Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Garden Fete and Fancy Dress Parade of 1945

The Garden Fete and Fancy Dress Parade 1945

The Fancy Dress and Garden Fete was one of the  highlights of the social life of Ballyshannon in the not too distant past Keep a close eye on the results of the Fancy Dress below, also  the choir members, dancers and actors who performed in Ballyshannon in 1945, as  some are still very well known in the town in 2012. Others will be recalled with affection. The Garden Fete and Fancy Dress Parade was an annual occasion when the community came together, dressed up, performed, enjoyed the fun and raised  needed funds for local charities. Over 600 people attended the Fancy Dress and Garden Fete at the rear of P.J. Stephen’s premises on Wednesday 25th of July 1945. (The site is occupied by the Saimer Court Shopping Centre today.) The parade commenced at the Courthouse  and led by the Ballyshannon Brass and Reed Band  under Eddie Lynch bandmaster, made a circuit of the town. The Courthouse mentioned  is now  the Tyrhugh Centre on the Mall.

On arrival at the venue the large crowd were entertained to an open-air concert. Members of Frank O’ Donovan’s troupe opened the concert,  followed by choruses from the pupils of the Convent schools who sang “ A-Hunting We Will Go” and “Away to the Woods”. Those participating were: Misses M. Lawn, K. Liddy, B. McGovern, D. Stewart, B. Cooney, M. Slevin, C. Lynn, H. Gallagher, C. Lawn, N. Curran and A. McGovern. Ms. Rose Daly, Erne Street, recited, “Biddy’s Trip to Cork” and “ Biddy at the Pictures.”  The pupils of Finner School, under Mrs. Dundas, their teacher, performed a sketch entitled, “Heads and Heels” The cast were: Misses Joan White, Doreen Regan, Hazel Barr, H. Hamilton, and Masters Noel Hamilton and Ronnie Moorehead. Finner School also performed a Maypole Dance with; J. White, D. Regan, H. Barr, H. Hamilton, Sally McClelland and Peggy Hunter. Ms. Maureen Slevin (later Maureen Kane), West Port, performed  song and tap-dancing numbers. Thomas and Margaret Gallagher from Bishop Street sang, “ If you ever go to Ireland” and “The Rose of Arranmore”.

Prizewinners in the Fancy Dress 1945

Adults: Most Topical- Tyrolean Pair- Maureen Slevin and Blaithnaid Stephens.
Most Original- Curly Wee, Polly Parrot and Cuthbert Colt- B. McGill O.S., P. Maguire O.S. and R. Grehan.
Funniest- “Summer 1945” Patrick and John Stephens.
Special award to “Modern Transport”- Michael McDonagh, Rose Daly, Annie Breslin, Dympna Duffy, Teresa Bromley.
Children: Prettiest Costume- “Hawaiian Pair”- Anton and Eugene Noonan.
Most original- An tUachtaran agus a Bhean- Helena Gallagher and Herbert Bromley.
Funniest- “ A Dutch Pair”- Sean and Kathleen Tiernan.
Firms- “The House of Stephens 1834-1945”- L.McGrath, B.McIntyre, K.McShea, L.Kerrigan, J.McDonnell. H.Campbell, G.McCarville, M.McCloskey, B.Loughlin and B.Stephens.
Best Decorated Bicycle- Celine Kennedy.
Tiny Tots- Prettiest- Margaret McShea as “Lady Pompadour”
Most Original- John Holmes as “An Erne Schemer.”
Funniest- Cecil, Aidan and Liam Stephens as “The Big Three".

  • Next week’s local history blog will describe Christmas shopping in Ballyshannon in 1889. Please tell your friends and particularly those away from home that this local history blog on Ballyshannon can be accessed online with a number of back issues available.

New Local History Book: “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” by Anthony Begley details the history of the Ballyshannon area in the 19th and 20th centuries. Contains 500 pages with much material on tracing your roots, includes many rare images and modern colour aerial photographs of the area. Available in The Novel Idea Ballyshannon/The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or can be ordered on line from anthonyrbegley@hotmail.com Price €25 softback plus postage if required.  Enquiries welcome. A limited number of hardbacks also available.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Ballyshannon Workhouse Closes 90 years Ago


In the twentieth century the numbers in Ballyshannon workhouse continued to decline, assisted by the introduction of the old age pension and outdoor relief. The Board of Guardian minutes for 1917 show that some children were boarded out at a cost of £4 per annum, and that there were ninety-five inmates. This compares with over 900 inmates at the height of the Great Famine, seventy years before. The workhouse school had only seven children present when inspected in August 1917. The cost of keeping an inmate was eight shillings and four pence halfpenny. 
Facilities had improved – hot water was laid on in the maternity ward and a tender by John Myles, for electric lighting of the workhouse and fever hospital, at a cost of £50 per annum was being considered. Another sign of progress was that the medical officer, Dr. Mullen, requested a telephone link from the workhouse infirmary to his residence, as the lines were already in existence.

Diet and Tea Testing
The workhouse diet had improved in quantity  and stood at eight ounces of wholemeal made into stirabout, 16 ounces of rye bread for dinner, buttermilk at each meal for both men and women with adjustments for children. The annual tenders for items such as tea came before the Board of Guardians for selection. The Guardians sampled the tendered teas in their hands and smelt them. This helped them select the most suitable tea however they had another test to finalise their choice. Cormac McGowan, the Master of the workhouse, had the teas brewed separately, and four or five Guardians imbibed a little of each sample. In this manner did some of the Guardians in the workhouse become tea connoisseurs.

Operations during World War1

In the infirmary local doctors were often called upon to perform operations on patients. Operations could not be carried out without permission of the Board of Guardians of the workhouse. The workhouse hospital was used by the military during the First World War (1914-1918) and approximately 940 military patients were treated there. This reflected the numbers who were based at Finner Camp, a local training camp for soldiers during World War 1.

Workhouse Closes 1922
There were only 21 inmates left in the workhouse by March 1922 when notices were served on workhouse officials (excepting dispensary doctor, midwives, caretakers and relieving officers) terminating their appointments from 1st March 1922. The workhouse had opened in 1843 and witnessed the horrors of the Famine when hundreds of inmates were buried in the Paupers graveyard at Mullaghnashee. The last inmates were transferred to Stranorlar, Irvinestown or Carrick-on- Shannon depending on their place of origin. This was the end of a sad chapter in the life of Ballyshannon and surrounding areas. The workhouse buildings still survive in Ballyshannon but most are in a precarious state.

New Local History Book: “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” by Anthony Begley details the history of the Ballyshannon area in the 19th and 20th centuries. Contains 500 pages with much material on tracing your roots. includes many rare images and modern aerial photographs of the area. Available from The Novel Idea Ballyshannon/The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or can be ordered on line from anthonyrbegley@hotmail.com Price €25 softback plus postage if required.  Check for details. A limited number of hardbacks also available.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Centenary of De La Salle 1912-2012

Centenary of De La Salle in Ballyshannon 1912-2012

The De La Salle Brothers were invited to come and teach primary education in Ballyshannon by the priests and the people of the town. They arrived in 1912 but plans for a new school had to be shelved for a time due to the outbreak of World War 1. The brothers taught in temporary buildings in College Street and on the Rock. After some time the Rock School was vacated and the Rock Hall obtained. After a trial it was decided to keep the junior pupils in the Rock and the senior pupils in the College Street School with two Brothers in each school. 

The decision to close the Fever Hospital built in 1848 on the Rock paved the way for a building which could be made suitable for a school. In September 1922 Brother Declan was the first Principal of Scoil Naomh Sheosaimh (St. Joseph’s School), so called in honour of the patron saint of the nearby church. After a long vacation the children of the district were recalled to the Boys’ School on Monday 25th of September 1922. They transferred to the Fever Hospital which had been thoroughly disinfected and renovated. This was the beginning of primary education by the De La Salle Order in the Brothers School on the Rock.

The newly renovated fever hospital had four classrooms, one music room, a cloakroom and an office. Attached to the building was the caretaker’s residence consisting of a sitting-room, two bedrooms and a kitchen. The interior painting of the school had snow white ceilings; the upper portion of each wall was light grey in colour and the dado in chocolate colour. The walls were brightened by religious pictures, natural history charts, pictures from Irish history and country scenes. Each classroom was provided with a set of new adjustable, dual desks, fitted with moveable leaf and tip-up seats, new school clocks, blackboards, easels, teachers’ desks and rostra. The school grounds had a playground and a fine pitch for hurling with a football pitch in preparation. From its early days the school had two hurling teams and a football team.

The school was officially opened in November 1922 with Mass celebrated by the school manager Fr. Trainor, manager. This was a very historic day for the town as prior to this schools had been conducted in temporary accommodation. The boys had a holiday after the official opening and were served with lunch on the grounds and before leaving had their photograph taken as a group. Students came to the school from Donegal, Bundoran, Belleek and Ballintra and the newly renovated building with the Brothers in charge had an enrolment of 190 in a few months

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Lots of Local History at Allingham Festival

Local History at the Allingham Festival
 The Allingham festival commences Thursday 8th November and runs until Sunday with a host of nationally known personalities, poetry, debate, art, music, puppet show, street and pub performances, crafts and entertainment. The oldest town in Ireland will show its rich history in a number of local events.Thursday 8th November, a talk entitled “40 Shades of Ballyshannon” in the Abbey Centre at 8.30 p.m., on Friday an exhibition of old books, newspapers and memorabilia  of Ballyshannon opens in The Imperial Hotel for the week-end, Saturday sees another popular local history walk around the town commencing at the Abbey Centre at 2 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. Tommy Graham of History Ireland will host a lively discussion with audience participation on the Erne Hydro-Electric Scheme and the Border in the Abbey Centre at 6 p.m. Sunday sees the popular Ballytour meeting at the Thatch at 2 p.m. and An Allingham tribute in St. Anne’s Church will include a talk entitled “ Allingham the Norwegian Connection” at 7 p.m. The full programme is available locally or on www.allinghamfestival.com