TRIBUTE

Liam Hyland, a unique spokesman for Donegal

Paddy Clancy

Reporter:

Paddy Clancy

Email:

editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Liam Hyland, a unique spokeman for Donegal

Liam Hyland pictured doing one of the things he loved most, a spin out on his bicycle.

In this article Paddy Clancy writes about his great friend, Liam Hyland, the hotelier and newspaper editor, who died suddenly last weekend.

Liam Hyland was a unique spokesman for Donegal.
He was a loner, of a kind, with an extraordinary facility to be absolutely loyal to his many friends.
We have been friends since we met 53 years ago when he was home on summer leave from university studies.
I was only a few months in Donegal town, in digs in The Scotsman pub in Bridge Street.
Donegal being what it is, I had already made many friends. Liam quickly became one of my closest. I don’t recall exactly our first meeting. I know Liam would. He had a magnificent memory as readers of his diary in the Donegal Times are well aware.

A lifetime of friendship
What I do remember is our first days prompted a lifetime of friendship.
It began with one of the best Summers of my life. It was the height of the showband era and Liam and I visited dance halls all over the county, many of the venues now names confined to history, like the Pavesi in Donegal town, the Fiesta in Letterkenny, the Butt Hall in Ballybofey, and St Mary’s in Dunkineely. We travelled further, to a variety of places in villages across Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry.

Family and friends walk with Liam on his final journey on Wednesday as they made their way to his Requiem Mass in St Patrick's Church, Donegal Town.

Sing songs in the Shamrock
We were seldom absent from a sing-song in the Shamrock Inn in Donegal’s Main Street when Tommy Gallinagh owned it, especially when it was packed with attractive girl tourists.
Liam was very friendly with two Dublin-based Mountcharles brothers, Des and Billy Cunningham, in those days. Both are now deceased. But the connection made then was extended when I moved to Dublin and Liam was the forger of great friendships in the capital between people from Donegal and my home town Sligo.
Absences of many years when our lives and careers placed us many hundreds of miles part made no difference.
Long-distance communication wasn’t our thing.
It didn’t need to be. Whenever we met again, it was as if we had been just days apart.
He was at my wedding 50 years ago in Brighton. Liam was with the lady I believe was the love of his life although they eventually parted ways.
A present he gave us for our 40th anniversary has pride of place on the sitting-room mantle.
One of the most amazing features of Liam’s personality was his modesty.

Outspoken
He was outspoken in his writings, but he was not one to seek the limelight.
Although I was aware he had a keen interest in current affairs, for a long time I wasn’t aware of a hidden aspiration to be a journalist.
Liam while still a hotelier, was one of the founders of the Donegal Times, a community paper first printed as a special supplement in the Donegal Democrat in March 1989.
It later became a stand-alone publication with Liam as owner and editor.
When he sold the hotel, he applied more of his time to the paper, establishing the fortnightly as one of the best community publications I have ever read.
Liam’s diary was brilliant commentary, written without fear or favour.
His readers loved it. It embarrassed some, so close did Liam get to the truth.
Liam loved Donegal and everything about it.
He was the town’s unofficial spokesman through his paper which, although aimed at a small circulation area, was welcomed by readers in America as evidenced by the letters page.
He was preparing notes for this week’s paper when he died at home at the age of 73.
Donegal has lost one of its great historians, commentators and characters. I have lost a dear friend.

* Paddy Clancy, a native of Sligo, worked for many years in journalism in Donegal, Fleet Street and Dublin and was a life-long friend of the late Liam Hyland. He continues to work as as a freelance reporter. Married to Bernie, they live in Rossnowlagh.

The late Liam Hyland, 73, who died suddenly on Saturday last in Donegal Town.