Many years ago in this column, I wrote about my first memory as a 12-year old having been deposited at St. Eunan’s College in September 1966 with fellow Carrigart lads, John Boylan and Eunan Gallagher, along with Aeneas McClafferty from Downings.
Big Kieran McFadden was in his final year and asked me if I was hungry and when I told him I was starving, he said something to the effect that “There’s a wile feed waiting for you inside!”
Well, there wasn’t, and subsequently, Kieran and I had a good laugh at the memory, even though at the time, I could have given him a good Dunaibh loodherin'. (not to be recommended by the way, as 'Yogi' McFadden went on to be an accomplished boxer!)
His father Jack – the local schoolteacher – was a native of Derryhassan in Ros Goill – and he passed away in 2002, five years before the launch of his “Ar Toinn Is Ar Tir” in the Irish College. As Kieran explained, Jack’s mother ran a shop in Derryhassan so as a young man growing up in an area steeped in seanchas, Jack had daily contact with many of the old storytellers and characters in the area, and from them he developed a fascination with the rich folklore which permeated this Gaeltacht area. It was only in later years, when he realised that time was running out for him and the old traditions in the area, that he set about writing down these stories.
He revisited many of the old characters who have now passed on, as, indeed, he himself has - people such as Manus the Post, Charlie John Fhearagail and Marcus Rua. Although he had actually typed up the stories by the end of the 1980s with the intention of having them printed so that they could be passed on to younger generations, he later developed Alzheimer’s disease and until some two years ago, the draft lay untouched.
Kieran felt that as so much memory and local tradition was captured in this material, it should not follow him to the grave and, therefore, with the support and encouragement of Ros Goill group Céim Aniar, he undertook to finish the job which his father had almost completed.
“Ar Toinn Is Ar Tír” consists of eighteen chapters, and details such diverse stories as the famous Downings fisherman Anton Rua McGettigan and his boat The Carrigart, The Scotswoman’s Curse on Sheephaven Bay 1818, The Blowing Sands, and the tragic death of young Alexander McQuilkin.
Death of a loved one from drowning
I was reminded how my late father had the unenviable task of calling to a number of local women in the Downings area during his tenure there to tell them of the death of a loved one from drowning.
For the quality of the Rosgoill Irish alone, the book is worth reading but anyone in a coastal fishing community will consider all the stories equally theirs. One humorous aside…I received a note from a Downings man some time later wondering if I’d read “Ar Toin Is Ar Tir”. I can imagine the crack at the Ros Goill launch had ‘Toin’ rather than ‘Toinn’ been in the title.
Well. Kieran is now one of a number of the St Eunan’s Leaving Cert class of 1967, organising a 50-year reunion. That’s Big Kieran, ‘Yogi’ to his classmates and beyond, in the accompanying photograph, standing at the very back, (he’s the tallest!) next to the dark-haired Brian Doherty from Malin Town, who Kieran remembers as a great singer.
Even if you started in the college in 1962 and dropped out early, they’d love to hear from you. (Coincidentally, we craythurs who finished our Prep year in 1967, Pat McArt, Charlie Collins, John Loughrey, Michael Cunningham, Declan Gallagher, Brain McNelis, to name but a few, are hoping to do our own jubilee, but more of that anon.)
Harry Reid, one of a number of notable names featured below, was ‘Head’ of my table in first year. If you know of and have contact details for anybody who journeyed in whole or in part with the Class of 1962 – 1967 in St. Eunan’s College, please get in touch as soon as you possibly can with any of the people listed below. They need this help and it will be hugely appreciated.
Harold Reid, 0879679089, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eddie McDaid, 0868191990, email: email@example.com
Kieran McFadden, 0862500981, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
James McDaid, 0872939078, email: email@example.com
Pat Dunleavy, 0872544978, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lochlann McGill, email: email@example.com
THE CARRIGART CARBON FOOTPRINT
In last Thursday’s Democrat, Columba Boyce of the Carrigart Tidy Towns committee reminded readers that vandalism has reared it's ugly head once again around the village in recent months. The two lifebelts at the foreshore were being removed and tampered with on a regular basis and consequently rendered unfit for use in the event of an emergency, due to the the ropes being knotted etc. Signs are being broken and removed and stones are being systematically stripped from walls.
Thankfully, Columba is to Carrigart what Stephen McCahill is to Ardara, and he and his volunteers soldier on. Carrigart was basking in sunshine, and later that evening as the sun set over Sheephaven Bay, there was a full moon over Gortnabrade...ah, perfect for a timely visit from the Muse!
The town looked the epitome of tidy and I was privileged to meet Columba along with Mary Clarke and some children from Scoil Eoin Baiste and Naomh Colmcille. At a time when the headlines are dominated by more Irish Water controversies, it was refreshing (forgive the pun!) to see them distribute their leaflets, “Energy & Water Conservation - Savings Tips’ and “Reducing our Carbon Footprint”.
Later, in the graveyard of my boyhood chapel, The Church of St John the Baptist, I reflected on the contrast of those unthinking selfish and lazy people who discriminately dump rubbish behind the car-park wall.
Scoil Eoin Baiste is opposite the park and the pupils there and in Naomh Colmcille are great examples of how a new generation are shaming many grown-ups in their grasp of the preservation of our environment. As I headed back to Derry, I was reminded of the parallels between the Carrigart weans and some children in St Teresa’s Primary School in west Belfast who had moved and astounded me during the previous weeks with their creativity and enthusiasm.
No matter how much negativity they may encounter in the outside world, they grasp Obama’s slogan, “Yes, we can!” Shel Silverstein, who wrote most of Dr Hook’s great hit songs, also reminded us:
‘Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.’