Monday, 7 January 2013

Let Me Sing of What I Know (2)

Let Me Sing of What I Know (2)

Last week’s blog looked at the lives of two newspaper editors who contributed much to the local history of the area and this week concludes with a look at the lives of two other newspaper editors of the past. Our local newspapers are in many cases the only written record of events which were important to our ancestors. They are in a sense a witness to events which would otherwise be forgotten.

Cecil King (1908-2000) was born in Ballymote Co. Sligo in 1908 and  purchased The Donegal Democrat in 1948. He had been chief reporter in The Derry Journal and, with the help of a few friends, purchased the Donegal Democrat from the Downey family. While working in The Derry Journal Cecil had a world scoop as he was the first reporter on the scene when Amelia Earhart landed near the city, on her first solo flight from America. His arrival in Ballyshannon coincided with the Erne Hydro-Electric scheme when the town doubled in population, work was plentiful and it was said that in boarding houses the beds never cooled, as men worked around the clock for Cementation, Harvey and McLaughlin and the other contractors. He was joined by his brother Gervase King who had been working with the Ulster Herald Group in Omagh. Commercial enterprises in Ballyshannon thrived during the Erne-Scheme and this additional prosperity helped the local newspaper. Nevertheless Cecil also saw the downside of the major reconstruction of the town, as the Assaroe Waterfall and the picturesque bridge of 14 arches were demolished and the successful salmon fishery declined.

Cecil King had a great insight into local and national history and was for many years Treasurer of County Donegal Historical Society and President of the Society from 1984-1986. His index to The Donegal Annual showed great foresight as in pre-computer days it allowed local historians and the public an easy access into the contents of the annuals. The Donegal Democrat kept the history of County Donegal to the forefront by frequently publishing articles reflecting our rich history. In 1989 Cecil King published his reminiscences entitled Memorabilia. He recalled in a forthright manner the challenges in modernising the newspaper, the evolution of the local economy, politics and personalities in the county from the 1920s. His son also called Cecil continued the newspaper business on his retirement. Cecil King (senior) died on the 9th February 2000 and is buried in the Abbey graveyard Ballyshannon.

John Ward (1927-2009) was a journalist and newspaper editor who bridged the gap between the printing press and the internet. He was a grandson of John McAdam, founder of The Donegal Vindicator, and John Ward was the last editor of the newspaper which closed on East Port Ballyshannon in 1956. He moved to Dublin where he became an official reporter in Dáil Éireann. From there he emigrated to Canada where he recorded the debates in Hansard for the Canadian parliament.

The valuable experiences of this reporter and researcher led to his development of an internet website which happily, thanks to his family, can still be located on the internet at www. This website records much local history which has not been recorded elsewhere and is regularly read by people living in the town and worldwide who enjoy reading memories of their native area. He had a keen memory with great attention to detail as he recalled what life was like growing up in Ballyshannon from the 1930s. All the local characters and sporting and social events are recorded in a very clear and easy manner which owes much to his newspaper training. He has a compendium of stories recounting the history of the falls of Assaroe which he had ambitions of restoring, and his website has influenced the thoughts of many natives at home and abroad.

New Local History Book: “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” by Anthony Begley details the history of the Ballyshannon area in the 19th and 20th centuries including fishing,
sport, tourism, social history, flora and fauna, The Independence struggle, The Emergency, buildings, townland history and lots of reminiscences. 

None of the material used in the blogs is taken from this book. The book covers an area roughly from Ballyshannon:

·        To Rossnowlagh, to Belleek, to Finner/ Bundoran to the Loughside, to Corlea, to Cashelard and towards Ballintra. Includes all the parish of Kilbarron and the local parts of Mágh Ene parish. Contains
·        500 pages with much material on how to trace your roots. All the gravestone inscriptions in the 3 local cemeteries are recorded and indexed for ease of location.
·        Includes many rare images and modern colour aerial photographs of the area.

Available from The Novel Idea Ballyshannon/The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or can be ordered on line from Price €25 softback plus postage if required. A limited number of hardbacks also available. Enquiries welcome.

Ballyshannon Musings: Please let people with connections to 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 at

New items will be posted every week or so on Ballyshannon Musings during 2013; the year of “The Gathering”. Keep in touch. Google “The Gathering in Ballyshannon” for more details of events you might like to attend.

Next Week’s Blog is called “Farewell to Ballyshannon” and records the emigrant tale of a twelve year old boy leaving Ballyshannon for America over a century ago.

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