Craobh Oisin in Donegal

Irish College in Donegal 1931     Extracts from ‘Memoir of an Irish Economist – Working class Manchester to Irish Academia’ by Labhrás Ó Nualláíin

Manchester Craobh Oisin, Donegal '31. R.front Joe Doherty, L.O'Nuallain. Centre back Monica McHugh

Manchester Craobh Oisin, Donegal ’31. R.front Joe Doherty, L.O’Nuallain. Centre back Monica McHugh

In my one week’s holiday from Dunlops in the summer of 1931, I decided to travel along with a small group of young teachers from Craobh Oisín to the Irish-speaking district of north-west Donegal, known as Cloughaneely, where we attended the summer Irish College at Gortahork. We stayed in Falcarragh village about three miles away in Roarty’s guest house. When the Irish College was established, in the early1900s, it was one of the Irish Colleges favoured by Gaelic enthusiasts, not only from Belfast and other parts of the Six Counties, but from Dublin also.  Among those numbered among its students in the early years, was Roger Casement, who attended when on leave from the British colonial service in African countries and also in South American countries. The Craobh Oisín group attended the Irish courses in the mornings, spending the afternoons at the very extensive and unspoilt beach at Falcarragh and going to the Irish dancing sessions in the college at night. That was a joyous week for me which remained long in my memory.
All too soon, I said goodbye to my friends, who were staying for a few weeks more of their school holidays, and I left by bus for Letterkenny, and from there by train for Belfast, where I would get the boat to Heysham, and then back to Manchester and to Dunlops to clock in at 8.00 a.m. on the Monday morning.

Sliabh Liag, Donegal

Sliabh Liag, Donegal

At least, that was the objective.  I had a couple of hours to spare before train time, so I strolled up the hill to the high ground that lay above Letterkenny and sat there on the hillside behind the Cathedral.  It was a beautiful day, such as one seldom sees in Manchester, and not at all from within the Rolling Department at Dunlops.  From where I sat, one could see most of the blue hills of Donegal; before me lay Mulroy Bay and Lough Swilly to the north, and the blue sky flecked with puffy white clouds moving majestically westwards to Muckish and Errigal mountains and on to pass over the mountain named Bloody Foreland and the Atlantic Ocean. I became oblivious to the ticking away of the minutes coming up to train time.  I became saddened at the thought of going back to the rubber dust, to the clanking of metal, the hum of machinery and to the grey and murky skies over Manchester.
My reverie was shattered by the solemn tone of the Cathedral bell ringing out the Angelus at six o clock.  I realised that at that precise minute the train had pulled out from the Letterkenny station, and was on its way to Belfast and the boat to Heysham.  I had lost that train and the boat, and most likely my job with Dunlops.  I had very little money, not enough to stay overnight in Letterkenny. There was only one thing to do and that was to return to Roarty’s and to look to my friends for a little financial aid.
I hitched my way back to Falcarragh on a truck and walked into Roarty’s, to the astonishment of all concerned. The second week was a wonderful bonus. The sunny weather continued as did, for me, the Irish classes, the céilidh dancing, the swimming on the beach and a climb to the top of Muckish mountain. I finally reached Belfast, Heysham and Manchester, to find myself unemployed once more, due only to my own fault.
© L. Ó Nualláin

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