donegal, McDyer was on the first Ulster team to win the Railway Cup in 1942 and also played in the same competition with Connacht.

His travels took him to Cavan in 1947 where he was a valuable member of the attack which defeated Kerry by 2-11 to 2-7, scoring a point in the final. Following his success with Cavan he returned to Donegal and his native Glenties where he coached the Donegal senior team for a number of years.

While in Cavan he worked as a carpenter with Elliotts, Church St. but in later years on his return to Donegal he took up a teaching career in Vocational schools in Donegal teaching carpentry.
Aged 80, the funeral takes place in Glenties today (Thursday).

He is survived by his wife, Peggy, sons, Paddy, Alec, James, Columba and Dan and daughters, Ena, Peggy, Deirdre, Patricia, Annie, Breege and Paula.

In a tribute to Columba McDyer, former Cavan star of the forties and fifties, Mick Higgins who played with him in that great All-Ireland year of ’47 said there was no yellow or red cards needed when Columba was playing.

“He was a gentleman on and off the field and was fortunate to have a midfield partner in Phil “Gunner”Brady who looked after anything that was needed to be looked after.
“I played against him when he was playing for Donegal. He came to Cavan at a time when we were having centre-field problems.

We found him to be an outstanding player and he solved our problems in this area of the field in partnership with Phil Brady.

“He was a great athlete with wonderful fielding. His chief asset, at least I felt, was his fetching. He was a fine fielder of a ball and never relied on punching, he always caught it.
“Columba was a genius too to launch an attack.

He didn’t play defensive football as was commonly understood and he always managed to get scores at vital periods.

Mick described Columba as quiet and unassuming. “You wouldn’t know he was on the pitch. He was a real gentleman on and off the field.

“He never resorted to rough play and was always skilful and naturally fit throughout his life. We used to train only for finals at that time and he would always be supremely fit. He had a tremendous attitude overall.

There are only five survivors from that ‘47 final – Mick Higgins, Tony Tighe, John Wilson, Peter Donohoe and Simon Deignan.

The following piece was written by Columba McDyer prior to Donegal’s victorious appearance in the 1992 All-Ireland final:-

As a link with the past and this year of historic success with the present record-breaking Donegal Senior GAA team, I have been asked to put on record, as a Donegal born All-Ireland senior medal holder – albeit with Cavan – my memories of that famous win in the Polo Grounds in New York in 1947.
Like everyone else, I am a very hopeful and aspirant spectator waiting cautiously and patiently to see our long overdue quota of 21 “Carruth” Gold (apologies to Olympic hero) medals coming to our illustrious Tyrconnell.

We all know and feel within ourselves what this will mean to us, and our faithful and popular scribe “The Follower” will, I am sure, adequately and fittingly describe this momentous sporting occasion, and I look forward to his contribution.

As for myself, I feel there will have to be some rumblings emitting from the distant past denizens of the Grianan of Aileach, recording their uncontainable approval.

However, to get back to what I was asked to do – to put on record a summary of my memories and experiences of the 1947 All-Ireland Senior football final at the Polo Grounds, New York, as a participant with the victorious Cavan team of that day.

I begin at the beginning – interrupting my honeymoon, saying farewell to my understanding wife, Peggy (music, Stand By Your Man) and joining up with my playing colleagues to motor from Ballyjamesduff to Shannon Airport (then Rineanna) and after a long delay and dispute with air pilots of T.W.A. plane, “The Moulmein Pakoda”, about luggage weight excess, we finally headed off for New York, landing first at the Azores and then on to Gander Airport, Newfoundland.

There we were served tea and muffins with maple syrup; reboarded the plane only to be told that one engine was not functioning correctly. Back to the airport for a long delay while the plane was being serviced; re-boarded again and on to Boston where we were all allowed off the plane to meet the Kennedy family and friends who were there to greet us. Finally, on to our destination at New York, where a bus awaited us to take us to our respective hotels.

Our hotel was “Hotel Empire” beside Times Square and a bus was laid on attached to the hotel for our collective activities.

I remember the many meetings with callers and friends; the difficulty to get a peaceful period for rest before the game.

I recall that the game itself was a very close encounter, and I do remember Kerry’s whirlwind start, and our shaky one, but gradually our team pulled out and got control and eventually we won by four points.
I remember the excitement after – moving out of the Stadium to where our bus awaited us. The attendance at the game was about 44,000 but there were twenty or thirty thousand more outside who couldn’t get in, and mounted police had to clear a way for the bus to get going.

I remember after the match meeting my friend, John Joe Campbell of Ardara, who came rushing to me on the field to congratulate me.

We had a series of luncheon engagements then where many important celebrities of the day attended, including a special function laid on by Co. Mayo born Bill O’Dwyer, then Mayor of New York. I still feel the excitement of the ticker tape cavalcade through New York City where all traffic was brought to a standstill and where we were paraded for miles in police vehicles, through lined streets, again courtesy of Mayor O’Dwyer, who also arranged for us to visit the Precincts of some Police Department to view the call up of criminals and crimes of the night as various police handed over their unfortunate arrested clientele.

The Mayor also arranged a special police car cavalcade for teams and officials for a visit to “West Point” Military Academy and a viewing of the spectacle of the lowering of the flag there at eventide, with a special meal laid on for us at the famous “Bear Mountain Inn.”

I also remember a visit and an interview with the German manager of “Schaefers”, the world famous brewery – one of the actual owners – who arranged with his Burtonport publicity advertising agent in USA a team visit to his New York Brewery. He was at the game and was very impressed. He presented each player present at the Brewery visit with a beautiful commemoration book and medal struck specially for some big centenary occasion worldwide for the brewery.

He was also interested in engaging the teams for exhibition matches throughout the States at his firm’s expense – a type of sponsorship job, you could say, but this was not possible.

A second game also took place in New York where a mixture of the Cavan and Kerry teams played an American selection. We were altogether three weeks on American soil and it was a hectic time. I remember a visit with one of my friends to a film in one of the big cinemas where a “Grantland Rice” special feature of the All-Ireland was shown and it was lengthy, very well done and much better than the record I have seen in Ireland of the filmed game. I haven’t met anyone else who has seen this feature.

The highlight of the journey home on the Cunard Liner, “the Queen Mary” to Southampton was a special meal for our party where the Captain entertained us with a banquet and where he issued special menus in Irish
for the two teams with the names of all the players in Irish and decorated with Cavan and Kerry colours. I have my copy of the menu still.

From Southampton we travelled by rail to London, stayed one night, then on to Holyhead by rail, and back by boat to Dun Laoghaire on the then “Princess Maud” boat.

We were there joined by friends and well wishers and proceeded to a function and dinner in the Gresham in Dublin.

I conclude with thanks for patience and my good luck and good wishes to Donegal team and management for the history of the century, in our sporting life.

Naomh Conaill – A History of the Naomh Conaill GAA Club in Glenties

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments

The year 1921 saw the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Glenties. However the playing of a hurling match between Kilraine and Brackey (Ardara) in the summer of 1905 was perhaps the first time Gaelic games as we now know them were played in the parish of Inniskeel. This match was arranged by Alex McDyer, Kilraine and Charles McGill, Brackey.

It took place in a field called Tommy Boyle’s Holm, near Derries crossroads. Prior to 1921, Association Football as it was then, now Soccer, was organised in the area by the Glenties United Soccer Club. With the formation of the GAA Club in the parish in 1921 the Soccer Club disbanded in July of that year and its members threw their lot in with the Gaelic Club. History was made on Sunday 24th July 1921 with the playing of the first Gaelic football match on Dan Early’s field at the Curragh, Mullinard on the Ardara road. Teams from the town and Kilraine took part with victory going to the town side.

Bit by bit the club became more and more organised during its first year. It was decided towards the end of 1921 that Peter Gallagher the owner of a field on the Church road not far from where we are today be approached with a view to renting the ground for matches. This venue was used on special occasions and was last used in 1939 when the property was sold to the late Joe McLoone.

It was at this venue that Glenties played Bundoran in the semi-final of the 1921 Senior Championship in front of a very large attendance and emerged victorious by 1-7 to 1-5. The team went on to play Castlefin in the final at Ballybofey only to be beaten by three points. This was some achievement by the team in its first year. With the loss of this venue the Club leased a field from Peter O’Donnell at Stranaglough for a short period. The annual rent was £8.

In 1925 the Club was on the move again, this time back to the Church Road. A field was rented from Mr. Sproule adjacent to where we are today. This venue became known as Hollymount Park and was used extensively up to 1939 when the tenancy was terminated.

Our next home was again at Stranaglough, this time at Brennan’s Holm, rented from James Brennan whose family would become leading lights in the Club. This would not be the only time the club moved to this location.

This move coincided with the proposed development in Glenties of a sports field to cater for everyone. In 1940 it was decided to purchase land from B. McDevitt & Co. situated between the Church Road and the Tullyard Road for this purpose. Some four acres were purchased at the location now occupied by the Irish Oak factory owned by Michael Duddy. The property was held in trust for the people of Glenties.

The GAA Club moved to this venue in 1943 and remained there until 1968. The first match played on the sports field took place on 29th June 1943 with the Defence Forces taking on the S-W Donegal L.D.F.

The Club was so involved with this very suitable location that an effort was made by the club in 1952 to purchase the property outright but conditions attached to the sale meant it was not an attractive acquisition. The matter was not pursued and instead the club went about realising its ambition of owning its own grounds. In the meantime the sports field was used by the club up to 1968 when it was sold by the Board of Works as an industrial site.

During its years at the Sports field the club purchased land from the McDevitts at Stranakevlin in 1957. This land could be assessed from the Station Road and the Main Street by the laneway at what is now Colm Melly’s property beside the Bridge. However the land was deemed to be not economical for development as a football ground and the club sold it to James Kee (Butcher). As the Club had no debt on the property when it was sold, the acquisition of other property with the proceeds of the sale was most attractive and it was now made the priority.

A momentous step was made in 1963 when Francie Houston purchased land from Paddy Gallagher (The Mines) at Carrickbrack on behalf of the club. As Danny Boyle wrote in his book, “On the fields of Inniskeel”, this location had a strong sentimental value for the club owing to its use in the early years.

Francie Houston and the late Barney Campbell were appointed Trustees and the first Park Committee was formed consisting of the following.

Chairman: John McSwiggan, Ardconnell
Secretary: Thomas Brennan, Main Street
Treasurers: Charlie Cannon, Main Street, Danny Boyle, The Station

In 1969 playing activities ceased at the sports field and once more it was back to Stranaglough with Phil Brennan accommodating the Club with the use of Brennan’s Holm again.

This venue was used while development continued at Carrickbrack and in 1971 the playing surface was ready for use. The Club had a permanent home at last. In 1972 after matches were played at Carrickbrack it was decided to name the property after Davy Brennan who served his native club and county both as a player and official. During the early years of Gaelic games being played in the parish other pitches were used. Matches were played at Tullyhoniver, Kilraine. Both football and carnogie were played on a field along the river at Strasallagh. In the 1950′s local matches were played at Shallogans adjacent to where the wood factory is today. Parish League Matches were also played at Con McNelis’ (Clarkes) Holm, Kilraine in the late 50′s.

The administration of a Club needs a venue for meetings and in its formative years meetings took place in Phelans. A warehouse belonging to Hugh McDevitt that is now part of the Highlands Hotel was used by the club for a long period for many different purposes. However this premises had to be vacated in 1926 because it was to be used as an educational establishment. It was to become known as the “Tech” and it served the Parish and indeed the county well over its years of use.

The Market Hall became the focal point for Club activities, serving as a meeting hall, dressing rooms and used for social events to name but a few.

The first Officer board of the Glenties G.A.A. Football Club was installed at a meeting in the market Hall on the 29th August 1921.

The members of that board were as follows
Chairman: Denis Phelan
Treasurer: Thomas O’Donohue
Secretary: Patrick Maguire

A committee made up of the following was also set up:
T.P.P. Cannon,
Bernard Campbell,
Patrick Kennedy (Jnr)
Patrick Molloy,
Joseph c. Gallagher,
Joseph Gallagher,
Daniel Doogan,
J.J. Kelly,
Con Gallagher,
John Gallagher N.T.

Article compiled by Daniel McGeehan based on extracts from “On the Fields of Inniskeel” written by Danny Boyle.

Brian Friel

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

Glenties features in much of Brian Friel’s writing. His mother was a native of the place and was a member if the McLoone family, consisting of five daughters and two sons, who lived adjacent to the railway station. Brian, an only son, and his two sisters spent almost all of their school holidays at their grandparent’s home in Glenties.

It was fitting therefore that the theme of the 1991 Patrick MacGill summer school in Glenties should have been his work, and fitting too that on the opening night of the school Brian should have, in his address before the presentation of his masterpiece “Dancing at Lughnasa”, marked that he was proud that his extraordinary happening was taking place in the county which he called home. This memorable one night only performance was staged by the abbey theatre players in the local comprehensive school about 200 yards from this living legend’s grandparents home and was unique in so far as the players traveled specially from London for it. The widely world acclaimed play is special to the people of Glenties because the star-studded abbey company performed something which had characters who were well known and remembered as people who lived there.

Brian Friel dedicated the play to as he himself wrote “The Five Glenties Ladies” and those were his four aunts and his mother. The play itself, which was proved to be his most successful revolved around the lifestyle of those who knew them lived ties and those who knew them lived through an almost unbelievable emotional experience on that might in Glenties and are grateful to the author for using his influence in getting the abbey cast.

St. Therese of Lisleux

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

The following is an extract from “St. Therese of Lisleux, the Little Flower of Jesus”

Dear Rev. Father,

Your letter was sent on to me here. The facts concerning the extraordinary cure of my wife are as follows:
She was in indifferent health for nearly three years and on January 24th last she gave birth to a child, which two days later, according to promise, received the name Mary Frances Teresa. However, puerperal fever set in, and finally – it was 2am on the morning of the 27th – three doctors and the priest thought it was all over. She lingered until the forenoon.
We were making, as you know, a novena to the Little Flower and more than once a remark was passed: “She is so busy, I wonder if she will think of poor Donegal!” Evidently she did think of it and she “came down”, as she promised to do and comforted us all.

About eleven o’clock my little Kathleen, a child of four years, who had promised to make her First Communion in honour of Sister Therese if her mother was cured, came into the house with a bunch of most lovely snowdrops. There were exactly six. She said a nun had given them and had told her to take them to father for mamma and mamma would be cured. The flowers were put into water, but nothing was thought of the “nun” until after a time the room, and even the whole house, began to be filled with a strange, sweet perfume. Snowdrops, of course, have no perfume. However, we traced it to the flowers and then investigated the child’s story.
The nun, according to the little one, came down from the skies and put the flowers in her hand, adding the above message for my dying wife. It seems the apparition was dressed in white; the child also noticed the beauty of the face and the hands and how quickly she flew away when she had delivered her message. I may add that there were no nuns in the neighbourhood and no snowdrops either.

Thank God my wife recovered promptly! One of the doctors had certified that it was an incurable case of infectious septicemia, but that she now enjoys better health than she has done for two years. After a most careful enquiry we are all convinced the child’s statement was perfectly correct. The flowers retained their wonderful scent for the space of a week. One of the doctors carried off two of them to a friend who was very ill and they perfumed that house also.

I hope her “visit” to Donegal will make the little saint more loved than ever. What a gracious way she has of doing good upon earth.

Yours sincerely,

Michael McNelis. J. P. April 12th. 1913

Footnote: The lady who was cured was Mary McNelis. This great event took place in the town land of Gortnamuclagh on the Narin/Glenties Road. Kathleen McNelis later became Mrs. Comerford. She died in Malahide, Dublin within the past year.

St. Connell's Museum & Heritage Centre

By on August 6, 2007 | Category: Local History | No Comments

History of its Foundation and Development
Compiled by Danny Boyle

As a result of a local historical study by a small group of people interested in the history, customs and traditions of the parish of Inniskeel, they were invited to present a programme on RTE’s Community Radio when it Visited Glenties in August of 1982. From that programme the idea was mooted that as there was so much local historical information available it should be preserved in a permanent way.
Arising from that a meeting was held in the Market Hall, Glenties, on 1st August, 1983, with the following persons in attendance: –
Mary Campbell, Nora Breslin, Mannix Boyle, Eugene Boyle, Liam Briody and Danny Boyle.
The first Officer – Board appointed was:

Mary Campbell —– Chairperson
Mannix Boyle —– Secretary
Nora Breslin & Liam Briody —– Joint-Treasurers.

Those officers with, Eugene Boyle, and Danny Boyle, were the founding members of the new Centre.
The decision was taken to set up a museum to keep safe from loss the historical information at hand as well as the many artefacts, which were available and suitable for display.
It was agreed that the Centre would cater for an area covering a large section of South-West Donegal.
They immediately took steps to lease from the Donegal County Council a portion of the local Courthouse which was considered to be a suitable location for the project..

THE COURTHOUSE

In the 1973 publication, “Court Houses and Market Houses of the Province of Ulster”, by CEB Brett the author states that “unusually for the small townships of West-Donegal Glenties has both a Market blouse and a Courthouse”.

He continues: –

“The courthouse is surprisingly sophisticated. It is a variant on William Caldbeck’s standard design, of five bays and two storeys, with hipped roof, built over a basement containing the bride well cells. The two end bays project, and the roof over sails the central bays. In the upper storey are five large round-headed windows, set in recesses and plain round-headed architraves, with their original glazing; the doors are set between simplified pilasters supporting pediment-shaped heads. The eaves have square modillions; the imposing chimneys form an integral part of the composition. The quality of the stonework is uncommonly high throughout. The original courtroom furnishings, including high box-pews, remain quite unaltered.”

“This building was the cause of acrimony between the Grand Jury and the Lord Lieutenant. The Grand Jury considered it “unnecessary and inexpedient” in view of the propinquity of the new courthouse at Donegal; His Excellency differed, and directed them to build it, at a cost of £900. This sum they resolutely refused to vote, on the advice of their Surveyor, who suggested that £650 would be more than adequate. After an exchange of stiff memoranda and resolutions the Grand Jury was constrained, with very poor grace, to give way. The building was in fact completed in 1843.
The Grand Jurymen of Co. Donegal were as parsimonious as they were stiff- necked”

This Courthouse has never been physically altered since it was first opened and is now a very valuable built-heritage in South-West Donegal. The authenticity and the antiquity of this room preserves the integrity of Irish courts from the last century.
It was this that attracted the Producers of the film serial “The Hanging Gale” to the Courthouse. They had searched the County for such a building and on discovering Glenties found a Courtroom which generated the necessary atmosphere and where the set was more than a facade.

The Courtroom and the basement including the Bridewell Cells, continue to be part of the Museum’s exhibition

Down the years many people have passed through the doors of the Courthouse with fear and trepidation, some without hope, but those coming to view this place now – a – days are assured of a friendly and hospitable welcome.
Inside the main door is the, Courtroom which after over 150 years has settled down to lie grimly untouched over its gruesome basement.

It was Goldsmith who once said “that laws grind the poor and rich men rule the law.”
That was only too true in the early years of this buildings existence.
Like the poor woman in the aftermath of the Great Famine who stole, the loaves of bread to feed her starving children. It was in this Courtroom that she suffered the harsh sentence of separation from her children. Reprieved at the last moment she was much more fortunate than the men who stole the sheep belonging to the local landlord. Transported to Van Diemans Land. But they weren’t so unlucky after all, because when they left their so called convict days behind them they went on to become prominent and very successful citizens of that new world.

If this Courtroom could only talk what stories it could tell about man’s inhumanity, particularly in, the dreadful early years of its existence.

In those early years the Magistrate’s writ was largely in favour of the Landlord and the other well to do. Power was on their side, but power without justice is always tyranny, and that was what the people suffered under in the second half of the last century.

From it’s opening over 150 years ago until the Treaty in 1921 a contingent of the British Army kept guard at Glenties Courthouse.
This was the environment in which Padraig Pearse, leader of the Easter week Rebellion, found himself when in 1912 he defended a local farmer who was charged for displaying his name in Irish on his cart.

When a prisoner was found guilty he or she was taken down stairs to be lodged in an uninviting iron-door cell in the basement.

The British Army evacuated the Courthouse after the Treaty was signed and was replaced by a contingent from the new Free State Army.
Their biggest task was to guard the large number of Republican prisoners held in Glenties Jail until the end of the Civil War.

Those Bridewell cells were never again used as a holding centre for prisoners, but proved and continue to prove to be a great attraction for visitors to the Museum and Heritage Centre.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT.

At this stage it was decided to enlarge the Committee and a further ten persons were invited to join.
Thomas Gildea and John Gallagher became members on 27th August 1983. Larry Lonergan joined on 15th May 1984.
Hugo Mc Dyer, Paddy O’Donnell, Packie Boyle, John Timoney and Foncie O’Donnell, became members on 12th January 1985. At a later meeting in January John Me Loone joined.

At a meeting on 5th January, 1985, the following were appointed as official Trustees to the Centre: –
John Gallagher, Eugene Boyle, Thomas Gildea, Mannix Boyle, Mary Campbell and Danny Boyle.

An enormous amount of work was accomplished by the members in repairing the building, constructing furniture, cleaning artefacts, and mounting exhibits.
All this work was done on a voluntary basis and the Committee prides itself on the fact that it continues to be a voluntary body.

In view of the direction which the project was taken it was agreed that the apt name for it should be “St. Connell’s Museum & Heritage Centre”. St. Connell being patron saint of the Parish of Inniskeel.

COLLECTION OF ITEMS.

The committee was now able to turn its attention to the collection of suitable items for exhibition and the members were surprised at the generosity of the people who donated so many items of great interest. Some of the organisers had personal collections of great historical value and those provided the foundation around which exhibitions were formed.
The personal collections consisted of Donegal Railways memorabilia and artefacts; and material concerning the great poverty of the last century including memorabilia and artefacts from the old Glentie
s Workhouse. Those collections got the Centre off to a flying start but are only a small portion of an array which has been amassed from nearly every home over a wide area.

The Centre opened its doors to the general public at 7 p.m. on Friday 15th August,1986.

Lack of space was preventing the display of much valuable material and steps had to be taken to provide more rooms for the presentation of further exhibitions.
As a result the members of the Committee arranged for the purchase of the, site adjoining the Courthouse, which was currently in use as a handball alley by a local club. The club was anxious to vacate this site as they had plans to transfer their handball activities to their own complex outside of town.
After procuring this site application was made through the County Council for a grant to build a purpose built Museum and this was obtained from the E.E.C. Structural Fund. The amount of the grant was £ 90,000 and 25% had to be contributed by the local committee. A grant of £10,000 was got from the National Lottery.

Antoin Mac Gabhann, B. Arch., M.R.I.A.I., Letterkenny, was appointed as the Architect and after consultation with the Centre’s committee he drew up the plans of the new building. Those were, approved in course and the architect then advertised and invited tenders for the building of the new museum. Mr. Frank Connaghan, Contractor, of Glenties won the contract and shortly afterwards building commenced.
The building was completed in 1991.

The museum committee now had a new building on their hands but it was essential to fit it out properly. It was evident that this was also going to prove, to be an expensive part of the development.

Then tragedy struck with the unexpected death of the Centre’s Secretary. Mannix Boyle had been one of the principal driving forces behind the, founding of the Museum and, indeed, in some of the bad early days it was he who kept the ideal alive when nearly everyone else had tired and would have given up on it. Truly he did a remarkable administrative job in his position as Secretary, and it is fitting that his memory is fondly kept by means of the engraved plaque on permanent display in the Local Study Room on the top floor of the New- Building
Mannix died in May 1993.

During its short enough lifetime the committee had a very close and friendly association with a small number of cross-border Heritage Centres, including The, Transport and Folk Museum, Cultra, Co. Down, and the Derry City Museum. The committee was encouraged to apply for financial assistance from the Joint Interreg Programme for Northern Ireland and Ireland (1991-1993), and because of the cross-border relationship it was successful in obtaining grant- aid of £89,000; of course 25% of this figure had to be a local contribution. The new building was opened as a visitor facility in the 1993 Season.

In order to qualify for the Interreg grant it was necessary for the Centre to become a legal entity. For that reason the Committee became registered as a co-operative under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act.
It was officially registered by the Registrar of Friendly Societies on 23rd July, 1993, as ” St. Connell’s Museum & Heritage Centre Society Ltd. The officers of the Co-op. are as follows:-
Chairperson ——– Liam Briody
Vice – Chairperson ——– Nora Breslin
Treasurer ———- Eugene Boyle Secretary ———- Danny Boyle.
The membership of the new Co-op. was as under:-
Nora Quinn, John Timoney, John Me Loone, Jimmy Fletcher, Packie Boyle, Charlie Ward, Hugo Mc Dyer, Richard Me Cafferty, Paddy O’ Donnell, Foncie O’Donnell, Gerry Boyle ; with the members of the Officer Board

Since the preparation of this report it is with great sadness that we note with the deepest regret the deaths of two of our most outstanding members, Jimmy Fletcher and Foncie O’ Donnell. Both of them are greatly missed

Note that the Courtroom continues to be used for District Court purposes. Monthly Courts are held with the exception of July and August i.e. 10 courts in the year. The Courtroom is used as part of the Museum exhibitions on all other days.

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