Monday, 24 December 2012

Ten Rarely Asked Questions about the Ballyshannon Area

50% Reduction on postage for orders for this book to all destinations. Genuine special offer from author. 

Ideal local gift for all special occasions.

Available at The Novel Idea Bookshop Ballyshannon, Ballyshannon and District Museum and The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town.

Signed hard back and soft back books available at special  price for postal delivery or collection. 
 Book Available from Anthony Begley West Rock Ballyshannon.  Enquiries welcome for postal and other details. 


A New Local History Book suitable for those at Home and Away

A new book entitled: "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.

Topics include: How to go about Tracing your Roots/The first settlers in the area/ Newly researched history of the town of Ballyshannon and the townlands in Kilbarron and Mágh Éne parishes/ Records of the first travellers and tourists to Ballyshannon, Bundoran, Belleek, Rossnowlagh and Ballintra/An aerial guide to place names along the Erne from Ballyshannon to the Bar/Flora and Fauna of the area/ A history of buildings and housing estates in the locality/Graveyard Inscriptions from the Abbey graveyard, St. Joseph’s and St. Anne’s /Rolling back the years with many memories of the Great Famine, Independence struggle, hydro-electric scheme, Gaelic games, boxing, handball, Boy Scouts, soccer, mummers, characters, organisations, folklore and lots more.

Ten Rarely Asked Questions about the Ballyshannon Area

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 in November and so this time I include the answers.

1.      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 above).

2.      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.

3.      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.

4.      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.

5.      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.

6.      Who came to Ballyshannon in 1922 and are still here 90 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)

7.      In the 1930s “sitting out in cars” was declared illegal. And the reason?
Last week’s blog discussed this topic and 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!

8.      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 will be commemorated in 2013 on the 80th anniversary of the winning of the case in 1933. A plaque will be unveiled at the Mall Quay on Monday 5th August 2013 with lots of events on the day. Google “The Gathering in Ballyshannon” for more details. It is hoped that people will return from abroad and elsewhere in Ireland to mark the unveiling of a memorial to those involved in this victory for the people. Hope to see you there. I will devote a blog to this historic event in 2013.

9.      Where was the first public library located in Ballyshannon in 1948?
Sixty four 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.

10.  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.

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