The 8th McGlinchey
Fascinating Festival of the Sea in Store for Inishowen
The summer school which began in 1998, has been described by James Sharkey, Ambassador of Ireland in Strasbourg as being “one of the most important to emerge in recent decades”, and aims to explore the history and traditions of Inishowen and the Northwest. It exists to promote a greater awareness of this heritage and enthusiastically to preserve and pass it on to new generations.
Since 2005 was designated as ‘International Year of Water’ by the United Nations, the organising committee was eager to incorporate this idea, while at the same time honouring the enormous influence of the sea on local heritage, crafts, folklore, songs and stories. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the death of Charles McGlinchey (1861–1955) for whom the summer school is named.
McGlinchey was a remarkable man. A weaver by trade from the Meentagh Glen, Clonmany he collected a massive amount of oral history in the 19th and early 20th century. The huge value of his work was keenly recognised by the schoolmaster Patrick Kavanagh who took it down, word by word, and by the playwright Brian Friel who later edited McGlinchey’s recollections. The resulting volume, ‘The Last of the Name’ published in 1984, rapidly became one of Ireland’s best-know local history books.
Charlie McGlinchey will be commemorated this year by a special exhibition on the legendary seanchaí, featuring the original manuscript. Colette Herron, a local artist, has produced a limited edition print of her portrait of McGlinchey, which will be available to order during the weekend festivities.
McGlinchey was fascinated by the annals of the sea. He wrote:
The McGlinchey Summer School, which in its short eight-year existence has been described by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney as being “one of the best conceived and best organised events of its kind in the country” will look at the heritage, traditions and folklore associated with our waters. It will also explore a rich variety of aquatic themes, such as modern marine exploration, shipwrecks, sea safety and rescue, water shortages in the developing world and the future for fishing in Donegal.
The chosen theme ‘The Waters Around Us’, pays homage to the many local traditions related to the sea, with a talk on the folklore of the sea by Donegal historian and folklorist Helen Meehan, and a presentation on the rich legacy of the many shipwrecks and other intriguing objects found around the shores of Inishowen by Don McGlinchey, President of the Irish Underwater Council.
Not content with focussing solely on the past, the organisers have brought together a full programme of talks that illustrate the importance of ‘The Waters Around Us’ in the modern world. Norman Fullam, for instance, of the Irish Coastguard will give a talk on Malin Head and the Wireless Station entitled “Watching over the Waters for Centuries”. Paddy Barry, who is the leader of the ‘Northabout’ expedition, will give a presentation on modern Irish maritime exploration called “Waters from Inishtrahull to Siberia”.
Peadar Mac Rory, Senior Engineer with Donegal County Council will recount how a modern domestic water supply system was built in Inishowen in a talk called “From Shallow Wells to the Fullerton Pollan Dam”, and Patsy Toland will describe efforts to remedy acute water shortages in the developing world in “The Waters Beyond Us”. Finally, last but not least, Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, T. D. Minister for the Marine, together with Anne Murray, Features Editor of the Marine Times will discuss the outlook for the local fishing industry in Donegal in “What Future for Donegal Fishing?”
One of the most popular aspects of the McGlinchey Summer School has always been its annual exhibition, held in the wonderful indoor space of Clonmany Community Resource Centre. This year the committee has assembled a most impressive maritime exhibition, which will be opened by Pat The Cope Gallagher. Exhibitors will include the Northern Ireland Fisheries Board, Greencastle Maritime Museum, Harbour Museum Derry, McDonalds Boatbuilders Greencastle, True North Sub-Aqua Club, the Marine Institute and Gartan Outdoor Adventure Centre.
Exhibits will include sea-going vessels of varying size - including the famous Drondtheim “Kitty” whose construction will be discussed by Philip McDonald, sub-aqua diving equipment and demonstrations, sea kayaking and sailing equipment, fishing tackle and equipment, plus two photographic exhibitions, one featuring the work of Ben Elves, the other entitled ‘Africa Framed’ - on the theme of Africa’s need for water, as well as a wealth of historical and folklore material, a display of maritime and antiquarian books, an exhibition on the “Land and Water” columns by O.S. of the Irish Press and exhibitions of traditional crafts.
The exhibition centre will also feature a cookery demonstration by Seafood Marketing, a cross-border programme managed by Northern Ireland Seafood in partnership with Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The aim of the programme is to encourage seafood consumption in the twelve northern counties of Ireland through a targeted series of promotional activities, which seek to maximise the opportunity for cross-border and cross community contact. The seafood cookery demonstrations will be held throughout Friday and Saturday (June 24 and 25) from 12 noon onwards.
This year’s North West Artists Exhibition, also being held in the community centre, will have a nautical feel to it, with all participating artists exhibiting works inspired by water. As always it is expected that there will be a great demand for copies of the official McGlinchey Summer School poster. This year’s poster shows an image taken from a painting by Malin artist Ros Harvey.
For the mildly energetic, there will be two field trips, the first will explore the significance of water and will include a riverbank walk and a holy well before ending up by the sea. The second will visit Malin Head, which will feature a tour of the Malin Head Radio Station, Lloyd’s Signal Tower, and a visit to the Meteorological Station. A talk on Inishowen weather by Paddy Delany will be included as part of the latter. Ursula McPherson of Gartan hopes to have a sea paddle to Inishtrahull for experienced paddlers over the course of the weekend.
Following on from the huge success of last year’s inaugural McGlinchey Golf Classic, teams of four will tee-off early on Saturday on the magnificent links of Ballyliffin Golf Club. With a total prize fund valued at €4,000, this should be one of the most popular ‘classics’ of the summer. Teams for the Golf Classic may be booked by phoning 074 937 6119.
This year’s summer school will be officially launched on Thursday 23rd at 8pm by Buncrana-born and world-renowned playwright Frank McGuinness, who will also give the Patrick Kavanagh Memorial Lecture. His chosen topic is appropriately “An Inishowen Writer”. This will be followed by fellow Buncrana man Kevin Doherty, singer and songwriter in concert, accompanied by the renowned banjo/fiddle player Gerry O’Connor.
Evening entertainment for the weekend will have a distinctly maritime ambience, with a concert of traditional music and singing on Friday night focussing on Songs of the Sea and featuring singers such as Luke Cheevers, Brian Porter and Grace Toland and musicians of the calibre of Seamus Grant, Mick Deniffe, Roisín Harrigan and John McGrory. Keen to repeat the resounding popularity of last year’s ‘Big Night’, the organisers have put together another Big Night at Doagh Famine Village, with Sea, Song and Story, featuring the spell-binding stories and songs of Frank Nugent, the folklore of Helen Meehan, and readings from ‘The Last of the Name’ by actress Mary Murphy. To complement these two nautical evenings, The Henry Girls, Inishowen’s “You’re A Star” finalists, will appear in concert in The Ballyliffin Hotel on the Saturday night, with guest performer Finbarr Doherty (Saddler), who himself has penned several songs influenced by “The Last of the Name.”
The eagerly awaited annual magazine “It’s Us They’re Talking About” will be launched at the Traditional Concert by Brian Mullan. As well as featuring interviews with local residents of their memories of “Big Nights and Bygone Days” the magazine will also include the full proceedings of last year’s Summer School talks.
When one includes the late night music sessions and craic that have become synonymous with the McGlinchey Summer School, it is obvious that a real treat is in store for seafarers and landlubbers alike in Clonmany on the last weekend of June, during what promises to be one of the most fascinating and enticing line-ups yet seen at the McGlinchey Summer School.
Further information may be obtained from the website www.clonmany.com
or by phoning 074 937 6110 or 086 172 2978.