IT OCCURS TO ME: Teeing off amid a palpable sense of local pride

What a week it's been in Inishowen

Frank Galligan


Frank Galligan


Frank Galligan column

Barney McLaughlin pictured in Ballyliffen on Wednesday. Picture: Brian McDaid

It’s some 30 degrees as I pen this feature in my sister Bernie’s house in Tornabratley overlooking Ballyliffin Golf Club.
On the azure horizon, Glashedy Island stands benignly surrounded by seemingly peaceful waters.
However, the sea around the island is potentially very dangerous for shipping and unsafe for anchorage. Rocks and breakers extend up to 1,000 meters from all sides of the island.
The waters are relatively shallow at between 4 and 5 fathoms. The shoals to the north of the island are particularly dangerous, lying at a depth of just 3 fathoms.
In contrast, the white tents and marquees at the Golf Club look like a mirage of tranquility in this most beautiful of locations. The traffic is non-stop as the Dubai Irish Open kicks off in less than a week (it began today), with lorries carrying crash barriers, catering vans and countless other utility vehicles adding sound to the increasing cacophony of excitement and colour.
The whole area has been transformed. Donegal County Council vehicles are to be seen everywhere, houses are being painted and hedgerows cut from Buncrana through Clonmany on to Ballyliffin and Carndonagh.
The Dubai Duty Free sponsors have taken over the smallest of the local hotels for the duration, and will have their own caterers! Hotels, bed and breakfasts, every available space is booked out and there is a palpable sense of pride in the locality.
As reported by the Democrat last week, as well as the 100,000 golf fans expected to flock to Ballyliffin Golf Club, in Inishowen over the four days of the tournament another 500,000 golf and sports enthusiasts all around the world are expected to watch the TV coverage of the event.
The glorious weather will add to the spectacle, ensuring that Inishowen and the county at large will have one of the greatest PR coups imaginable in terms of tourism potential.
Glashedy means ‘The Island of the Green Cloak’, pertaining to the layer of grass on top of the island. Today you can’t see the green for the blue, and the greens of the links below shimmer in the extraordinary heat. Undoubtedly, good weather - to quote a local - ‘puts people in powerful form’, and as you read this, that form is going through the mercury here.


The aforementioned Glashedy Island was used during the 19th and early 20th century as a hideout for making illegally distilled Poitin.
In August 1900, Sergeant Gillespie and Sergeant Quinn of the Royal Irish Constabulary and a Mr. Webber, the Station Master of the Malin Head Coast Guard mounted an expedition to the Island. They found several hundred gallons of "wash" and also found a large quantity of distilling machinery in a cave which served a still-house.
The cave was well stocked with fuel and provisions.
I was reminded of a great yarn I heard from a friend and former colleague from BBC Radio Foyle, the broadcaster and songwriter, Eamon Friel, who recalled that his grandfather Patrick was “a bit of a moonshiner.
“He had the poitin still set up in the barn and one day the sow got in. They are very inquisitive and intelligent animals are sows and yes looking back we were obviously at the forefront of free range farming at the time.
“Anyway in went the sow and tumbled the still and drank the lot. She was unconscious for two days and I would guess woke up with a massive hangover. No hair of the dog available I’m afraid.”
And it just wasn’t confined to pigs as the following old Inishowen ballad reminds us:

“It’s of a well bred donkey once lived in Donegal,
In the parish of Clonmany, well known to one and all,
Its master’s name was Kelly, a decent man and true,
Until the law compelled him, his ass he would not shoe.
This ass came from the Illies where the poteen it was rife,
And there to its maturity it had led a blameless life,
Many a cart of turf it brought its master from the moss,
It carted to Buncrana, likewise Clonmany Cross,
It then went to the Isle of Doagh bought by a widow man,
Where it procured a taste for wash before the poteen ban,
But the Isle of Doagh went dry at last, and the ass reformed too,
And from that day it wouldn’t taste a drop of mountain dew.”

As a youngster, I caddied for many years at the Rosapenna Golf Links (once ranked 3rd in Britain and Ireland behind The Old Course at St. Andrews and The Royal County Down Golf Club) to earn a few bob during summer holidays.
My friend and fellow caddy, ‘Hughie’ (not his real name), was once asked in my presence by a visiting golfer what club he’d recommend for a particularly difficult hole. Hughie was itching to finish early as he was meeting “a wee woman for an ice-cream at McBrides”.
Says he in his haste: “You may as well hit her a f...een keek!”