The scenic splendour of Marble Hill, deep Sheephaven Bay and Gortahork were our final destinations for this year’s field days. But we were there to enjoy much more than the breath-taking views. Our President, Dr. Lochlann McGill, welcomed a very large group to Marble Hill. Our first stop was its gate-lodge where our guide, Charlie Gallagher pointed out a most interesting feature of the lovely lodge , ie the still intact roof made from the local Roshine slate.
The house itself was once owned by Mr. Hugh Law, MP and TD. Robin Law, his grandson, who lives nearby, was also in attendance. We then walked to the dance hall and this was the first time in more than 50 years that it was opened to the public. Patrick Pearse knew the hall well, as we were soon to find out. Andrew MacIntyre, a postman from nearby Ballymore, played the fiddle at ceilidh evenings held in the hall when Pearse came.
Eamonn MacIntyre, his grandson, read a letter his father Eddie had written in 1966 to Dr. McGill’s father about Patrick Pearse’s visit to the house as Mr. Law’s guest. Eddie wrote, “I often heard my father say that Pearse was a frequent visitor…and collected a large quantity of Irish folklore in the district around Marble Hill. It was in Law’s house too that Pearse learned the Fairy Reel, a dance then peculiar to that part of Ireland. My father played the fiddle on that occasion and was personally thanked by Pearse.” For his work in preserving the local musical culture of the district, Mr Law in 1904 presented Andrew with a violin case with a silver plaque on it and Patrick Pearse contributed to the purchase. Andrew and Eddie were founder members of the Donegal Historical Society.
Charlie Gallagher spoke next and recalled the popularity of Marble Hill with many other distinguished guests at the house. They afterwards wrote about the locality and we are most fortunate, noted Charlie, in having such a wonderful amount of writings and art-work from that era relating to the district. He mentioned quite a few of these people and what they had to say and Charlie’s power of recall was amazing. Entertainment was then provided by two fiddlers,Seamus McGowan and Liana MacIntyre. The Society would like to take this opportunity to thank the present owner of Marble Hill House, Ms Juliet Joblin-Purser, for allowing us access to the dance hall and environs. NB…It must be pointed out that the house, gate-lodge, dance hall and grounds are private property and not open to the public.
On then to Coláiste Uladh, Gortahork where Dr. Seosamh ÓCeallaigh gave an illustrated lecture on the immense contribution the college has made to the language and culture of the district. Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Roger Casement attended the college and immersed themselves in the local culture and ways of life. The college itself is in immaculate condition and a joy to behold. Our day ended with a wonderful tea at the college. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.
As the Society come to the end of our commemorations for 1916, it is surely fitting that we give the last word to Joseph Plunkett, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation and who was executed at Kilmainham Gaol on May 4th 1916. Years earlier, as a young man at Coláiste Uladh, enjoying the carefree days at the college amidst the heather-clad hills of NW Donegal, it was the arrows of Cupid that struck him. Here is the first verse of his poem, “Coláiste Uladh” which he wrote to his beloved, a local girl whose surname was O’Carroll.
Cloughaneely Irish College
Has a wealth of wit and knowledge,
Not to speak of health and beauty
Grace and graciousness go leor.
But among its charms entrancing
Men and maidens, songs and dancing,
There is nothing so delightful
As yourself, mo mhile stór