Creeslough man, Gerald Duffy was raised within the shadow of Muckish mountain, and now his attentions are turned to a new project telling the landmarks amazing history.
Gerald lives in the town land Carrownamaddy near Creeslough village and along the road to the famous ‘Miner’s Path’ on Muckish where sand was extracted and used in the making of glass.
Married to Grace, he is father to son Ciaran and daughters Marie, Thearsa and Sinead.
Gerald has worked in the building and construction business for many years in shuttering and later as a shuttering foreman.
His work has brought him all over Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales but Creeslough was never far from his thoughts, where ever in the world he was and never stayed away too long.
For many years he has been actively involved in many Creeslough community projects and developments and is passionate about the history of his home area.
He helped establish the Creeslough Youth Club with others. He helped found a local magazine that comes out each Christmas, the “Creeslough View”, which hosts a mix of nostalgia and history as well as documenting local events each year.
Given his location in Carrownamaddy, he saw first-hand the number of people who would travel to the north side of Muckish, to sights see or climb or enjoy the views.
The site at Muckish has lay largely dormant since the Silica sand quarry closed in the 1950’s but still remained a place of fascination for locals and visitors alike since that time.
Back in the year 2000 a local committee was formed to help promote the area for tourism and the Muckish Development Committee was born.
Their objective is to fund-raise to help develop the area and add amenities for visitors and today they have been active in a number of successful developments including having the mountain road re-tarred and recently they have been working on clearing sections of the old Swilly Railway line, which ran along side the mountain, as a loop walk for walkers.
One of the significant achievements the group completed was the replacing of the old damaged cross on the summit of Muckish with a new large structure.
Gerald said the project was great to complete as it honoured the work of the former workers at Muckish who erected the original cross on the top back in the 1950’s.
As well as a large swathe of local helpers the group were fortunate to enlist the help of the Irish Air Corps. Helicopter from Finner Army Camp to hoist the massive structure up the mountain.
“I joined with the other on Muckish Development Committee to try and help the local area. Its a great place, full of great views and walks. There is also great history from the recent discovery of old mill wheels that were made in the area, through to the story of Muckish sand that was used to make glass,” he stated.
“Since we started the committee we have managed to get the road tarred and we hope to finish that off with a car park and a picnic area for people to use when they visit. We are currently working on a 10km walk along the railway line. That is being cleared at the minute and it is a new lop walk for people to enjoy,” he added.
Gerald was involved with the first ever Creeslough Walking Weekend, that saw almost 100 hill walkers gather over to days taking part in a number of organised hill walks.
“The recent event went very well considering the bad weather we have been having this summer. The area has great potential for this type of activity and that is why were are trying to get the facilities in at Muckish.”
The latest project he and the Muckish Development Committee have undertaken is to help create a new documentary film telling the story of the story of Muckish sand.
Under the working title “Glass Mountain: the story of Muckish sand” is currently in production.
The film will be premiered at this years Creeslough Fair Weekend on Saturday August 11.
Gerald explains that the story of the history of the sand production that made the mountain a well known name all over the world, had yet to be told on film and they were given a rare opportunity last year when a family from Belfast who were regular visitors to Donegal in the 1930’s and 40’s gave him old 8mm footage they filmed while the quarry was still operating.
This added a new dimension to the records of local history and forms the basis of the new film.
“There is a group of four of us working on the film since the winter. It is a great story and it was a great discovery to get the old film.”
Gerald has also gathered a huge archive of old photographs and memorabilia relating to the mining and much of this will feature in the new film as well.
He says the project would not have been possible without the help of the Donegal Local Development Company and the good will of many other people.
It is set to feature the story the men who mined the white Silica sand that ended up all over the work when it was turned into one of the finest forms of glass in the world.
Glass Mountain features interviews with a number of the men who toiled in the harsh environment near the mountain top, recalling their stories of this bygone era.
It also features the presenting talents of the well-known Aussie Bryson, who recounts the story of the glass.
The musical sound track comes from well-known guitar player, Liam Deery and other local artists.
“It will be great to get it done and so many people have helped us along the way,” he said.