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Remembering Elvis Presley in Donegal

Denis McGuinness of Ballyshannon planning a special anniversary gathering

Matt Britton

Reporter:

Matt Britton

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editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Remembering Elvis Presley in Donegal

Denis plays host at one of his earlier Elvis parties in Ballyshannon. Photo: Matt Britton

Millions of fans around the world yesterday remembered the late Elvis Presley who passed away at the age of 42, 40 years ago this week.

On Wednesday morning fans flocked to his graveside at Meditation Garden in Graceland leaving flowers, signs and other tributes behind them in memory of a man that they all loved.

Elvis may indeed have left the building, but there is no doubt that his memory remains as strong as ever even here in Donegal.

Donegal fans will remember jiving, rocking and indeed the romantic slow dance with “Are You Lonesome Tonight” around the dancehalls of the county - Pavesi, Astoria, Fiesta to name but a few. There is no doubt that his songs encouraged many's a marriage.

For one Donegal man Elvis holds a very special significance - one that gave him the courage and inspiration to battle through a number of life-threatening illnesses and tonight he will have his own unique party to celebrate the legend's lifetime.

Back in 2007 Denis McGuinness of Ballyshannon developed an interest in Elvis more by accident than design.

“I always liked his ballads and gospel songs - that deep and husky voice always appealed to me. One afternoon I was down the street and bumped into local artist Barry Sweeny.

“Barry was well known for his great portraits of Rory Gallagher and I just mentioned to him had he ever done a painting of Elvis. That simple question gave birth to what is now known as Ballyshannon's own Graceland."

Denis in the special room he has lovingly put together at his home in Ballyshannon to pay homage to Elvis Presley

Love of his music

“My interest grew as did the love of his music. He was a very intriguing man, kept to himself and his family but brought great pleasure to the millions both during his lifetime and up to the present day.

“Regrettably his fear of flying deprived his European and Irish fans of ever experiencing him live her on home soil in Ireland!”

Slowly but surely Denis became even more interested and started collecting all sorts of memorabilia so much so that he eventually had to put on an extension on in his carefully manicured back garden.

He travelled from car boot sale to auctions buying up bits and pieces and the friends started to give him even more.

Denis continued, “What started off as my own little den, a place where I could find my own space, read the paper, enjoy a cup of tea or a nightcap with friends, became a shrine to Elvis.

“It has got to the stage that I have collected so much stuff that I might have to claw back a little bit of that garden.”

He added, “On a more serious note, this little den or shrine has provided me with a great place of relaxation and inspiration.

“In the last number of years I experienced two life-threatening illnesses and thank God came out on the right side. It did however put life into a whole new perspective

“It made one realise that it was time to slow down and appreciate the things around me. Let's face it, Elvis, with all his money probably never had that luxury of just sitting back and relaxing, he was always in the public eye.

“I now come out here sit back, go through the bits and pieces, listen to the music and just simply relax.

“There still is a great curiosity about the man and his times and friends often come around and often spend the time chatting. I honestly believe that this room has really assisted me in my recovery.”

Tonight Denis will celebrate Elvis's anniversary with a special gathering in the shrine with a number of guests - there will be quizzes with a top prize of a trip to Graceland (Ballyshannon), refreshments and without a doubt no shortage of renderings of Blue Suede Shoes, The Wonder of You and the like.

Denis concluded, “At the very top of my bucket list there is a trip to Graceland looming - as the man himself said, ‘It’s now or never’, so it's time to get the passport renewed and the tickets booked. Elvis is waiting. Meanwhile for one night only Elvis will very definitely be back in the building in Ballyshannon.”