Thursday, 2 April 2020

Last Train to Ballyshannon and Rossnowlagh Sixty Years Ago

     Soinbhe Lally, well-known author, and her brothers, waiting on the train at Coolmore Halt.
many years ago. Soinbhe lives in Rossnowlagh with her husband Patsy Lally today.
2nd April 2020. Today's blog  takes a nostalgic trip on the C.D.R. railway through Creevy and Rossnowlagh meeting  up with train driver Joe Thompson, conductor Tommy McCafferty and stationmaster Mr. McMahon on the last journey. We also meet up with a woman and her brothers  who are very well known in Rossnowlagh as they wait for the train at Coolmore Halt. . Please share this blog.

3rd April 2020. Tomorrow's blog recalls a Ballyshannon man with a record which may never be equalled. He competed in 2 Olympic Games in London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952.
The top ten blogs (and others) are still being shared widely which means more people can get access to the stories.

A Town with Two Railways

Ballyshannon in the 1950s had two distinct railway companies, two railway stations and was a commercial hub for rail transport for a wide area extending into Donegal, Leitrim and Fermanagh. In the space of two years both railway lines had closed. First to close in 1957  was the Great Northern Railway which was located on Station Road on the south side of the river Erne and had served the area since the 1860s.

In 1959 sixty years ago  the County Donegal Railway located on the northern side of the river Erne closed leaving the town with no rail connections to the outside world.  The  County Donegal Railway (C.DR.)  which ran from Ballyshannon to Donegal Town  and onwards through the Gap was commonly called “the wee train or the narrow gauge,” by passengers who frequented it during its short lifespan in the twentieth century.The line officially opened for passengers on Thursday 21st September 1905 and the  journey from Ballyshannon to Donegal Town took 50 minutes.

Joe Thompson train driver lived at Bachelor's Walk beside the County Donegal Railway station in Ballyshannon

From Ballyshannon to Creevy and Rossnowlagh 

There were a number of halts and stations developed on the C.D.R. line. The train left Ballyshannon Station and travelled via, Creevy Halt, Coolmore Halt, Friary Halt, Rossnowlagh Halt, Dorrian’s Bridge Halt, Dromore Halt, Ballintra Station, Bridgetown Halt, Laghey Halt, Drumbar Halt, Hospital Halt and Donegal Town Station.
The railways were designed to open up isolated  areas and make them accessible for goods and services. In areas where no public transport existed, the railway proved a lifeline for shopping, commuting, and getting goods transported to homes isolated from the town.

The  C.D.R. led to the growth of tourism in the Sandhouse Hotel and Rossnowlagh
The line was to prove advantageous to the growth of tourism in Rossnowlagh, as day excursions and regular services brought holidaymakers to the sandy beach resort. Locals from Ballyshannon used the train to go to Creevy and Rossnowlagh which proved to be  popular places for swimming and sunbathing. The arrival of the Franciscans in Rossnowlagh in 1946, was to bring additional  business to the line, as churchgoers attended Masses, Sodalities  and Novenas in large numbers. A special Friary Halt was opened in March 1953 to meet the needs of people visiting the Friary.
Railway bridge and Halt on the line from Ballyshannon to Rossnowlagh. Some railway bridges still the area.

Speeding up Emigration 

Both railways in the town were to speed up the emigration of people from the area as the following advertisement for the C.D.R. indicated: 
“The opening of the new railway to Ballyshannon affords its inhabitants several alternative services to Scotland via England. Not the least important of these is the service from Ballyshannon to Glasgow offered by the C.D.R. and Midland & Glasgow South Western Railways. To leave Ballyshannon shortly after noon and reach Glasgow at midnight is a big inducement to those who wish a speedy run. Leaving Ballyshannon at 12.15 and arriving in Derry in good  time to catch the 4pm train for Larne.”

The End of the Line in 1959

The end for the C.D.R came quite suddenly when the company issued a statement, in November 1959, stating that they intended ceasing operations on the 31st December 1959. Heavy losses had been recorded for the previous years and major investment would be required to update the rail line. Public reaction was one of sadness and concern as local people saw the closure of the town’s two rail lines within two years of each other. The loss of access to goods and  markets, the significant role the railway had played in the growth of  tourism, and the withdrawal of a service which had linked town and country were to leave some communities feeling isolated once more.

The final curtain fell on the C.D.R. or “The Wee Train”, as it was called, on the 30th December, 1959, as the last train left Ballyshannon: 
The last railcar from Ballyshannon set out on the journey to Donegal Town at 4 p.m. on Thursday evening to the banging of six fog signals. Driver Joe Thompson was at the wheel and conductor Tommy McCafferty was in charge of the two cars which carried a full complement of passengers, many of whom normally travelled by the service, and others making the journey for sentimental reasons, to bid goodbye to a service that had served them well for over half a century.”

The last train to arive in Ballyshannon was at 19.OO on the 30th December 1959.  A large crowd gathered at the station  to say farewell to a railway which had been part of their lives for as long as most could remember.

 The reporter from “The Donegal Democrat” captured the mood of those present on that sad occasion: 
“There was almost complete silence as the car glided to a stop. It was as if the waiting spectators had suddenly realised that this was indeed the last of the “wee train” which had for so long held such a unique place in their affections. A  feeling of sadness pervaded the crowd. There was a spontaneous burst of applause to greet Thompson and McCafferty which was renewed when stationmaster McMahon approached and shook hands with them and received the staff which was placed in the stationmasters office – the final act in the life of the C.D.R.J.C. as far as the travelling public in south Donegal were concerned”. 

The Railway Museum in Donegal Town is well worth a visit as it preserves much memorabilia from the C.D.R. era. Many of my generation and older remember travelling on the County Donegal Railway and many of us were present to sadly witness the end of the line in Ballyshannon sixty years ago.

For more local history  a quality limited edition hardback  with dust cover of "Ballyshannon Genealogy and History" 

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

A Great Find by Fishermen in Ballyshannon in 1916

Rare Ballyshannon Sword Hilt found at the Mall Quay

1st April 2020. Amazing discovery of a unique item in a fisherman's net at The Mall Quay area in Ballyshannon. The experts in Dublin identified it as rare and that nothing like it had been found in Ireland up to the 1920s. It can still be seen today. See what you think of this wonderful find. Please share.
2nd April 2020. Tomorrow's blog  takes a nostalgic trip on the C.D.R. railway to Creevy and Rossnowlagh meeting  up with train driver Joe Thompson, conductor Tommy McCafferty and stationmaster Mr. McMahon on the last journey. We also meet up with a woman and her brothers  who are very well known in Rossnowlagh as they wait for the train at Coolmore Halt.

Fishermen's Find at the Mall Quay in 1916

A 2,000 year old sword hilt was discovered close to the Mall Quay and Inis Saimer in Ballyshannon in 1916. Fishermen casting their nets dragged up from the bottom of the harbour, a bronze sword hilt with a short iron blade, on which part of the blade was missing, probably having fallen out when the hilt got broken off. The blade was encrusted with sand and shells and the fishermen’s catch must have been the subject of much talk and speculation around the hearths in Ballyshannon. It would have been especially interesting as the location was quite close to Inis Saimer, where the first settlers who came to Ireland had resided, and no doubt some early speculation would have connected the sword hilt with these early settlers.

Ballyshannon Sword Hilt found near the Mall Quay

Hugh Allingham Acquired the Sword Hilt

 However wiser opinion would have prevailed as to how this ancient sword hilt and blade, made of bronze and iron, came to be in the harbour. Finds are significant only if they fall into the right hands and as news of the discovery spread, the local historian Hugh Allingham was consulted. Hugh was manager of the Provincial Bank in the town and was a noted historian who was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and of the Royal Society of Antiquities. Hugh acquired the sword hilt from the fishermen and this was significant as it was now possible that its origin could be established. Hugh is remembered for his history of Ballyshannon which he wrote in I879, much earlier than the discovery date of the sword hilt.

2,000 Year Old French Sword Hilt Identified

On Hugh Allingham’s death in 1922 the sword hilt and other artefacts which he had collected were sold to a dealer. He in turn sold on the sword hilt to noted Donegal antiquarian, Andrew Lowry. A native of Ballindrait Co. Donegal, he was a well-known collector and lover of all things Donegal. He was the first President of County Donegal Historical Society and donated a number of artefacts which can be seen in the Historical Society Museum in Rossnowlagh. 
Lowry established that the sword hilt was unique in the Ireland of the 1920s as no similar one had been discovered up to that date. It was identified as belonging to the La Tené period around 100 B.C. 
Andrew Lowry also contacted the British Museum, in his endeavour to ascertain more about the sword hilt. They had a few similar artefacts in England it was soon established that it was an extremely rare find.

Original Sword in the National Museum in Dublin

According to the experts the sword hilt probably belonged to a French visitor to our harbour around 2,000 years ago. Another possibility was that somebody traded or imported the sword hilt. Andrew Lowry was aware that the Ballyshannon Sword Hilt was important in a national context as it was a unique artefact.  He also realised that it should have a more prominent and public home and not be housed in his private collection in Donegal. In 1926 the National Museum purchased the Ballyshannon Sword Hilt for £10. It is still in the National Museum today but a replica is in the Ballyshannon District Museum and a replica in the County Museum in Letterkenny

Limited edition  hardback available from and local book shops when things settle.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Remembering Ballyshannon born Rory Gallagher at his Statue in the Diamond in town

Rory Gallagher statue in the Diamond Ballyshannon sculpted by David Annand
31st March 2020. Rory Gallagher's statue in the centre of Ballyshannon is the most popular site for  visitors to the town. Today's blog tells of his early life and the different ways he is remembered in his hometown. This is a good opportunity to help young people learn a little about their local area. Please share this blog.This is the first in a  series of "Landmarks in the Ballyshannon area" which  will continue with a different landmark next week.
Tomorrow is the 1st April  and the blog will tell of one of the greatest and most valuable finds in the harbour at Ballyshannon one hundred years ago.

Rory Gallagher (1948-1995), the legendary singer, song writer and world famous guitarist is remembered, in many ways, in his hometown of Ballyshannon. His family came to Ballyshannon in the 1940s which was a period of rapid economic growth, with the construction of the Erne Hydro-Electric Scheme. His father Danny came to Ballyshannon, like many others, to work on the Erne Scheme. The Annual Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival is chaired by Barry O’ Neill, a grandson of Frank O’Neill, who provided accommodation for the Gallagher family, who were one of many who passed through the town, during the days of the Erne-Hydro Electric Scheme. The family resided in Ballyshannon for a few years and moved to live in Derry and later Cork
Tom Gallagher also worked on the Erne Scheme and played in a band with Danny Gallagher, James Hoey, and sisters Maureen Kane (nee Slevin) and Lily Heresy ( nee Slevin). Danny Gallagher played the accordion and they played together locally in Ballyshannon, and surrounding areas. Maureen and Lily Slevin were daughters of one of Ballyshannon's greatest characters "Paddy Go Aisy" 

             Paddy "Go Aisy" Slevin had the honour of opening the new bridge at Ballyshannon 
during the Hydro-Electric Scheme which brought Danny Gallagher to Ballyshannon in the 1940s
On the 2nd of March 1948 Monica Gallagher gave birth to Rory in the aptly named Rock Hospital in the town. Donal Gallagher, a brother of Rory’s, unveiled a plaque to his memory in 2000 at the Rock Nursing Home, (formerly the Rock Hospital) where the legendary blues performer was born. Donal also attended the inaugural tribute festival in Ballyshannon in 2002 and has been a frequent visitor since. .

In Ballyshannon today Rory Gallagher is remembered with the annual international Rory Gallagher tribute festival, also with a painting and plaque at Rory Gallagher Place on East Port and in the local home of drama at the Abbey Centre, the theatre has been named Rory Gallagher Theatre in his memory. In 2010 a life-sized bronze statue sculpted by David Annand was erected here in the Diamond and has become a focal point for visitors to the town. The statue was commissioned by Donegal County Council Public Office in association with the Rory Gallagher Festival Committee.

In 2018 the Central Bank of Ireland chose Rory Gallagher as the first contemporary musician to be honoured with a special minted coin which shows him playing his Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Rory Gallagher whose hometown was Ballyshannon

Limited edition  hardback available from and local book shops when things settle 

Monday, 30 March 2020

Ten Interesting Things about Helen Allingham and her Ballyshannon Links

30th March 2020.  Today on Facebook we remember 10 local things of interest about Helen Allingham, a talented artist and wife of William Allingham the Ballyshannon poet. Helen is remembered in the Abbey Arts Centre and in the annual Allingham Arts Festival along with her husband. Please share this blog and the top ten blogs as the hits are really rising  thanks to you who read and share.
31st March 2020. Tomorrow's blog will also be of interest to young people as it will be the first in a new series of Landmarks of Ballyshannon highlighting a feature in the town and surrounding areas. The first one is the most viewed site in the town. Please share this blog especially with friends who have young people.

  • Helen Allingham (nee Paterson) married Ballyshannon poet William Allingham on 22nd August 1874 in London. He was aged 50 and Helen was 25.

  • Helen was an English born watercolour painter and illustrator who illustrated Thomas Hardy’s famous novel “Far from the Madding Crowd.”

  • The Allinghams had 3 children Gerard, Eva and Henry.

Helen Allingham's painting of two of her children

  • On his deathbed in 1889 William spoke  a memorable farewell to his wife  :

“And so, to where I wait, come gently on”

                         William was buried in his native Ballyshannon at St. Anne’s Church.

  • In 1891 two years after his death Helen brought her children to visit their father’s grave in Ballyshannon and to meet their relations.

  • On her visit to Ballyshannon, Helen painted 13 local scenes including Catsby, The Purt, Cottages near Ballyshannon and the Fairy Bridges in Bundoran.
The Fairy Bridges by Helen Allingham

  • To the best of my knowledge none of her local paintings are in Ballyshannon. Helen’s paintings are valuable today. Maud Allingham, a cousin of her husband’s, was a prolific painter of local scenes, including her painting which is on the cover of my book “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History.”
Maud Allingham's painting of the town which is on the cover of  my  current book "Ballyshannon Genealogy and History"

  • Helen Allingham kept alive her husband’s poetry and his memory, by ensuring that all his works were published after his death, including his diary. She died on 28th September 1926

  • In the Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon today there is a Helen Allingham Gallery and across the road her husband is remembered in Allingham Park.

  •    Every November there is an annual Allingham Arts Festival in memory of the couple.
William Allingham 1824-1889

Friday, 27 March 2020

Plane Crashes in Ballyshannon, Bundoran , Cashelard, FAKE NEWS, Cycling to Glenties for a match, Air raid shelters in Munday's field and an Unfortunate Tailor.

Cycling to a football match in Glenties 1942. r. Paddy O'Neill, Dan Doherty, Mick Slevin, Richie Bromley, Mickey Murray, John McGuinness, Red Jack Gallagher, Seamus Slevin, Bob Gallagher and James Daly.
29th March 2020.  No. 10 in the top ten is a  good read with FAKE NEWS, Plane Crashes in Bundoran, Cashelard and Ballyshannon,  Cycling to a match in Glenties and a Ballyshannon tailor summoned for making a jacket with more than 3 pockets and more.
Due to the great reaction on Facebook I will continue to post a local history blog on Facebook each day until Easter. Please share top ten and upcoming blogs.

80 years ago Éire or Ireland was neutral in the Second World War and the period was referred to as The Emergency; and yet people in the Ballyshannon area witnessed the sights, sounds, censorship and shortages of the war. Northern Ireland was engaged in the war and a secret arrangement with the British government allowed planes to fly over Ballyshannon in an area known as the Donegal Corridor.  This enabled the allies to provide aerial support for their shipping fleets in the Atlantic and was also of great benefit as planes could fly along the Erne to Ballyshannon from places like Castle Archdale in Fermanagh, and also transatlantic flights had a much shorter journey than having to avoid Donegal’s airspace. 

A lucrative black market resulted in the smuggling of goods back and forth across the border from Belleek as shortages were a permanent feature of the war. As a result of censorship people in this area knew little about events concerning the war and rumours of pending invasion were rife. 

FAKE NEWS> On the 14th July 1940 reports that an invasion force were marching along the Port in Ballyshannon proved false and the noise coming from the Bar down the channel was mistaken as the muffled sound of gunfire!

Plane Crashes in Ballyshannon, Bundoran and Cashelard 75 Years AGo

Tullan Strand in Bundoran was to be the scene of an incident on the 10th May 1943 when a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress landed on the beach having ran out of fuel. Nearby golfers at Bundoran golf club rushed to the scene and photographs were taken but these were later confiscated in line with censorship restrictions. The crew and plane were returned across the border. In instances like this neutrality was not strictly enforced in the Donegal Corridor. However the crew of a British Handley Page Halifax Bomber were not so fortunate, when their plane crashed into the cliffs at the same location  in Bundoran on Sunday 23rd January 1944.  The eight man Canadian crew were all killed and the spot is marked with a memorial today. 

On the 19th June 1944 fishermen in their boats witnessed an American B24 Liberator Bomber travelling upriver on the Erne towards the bridge at Ballyshannon in search of a landing place. Eventually the plane headed inland over St. Patrick’s Well and the sound of the plane scraping on stone ditches could be heard before it crashed in the Abbeylands. Two of the crew died and the rest were given excellent medical treatment in the Sheil Hospital under the guidance of Dr. Daly, Dr. Gordon and Sister Fidelma. 

Cashelard was the scene of the crash of a Sunderland Flying Boat on 12th August 1944 when two of the Canadian crew lost their lives. The remainder received medical treatment in the Sheil Hospital. A number of bodies were washed up along the shoreline as a result of shipping fatalities and a Chinese sailor called Chu Ning Lai was washed up at Creevy Pier and he was interred in the Paupers’ Graveyard at Ballyshannon. Radio Officer V.C. Coleman of HMS Patroclus was washed ashore at Rossnowlagh and is buried in St. Anne’s Churchyard. Older residents still remember these events which brought the reality of the war a bit closer to people in this area. 

Air Raid Shelters in Munday's Field, the old Barracks, Main Street, Castle Street and the Mall
Local discussion on what to do in the event of an air raid bombing attack, resulted in the identification of cellars which could be used as air raid shelters. Amongst the places considered were the underground caves in Munday’s field, the cellars under the old barracks at the bridge and the souterrains at Dungravenen on the Mall although the latter would have accommodated a small number of people. There were also cellars along Main Street and Castle Street. Locally a Parish Council, fire fighters, the Red Cross, the Local Defence Force (LDF) and the Local Security Force (LSF) were given roles in protecting the community and many volunteered to serve. 
Concerns that an attack on Finner Camp would result in the reservoir there being destroyed with the loss of water supply for Ballyshannon resulted in the following comment from Major Myles. “If the Camp was bombed they would want to be better shots than in some parts of the country. To hit the reservoir the bomb would have to be dropped at Tullaghan."

The Donegal Corridor over Ballyshannon

Cycling to Football Final in Glenties 1942
On Friday the first of May 1942 the government order restricting the use of motor vehicles, except in certain circumstances, came into effect. Ballyshannon returned to the sounds of life in the late 19th century however the jaunting cars were not too visible as yet. The bicycle now became a very important mode of transport with the young folk cycling to the dances in Bundoran, Belleek or Ballintra. Football and hurling teams cycled to their matches and a very well remembered match took place on Sunday 17th of May 1942. Gweedore and Ballyshannon met in the final which was played in Glenties before a large attendance. The Ballyshannon team had cycled to Glenties on Saturday evening, leaving the town with a band of enthusiastic supporters. 
The Ballyshannon team went into an early lead with a point from Mick Slevin and a goal by Jack Gallagher.  John McDermott added a further two points. The only score for Gweedore in the first half was a point by J. Gallagher scored from 70 yards.  Half-time saw the Ernesiders in front by 1-3 to 0-1.  Three further points were added to the Ballyshannon tally in the second-half with points by James Daly, John McDermott and M. Murray. Hugh Gallagher added a second point for the Gweedore men; but Ballyshannon were worthy winners, in a spirited and skilful match on a score line of 1-6 to 0-2. 
The Ballyshannon team were: Hugh Mc Guinness (goal-keeper), J. McGarrigle, Mick.Melly, Sean Slevin, Paddy O’ Neill, Dan Doherty, Seamus Slevin, James Daly, B. Gallagher, Mick Slevin (captain), S. Kane, Jack Gallagher, M.Murray, John McDermott , P.J. Goan. Shortly after the match the jubilant team began the 30 mile cycle back to Ballyshannon with the Democrat Cup. Their team spirit showed how to cope with life’s difficulties in a positive manner. 

Rationing and Recycling Restrictions
Ration books became the order of the day with tea, sugar, bread, butter and flour in short supply. Going to the bog was now a top priority and local businesses such as Morgans who had been coal providers now provided peat. People pined for the days when salt and tallow candles had been manufactured locally and paraffin was also in short supply. Fortunately those in the urban areas in Bundoran and Ballyshannon had electricity supplied by Myles’ who also had timber yards and a hardware shop beside the Erne at Ballyshannon.

Anderson’s grocery shop on Main Street advised customers to bring jars for jam, bags for meal, paper for bread, jars for oil, bags for flour, baskets for everything. Old corsets could be handed in to the drapery shops and they were forwarded to a factory called Twilfit Regd. who cleaned them in an acid bath and new corsets were then made. 

Severe restrictions were imposed on the amount of material and pockets etc. in garments. In March 1944 a Ballyshannon tailor was summoned under the Emergency Power Order for producing a jacket with more than three pockets and producing trousers with a width of more than 20 inches at the end of each leg.  He got off with a caution. Cross border trafficking in household items like the white loaf and eggs was common. Compulsory tillage was introduced by the government, but not every one liked being compelled to put in crop. Indeed there were a few  instances in this locality of crops being sown but then neglected. Emergency Powers, just like today, have been used at different times to help us survive. 

Limited edition quality hardback as above
A  Local History Book suitable for those at Home and Away

"Ballyshannon. Genealogy and History" reveals newly researched history and genealogy of the town, extending as far as the Rossnowlagh, Cashelard, Corlea, Clyhore, Higginstown and Finner areas. Includes the parishes of Kilbarron and Magh Ene. 
  • The genealogy material provides detailed guidelines for anyone tracing their roots in the area or anywhere in County Donegal or Ireland. The book contains 500 pages and is richly illustrated with stunning colour, aerial photography, original illustrations and rare photographs of the area not seen before.
  • It  includes much new material on the independence struggle which is being remembered throughout Ireland. It also contains the full story of  The Green Lady which  was  performed in Ballyshannon  to great acclaim. 
When the storm passes Available in A Novel Idea, and Local Hands in Ballyshannon and 4 Masters Bookshop Donegal Town. Also available from Anthony Begley for postal enquiries email

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Ten Rarely Asked Questions about the Ballyshannon Area

Ballyshannon- The Kindly Spot. The Friendly Town

22nd  March 2020. "10 Rarely Asked Questions about Ballyshannon" reveals what a Belashannighan was (is) and that you are all one! Lots more rare questions and answers in the 3rd  most popular blog on Ballyshannon Musings since it started. This blog was originally posted in 2013. Over 200,000 hits have been made on the site. The fourth most popular will be posted tomorrow as part of all-time top ten.

The questions and answers below are based on the history of the Ballyshannon area and have probably never been asked before. Ballyshannon is a very ancient, historic town and in November 2012, as part of the very successful Allingham Festival, a talk entitled “Forty Shades of Ballyshannon” drew a capacity crowd to the Abbey Centre and once again proved that there is huge interest in the history of the area.  Conor Carney and Patricia Keane added to the event with their professional readings and songs of old Ballyshannon. This talk was in memory of Louis and Kathleen Emerson who did tremendous work in keeping history alive in Ballyshannon and Co. Donegal. Most of the questions below were discussed at the talk I gave in November 2012. 
  • According to legend who was involved in the first case of adultery in Ireland?
Ballyshannon lays claim to being the oldest town in Ireland with Parthalon and his followers settling here in prehistoric times. Unfortunately the annals record that his wife Dealgnait was unfaithful with a manservant Topa. (The full story is contained in the book “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” listed below).
  • Where was a 2,000 year old French sword found in Ballyshannon?
This sword was found in their nets by fishermen in the harbour at Ballyshannon around 1916. The sword was given to local historian Hugh Allingham, later sold to Andrew Lowry, a noted Donegal antiquarian, and today is in the National Museum in Dublin. This is called the Ballyshannon Sword Hilt as the piece of blade found became detached. A 2,000 year old sword from the La Tene period proves that trading at Ballyshannon goes back a long, long way. A copy of the sword hilt can be seen in The County Museum in Letterkenny and in Ballyshannon and District Museum

  • Who had the first licence for a pub in Ballyshannon?

This goes back to 1629 when Michael Folliott, a son of the first Baron of Ballyshannon and Robert Dillon, second Earl of Roscommon, were given the first licence to set up taverns, sell wines and to make liquor in Ballyshannon.

  •       This man was put in prison for eloping with a young lady and is remembered in a ballad?
The man in question was Willie Reilly and he eloped with Helen Folliott (Folliard) of Wardtown Castle which overlooks the Erne estuary near Ballyshannon. She was called The Colleen Bawn and there is a famous ballad devoted to the couple who were associated with Wardtown. Older people in the locality can still recite the ballad beginning:

“Oh rise up Willie Reilly and come along with me”

William Carleton wrote about their elopement and what followed. This is not to be confused with other tales of Colleen Bawns in other parts of the country. It’s about time our Colleen Bawn was recognised. The impressive shell of Wardtown Castle can still be seen today.

  • What local woman disguised as a man became a national celebrity for a short time?
This true romantic tale could be made into a blockbuster movie. The lady was Anne Jane Thornton (1817-1877) who disguised herself as a sailor to leave Ballyshannon in search of her lover in America. Her adventures became public in “The Times” newspaper in London in 1835 and she became a celebrity for a time.

  • Who came to Ballyshannon in 1922 and are still here 98 years later?
The Garda Síochána (police) arrived in College Street on the 13th October 1922 to take up residence in the former R.I.C. Barracks. (This building is now the home of Mary and Benedict Dorrian)

  •  In the 1930s “sitting out in cars” was declared illegal. And the reason?
It would appear that it was feared the morals of the country would be in danger if couples were allowed sit in cars outside dance halls at the time! True story

  • What Ballyshannon telegram led to an international debate?
This was a telegram sent by John Cleary to Frank Gallagher, solicitor for the fishermen, at the height of the affair concerning the Kildoney fishermen and others. They fought for the rights of local people to fish in the channel at Ballyshannon.This event was commemorated in 2013 on the 80th anniversary of the winning of the case in 1933. A plaque was unveiled at the Mall Quay on Monday 5th August 2013 with lots of events on the day. 

  •  Where was the first public library located in Ballyshannon in 1948?
72 years ago, on the 22nd December 1948, the first public library was opened in the old workhouse building on the Rock. Interestingly the library was run on a voluntary basis for a period at the beginning.

  • What was a Belashannighan?
This was a name invented by internationally known author Seamus McManus who was originally from Mountcharles Co. Donegal. A Belashannighan was a person who loved the old town of Ballyshannon and who was, “proud of their great, true and beloved poet,” William Allingham. You don’t need to be born in the area to be a Belashannighan. So greetings Belashannighans wherever you are at home or away.
William Allingham- the original Belashannighan 

This book on  the history of the Ballyshannon area will  be able available in shops which may still be open or from the author. 
 A limited edition quality hardback with dust jacket as above is available in A Novel Idea and Local Hands Ballyshannon and Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town. Also available for postage from