Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ballyshannon Athlete Competed in Two Controversial Olympic Games

Paul Dolan (2nd right)  Ballyshannon born Olympic athlete running for Clonliffe Harriers in Landsdowne Road in 1949

The name of Paul Dolan may not be known to younger generations of Ballyshannon people, but a few of the older generation will recall a young boy whom they went to school with in the town, later representing Ireland in two Olympic Games. Paul Dolan was born in Ballyshannon on 29th June 1927, resided on the Mall and his father was a member of An Garda Síochána. As a young boy attending St. Joseph’s National School in Ballyshannon in 1935-36 Paul Dolan collected the following folklore from Mrs. Dolan, The Mall, 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) home still stands in the Market Yard Ballyshannon. 
Paul Dolan remembered as ‘Cosa’
John Ward the last editor of “The Donegal Vindicator” published on East Port in Ballyshannon was a friend and school mate of Paul Dolan and remembered his great talent as a young athlete. “Paul Dolan was our other great achiever, although his best years came after leaving town for Dublin. From the time he was only a slip of a lad, slender, and all legs, Paul Dolan could run. Whether in the school field up around the Brothers' school on the Rock, or later at St. Eunan's College annual sports days in Letterkenny, Paul could out-run us all. A racehorse at full gallop is poetry in motion; Paul Dolan in full stride was like a bird in flight, his feet barely touching the ground. That speed and that grace earned him his name, "Cosa", which in Irish means "feet", flying feet that were later to represent Ireland at international competitions. By then he was living in Dublin, and was one of the first Irish runners encouraged by Morton, the Dublin optician who laid the groundwork for putting Ireland on the international track and field map. Ron Delaney and Eamon Coughlan won greater acclaim, although Penn State claimed the former, but Cosa's feet, in Cosa's time could, in this Donegal man's view, leave them both standing”. Paul Dolan’s athletic career was as a member of the Clonliffe Harriers Athletics club in Dublin.
London Olympics 1948
Paul Dolan aged 21 was the youngest athlete to compete for Ireland at the London Olympics in 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. 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 Paul Dolan, Charles Denroche, Reggie Myles and Jimmy Reardon were unlucky to drop the baton having reached the semi-final.
Helsinki Olympics 1952
The amazing dispute in Irish athletics continued at the Helsinki Olympic 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 yards events in Helsinki but was unsuccessful. In his heat in the 100 yards he finished third; he was second in his heat in the 200 yards and was 3rd in his heat in the 400 yards.

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, manager and current media broadcaster.  Paul Dolan was the first and only athlete from Ballyshannon to compete in two successive Olympic Games and one wonders will his achievement ever be equalled?

Local History book available in Local Shops or for Postal Delivery

"Ballyshannon Genealogy and History" available tp purchase in The Novel Idea, Ballyshannon Museum, O'Neills, Clearys and Local Hands in Ballyshannon. Available also in Four Master's Bookshop in Donegal Town. For postal details contact

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Short Heritage Walk in Ballyshannon on Sunday 28th August at 3 p.m.

Memorial to Famine Victims at Famine Graveyard in Ballyshannon
Short Heritage Walk in Ballyshannon on Sunday 28th August at 3 p.m. Meet at St. Anne’s Church Gate, Main Street. All Welcome. Ballyshannon Regeneration Group plan to open a new access to Ballyshannon Famine graveyard from Bishop Street on the day. Local historian Anthony Begley will provide memories of the Famine era and also life in Ballyshannon one hundred years ago. Also a unique first reading in Ballyshannon, from a novel of a funeral to this Famine graveyard, written 120 years ago. Further details contact Ballyshannon Regeneration Group at 087 2409626. Everyone welcome.

Local History book available in Local Shops or for Postal Delivery

"Ballyshannon Genealogy and History" available to purchase in The Novel Idea, Ballyshannon Museum, O'Neill's, Cleary's and Local Hands in Ballyshannon. Available also in Four Master's Bookshop in Donegal Town. For postal details contact

Friday, 12 August 2016

On This Day- Fatal Plane Crash in Cashelard near Ballyshannon 12th August

The Donegal Corridor along the river Erne between Ballyshannon and Belleek
Planes regularly flew along this route in the Second World War

Ireland adopted a policy of neutrality in World War II (The Emergency) and this was to prove complicated in places like Ballyshannon, as Northern Ireland was in the war and we were not. The problem of neutrality was highlighted when a request came from Britain to allow allied planes fly over a portion of Donegal. Flying boats based  in Lough Erne, at St. Angelo and  Castle Archdale in Fermanagh, were used to protect  allied shipping convoys. The planes had to fly north via Derry and  this meant that their range of protection was limited, by the amount of fuel which the plane could carry. This was to pose serious diplomatic problems for the Irish government when the request for the  use of our air space was received in January 1941. Permission was granted for Allied planes to fly over an area from Inishmurray to Lough Melvin, including the area along the Erne from Belleek to Ballyshannon and Bundoran which became known as The Donegal Corridor. This was to be of  immense value to the British, American and Canadian planes and the sight of planes over Ballyshannon was a regular occurrence during the Emergency.

A fatal plane crash in the area took place on rugged moorland at Cashelard, when a British Shorts Sunderland Flying Boat crashed on Saturday 12th August, 1944.  It was engaged in a routine Atlantic patrol.This aircraft developed engine trouble on taking off from Lower Lough Erne, one engine failing completely after a short time. The plane had eight depth charges and 2,100 gallons of fuel on board. The depth charges were jettisoned a mile from the scene. These were later blown up by members of the Irish  military in conjunction with R.A.F. personnel. The aircraft had a crew of twelve all members of the Royal  Canadian Air Force, three of whom lost their lives.  The crew were:  Pilot, Flight Lieutenant E. C. Devine RCAF , Flying Officer R. T. Wilkinson RCAF, Flying Sgt. Forrest, Flying Officer Allen, Flying Officer Platsko, Pilot Officer Parker, Pilot Officer Locke,Sgt. Oderkirk, Sgt. Jeal, Sgt. Clarke,Sgt. Singer and Sgt. Colbourne. Devine, Wilkinson and Forrest died. The survivors and dead were cared for at the Sheil Hospital  and later transferred to Northern Ireland. The Cashelard Community Association and others had a plaque errected in memory of this plane crash. Amongst those who were present, on the day the plane crashed in 1944, was Bishop  Edward Daly who as a young boy had cycled to the scene of the crash from his home. 
Amongst those who were present, on the day the plane crashed  between Cashelard and Corlea on 12th August 1944, was Edward Daly who as a young boy had cycled to the scene of the crash from his home near Belleek. Bishop Edward Daly was buried in Derry on 11th August 2016.

Memorials to the Donegal Corridor
Fatal plane crashes at Abbeylands Ballyshannon, Bundoran and Cashelard in 1944 are still fresh in peoples memories and in a sense, brought the war closer to the people of this area.  On Wednesday 18th April 2007 two plaques, in memory of those who lost their lives in the Donegal Corridor, were unveiled on Allingham Bridge in Ballyshannon and on Belleek Bridge.This cross-border ceremony reflected the close bond between people, in Fermanagh and Donegal, who witnessed and assisted with plane crashes in the Donegal Corridor. 
The plaque in Ballyshannon was unveiled by Sean Slevin (ex. L.D.F.) and Frank Garvin (ex. R.A.F.) unveiled the plaque at Belleek. Presentations were also exchanged between students at St. Davogs and The Controlled Primary School at Belleek and Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon.Speakers included: John Meehan, Chairman of Ballyshannon Town Council, John OKane, Chairman of Fermanagh District Council, Brian Pendry, Chairperson of Fermanagh Flying Boat Association, Breege Mc Cosker, Joe O Loughlin and Anthony Begley  (local historians). Religious services were conducted by Fr. Cathal O Fearraigh, Rev. Brian Russell, Canon Patrick Lonergan and Rev. Noel Regan. Music was provided by Ballyshannon Brass and Reed Band.  The event was organised by Fermanagh Flying Boat Association, Fermanagh District Council and Ballyshannon Town Council.The plaque on the bridge at Ballyshannon reads:

The Donegal Corridor

During the Emergency (1939-1945) Sunderland and Catalina Flying Boats from R.A.F. Castle Archdale were allowed to fly along the River Erne between Belleek and Ballyshannon.This was known as the Donegal Corridor and was a concession granted by the Irish Government who were neutral in World War II. Young airmen flew over the Donegal Corridor to protect shipping convoys in the mid-Atlantic. A number of planes crashed in this locality.This plaque is in memory of the airmen and sailors from America,New Zealand, Canada, Britain and Ireland 
who lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Local History book available in Local Shops or for Postal Delivery

"Ballyshannon Genealogy and History" available tp purchase in The Novel Idea, Ballyshannon Museum, O'Neills, Clearys and Local Hands in Ballyshannon. Available also in Four Master's Bookshop in Donegal Town. For postal details contact