Monday, 16 March 2015

A Painting showing Ballyshannon from the 1930s

This painting of Ballyshannon shows the beauty of the old bridge, the eel weir, the barracks and features such as the town clock, St. Anne’s Church and St. Patrick’s Church. The Erne flowing through the centre of town and the Assaroe waterfall  are memories  still cherished by senior citizens. Recent developments like the Mall Park have brought the community back closer to the river and it would seem natural that the banks of the tailrace of the river from the hydro-electric station to the new footbridge should be developed as a walkway.
This painting of old Ballyshannon dating from the 1930s or 1940s is by Maud Allingham who was a niece of the poet William Allingham. She lived at the top of Main Street three houses up from the entrance avenue to St. Anne’s Church. I have used two of her paintings on the cover of my two Ballyshannon books as I believe that she captures the character and atmosphere of the oldest town in Ireland. She worked as an artist in painting on the porcelain ware at Belleek Pottery and is credited along with her sister for designing the shamrock which is a trademark for the Belleek Pottery. The painting is on the cover my current book "Ballyshannon Genealogy and History" available in Novel Idea/ Ballyshannon Museum or the author anthonyrbegley@
1.       The Bridge of 14 Arches
There has been a bridge over the Erne at Ballyshannon since the 17th century and in earliest times there was a tower and gate controlling all traffic crossing the river at this point. Before the bridge there was a ford or crossing point over the river upstream above the Market Yard. It has to be remembered that the Erne river at Ballyshannon was much wider until all changed in the 1940s with the demolishing of the 14 arch bridge and the waterfall and the creation of a new narrow waterway called the tailrace.
2.       The Old Barracks
This is the oldest building in town and was built in 1700. It is rare in Ulster as not many barracks of this era are still in use. Remembered still today by local people as the home of the Green Lady and the Goblin Child- two of Ballyshannon’s most famous ghosts.
3.       The Market Yard
This was the hub for farmers’ markets for hundreds of years. It was on this site that the |Gaelic chieftains the O’ Donnells built a castle in 1423. The castle is till remembered in the street name nearby called Castle street.  This castle was built to guard the ford on the river and made Ballyshannon a place of great importance as many attempts were made by invading armies to enter Ulster by this route. Overlooking the Market Yard today is Ballyshannon Museum housed in Slevin’s Department Store.
4.       The Town Clock
The clock was granted to the town by the Belfast Bank who occupied the building and the clock was set going in 1878. The building was allowed to encroach on the street in return for the bank providing the town with a clock. Ballyshannon is a town which had the sound of a waterfall and the peal of bells from St. Patrick’s Church, St. Anne’s Church, St. Joseph’s Church  and hopefully the town clock will resume its role in the near future.
5.       The Masonic Hall
The present Masonic Lodge was built on Church Avenue in 1905 and still stands today. This unique building was designed by Thomas Johnston a Donegal architect and built by Ballantine Ltd. Ballyshannon had the first Masonic Lodge in County Donegal way back in 1757. This unique building has a 34 foot frontage and originally had a ground floor recreation room with a kitchen attached. Upstairs were the lodge rooms. Major Myles was the leading member of the lodge at the time it was constructed.
6.       St. Anne’s Church
The church commands the most outstanding view of the town and is well worth a visit. This hill called Mullaghnashee is reputed to be the burial place of a legendary high king of Ireland called Hugh (Aodh). The graveyard is very well kept and has countless interesting gravestones including William Allingham the poet, Lieutenant McGovern the last man to die locally in a duel, Major Myles who provided the town with electricity, the Thornley family who were descendants of Bram Stoker author of Dracula etc, etc, The present church was built in 1841 and retained the tower of a church built in 1735
Inside the church are numerous plaques which give the history of local families. Also there are plaques naming members of the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian communities who fought in the First World War (1914-1918). The pews and galleries are most impressive.
7.       The Mall House
This impressive house was built by the Kelly family in the 19th century and they had a brewery in the grounds and were also extensive landowners and a number of the family were politicians and members of the Catholic clergy in Raphoe diocese. The house subsequently became the home of the Condon family in the early 20th century. Today the shell of the house on the Mall is a sad reflection of its former stature.
8.       Corry McGinty
This was one of a number of eel weirs on the Erne. There were three such eel weirs at Corlea which was upstream. The eels were later shipped from the Mall Quay and along with the salmon fishing added greatly to Ballyshannon’s prosperity. This eel weir was not used since the period of the First World War (1914-1918) although the eel weirs at Corlea continued for a further 30 years.
9.       St. Patrick’s Church
The first church on this site was built in 1795 as the parish church for Kilbarron. The present church was built just before the Great Famine in 1842 and its size and stature reflected the generosity and faith of the parishioners and those who subscribed from abroad. Possibly the biggest gathering at this church was in 1841 when the great temperance crusader Fr. Mathew preached here advising the people to abstain from alcohol. Today the church has been renovated and restored to a very high standard.