Farewell to Ballyshannon
“Farewell to Ballyshannon” is a story which tells of a young local boy called Johnny being accompanied to the Great Northern Railway station in Ballyshannon, by his mother and his sister Susy, on the first stage of his emigration to America. The following is an extract from the story which reveals a continuous process of emigration from the Ballyshannon area and the sadness of those leaving and those left behind. The narrator and a friend were also on the cart to the railway station.
Johnny’s mother accompanied her twelve year old son on the horse and cart from the Main Street to the railway station on Station Road:
“He’s but a little chap to take the green fields to Amerikay alone. Ay surely!” said our carman, musingly. By this time we were rattling down the street, and over the bridge, from which we could see the silver spray of the falls below and hear the dull thunder. The other car was close behind, all the ragged retainers trotting cheerfully in its wake. “Is there much emigration from here?” one of us asked. “Ay surely”, said the man, “what else is there for them? Sure there isn’t enough to keep the life in the old bodies, unless the young goes away to Amerikay, and sends home the money. Och, sure, it’s the sorrowful place. If you was here last Wednesday you’d have seen a trainful starting for Derry. An’ the same every Wednesday since March. I don’t like to be about the station myself them times. It’s terrible hard for them to go.
We asked one or two sympathetic questions. He answered us flicking his whip. “There’s some,” he said, “tht’ll hold up strong and silent; and there’s others again, keenin’ worse than the old women at the wakes. There’s a girl now,” he broke off, pointing at a straight, handsome creature, who was just stepping across the street. “There’s a girl started for Amerikay, an’ kem home the next day. Ay, faith, it was the shortest voyage yet known in the town. She turned back from Derry. She said she didn’t give a thraneen for the passage money. She’d work her fingers to the bone to earn enough to keep the oul’ woman out of the workhouse, without lavin’ her childless. “ He said it with a certain admiration and added immediately afterwards, “ There’s not a handsomer nor cleverer girl than Nancy Goligher in the three baronies.”
Then he planted his feet firmly, as if he had talked enough, and began to sing in a deep baritone:
Farewell to Ballyshanny! where I was bred and born;
Go where I may, I’ll think of you, as sure as night or morn.
The kindly spot, the friendly town, where every one is known,
And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own;
There’s not a house or window, there’s not a field or hill,
But, east or west, in foreign lands, I’ll recollect them still.
I’ll leave my warm heart with you, Tho my back I’m forced to turn-
So adieu to Ballyashanny, and the winding banks of Erne!
It was the song of a townsman who had won the delightful immortality of being the ballad maker to his birthplace. Under the circumstances the song sounded curiously mournful. William Allingham’s ballad “Adieu To Ballyshanny” must rank as one of the finest and saddest emigration songs of all times.
On arrival at the railway station some of Johnny’s friends came to see him off. The mother explained that he was setting out for Florida to join his father who had been there eleven years. He had been unable to secure work in Ballyshannon. Each year one of the children emigrated to join him in America. Only her self and Susy remained and they would follow on next year, when they could get the fare together. The story concluded with the train ready to pull out and the strains of Allingham’s famous emigrant ballad, “Adieu to Ballyshanny”, are whistled by the young boy who was joining the many people from the locality forced to emigrate by economic necessity.
In 1894 Katherine Tynan, well known novelist and poet, wrote the original story, “Farewell to Ballyshannon” about this young boy’s departure from Ballyshannon.
Next Blog will be posted on Monday 28th January 2013: “The Maid of the Melvin Shore and other True Stories”.
New Local History Book: “Ballyshannon Genealogy and History” by Anthony Begley details the history of the Ballyshannon area in the 19th and 20th centuries including fishing,
sport, tourism, social history, flora and fauna, The Independence struggle, The Emergency, buildings, townland history and lots of reminiscences.
None of the material used in the blogs is taken from this book. The book covers an area roughly from Ballyshannon:
· To Rossnowlagh, to Belleek, to Finner/ Bundoran to the Loughside, to Corlea, to Cashelard and towards Ballintra. Includes all the parish of Kilbarron and the local parts of Mágh Ene parish. Contains
· 500 pages with much material on how to trace your roots. All the gravestone inscriptions in the 3 local cemeteries are recorded and indexed for ease of location.
· Includes many rare images and modern colour aerial photographs of the area.
Available from The Novel Idea Ballyshannon/The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town or can be ordered on line from firstname.lastname@example.org Price €25 softback plus postage if required. A limited number of hardbacks also available. Enquiries welcome.
Ballyshannon Musings: Please let people with connections to Ballyshannon and surrounding areas know about this site, particularly people who are not living locally and those who are abroad. The site is called "Ballyshannon Musings" and there are a number of back issues available; google: ballyshannonmusings.blogspot.com They can access the site on the internet (or by connecting to my Facebook page). New items will be posted every week or two on Ballyshannon Musings during 2013; the year of “The Gathering”. Keep in touch. Google “The Gathering in Ballyshannon” for more details of events you might like to attend.
Who is Reading the Blog?
The top 3 audiences for the blog at present are in:
3 Great Britain
Very good interest in the blog but you can help spread the word, by copying the paragraph above this called “Ballyshannon Musings” and sending it to a friend or two.