It was a very proud day for the Parish of Kilbarron, Ballyshannon on Tuesday, indeed, an historic day in every sense of the word, as a comprehensive new book chronicling the entire history of the parish was launched.
The book was written by one of Ireland’s pre-eminent historians, Dr Geraldine Carville, who has published more than 14 books and numerous articles in prestigious publications in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, the USA, France, Belgium and China, and won six international awards.
Although Cardinal Sean Brady has planned to officiate at the launch, he was detained by other matters on the day and Bishop John McAreavey, a regular visitor to and a great friend of Ballyshannon cheerfully did the honours.
He quoted one of America’s greatest Irish American politicians, Tip O’Neill (whose mother, incidentally, was from Donegal), “All politics is local. Well, you can say that for history too. It’s our local history that engages us most closely.”
Bishop McAreavey praised Fr Cathal Ó Fearrai, P.P. Kilbarron for being the driving force behind the book. “One of the things about Cathal is that he is a builder. He takes on big projects that no one else would and gets them paid for. He also appreciates culture and when he came to Ballyshannon, I think he was a bit like an oil baron. He knew he was sitting on a big reserve and that, if he could find the right person to drill, it would be a gold mine.
“Well, he found a master driller in Dr Geraldine Carville. This isn’t so much a book as an encyclopedia - not just in size but in the richness of material.”
Fr Ó Fearrai said that, when he came to Ballyshannon fifteen years ago, getting a book on the parish’s rich history published was one of the first projects he set his sights on.
“Dr Carville had already started her work, with her excellent book on Assaroe Abbey, The Abbey of the Morning Star, which was published in 1988.
“The parish also published a little booklet on the history of St Mary’s Cashelard when the church there was renovated for its centenary in 1998.
“Dr Carville spent seven years researching every aspect of parish life, looking into every nook and cranny of this parish.
“We are delighted and very proud that Dr Carville and her publisher, Michael McKernan, whose parents are from Donegal, have produced such a comprehensive and attractive book, not just on the history of the parish but of the town of Ballyshannon and its environs.”
Dr Carville told the enthusiastic audience at Dorrian’s Hotel: “When Fr Ó Fearrai asked me to take this project on, I asked him what would happen if I find anything unpleasant he he told me ‘warts and all’. Well, I am very happy to report that there are no warts.
“I first came to the town when Dr Vera Lang was concerned about people dumping rubbish in the river and hired two skips to clear it. Then she turned her interest to the Mill Wheel and then to Assaroe Abbey, the silent archive of much of Ballyshannon’s history.
“Kilbarron is one of the most richly endowed and vibrant parishes in Ireland and I am very proud to have been involved in this project.”
The speeches were followed by presentations and music from Cór Craobhaigh and Bel Canto under the direction of Angela Currid.