Red and white blossoms fall gracefully from flower-boxes and hanging baskets throughout the town of Dungloe as a deep-rooted sense of pride is displayed by the close-knit Rosses community during one of the warmest days this summer.
Standing at the top of the Main Street is Dominick Boyle, working outside his home in a haze of sunshine. Dominick has lived on Dungloe's Main Street for 85 years and claims to be the oldest man in the town.
Memories of Dungloe
Dominick is in every respect of the word a true gentleman - an endearing character with a wonderful memory which spans the decades: “I remember when hundreds of bicycles lay against that wall. People would come from all over to go to Mass there. Now, it’s all cars,” he says looking towards the chapel building to his right.
Dominick takes a seat outside his open-doored home.
“See this wall here,” he says slapping the wall beside him that juts across part of the pavement, “do you know why this wall wasn’t knocked? It’s because it’s the famine wall, the free beef was cut on this wall and the people came in from the country to get it.”
Dominick is proud of the town and its people: “I lived here all my life. I never emigrated. People used to go tattie hoking but I think that we are self sufficient, we cut our own turf and do things like that. I worked in the ambulance service for 38 years. The man on it was retiring and he asked me if I would go for it. It was different in those days,” he said.
The ambulance which Dominick worked for covered an area from Gaoth Dobhair, Falcarragh, Gweebarra, Glenties and Portnoo.
Many students from the nearby Rosses Community School spill past Dominick’s door during the school year. Dominick is very complimentary of these young people: “The young people are very nice. They all know your name.”
Dominick has watched the town change over the past eight decades and the octogenarian feels positive about the changing face of his native town.
Having nourished a keen interest in politics and current affairs over the years it can be understood why many describe Dominick’s house as the house of parliament: “Even when Pat ‘the Cope’ is in there, I still keep order,” he said laughing.
Over the years, many new shops have moved into the area on the outskirts of the main street. Supervalu, Lidl and Aldi are located on the Carnmore Road. The town has also become home to the medical diagnostics firm Randox.
In the centre of the town is the Templecrone Co-operative Agricultural Society Ltd - which subsequently became known as 'The Cope.' It was founded by Paddy Gallagher in 1906, fourteen shareholders each donated half a crown.
The Rosses Community Development Project - a hive of activity
There is a strong sense of community in the Rosses town and at the top of Dungloe is the building of the Rosses Community Development Project (CDP). Inside is a hive of activity. Behind the building a sensory garden is being built for children.
Bags are being packed in the kitchen as part of the Food Cloud initiative. People can come and take bags of food which are sourced from Lidl.
Administrator, Ann Marie Shovlin, lists a huge range of courses that the organisation run amongst them are wellbeing courses, working with those who are retired, classes from the Education Training Board (ETB) and band practice.
On the other side of the town, passed the old mill, is the Waterfront Hotel.
The Mary from Dungloe festival is internationally recognised
The hotel which was formerly known as Óstán na Rosann, opened two years ago in time for the annual Mary from Dungloe festival and is going from strength to strength, according to the first director of the festival, Daniel Gallagher.
“Last year, the Mary from Dungloe Festival celebrated its fiftieth year. Last year was unique. People came from all over the world to it,” the former Rosses Community School Principal said.
The idea of the festival was born in the kitchen of Sweeney’s Hotel which is now for sale on the busy main street.
“On one occasion, someone said, wouldn’t it be great to have a festival. The Dungloe Development Association was asked to help and they said ok.”
The following year, the young people ran it themselves and with Daniel as the director and Nancy ‘the Cope’ O’Donnell as secretary.
“The very fact that it has survived all these years is great. It is a tradition, it will never die,” he said.
Daniel is very complimentary of the energy and time that the international singing star, Daniel O’Donnell, has invested in the festival.
“Just look at the part that Daniel played last year. He was everywhere, he gave it one hundred per cent. In fact, look at the part that Daniel has played every year,” he said.
Gay Byrne’s name was always synonymous with the festival. When the RTÉ man began to visit Toberkeen someone suggested asking him to be compére at the festival. He was asked, and he duly accepted the invitation.
His wife Kathleen was on the adjudication panel the first year alongside Larry and Bridin Cassidy and Miriam Woodbourne. Gay Byrne later bought a holiday home in Toberkeen.
A few metres behind Daniel and Dominick’s homes is a spectacular mural - the work of of Kevin Gallagher.
The painting is of the forge and Kevin Bonner remembers going to the forge many years ago to make an appointment for his father’s jenny.
“The place was always busy. You had to make an appointment,” he said.
'The Men's Shed' serves the community well
Across the lane, from the mural is ‘The Men’s Shed.’ Hughie McLaughlin and members of the organisation have created wooden chairs that are located at the top of the town. They also make mini-wheelbarrows, rocking-horses and other items. They meet every Wednesday and enjoy the social event.
Hughie realises the benefits that the shed can have for men. He recalls one wife telling him that her husband didn’t really leave the house after he retired until he began to go to the shed.
Once there, his life changed and he began to enjoy being out and socialising with many other people.
“It has great benefits. That cannot be denied,” Hughie said.
The men who attend the Men's Shed made the bat-boxes, bug-hotels and birdhouses which are located in the wildflower garden which is located across from the pond.
Mammoth work being carried out across the town
There is a lot of work being carried out in the town by a number of different organisations with public support and this can be seen around the town.
A Dungloe Bay Walk from the pond to the main street is being carefully developed.
The area is becoming exceptionally vibrant with works also due to be carried out on the pond which sits alongside the Atlantic. It used to be known as an ‘outdoor swimming pool’ years ago and now it is hoped that the youth of today will enjoy swimming in the pond like their parents used to.
Near Dungloe Community Hospital is the Dungloe River Walk which is a tranquil and very enjoyable walk.
It is hoped to that a nearby field will be used to house animals and birds so that those who walk the path can stop and enjoy nature.
The walk is particularly enjoyed by children and is ideal for families and individuals, as well.
Tidy Town’s member, Nuala Bonner, said: “The river walk is really spectacular. The whole community is working towards making Dungloe a nicer place.”
Every estate in the town is being kept tidy. Red and white flowers hang outside businesses, the bins on the main street are freshly-painted and the street furniture has all been painted. Fantastic murals painted by Kevin Gallagher cheer walls up and give people a glimpse into the past whilst promising a positive future.
Hidden treasures for the tourist
At the top of the town is a large, empty picture frame. People can stand behind the frame and have their photo taken with the main street behind them. The idea was that of local children and the community is delighted with it.
The garden of remembrance beside the hospital is a wonderful sanctuary; the singing of the birds can be heard and the smell of roses lingers elegantly in the air. People would hardly realise among the flowers and the leaves that they are ensconced on the side of the main road.
Works are to be carried out at the lake where people come to fish. It is hoped that more boats may be added to the vessels that lie easily at the edge of the lake.
The town is fresh, clean and bright and the whole community is participating in making their town look beautiful in the summer sun.
There is a renewed sense of pride, enthusiasm and energy in the town that has developed in a positive and dynamic manner over the past decade.
It is certain that the Rosses town is looking towards a bright and prosperous future.