Ballyshannon to Sligo

WITH a fresh horse we started for Ballyshannon, some fifteen miles ahead of us. The surrounding country was interesting and appeared to be prosperous, containing many fine seats, the great feature of which was their magnificent timber. Ballyshannon seems a busy town, with two thousand five hundred inhabitants. Its castle, of which scarcely any traces remain, belongs to the O'Donnells and was the scene of a disastrous defeat of the English under Sir Convers Clifford in 1597. The castle was besieged with vigor for three days and an attempt made to sap the walls, but the garrison having made a desperate sally, the English retreated in haste, and, pursued by Hugh Roe O'Donnell, they lost a great portion of their force in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Erne.

Salmon-leap, Ballyshannon, County Donegal

Salmon-leap, Ballyshannon, County Donegal

The two portions of the town, the lower one of which is called the Port, are connected by a bridge of twelve arches about four hundred yards above the celebrated falls, where an enormous body of water is precipitated over a cliff some thirty feet high and ten feet above high-water, with a noise that is perfectly deafening. This is the scene of the "salmon-leap." The salmon that come down the river in the autumn return again in the spring months, and this can only be accomplished by ascending the falls. Traps with funnel-shaped entrances are placed in different parts of the falls, in which the salmon are caught, and taken out for market as required. Between the traps are intervals through which the fish can reach the top of the falls by leaping, and as at low water the spring is about sixteen feet, the scene is singularly interesting. Below the falls is the island of Inis-Saimer, on which are buildings connected with the fishery. The fishery is very valuable, and is owned by Messrs. Moore & Alexander.

On the bridge is a tablet to William Allingham (1824-1889), a native of Ballyshannon. I give Allingham's own description of his home; it can hardly be surpassed in the English language for simple, graceful, and yet direct diction. I also quote a few lines from a poem he wrote before he sailed for America; they are not Miltonian in their style, but Milton could not have touched the spot as he did.

"The little old town where I was born has a voice of its own, low, solemn, persistent, humming through the air day and night, summer and winter. Whenever I think of that town I seem to hear the voice. The river which makes it rolls over rocky ledges into the tide. Before spreads a great ocean in sunshine or storm; behind stretches a many-islanded lake. On the south runs a wavy line of blue mountains; and on the north, over green, rocky hills, rise peaks of a more distant range. The trees hide in glens, or cluster near the river; gray rocks and boulders lie scattered about the windy pastures. The sky arches wide over all, giving room to multitudes of stars by night and long processions of clouds blown from the sea, but also, in the childish memory where these pictures live, to deeps of celestial blue in the endless days of summer. An odd, out-of-the-way little town ours, on the extreme western verge of Europe, our next neighbors, sunset way, being citizens of the great new republic which, indeed, to our imagination seemed little, if at all, farther off than England in the opposite direction."

"Adieu to Ballyshannon! where I was bred and born;

Go where I may, I'll think of you, as sure as night and 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 leave my warm heart with you, tho' my back I'm forced to turn,

So adieu to Ballyshannon and the winding banks of Erne!

"Farewell, Coolmore—Bundoran! and your summer crowds that run

From inland homes to see with joy th' Atlantic setting sun;

To breathe the buoyant salted air, and sport among the waves;

To gather shells on sandy beach and tempt the gloomy caves;

To watch the flowing, ebbing tide, the boats, the crabs, the fish;

Young men and maids to meet and smile, and form a tender wish;

The sick and old in search of health, for all things have their turn—

And I must quit my native shore and the winding banks of Erne!"

Near here are the ruins of Kilbarron Castle, an ancient fortress of the O'Clerys, a family renowned in their day for their skill in science, poetry, and history, of whom was Father Michael O'Clery, the leader of the illustrious quartet of the "Four Masters." It stands on a precipitous rock at the very edge of the coast.

In the vicinity of Ballyshannon can be seen Ballymacward Castle, which was built during the famine of 1739. This was the home of the "Colleen Bawn," famous in song and story, who was one of the Ffolliott girls, and eloped with Willy Reilly.

Read "On an Irish Jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara" at your leisure

On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara

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Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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