Saturday, 30 March 2013

Eamon DeValera's Late Late Rally in Ballyshannon 1937

Eamon De Valera, the founder of Fianna Fáil, and the leader of the Irish government arrived in Ballyshannon on an election campaign which took him all over the country in 1937. On the 30th of June he had addressed meetings in Buncrana, Dungloe, Letterkenny and Donegal Town. Upwards of 2,000 people from a wide area assembled in the Diamond in Ballyshannon to await his arrival. It was planned that he would speak from one of the second storey windows of McGonigle’s premises. These public rallies were the cause of much excitement in the pre-television age when the voters wanted to support their favourites in the flesh. The Diamond in Ballyshannon and the Market Yard saw huge rallies with tempers boiling over on occasions between different parties. A famous rally in the Market Yard in the 1930s with Eoin O Duffy the Blueshirt leader addressing the crowd led to heated exchanges between rival factions. In earlier times Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell addressed rallies in Ballyshannon.

The Latest Public Rally Ever in the Diamond

The midnight hour came and there was no sign of De Valera and to make matters worse it started to rain. However people remained patient and Seamus McGonigle who had erected a loud-speaker to carry the speeches, played Irish songs and music to keep the crowd entertained. In the early hours of Wednesday, Eamon De Valera was welcomed by a torchlight procession about a mile out the Donegal road. The local Fianna Fáil Fife and Drum Band led the enthusiastic parade into town where they arrived at 2.20 to a very enthusiastic welcome, with everyone wishing to greet their leader.

Floodlights, Bunting and Tricolours

Mr. Tommy McShea, Ardfarna, Bundoran, one of the trio of Sinn Feiners, who were known as “The Derry Prisoners” and who had been reprieved from execution during the independence struggle, acted as Chairman at the meeting in the Diamond. Mr. P. McGonigle N.T. read an address of welcome from the local Fianna Fáil Cumann. Mr. De Valera then took his stand as he did in 1918 and 1920 in a window in the second storey of Mrs. James McGonigle’s premises, the front portion of which was floodlighted and decorated with Tricolours and mottos of welcome, as well as the street being spanned with Tricolour flags. De Valera delivered his speech and expressed his gratitude to all who had waited so long in the rain. The reason for his delay was that he had been greeted by a similar crowd in Donegal Town. The Ballyshannon meeting at 2.30 a.m. was the latest public meeting that he had ever addressed; and it was nothing but enthusiasm for the cause which kept the people up to such a late hour.

Election and Referendum

De Valera appealed for support for the candidates in the Dáil election and also asked for the peoples’ support in the referendum on the new Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann). Brian Brady, Dáil candidate, and his election agent, Mr. Sean Carty, Devenish West, also spoke. As Eamon De Valera left for Bundoran he received a rapturous ovation. Patsy O’ Donnell recalled that The Erne Hotel in Market Street was owned by Dan Gallagher and De Valera regularly dined there on his visits. This is nowadays Max’s Bar.

Novel use of Loudspeaker in Ballyshannon

A novel feature of the General Election results of 1937 was that Seamus McGonigle broadcast the radio election results through his loud speaker system and large crowds gathered in the Diamond from the first results were announced until the final result was declared. Fianna Fáil won the election of 1937 and the Irish Constitution was approved by referendum of the people. In the local constituency, Brian Brady and Cormac Breslin of Fianna Fáil and Michael Óg McFadden of Fine Gael were elected to the Dáil. In the constituency of East Donegal Major Sproule Myles of
 Ballyshannon was also elected to the Dáil. The Diamond was to be the centrepiece of election fever with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil rallying the troops and the atmosphere was electric in those long forgotten days of open air rallies.    

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.

Next Blog will be posted on Saturday 6th April and will give a catalogue of the blogs which can be viewed on Ballyshannon Musings.

On 13th April the folloowing will be pòsted- "A Forgotten Ballyshannon Golf Course over a Century Ago" The blogs are not taken from the book below

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 can be mailed by Anthony Begley West Rock Ballyshannon. tel. 0872351044. Enquiries welcome.

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