Saturday, 18 May 2013

Bundoran a Leading Tourist Resort and Scene of a Hurling Match in 1839

Bundoran! and your summer crowds that run                                        
From inland homes to see with joy
th’ Atlantic- setting sun; 
To breathe the buoyant salted air,
and sport among the waves
To gather shells on sandy beach,
and tempt the gloomy caves; 
To watch the flowing, ebbing tide
The boats, the crabs, the fish; 
Young men and maids to meet and smile
And form a tender wish; 
The sick and old in search of health,
For all things have their turn-
And I must quit my native shore,
And the winding banks of Erne.
“The Winding Banks of Erne”
William Allingham

An Allingham Connection with Bundoran

The poet William Allingham was born in Ballyshannon in 1824 and as the above verse from his poem “The Winding Banks of Erne” indicates he was familiar with Bundoran as a tourist town in his youth. The verse revealed the attractions of Bundoran for people living inland, breathing the bracing air, swimming in the waves, gathering shells, fishing, courting and those who came for the healthy lifestyle.

Edward Allingham, an uncle of the poet, lived at Magheracar, on the outskirts of Bundoran, and Edward’s daughter Florinda married a man called William Scott and they built Allingham Lodge which nowadays is the Allingham Hotel. This explains the name on the hotel and the McEniff-McIntyre family is to be commended on keeping the connection alive with verses from Allingham’s poetry displayed on mirrors, local names such as The Coolmore Room and prints of Helen Allingham the artist, who was the wife of William Allingham, on display in the hotel. It is also interesting to note that the Scott family were supporters of the fight to maintain a right of way to the seashore which was championed in the courts by Canon Kelaghan P.P in Bundoran.

Bundoran- A Resort for the 'Fashionables' in 1839

The Liberator was a short-lived newspaper in Ballyshannon which only published for one year. It was set up by The Sligo Champion and had an office on the Mall in Ballyshannon. It reported in 1839 that the sea-side resort of Bundoran was filling up rapidly with tourists and was a popular resort, “with the fashionables”. Early tourists in 1839 would have been landed gentry who built some of the substantial properties in and around Bundoran. These would have been the well- heeled or 'fashionables' like the Earl of Belmore from Castlecoole in Enniskillen. Some of these people would have taken houses for the week or month or stayed in the developing hotels. Important to remember that the report below was written in pre-Famine times before the Great Northern Railway was opened in the 1860s, and indicated a resort which had been catering for tourists for some time.

Tourist Promotion in the 19th Century

The reporter in the Ballyshannon newspaper, The Liberator, could certainly have been hired as a consultant for tourist promotion of this popular resort, as his glowing account of the resort below would be well received by Shane Smyth, Bundoran Tourist Officer, in the 21st century:

This remarkably neat sea-bathing village is, at present, almost full of fashionables; they throng from various parts, even the most distant of the counties of Leitrim, Cavan,  Fermanagh and Donegal, about this season of the year, to enjoy the salubrity of its waters. No place on the North-West coast of Ireland, can present so cheerful an appearance, during the summer months, as this village; it is the rendezvous of the rank and fashion of all the adjoining counties-enlivened by myriads of bright scenes, sweet sounds, and sights of beauty.

The shore has its peculiar advantages to the bather, while the numerous hills and long chains of mountain scenery, which fill up the background, are rare objects of admiration. Nothing can be wanted here, that nature or art could produce, to enliven and diversify its features of attraction, in the eyes of the stranger.

Lodgings and the accommodation of visitors are extremely good; and, as will be seen by an advertisement of this day, the epicure however fastidious may also cater as largely and as daintily for his squeamish palate, as the incursions upon appetite, of sea air and rural rambles may possibly give occasion for. Nugents Hotel, one of the neatest, and most desirably situated, is fitted up for the reception of families, in a style of comfort we have nowhere seen surpassed; and the attention of its proprietor-his unremitting and constant exertions to combine advantage with economy, entitle him to the patronage of visitors, interested for the fullest enjoyment of the place, at a moderate and reasonable expense .

Bathing has commenced very generally- every house almost is either occupied or engaged, so that we strongly recommend those who wish to visit Bundoran this season to make the earliest exertions to secure accommodation.

I wonder where Nugent’s hotel named above in 1839 was situated? The Hamilton Hotel (now part of the Holyrood Hotel) was also there in the early 19th century. 

Growth in Tourism for the Masses
The arrival of the GNR Railway in 1867 was to herald a major movement in people to the seaside. Later the Great Northern Hotel and golf course was built by the railway company in 1894. Interesting that the railway companies developed golf courses and hotels in various locations to attract those who could afford the holiday.As well as improving the bank balance for the railway company the GNR really speeded up the development of resorts like Bundoran.  

The first of this mass tourism was when people came on  day excursions to the seaside on the railway. Day excursions were the main holiday many people had in the early days and there were occasions when a large proportion of the population of Ballyshannon, for example, set off on the train to go to Portrush or some other far flung location for the day out. 

See last week's blog "Ten Visitor Attractions of the Past" for more on Bundoran as a holiday resort.

A Hurling Match on Tullan Strand Bundoran in 1839

A reference to a common game (Camán or Common or Hurling) in The Ballyshannon Herald resulted in an angry complaint from another local newspaper called, The Liberator, about misreporting in March 1839. The Ballyshannon Herald, the first newspaper printed in County Donegal, reported that the game was a front for illegal or Whiteboy activities.

In an angry reply The Liberator newspaper denied that this was the purpose and that the game was a means of entertainment for the people: 

On Tuesday last- (and by the way, that Tuesday was March 25, then a holyday of obligation) – a Common game took place on Tullan Strand, near this town. There were at least 300 persons on either side, and there could be less than 2,000 spectators. The game was ably contested, which excited much interest. Every person in the vast multitude appeared happy. There was not the slightest disposition to riot shown by anyone. About six in the evening the strand was completely cleared of the people.

So hurling (camán) was played in this area over one hundred and seventy years ago. As can be seen it was a much different game than today with at least 300 people on each team! Referees would have operated on horseback and the identification of players must have been difficult as the players had no team jerseys. Still the numbers attending showed tremendous local interest but it was to be another seventy years before the G.A.A. was established in this area with proper rules for games and referees with whistles! Who needed Hawkeye or any cameras to decide if a score was legal? Matches were often tests of strengths between different townlands or districts and no doubt the victors were held in high esteem until the next encounter. 

Tullan Strand at Bundoran is today a hub for surfing and horse riding but in its day it saw some mighty sporting battles with 600 players engaged in a game of hurling in 1839.

Ballyshannon Musings:  Good to hear that people from the Ballyshannon area are enjoying the blog in over 40 countries. 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 it can be googled at The site can be located on the internet (or by connecting to my Facebook page). New items will be posted every week on Ballyshannon Musings during 2013the year of “The Gathering”. The blogs are original and are not taken from the book below.

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 Rory Gallagher Festival,  Ballyshannon Folk Festival also Ballyshannon 400 celebrating the granting of a town charter in 1613 and there will also be a commemoration of the Kildoney Fishermen’s victory in 1933. 

Check out or or Town Council  for further details.

The Ballyshannon and District Museum, with coffee shop available, is newly opened  in Slevin's Department Store. Well worth a visit Monday to Saturday.

In neigbouring Bundoran there is an exhibition of photographs both old and more modern in The Library and also in the Tourist Office which captures the nostalgia of the seaside town over  the past century. This exhibition will continue for the year of the Gathering and is well worth a look.

Next Blog posted Saturday 25th May called " Ballyshannon 400 and Forthcoming Blogs for our Worldwide Diaspora" commemorating 1613 when Ballyshannon got a charter which conferred many rights on the town including 2 representatives in parliament.

 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 struggle, hydro-electric scheme, Gaelic games, boxing, handball, Boy Scouts, soccer, mummers, characters, organisations, folklore and lots more.
Book Available from Anthony Begley Rock Ballyshannon. Enquiries welcome for postal and other details, also available from The Novel Idea Bookshop Ballyshannon and The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town.

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