Saturday, 9 March 2013

Ballyshannon Links to Two Unusual Olympic Games

 Ballyshannon Links to Two Unusual Olympic Games

The name of Paul Dolan may not be known to younger generations of Ballyshannon people but the older generation still recall a young boy whom they went to primary school with in the town, later representing Ireland in two Olympic Games. Paul Dolan resided on the Mall and his father was a member of An Garda Síochána (Irish police).

The Rope Walk on the Back Mall: As a young boy attending St. Joseph’s National School in Ballyshannon, in the 1930s, Paul Dolan collected the following folklore from his mother for the national survey which was conducted at that time. :

Years ago a man named Gillespie was famous for making ropes, twines, fishing lines etc. What is now known as the Back Mall was known then as the Rope Walk. It was there that most of the ropes were made. He also made them in the Market Yard where he lived and where some of his family still reside.

The Kelly (Gillespie) family still have their home in the Market Yard in Ballyshannon where the famous Gillespie School of Dancing was also located. There was another Rope Walk on the Donegal Road just past Shannon’s Corner restaurant. Paul Dolan attended secondary school in St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny. The family later moved away from Ballyshannon.

London Olympics 1948: In the London Olympics from the 29th July-14th August 1948, Paul Dolan represented Ireland in the 4x 100 metres. Unfortunately his Olympic debut was marred by a dispute between different sporting organisations in Ireland. The National Athletic and Cycling Association of Ireland (NACAI) had claimed the right to represent athletes from the 32 counties and as a result their members were barred from the 1936 Games in Berlin.

However by 1948 when the Olympics were held in London a rival body called the Amateur Athletic Union of Éire (AAUE) recognised the border in Ireland and were recognised by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF). There were now two teams selected to represent Ireland in the London Olympics and an embarrassing situation developed, with the NACAI team being barred and the AAUE team being recognised as the official team. Paul Dolan was an AAUE athlete and did run in the relay where the team of Dolan, Denroche, Myles and Reardon were unlucky to drop the baton having reached the semi-final.

Helsinki Olympics: This amazing dispute in Irish athletics continued at the Helsinki Games in 1952 and once again, Paul Dolan, through no fault of his own was involved. The Irish Olympic Council refused to accept the nominations of Joe West and Paul Dolan of the AAUE to represent Ireland in Helsinki but the AAUE decided to send the athletes. On arrival they were forced to leave the Irish camp and once again Ireland had two teams representing the country. Dolan, West and a fencing team who were representing the AAUE, a 26 county federation, were not allowed to take part in the parade but did compete in the Helsinki Olympics. Paul Dolan competed in, the 100, 200 and 400 metre events in Helsinki but was unsuccessful.

The Dolan family were connected to the Wood’s family who had a public house on the Mall which is presently owned by Terry and Betty McIntyre. Paul Dolan’s sister married John Giles, the Irish international soccer player and manager and current broadcaster. 

Next Blog: “Ballyshannon Whippings, Imprisonments and Transportation to Van Diemen's Land" will be posted on the  16th  March.

The Gathering in Ballyshannon: Google “The Gathering in Ballyshannon” for more details of special events you might like to attend later in the year. Lots happening in Ballyshannon in the summertime including festivals also Ballyshannon 400 celebrating the granting of a town charter in 1613 and the commemoration of the Kildoney Fishermen’s victory in1933.

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 on the internet. Copy this link and forward The site can be located on the internet (or by connecting to my Facebook page). New items will be posted every week or two on Ballyshannon Musings during 2013, the year of “The Gathering”. 

A New Local History suitable for those at Home and Away 

Anthony Begley, local historian, published a new book entitled: "Ballyshannon. Genealogy and History" which 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 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 strugglle, hydro-electric scheme, Gaelic games, boxing, handball, Boy Scouts, soccer, mummers, characters, organisations, folklore and lots more.

Book Available from The Novel Idea Bookshop Ballyshannon/ The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or from  Anthony Begley West Rock Ballyshannon. tel. 0872351044. Enquiries welcome.

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