Thursday, 11 December 2014

A busy year for Ballyshannon history up to Christmas 2014

Ballyshannon book at 25% reduction for Christmas. Available at €15  from Novel Idea/ Ballyshannon Museum/ Cleary's garage/ Pearse and Rory O' Neills and Four Master's Bookshop. Also available by post for details contact 500 pages with lots of  photographs including colour aerial images.

Ballyshannon history is vibrant and had a really good year in 2014. The attendances at events surpassed any previous year and it was great to see so many younger people attending. Interest in the town hopefully can be channelled into support for business enterprises. To paraphrase a visitor to the ancient town of Ballyshannon; the town has been here long before our time and will be here when we have passed on. Ballyshannon has durability and a heritage which will hopefully sustain it in the future as it has in difficult periods in the past. Visitors I have met this year from Australia, USA, Canada, the Far East, Europe and Great Britain are all amazed that such a relatively small town has such a rich history. Ballyshannon Musings blog continues to connect with thousands of hits being made from all corners of the world where there are people with roots in Ballyshannon and surrounding areas or an interest in County Donegal. 

Looking Back on 2014 

Memories of an Historic Convent Building in Ballyshannon – Good News for Ballyshannon  
This was the most popular blog of the year on Ballyshannon Musings and was a good news story for Ballyshannon as the building will become a health centre with investment of over €6 million. Work is progressing well and the facade and character of this impressive and historic building will be preserved for future generations.

Ballyshannon Town Clock- a Landmark since 1878  
The elements wreaked havoc on the facade of the town clock and led to the dramatic closure of the town centre for a few days in February 2014. Again there was tremendous interest in the history of the building and this was the second most popular blog of the year. Hopefully like the convent building it can have a happy ending with time restored to Ballyshannon. 

Famine Orphan Girls’ Memorial Opened in 2014
Nineteen orphan girls who went from Ballyshannon workhouse to Sydney in Australia were commemorated at a memorial constructed from March to May 2014. This was a project dear to my heart but would not have been accomplished but for the support of Paddy Donagher and the team we assembled. This was one of the final events supported by Ballyshannon Town Council before their demise. Thanks are due to all who supported the project and Mary Daly, Town Clerk, who co-ordinated much of the funding for a fitting memorial to these forgotten girls. I published a short book entitled “From Ballyshannon to Australia. Memories of Famine Orphan Girls” which tells of links made over the past 30 years and connections with many of the great great grandchildren of the orphans in Australia today. During the summer Paddy Donagher also found time to publish a short book entitled “Kildoney and the Erne Fishermen. The Court Case. A History 1607-2013 and the memorial at the Mall Quay will ensure their heroism will not be forgotten. 

Reopening of the Rock Hall 
In June the oldest surviving hall in Ballyshannon reopened its doors after a wonderful restoration job was completed. Great credit is due to the hall committee for their persistence in getting the project completed with the support of Fr. Frank and Canon Ramon. The history of the hall is included in a blog entitled “Early Movies, Drama and more in Ballyshannon” which can be found in the archive for June 2014. Marc McMenamin a local historian and broadcaster interviewed me in a short piece for RTE Radio1’s “History Show” on Bracey Daniels a pioneer of Irish cinema who is buried in the Rock graveyard and who showed his travelling movies in the Rock Hall back in the 1920s. 

Last Link with old Ballyshannon Broken 
 Fr. Ambrose O’Gorman led an active life for over a century and had clear memories of British soldiers marching though the town of Ballyshannon on their way to Finner. This popular cleric is recalled in a blog entitled “Last link with old Ballyshannon broken” which can be found in July 2014. 

First History Walk over the 3 Bridges in Ballyshannon 
On the August Bank Holiday Monday a large crowd assembled to make history as their historic journey took them over the 3 bridges in the town namely; Allingham bridge, Red Hugh O’ Donnell bridge and Assaroe footbridge. The walk also included East and West Port an area with great character and potential for street markets etc. Welcome refreshments were served in the Bridge End bar. The event was part of the successful Ballyshannon Live Festival organised by Backing Ballyshannon.

Great Great Grandchild of Famine Orphan visits Ballyshannon Memorial 
Pam Barker a great great grandchild of one of the 19 orphans who left Ballyshannon for Sydney in 1848 visited the memorial in September 2014 to remember her relative Mary Ann McDermott who had left for Australia with her sister Sally. Both sisters were from Belleek and were inmates of Ballyshannon workhouse. All 19 girls are commemorated at the memorial and on the day of Pam’s visit roses were laid by local women for each of the 19 girls as part of a moving ceremony. Despite being held the day before the All-Ireland football final, with Donegal participating, there was a great crowd to welcome her back to her homeland and Pam and her husband Peter fully appreciated the interest shown. Joy O’ Neill, a great great grandchild of another orphan Jane Carberry, has also visited the Orphan Girls’ Memorial in 2014 and a number of other descendants of the orphan girls are planning trips from Australia in 2015. 

Largest Gathering Ever at a History Talk 
 The Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon housed around 250 people for a talk I gave entitled “Ballyshannon’s ghostly past including links to Dracula and Frankenstein” as a memorial talk for the annual Emerson Lecture in memory of my good friends Louis and Kathleen Emerson. The talk also featured a short play on Ballyshannon’s best known ghost celebrity “The Green Lady” featuring Patricia Keane and Conor Beattie. The play was kindly written by Soinbhe Lally the well known Rossnowlagh based writer. The full story is told in my Book “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” which is receiving a well earned revival in interest!! About two years ago a walk with a similar theme attracted a tremendous crowd and our ghostly past seems to be of great interest to a wide range of people. Connections to Frankenstein and Dracula have also generated great interest. The talk on ghostly Ballyshannon formed part of a most successful Allingham Arts festival and I was honoured to be invited to pay a special tribute to the late Cecil Stephens a great townsman and historian. Needless to say the tribute event to Cecil was also packed to capacity in recognition of his contribution to the arts and to his native Ballyshanny. 

40 Shades of Ballyshannon and All- Ireland Drama 
I was joined by two stalwarts Conor Carney and Patricia Keane to interpret the history of Ballyshannon in an hour in Dicey Reillys in December 2014. Conor and Patricia, as always, brilliantly interpreted the history through verse, song and story to complement my narrative. This formed part of the sell out All-Ireland one act Drama festival held in Ballyshannon 

Forthcoming Events in early 2015 
On the 11th January 2015 on RTE Radio 1’s “History Show” at 6 p.m. there will be a short feature recorded during Pam Barker’s visit to Ballyshannon for the Famine Orphan Memorial ceremony in September 2014. Marc McMenamin is the interviewer. The Drew University conference featuring visitors from USA takes place in January 2015 and I will be speaking about the orphan girls who were commemorated at the Memorial opened in Ballyshannon in 2014. Ballyshannon technical school celebrates its centenary and was the first technical school to be opened in County Donegal. It was also the first post-primary school opened in Ballyshannon. A blog will tell the story in January 2015.

Anthony Begley :

No comments:

Post a Comment