The late Francis (Francie) Gallagher was fondly remembered in Ballyshannon this (Saturday) afternoon where a special bench in his memory was unveiled at one of his favourite places, Ballyshannon handball alley.
By Michael Daly
Francie, who passed away on January 4th this year, was a noted handball player and an accomplished musician, so it was hugely appropriate that Ballyshannon Brass and Reed band, of which he was a lifetime member, would entertain an excellent attendance at the alley.
Under the baton of Michael ‘Allah’ Gallagher, the Brass and Reed band played a beautiful programme of music as a rare summer visitor (the sun) stole across their shoulders to add warmth to a day already full of emotion.
The alley, which nestles in a soft curving elbow of The Mall which looks out on the Erne Estuary and the golden glow of the Finner Hills, is an oasis of calm. The three great grey concrete walls of the alley are custodians of memories of heroes past and present who have hit crisp kill shots that only Cuchulainn might better.
The Gallagher family came from far and near. Seven months since they lost Francie in January, the sense of loss is still raw, but days like this when others make it obvious just how much he meant to them, help to take away some of that sense of loss.
Francie’s brother Tom (the drummer) was in great form as he greeted one and all. Among the many who travelled distance to be there, Francie’s son Frankie flew in from Scotland for the unveiling of the beautiful bench.
The bench itself has a number of messages emblazoned tastefully on it, all of them close to Francie’s heart - in particular the words: ‘I love people who can make me laugh when I don’t even want to smile’ which had been selected by his nephew Rossa Danagher, proprietor of the award winning triumvirate of hair salons (Rossano’s) who has often spoken of the huge positive influence the late Francie was on him.
Denis McGuinness, retired Donegal Democrat printer, who is one of the dedicated group who keep the alley and grounds around it in pristine order, told the Democrat it was “a great day and a wonderful honour for a great man” while the quiet spoken Robert Lawn, said the local club were “delighted to see the bench in Francie’s memory unveiled”.
Francie’s son, Frank, in his younger days a talented gaelic footballer with Aodh Ruadh who was gifted with a left foot sweeter than ten bags of icing sugar, said the family were very pleased that there would be a little corner in one of his father’s favourite places that would remember him and his love for the game and the people who played it with him.
Following the unveiling a handball tournament in Francie’s honour saw top players from Ulster and Connacht take on the local Ballyshannon Handball Club team, the title decided on accumulated points, Ballyshannon winning by a handsome margin with the final game of a particularly high standard.
As the sun slipped below the sandbar the last few stragglers made their way out of the alley, a family friend captured the views of all when he told the Democrat: “Francie would be pleased, not just by the bench, but by the people who came here today and by the sport, the friendship we witnessed. He’d have loved a day like today.”
Pictured: Flossie Gallagher presenting the cup to the victorious Ballyshannon team.Included are family members Janet, Lisa and Frankie.