Anyone familiar with the Barnes to Castlederg road will know the wee town of Killeter, where one of Ireland’s oldest fairs is held every August.
Derry man Leo McCaffrey, who was a frequent visitor to Carrigart, is credited with the famous song which Bridie Gallagher also recorded.
‘Oh attention pay you country folk, and listen to me plaise,
I’ll sing to you a verse or two to content you at me aise;
It’s all about a fair maid, her equal wasn’t there,
And the first time that I met the girl ’twas in Killeter Fair.
For her eyes they shine like diamonds and her cheeks are like the rose,
She is my first and only love no matter where she goes,
She stole my heart completely, boys, the truth I do declare,
And the first place that I met her it was in Killeter Fair.
I invited her into Edmund Hughes’s, all for to have a ‘trate’
We both went in together and sat down to have a sate;
She said that she’d have lemonade, I said I’d have a share,
For I never like to take strong drink when in Killeter Fair.
She invited me to see her home in Aghaloney Glen,
Where many a pleasant afternoon with her I since did spend;
Her father bid me welcome, and said he didn’t care
If I’d like to wed his daughter I met in Killeter Fair.
Och, now that we are married we are happy as you know,
We always feel right pleasant, let the weather freeze or snow.
She says, as she sits by the fire, and laughs right hearty there,
‘John, the first place that you met me, it was in Killeter Fair.’
The Aghaloney Glen mentioned above is where popular Donegal Town based businessman Eugene Gallen first saw the light of day. The Corgary Road to Killeter from Barnes is one he’s more than familiar with, but during the Troubles, the Gallens had to travel to Castlefin through the ubiquitous checkpoints in order to get to Donegal. There are ‘Four Country Roads’ in and out of the ‘Derg and little did a young Eugene think that a song of the same title would one day play such a significant role in his career.
He had five siblings, four brothers and a sister, his mother Mary hailed from Aghyaran and father Colm had a shop in Bundoran, where Eugene first picked up the rudiments of ‘selling’.
“My dad bought the shop of the legendary Cyril Chapman, ‘The Bargain King’, and Cyril gave my father tapes on the art of selling, which he described as ‘an art’.” In fact, Colm Gallen considered Cyril Chapman the greatest salesman ever. Colm’s birthday fell on the 12th of July, which coincided with the family’s annual sojourn to Bundoran but the first port of call was to ‘The Wee 12th’ in Rossnowlagh. Eugene laughs: “Dad just loved marching bands!” In the Bundoran shop, he sold mostly electrical goods, and pop and country music, mainly on the old 4 and 8-track cassettes.
“I was an apprentice electrician” Eugene explains, “but I hated it! I got the selling bug from my father, and worked on the markets first before opening ‘Eurosaver’ in 2004.”
As luck had it, it coincided with a huge upsurge in Country and Western Music, and punters flocked from the Abbey Hotel, the Allingham Arms and elsewhere after weekend gigs and he very quickly had to ensure a regular supply of country CDs and DVDs. That’s why Brexit is such a big worry: “If we can’t purchase from the UK, we’ll have to switch to Europe and that will have major logistical problems. I have to be optimistic though...whether Catholic or Protestant, northern business people are practical and pragmatic, and their voices will have to be heard.”
Eugene’s home is a mixed (blessing?) GAA house. His wife Linda is a proud Donegal supporter, as are his two daughters. He coaches McCool’s underage lads, and although his two sons play for the club, they also support Tyrone!
“Listen Frank” he laughs, “Growing up in the parish of Aghyaran, which straddles the border, playing Donegal was like an Old Firm game for local Tyrone supporters! It’s no surrender when it comes to GAA allegiance.” He gets a regular supply of good natured slagging about this, not least from daily visitor and Donegal GAA enthusiast, 88-year old John Murphy.
Another regular visitor is Michael Carr from Kilcar…”The most underrated footballer ever in Donegal...because he’s modest. A true great!”
He loves Donegal Town: ”There’s a great sense of community here among the business people. The business focus group, the festival committees and the Chamber of Commerce are doing us proud. I’m delighted to be involved.”
After Big Tom died, he had an amazing few weeks during which the legendary Monaghan singer’s CDs, books and DVDs outsold everybody else by 3 to 1!
“He was genuinely loved..and it’s back to modesty again...Tom never flaunted it.”
I’m reminded of his great hit, ‘Four Country Roads, which dealt with Glenamaddy, but in Eugene’s case, Scraghey, Aghyaran, Killeter and Castlederg were the formative boreens which were the catalyst for one of our most prominent businessmen, long acknowledged as a thorough gentleman, whose treasure chest of good ole country songs, has ensured that - frontiers notwithstanding - ‘Jiving At The Crossroads’ will continue as long as someone is asking…”Hi. do you come here often?”