Thursday, 13 December 2018

Ballyshannon man elected M.P. on this day 100 years ago

Edward Kelly from the Mall Ballyshannon was elected an M.P. on this day in 1918

The 1918 Election was held on Saturday 14th of December and, locally, there were no polling booths in Bundoran and the Sinn Fein Party had difficulty getting their supporters to the polling booths in Ballyshannon. There were eight polling stations in Ballyshannon. The counting of votes for South Donegal took place in the Market House in Donegal Town on Saturday 28th December. There were four single seat constituencies in County Donegal- North, South, East and West. Sinn Fein won three of the seats with Joseph O’ Doherty topping the poll in North Donegal and  Joseph Sweeney topped the poll in West Donegal. 
In this area of South Donegal Peter J. Ward, a solicitor with offices in Donegal Town and Killybegs,  topped the poll for Sinn Fein. A local branch of Cumann na mBan had been formed in Ballyshannon,  and women  canvassed during the 1918 Election, where women over 30 who were householders had the vote for the first time. There was still much ground to cover before all women over 21 would have the vote. 
In a pact agreed between Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party in East Donegal, Edward J. Kelly, a native of Ballyshannon, and a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party was elected in the 1918 Election. 

This book is available in a limited hardback edition with dust jacket as above, in A Novel Idea Ballyshannon and for postal delivery from Anthony Begley
The book is also available in softback in A Novel Idea, Local Hands  in Ballyshannon and the Four Master's bookshop Donegal Town.
 Next blog this Saturday 15th December is "A Christmas Memory of two Ballyshannon Orphan sisters separated by the Famine".

Monday, 10 December 2018

Christmas Eve the most unusual shipping event ever at Ballyshannon during the Famine

The Erne estuary leading up to Ballyshannon where an unusual shipping incident happened on Christmas Eve 1846

On Christmas Eve, 1846, the schooner Confidence was lying just inside the Bar at Ballyshannon waiting for suitable conditions to leave. The ship was bound for Liverpool with bacon, ham and lard and had been charted by Mr. Edward Chism, a baker and grocer of Castle Street Ballyshannon. After a time a boat owned by Mr. Wade, woolendraper, of the Mall, pulled alongside the vessel and the men who claimed that they were from the salt works at Ballyshannon, asked  the master, Joseph Davidson, for permission to come aboard to light their pipes. The manufacture of salt was carried on at the saltpans, situated at the back of Myles’ property and there was also a saltpan at Portnason. Salt water was brought from the bar in large boats, and in special barges, towed by horses, which pulled the barges along from the shoreline. The salt water was then placed in large containers at the saltpans. John Greene and Andrew Teevan of the Port operated the saltpans but were most probably unaware of the men who boarded the schooner.
Several men went on board the schooner and then produced guns, overcame the captain and crew, and took nine bales of bacon, a number of hogsheads of ham and lard from the ship. Signs of the desperation and shortage of food are evident in the use of firearms to seize the food. It is also clear evidence of food leaving the harbour at Ballyshannon during a period of the Great Famine. By Christmas Day the police recovered some of the food buried in the nearby sand dunes and the soldiers were out searching the area. (This area in modern times is located behind Finner camp). James Currie was arrested in the town carrying a ham which he claimed to have found in the sandhills. He was later sentenced to nine months hard labour for his part in the incident. Two others were also arrested for their part in the robbery. This act of piracy happened, sadly, on Christmas Eve, at the height of the Famine, when people in the area were struggling to survive.

This book is available in a limited hardback edition with dust jacket as above, in A Novel Idea Ballyshannon and for postal delivery from Anthony Begley
The book is also available in softback in A Novel Idea, Local Hands  in Ballyshannon and the Four Master's bookshop Donegal Town.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas Memories and Christmas advertisements in Ballyshannon from 1934

Advertisement in Christmas edition of The Donegal Vindicator 1934.  Stephens is the location of Saimer Court today

A copy of “The Donegal Vindicator” for Saturday 22nd December 1934 which I was reading recently was a reminder of how much things have changed in Ballyshannon in just over 80 years.  Read some local news from 1934. Included below are advertisements for business premises and see if you remember any of them. John Stephens Cash House in their advert. above were offering vouchers to their customers- sounds familiar today. Aodh Ruadh G.A.A club were organising a novel event. Two steamers were delivering coal to the Mall Quay.

Local News at Christmas  in 1934

  • huge story in Ballyshannon was the Demolition Order being served on houses which I have written extensively about in “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” as The Ballyshannon Clearances.  Many houses in the town were condemned and to be demolished in areas like Bachelor’s Walk and the Back Street. The paper was expressing the concern of some of the occupiers of these dwellings that rents might increase from one shilling to three shillings a week for new houses. Modern new houses in Falgarragh Park and East Rock and Bachelor’s Walk were built in the following few years.  

·        The Mall factory was just getting in to full swing with workers going up and down the Mall to work. This was considered a good start for local industry. The factory was called “The Ballyshannon Hosiery Company Limited” and the proprietor was Thomas Swan. There were 30 staff working at sewing and knitting machines, and produce included underwear and hosiery. See photograph of workers at the hosiery factory in " Ballyshannon Genealogy and History" page 426. Some years later the factory was taken over by O’Donnell’s Bakery and today is a derelict site overlooking the Mall Quay. .

·        Further up the Mall was the progressive bakery of Hugh Caldwell where staff were working day and night baking fancy Christmas cakes and all types of bakery goods for special orders. Today the Mall bakery site is a derelict building which once buzzed with activity.

·        Last Sunday Sligo Rovers B team travelled to play Ballyshannon in the second round of the Connaught Cup but the match was abandoned before full time due to heavy rain.

·        Turkeys reached 9 pence per pound in the Market Yard and supply was good and demand brisk.

·        A steamer laden with coal arrived at the Mall Quay for Frank Morgan, Coal merchant, on Friday last and sailed light on Monday. The paper regretted that the steamer made the return journey empty.

·        Wireless fans were being specially catered for by Radio Eireann and by English and continental stations with many pantomimes being broadcast.  

·        A 25 card drive was to be held on St. Stephen’s Night under the auspices of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (A.O.H.) in the Fine Gael Clubrooms. Could this possibly have been the ’98 Hall?

Christmas Advertisements

Check out the advertisements below – a  good few families and relations are still living in the area.  John Myles was importing Whitehaven coal by steamer to the Mall Quay just like Frank Morgan above. E. Cassidy’s below were in the premises now occupied by Rossanos. 

Local History book available in a limited hardback with dustcover as above in A Novel Idea and by post  from the author Softback of this book available in A Novel Idea and Local Hands and Four Masters Bookshop ad from author.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Christmas shopping tour in Ballyshannon 125 years ago. Check out seasonal window displays

Ballyshannon and the By-Pass in the snow at Christmas 2010

     A limited edition hardback with dust cover as in photo above. Available in 
  A Novel Idea and from the author. Ideal local Christmas gift for those at
home and away. Softback also available details below.

What was Ballyshannon like  125 Years Ago?
  • The town had a distinctive clock on the newly built Belfast Bank which was built in 1878 at a cost of £4,000.  This building later became the Royal Bank. In the 1960s the Royal Bank amalgamated with the Provincial Bank which was next door and the two banks merged into Allied Irish Bank. (A.I.B.) which still operates as a bank today. The building with the clock then became a jewellers. Sadly the clock face, which is visible in the photograph above, was badly damaged by storm in February 2014  and has never been repaired. As Barry Britton says in his iconic Christmas card- "Where did the time go?"
  • There was a Market House close to O'Reilly's Fish Shop. Courts were conducted in the         Market House and there was also a dispensary and social activities in the building. The Market House was tossed  in living memory. This is an open recreation area today used for craft fairs and music events.
  • The Workhouse was still operating on the Rock beside the Church.The building still survives today but is in a dangerous condition. Sad.  The Famine Orphan Girls memorial the only one of its type in Ireland, is open at all times to the public, beside the workhouse and just opposite the main entry to Fr. Tierney Park. It names and remembers 19 orphan girls shipped to Australia from Ballyshannon workhouse at the height of the Famine. The girls were from the areas around Ballyshannon including Kinlough, Belleek, Mulleek and the Ballyshannon area.
  • The Great Northern Railway was thriving in Station Road and there were two trains to Dublin daily. The railway arrived in Ballyshannon 150 years ago in 1867. One hundred and fifty years ago the Sisters of Mercy  also arrived in Ballyshannon and are still here today. The G.N.R. railway closed in Ballyshannon 60 years ago in 1957.
  • There were 6 churches open in town- 2 Catholic, 1 Protestant, 1 Presbyterian and 2 Methodist. The second Methodist Church was at the top of the Main Street. Today there are three churches in town. The town has one iconic clock thanks to the St. Anne's community and the peal of the bells is part of Ballyshannon's heritage. The church which is lit up at night is a welcome beacon for people coming home or passing through town. St. Patrick's Church and St. Joseph's Church also have welcoming bells.
  • There were 2 Markets every week in the Market Yard on Thursdays and Saturdays where farmers could sell their produce. The car boot sale takes place in the general area today.
  • Fairs were held on the second day of each month. The Harvest Fair was held on the 16th September and was the biggest social gathering of the year. The cattle, horse and pig fairs were held in and  around the Fair Green which today is Allingham Park. Cattle are now sold in the Mart on Station road.
  • The Donegal Independent  on the Mall and The Donegal Vindicator on the Port were two newspapers carrying on the tradition of the oldest newspaper town in County Donegal begun in 1831. The Donegal Democrat (still in existence) was  founded in Ballyshannon in 1919 and was the last paper to be printed in Ballyshannon. 
  • There was a Coastguard Station, a Brewery  and an Excise Office which all harked back to the days of shipping from the Mall Quay in the town. In modern times a micro-brewery has been opened at Dicey Reillys and who can say what other revivals there will be? The Coastguard houses are still visible at West Rock as are warehouse at Mulligans on the Mall.
  • Like most  towns in Ireland, craft trades have disappeared since 1889 including; tanners, boot and shoemakers, weigh-masters in the Market Yard, saddlers, cart makers, hide and butter merchants and  Rogan's world famous fly-tying . Good to see a number of craft shops and other new business premises  opening in the town in recent years.

Christmas Shopping in Ballyshannon in 1889

Christmas in 1889 saw lots of optimism with many business premises and private residences decorated for the festive season. As you journey through the streets of Ballyshannon in 1889 you can’t help but notice the large number of shops in the main thoroughfares.  There were a lot more shops in 1889 than in 2018 but some shops were smaller, in some cases a front room in a house. For a more complete list of business premises check out The Ulster Directory of 1880 contained in “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” noted at the end of the article.

Shopping in the Port
In 1889 the Port area in Ballyshannon was a thriving hub of business but alas the street surface left a lot to be desired. The post office and the Vindicator newspaper were on East Port and a host of local business premises were decorated for Christmas. A local correspondent for “The Donegal Vindicator” has left a descriptive account of Christmas shopping  in the busy town of Ballyshannon in 1889, although space prohibited the reporter listing all businesses:

The two Ports, East and West, though somewhat narrow, did their best to enliven the dullness caused by the thick layer of mud always there. At the extreme West Mr. P. Kelly’s premises were tastefully decorated with the orthodox evergreen, Mr. Peter Campbell’s leather warehouse being also tastefully done up.  Mr. J. Gillespie’s grocery establishment was also prettily adorned with evergreen.  At the Bridge end Mr. James Moohan had his extensive premises fancifully festooned, the decorations from lack of window space being principally inside the shop. Down the East Port Mr. Rapmund has expended great taste in ornamentation, as had also Mrs. Breslin, even the Post Office contriving to throw some brightness on its stern official aspect.  Mr. J. Ward’s two establishments were nicely done up, and across the way Mrs. Cunion’s drapery establishment was a glow of everygreen and holly.  Next door the “Vindicator” looked dull, gloomy and forbidding, as befits a Nationalist newspaper office in these days of prison dungeons and removeable law.  Right over the way, however, Mr. William Maguire’s premises made up for the dark spot by a glow of light and colour, set off with holly and evergreens.Mr. James Brown’s shop was very prettily decorated wiith the usual green.  The other shops along the Bridge were all decorated more or less and some of them looked really charming. 
It becomes evident as you follow the reporter through the main thoroughfares of Ballyshannon, how few of the families who ran businesses in 1889 are still in business today. This indicates, as much as anything does, the massive changes which have taken place in the past 125 years. Can you spot any surviving business family in 2018?

The Far Side
One of the great mysteries of life in Ballyshannon is, that no matter what side of the river Erne you were living on, you were said by the locals to be from ‘the far side.’ So crossing the bridge we come to the barracks on ‘the far side’ and the shops on the Main Street. The first building on your left is still called the old barracks, although it had not been used by the military since way before the Great Famine of the 1840s. There was another barracks directly opposite where the C.I.E. and Tourist offices are today but it was in ruins when William Allingham was a boy in the 1830s.

A local book for Christmas

So that you can get your bearings in 2017  the old barracks is occupied by Diarmaid Keon (DKP) auctioneers, a computer shop and a music shop today. The premises of Robert Sweeney listed below were located where the Bank of Ireland is today. P.B. Stephens' ‘emporium’ is where Mary McGuinness has the town’s bookshop called ‘A Novel Idea’. Read on to see the businesses up the town. 

The newspaper correspondent having crossed the 14 -arch bridge  resumed his descriptions of shops commencing at the bottom of the Main Street. The old barracks on the left of the photograph (with 4 windows visible on the side) is the oldest building in Ballyshannon, built in 1700. It is also home to the  two most famous ghost stories in the area. The ghostly Green Lady and the Goblin Child also known as 'the radiant child' both had connections to this barracks. The full story of the Green Lady is contained in "Ballyshannon Genealogy and History".

From the Barracks to the Butchers
Crossing the Erne swollen by recent rains, the first place to catch the eye is Mr. John Cassidy’s licensed premises, and here quite an unusual array of floral decorations were to be seen and next door Mr. Potter had made a pretty show.The premises of Mr. M. Flanagan command attention. They make some thing like a pantomimic transformation scene, and especially after nightfall proved very attractive. Some of the choicest goods in the haberdashery line are here displayed amid a judicious arrangement of evergreens and large featherly plumes of foreign grasses.  When lighted up at night the effect is very pleasing and attractive.  The interior is also redolent of the festive season.The premises of  Mr. Michael  Cassidy, butcher, were also adorned in a most artistic manner. In the “barrack” decorations were necessarily confined to the interior, and Mr. Patterson, the courteous manager, must be complimented on the dazzling appearance presented on entering. Mr. John Stephens’ establishment was also handsomely ‘got up’ with evergreens and holly, not to speak of the tempting array of Christmas goods set off to such advantage.

Up the Main Street
Mr. Robert Sweeney’s large premises were decorated in every corner, and the windows displayed great taste in arrangement and style. Every Christmas novelty in the drapery line was procurrable here.  Mr. McClelland also had his place very beautifully decorated. Only a passing notice can be given to the premises up this fashionable thoroughfare. Mr. Renison’s premises sported a profusion of holly and evergreens, and Mr. Lipsett’s recent battles did not prevent him from flourishing the season’s emblems. Mrs. Mulhern’s premises were tastefully arranged.  Returning down the opposite side the nice arrangement of Messrs. Forde companies premises was noted. Mr. John Daly had an abundant show of evergreen interspersed with his Christmas stock of fancy drapery goods, nor was the boot and shoe department neglected.  Mr. Hegarty’s jewellery establishment also bore  witness to the festive seson in the shape of holly and evergreen.

Castle Street/The Mall and West Port
Crossing over, Mr. P.B. Stephens’ fancy emporium is reached, and a truly dazzling sight meets the gaze.  The variety here ranges from the tiny toy to the choicest article in usefulness.  Noticeable amongst them being the rarest speciments of parian ware from the world renowned Belleek Pottery.  Farther up, the premises of Mr. Edward Stephens are choicely decorated. Floral ornamentations are also seen in the shops of Mr. McNulty, Mr. Mulrine, Mr. C. Campbell, Mr. J. Kelly and Mrs. Gallagher.  It would be impossible to chronicle and comment upon all. Down the Mall the attractive premises of Mr. Trimble are tastefully and elaborately decorated with moustached monkeys, mirth provoking clowns and other appropriate emblems, suitable for the establishment. Though somewhat out of the beaten track the premises of Mr. Myles must not be forgotten.  The decorations were on a fine scale and thoroughly artistic, obtaining no aid, however, from the nature of his goods, ironmongery and such like, being perhaps the most difficult of all to show off with any effect.

Mr. Lipsett’s ‘recent battles’ above refers to a disagreement which he had over the Inspector Martin plaque which can be seen today in St. Anne’s Church. Inspector Martin was killed in Gweedore in 1889 and is buried beside thw entrance porch to St. Anne's Church. Trimble’s on the Mall, named above, were a newspaper family who still print “The Impartial Reporter” in Enniskillen. Ballyshannon had 2 newspaper at the time with McAdam’s Donegal Vindicator on the Port and Trimble’s Donegal Independent its rival on the Mall.

In 1889 few people were seen to be under the influence of alcohol during the festive season and there were no disturbances of any kind. Business premises in the town closed for Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day unlike in modern times where the holiday is generally longer for some. 

Modern Ballyshannon

Local History book available in Local Shops or for Postal Delivery. Ideal Christmas Gift. "Ballyshannon Genealogy and History"  softback available to purchase in  A Novel Idea, Ballyshannon and Local Hands in Ballyshannon. Available also in Four Master's Bookshop in Donegal Town. For postal details contact 
A limited edition of hardbacks available in A Novel Idea and from the author. These hardbacks have not been on sale in recent years and have a dust jacket. Ideal Christmas gift for people with connections to the Ballyshannon area.

A Limited Edition hardback-
a rare publication available in a Novel Idea and from Anthony Begley. Ideal for Christmas
Congratulations to all the business premises who have contributed to the beautiful tree and         the Christmas lighting in the town in 2018

  Rory Gallagher enjoying the Christmas scene
in Ballyshannon

Happy Christmas from Ballyshannon

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

History of Ballyshannon in a limited hardback. Ideal for Christmas Gift. Check out details

Limited hardback available in Novel Idea Ballyshannon and from the author. Ideal Christmas gift.
Good quality hardback with dust jacket as in photo.

Something for everyone in this local book. Check out contents below.
Book available in a limited hardback ( €24-95) and also in softback (€14.95).

Also available from for postal or local collection.
Softback available in Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town/ Local Hands and Novel Idea Ballyshannon.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Letters from the trenches of World War One to families in the Ballyshannon area

                  An army Chaplain writes to a wife living in the Back Street during World War One

At the outbreak of World War One in 1914, hundreds of local men had enlisted in the British Army at places like Finner Camp, Enniskillen and different locations in Ireland. Many who had emigrated to Great Britain, Australia, U.S.A. and Canada joined in their adopted countries. They joined for a wide variety of reasons including the opportunity to earn a wage, for a sense of adventure and following the advice of political leaders like John Redmond and James Craig. One hundred years later, read and hear for the first time, about what life was like in the trenches, how they felt about the war and tragically reports of how some of them died. Over 60 local men died in the First World War which was huge for a small community. 

A Ballyshannon man at the front before Christmas 1914

The following letter is from a Ballyshannon soldier, Michael Doherty, who was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps. working in a military hospital in Rouen in France in 1914. He was in France for the early Battle of Mons and shared the optimistic viewpoint, that the Germans would be defeated and that the War would soon be over. Unfortunately this optimism was not to be realised, as trench warfare led to a war of attrition, with huge casualties for the next four years.

No. 1 Stationary Hospital


France 15th December 1914

Sir- I being a native of the picturesque village of Ballyshannon, I thought I might write you a few lines from the front. Well ever since I left my home last August, and set foot on the fair land of France, my life has been full of adventure. My first experience under fire was at Mons. My God what an experience, the bullets whizzed in hundreds round us as we were bringing in our wounded comrades to a place of safety, to dress their wounds and then temporarily alleviate their sufferings. We would then get them hurriedly into the ambulance and get them off as quickly as possible, as we were then retiring. I dare say you have long heard of that great strategical movement ,where our Generals saw the time right to turn about and pursue the enemy, as I think we let him as near Paris as ever he will get. Ever since that memorable date in September, we are driving the Hun back towards his proper border, and before long we will not have a German left in French or Belgian soil. 

I being an Irishman, I must praise the Irish Regiments for the valour and endurance, which irresistibly call to mind the deeds of Irish Regiments on the main battlefields in the years that are past. We are proud to be fighting side by side with our Irish brothers, the rallying cry being the defence of the small nations and the moving of Europe from the stranglehold of Prussian militarism. 

When the history of this cruel war will be written, in its pages will be found illustrations of the chivalry, gallantry, and dash which have always signalled the Irish soldier. We are today fighting over the same battlefields on which our forefathers covered themselves with glory in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Every time the Kaiser’s legion tried to pierce our lines we have repulsed them with heavy losses. We too have lost many brave men, but our losses are small in comparison to the enemies. We will fight on, encouraged by our past victories, and hope to return soon to our dear homeland with victory inscribed on our standard. Hoping that it may yet fall to the lot of an Irish Regiment to capture the Sausage King.

With every good wish to yourself and all the readers of your esteemed newspaper, for a very happy Christmas.

I am,

Yours faithfully,

No. 4156 John Doherty R.A.M.C

Another well-known Ballyshannon man who fought at the Battle of Mons, Sergeant Frank Stewart, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers, interviewed later in November 1914, when he was back at home  having been wounded, spoke of his reaction to fighting at Mons. “Yes, my knees shook, there is no doubt of it, but that passes away and you think the more about it, it does not come again.” He spoke about the soldiers’ anxiety about not having a smoke.

Our fellows got very few cigarettes and yes you never got a smoke all night. Great scott talk about wars, battles and alarms. Every now and then the want of cigarettes and having to do without a smoke when they had them, seems to have been the trouble. Shrapnel and Germans were the only incidents. We turned when General Joffre gave the order but there was not much trouble until the Marne. They would not fire when we were in open order but when formed four the shrapnel came flying.

Frank Stewart was a pioneer of cinema in Ballyshannon in the Market Yard, The Rock Hall and the Erne Cinemas and is still well remembered by the older generation of cinemagoers in the area.

Christmas Eve in the Trenches 1914- A letter to a mother in Erne Street

Erne Street

Before World War One began, Patrick McDonagh was an instructor in the Irish National Volunteers in his native Ballyshannon and also in the Belleek district. He would have enlisted in the army, on the advice of the Volunteer leader John Redmond. On the outbreak of war  in 1914 he served in the 2nd Division of the 4th Guards Brigade, British Expeditionary Force. He spent Christmas Eve in the trenches on the Western Front from where he wrote a letter home to his mother Bridget McDonagh 94 Erne Street, Ballyshannon.

I received your last letter all right. We spent our Christmas in the trenches, arriving at the firing line on Xmas Eve. I am sure that you all spent a good Xmas. It is hard on us out here, but these things cannot be helped. Hugh Moan is out here and in my Company. He was wounded early in the war and is out again. Paddy Fleming is here too, he came out from London and joined us while we were having the rest. The country is in a terrible state from heavy traffic. Thank God I am living and well and I shall hope to come out safe. I don’t think that the Germans will last much longer, let us hope so anyway. You can send me a tidy little parcel and make it as secure as possible and put my full address on it. Tell Tommy Moan that Hugh is doing fine and that he and I are together. Let me know how you all spent Christmas and tell me all the news.

I had a narrow escape on Christmas Day. A German bullet struck the top of my rifle breaking the top off clean and wounding a sergeant behind me in the trench. I am more than lucky when I was not killed at different times. I am writing this letter in the firing line and hope that you will receive it safe. Tell all the people I am asking for them and hope to see them soon again. We have our priest and doctor with us and the wounded are well looked after, every man receiving the Last Rites of the Church. Isn’t that a great blessing? Good-bye and God bless you all and pray for us out here suffering terribly to save our country from ruin.

                                                                                                                                             P.Mc Donagh

Patrick’s brother, John McDonagh, was in the 7th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers and was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial along with seven other Ballyshannon men, as their bodies were not located. Those named on the Memorial  include; Corporal Patrick Melly, Finner, Sergeant Christopher Laird, Main Street, Private Robert Kearney, Rossnowlagh, Private Patrick Gallagher, Kilbarron, Private Frederick Armstrong, Private John Joseph McShea, Rathmore, and Private Hugh Moan. Hugh Moan who later died at the Somme, is mentioned in the letter from Patrick McDonagh, above. He was also in the Irish Guards and, as indicated above, he was wounded and returned home for a time. During his recuperation in Ballyshannon, he visited his former workplace at “The Donegal Vindicator” newspaper on East Port, where he indicated to the editor that he didn’t think he would be killed by the Germans. On the 23rd December 1916 Private Hugh Moan was killed in an accidental explosion in the trenches on the Somme.

A Chaplain’s letter to a wife on the Back Street 1916

Private John Hegarty, of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, was the husband of Elizabeth Hegarty of the Back Street in Ballyshannon. His father was a native of Donegal Town. He was aged 29 when he died in action on 16th January 1916. Private Hegarty  is buried in the Sailly Sur La Lays cemetery and  had been in France nine months when he was killed. His widow received the news of his death on Saturday morning 22nd January 1916. She received a letter from Father D. Aherne, a Redemptorist chaplain, who gave him the last rites. Father Aherne was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order in World War One and, as you will see, had a connection with Ballyshannon.

January 18 1916

Dear Mrs. Hegarty 

I offer you my sincerest sympathy in the great grief you have to bear at the loss of such an excellent man as Pte. J. Hegarty Royal Irish Rifles. He was brought to the 20th Field Ambulance, 8th Division, shot in the bowels on Sunday night about 11 p.m. and having received Extreme Unction, he passed quietly away about 11.20 p.m. I buried him in a soldier’s cemetery yesterday, and his name and regiment marks his grave. He gave his life in a very good cause, and make a complete offering of it to God by saying from your heart-“God’s Holy Will be done”. May God bless you and give you strength to bear your heavy cross.

Please remember me to your good Parish Priest, I gave a retreat in Ballyshannon four or five years ago.

Yours sincerely in Christ

D. Aherne

Rev. Wright writes home to a wife on the Mall 1916

Rev. Jackson Wright was the Presbyterian minister on the Mall, Ballyshannon from 1908-1925. He served as a chaplain, with the 36th Ulster Division at the Battle of the Somme, and  was awarded the Military Cross for his services during the war. In November 1916 Rev. Wright had to write a difficult letter from the Western Front, to a neighbour of his on the Mall, informing her of the death of her husband, Sergeant Andrew Galbraith of the Mall Ballyshannon . He was in the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers and  on the 12th November 1916 he was killed in action and is buried in Bulleul Communal cemetery. Rev. Wright would have known the family  as his church was on the same street in Ballyshannon, where the Galbraiths lived, and he now had the difficult task of describing to his wife how he had died:

He went out with a party to examine wire in front of the German trenches and with his usual accuracy of detail he and his officer were last to return. All the others got safely back but your husband and the officer had to take refuge in a shell hole just outside our wire, where, with the aid of rockets they were seen and exposed to rifle fire. He was quickly conveyed to a hospital and died next afternoon.

A letter to a mother in Sheegus before Christmas 1918

Kathleen McFadden visiting her uncle Edward's grave in France

Edward J. Mcintyre was born in Sheegus, Ballyshannon on the 9th August 1891, the son of Denis and Maria Mcintyre. Denis was a local fishermen like many of his neighbours in the Abbey. Edward had worked at the building trade in Ballyshannon before emigrating to the United States in 1912. When America entered the war he joined Company B, 306th Infantry and served on the Western Front in France. He was killed in action in the Argonne Forest region north-west of Verdun  on 27th September 1918. Corporal McIntyre is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. A family anecdote recalls that the McIntyre family at Sheegus ,first heard about his death from a neighbouring family called Tunney from the Legaltion area. The Tunney family had received a letter, from one of their family, who was in the same regiment as Edward McIntyre, and who told them of  his death. The Tunney family went down to the McIntyre’s home and told them the sad news. Later Mrs. Maria McIntyre received the following letter from the American Army.

  Co. B, 306 Inf.

    6  Dec. 1918

My Dear Mrs. McIntyre,

It is with a heavy heart that I answer your letter of Nov. 15th to inform you, if you have not already been told, that your son, Edward, was killed in action on Sept 27th, apparently the very day upon which you last heard from him. He died the death of the brave, fearless, manly soldier that he was in leading his men against a German machine gun position. A bullet killed him instantly and he was later buried where he fell, upon  the ridge west of the “Baricade Pavilion” in the depth of the Argonne Forest.

I was personally very much attached to Corp. McIntyre. He was the finest type of clean, vigorous, good-natured Irishman. On the march, in  quarters, in trenches, or in action, he was always the same reliable, quick-witted, fine-appearing soldier, loved by his comrades and his officers, the life of the platoon, and one of the best non-commissioned officers in the company.  I miss him as much as any of the dear lads that this ghastly war has taken from us.

God help and comfort you. If this letter is the first means of your knowing of your great loss, I hope it may also convey to you a sense of the homage that we feel toward his mother.The men of the old company join me in extending to you, our sincerest sympathy and good wishes.

Your servant,

Theodore S. Kenyon, Capt. 306 Inf.

Up to the 1916 Rising there was lots of coverage in the local newspaper, “The Donegal Vindicator,” of recruiting rallies for the British Army in places like the Market Yard in Ballyshannon. Army bands lent atmosphere to the occasions and rallies often coincided with the local fair day, in order to attract recruits from the farming community. Newspaper reports from local soldiers on their experiences in the war were printed; these were often letters sent to family members or directly to the newspaper. The army authorities also sent reports to the “Vindicator” on what regiments were in Finner Camp and reports from the war on events which they wished to highlight.  Coverage of the World War was not  as detailed in the “Vindicator” after the 1916 Rising which then became a major news story, locally and nationally.

Footnote. On the 4th November 2016 Anthony Begley, Jim Melly and Conor Carney, remembered those from the Ballyshannon area who had died in the First World War, at an illustrated Emerson Lecture in Dorrian’s Imperial Hotel ,which was attended by upwards of 200 people. This was possibly the first local remembrance of the First World War in the past one hundred years.The event was organised by County Donegal Historical Society in association with The Allingham Arts Festival. In August 2016 large crowds attended a centenary walk, with Anthony Begley and Conor Carney, through Ballyshannon, which  remembered the independence struggle during the 1916 period. During 2016 "The Donegal Democrat" and "The Donegal Post" in a series of newly researched articles by Anthony Begley, recorded the memories of local involvement in both major events , which occurred one hundred years ago .These articles can be found as local history blogs on the internet at