Monday, 28 January 2013

The Maid of the Melvin Shore and other True Stories

“The Maid of the Melvin Shore” and other True Stories

The Maid of the Melvin Side was a local love song, once well known along the Moy which is a flat plain leading from Ballyshannon and Bundoran towards the Leitrim Mountains. Indeed the name Moy is retained in the parish name Mágh Éne which is the parish of Bundoran and some parts of Ballyshannon on the south side of the river Erne. Lough Melvin is in County Leitrim and is a famous fishing lake particularly for the ‘Gilaroo’ trout.

There once resided on the Moy a well-to-do farmer who gave an annual big night for all those who assisted in bringing in the harvest. There was only one stipulation that every guest had to sing a Fenian song and there were to be no love songs. This rule was kept until one year a singer started to sing “The Maid of the Melvin Side” to the consternation of the host. “Damn you and your love songs” he cried, and he reached for his fowling-piece on the wall. The singer made a hasty exit from the house followed by a gun-shot which took away part of the lintel above the door. Needless to say there were no more love songs featured at this harvest gathering from then onwards. (Anyone today got the words of “The Maid of the Melvin Shore”?)

The Runaway Fair was at one time the name given to the fair in Kinlough on the 6th of January. The January fair in Kinlough was considered a good time for romance because of the number of young people who took advantage of the fair to elope. Kinlough is in County Leitrim at the head of Lough Melvin.

Taken by the Fairies: One night long ago a man called Gallagher was out walking accompanied by another man when suddenly they came across a fort. On entering it Gallagher noticed a little fairy standing at the side of it. He went to tell the other man, when suddenly he was brought away wandering through the countryside and did not return home until the next morning. The man is said to have walked on a stray sod and everybody who does so, is set astray by the fairies. Stray sods are said to exist still in Ireland in certain parts of the country. This story was recorded about 80 years ago in Ardfarna near Bundoran. Taken by the fairies is a very, very common tale recorded in our folklore.

Even the local poet William Allingham in his famous poem called “The Fairies” tells of a little girl taken by the fairies.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of  flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

Ring forts are still common today throughout our countryside and were originally peoples’ dwellings. Indeed the townland of Rathmore (the big rath or ring fort) is located close to the town and has a fine rath or ring fort which gives its name to the townland. Even in our modern 21st century people are very reluctant to interfere with these forts. So who doesn’t believe in fairies?

Two Fishermen Jailed for Fishing: In 1892 two local men, John Gillespie, painter and decorator, College Street and Michael Gallagher, tailor, served a term of imprisonment in Sligo gaol for fishing for trout in the Erne without a permit. They considered that they had a right to fish, declined to ask for a permit, were prosecuted, declined to pay a fine, and went to gaol as a protest. Michael Gallagher later emigrated to the United States of America.

In  2013 we recall the fight by the Kildoney Fishermen, eighty years ago, to reclaim the Erne Fishery for the people which was successful in the courts in 1933. A weekend to their memory and the unveiling of a memorial is planned as part of “The Gathering” on the August Bank Holiday weekend this year. Men like John Gillespie and Michael Gallagher also showed the depth of feeling on this issue back in the 1890s when they were prepared to go to jail for their convictions.

New Local History Book: “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” by Anthony Begley details new history of the Ballyshannon area in the 19th and 20th centuries including fishing,
sport, tourism, social history, flora and fauna, The Independence struggle, The Emergency, buildings, townland history and lots of reminiscences. 

None of the material used in the blogs is taken from this book. The book covers an area roughly from Ballyshannon:

·        To Rossnowlagh, to Belleek, to Finner/ Bundoran to the Loughside and towards Ballintra. Includes all the parish of Kilbarron and the local parts of Mágh Ene parish.
·        Contains 500 pages with much material on how to trace your roots. All the gravestone inscriptions in the 3 local cemeteries are recorded and indexed, with aerial photographs for ease of location.
·        The book includes many rare images and modern colour aerial photographs of the area.
Available from The Novel Idea Ballyshannon/The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or can be ordered on line from Price €25 softback plus postage if required. A limited number of hardbacks also available. Enquiries welcome.

Ballyshannon Musings:  Please let people with an interest in Ballyshannon and surrounding areas know about this site, particularly people who are not living locally and those who are abroad. The site is called "Ballyshannon Musings" and there are a number of back issues available; Google:

They can access the site on the internet (or by connecting to my Facebook page).

The Gathering in Ballyshannon New items will be posted every week or two on Ballyshannon Musings during 2013; the year of “The Gathering”. Keep in touch. Google “The Gathering in Ballyshannon” for more details of events you might like to attend later in the year.

Next  Blog will be posted on Monday 11th February and is called “The Worst Fire Ever in Ballyshannon” which describes how upwards of twenty properties on the Back Street down to the present Sean Ógs were burned or damaged over 150 years ago.

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