Paddy Ferry is a man who has been closely associated with West Donegal and would be regarded as one of the county’s best ambassadors in Scotland by many here at home.
Despite his work as one of the top dentists in Scotland, he is closely associated with the Keadue Band and the Mary from Dungloe Festival and one of his most memorable memories was seeing his daughter Jemma winning the coveted title two years ago.
Paddy spoke to this newspaper about his early life in Donegal and his life today in Scotland.
“I was an only child and my mother, Mary, was a single mum which very unusual in those days. Sadly her marriage to my father, Anthony, broke up just before I was born, but I was so pleased to finally get to know my dad in my teens and was able to keep in touch with him when I came to live and work in Scotland.
“We lived in Keadue with my mother’s family and my two uncles, Bernie and John were major influences in early life. They gave me my love for the Keadue Band-they were both well known members of the great band of the 1950’s.
“They were also both avid sports fans, boxing and football especially. They took me as a 7 year old up to McBeths in Dungloe (the Barbers ) to see the second Floyd Paterson- Ingemar Johansson World Heavyweight Title fight.This was the first time I had ever seen a television a little black and white box in the corner.
“My primary school was Keadue National School just two minutes over the road from home. My first teacher was Bridget O’Donnell whose family owned the famous Thatch pub at Burtonport cross-roads and was somebody who was a special teacher and gave me a definite sense of self-worth.”
Naul McCole was his teacher in my final year in National School - he was a great servant of Donegal GAA, former County Chairman and mentor of the 1992 All-Ireland Champions and Brian McEniff’s right-hand man.
“Naul helped me prepare for secondary school by getting me through the Primary Cert, something I will always be grateful to him for.”
Paddy developed many friendships during those day which he retains to this very day. One of the more well known was Packie Bonner who he continued to keep in touch with during his days at Celtic.
He continued, “Though I was older than Packie we were both at Keadue Shool together and I was appointed by the teacher in Packie’s first week, to be his big buddy. I thought of that as he saved Tomofte’s penalty fondly remembering those two young fellas kicking a ball around in short trousers.
“I was very lucky to be able to go to secondary school as most young people did not in those days.
“Six months after I started at Dungloe High School the education Minister at the time Donagh O’Malley changed Ireland forever with a stroke of his ministerial pen when he introduced free secondary school education. That certainly made my passage through secondary much easier.”
The personable Paddy spoke of his ambitions even at that early age.
“Even at national school it was my ambition to go to university. I am not sure why but that was the reason it was so important for me to get to secondary school.
“Not many young people like me from small farming stock made it to university in those days but, thank God, I made it. Being an only child was probably a help as whatever family reserves we had were directed towards helping me through my education.
“My main help was, of course, my mother. Apart from millions of prayers, rosaries and Massses, she worked every year during the fishing season in Burtonport to support me in Dublin.”
Paddy graduated from UCD as a dental surgeon and decided to emigrate to Edinburgh for some experience.
He said, “ My plan was to stay for a few years get some practical experience and return to Dungloe to set up my own practise but when I met my wife Fiona it was love at first sight. The rest is history.
Even though Paddy has lived most of his life in Edinburgh he has always kept in close touch with his roots in the Rosses and not just through his support for the Mary From Dungloe Festival but also with the Keadue Band.
“Many people will understand when I tell you that among my greatest memories of the Mary From Dungloe Festival was leading the Keadue Band to four consecutive victories at the Festival senior band competition – really precious memories”
There was no doubting the genuine sense of honour felt by Paddy Ferry and his family when he and his beautiful daughter, Jemma, the 2010 “Mary”. He has loyally served the Festival for 26 years as the chair of the Edinburgh “Mary” Selection Committee and during those 26 years the Edinburgh “ Mary “ has been successful on three occasions in Dungloe.
“For somebody like myself” Paddy said, “ who had never been very far and had not seen very much, the really exciting thing about the new festival was the fact that we were able to see famous people in real life for the first time. I remember standing and watching Emmet Spiceland, on a lorry outside Sweeney’s Hotel, singing the famous song with their lovely harmonies – an unforgettable experience. ”.
Ferry has recently been elected as President of the British Dental Association Branch Council and one of his great passions outside his professional life has been his commitment to the Ecumenical Movement and the great goal of Christian Unity.
He still takes a keen interest in the affairs of the Catholic Church in Ireland and, despite the present despair, he feels there is ‘hope for renewal in our Church due to the presence of the new Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland.”
Ferry concluded, “Keadue will always be home.” His commitment to the Band and the “ Mary “ Festival remains as strong as ever. “To be honest all of us involved in the Edinburgh Mary feel privileged to be able to make some kind of contribution to our home community every year.