Local History by Seán Beattie


McGlinchey – the musical, etc.

I attended a 45-minute performance in Sandinos in Derry based on Charles McGlinchey’s THE LAST OF THE NAME  which played to a full house and received elevated applause.It was a combination of a one-man show, live music with Finbarr Doherty, Lorna McLaughlin on vocals and Seamus Devenney and a digital backdrop. The music was haunting, yet at other times nostalgic and romantic. The lead actor (Paul Kelly) had a remarkable resemblance to McGlinchey and played the role of an older man with great skill. By using key highlights from the text, he created a new awareness of McGlinchey’s lore enhanced for the digital age.Indeed the dialogue appeared to be verbatim from the text which enabled the script writer to move expertly from page to stage. The Irish dance was superb which evoked new life rhythms that beguiled the audience. Among the audience was Des Kavanagh from Galway whose father collected the original material. Marty Kelly provided excellent evocative artwork which enhanced the score and the overall visual experience. Other members of the original McGlinchey School were present including Des Doherty and Margaret Farren, who, along with Denise McCool spent many hours on the visual content. Marrie Barrett, the Buncrana artist, was also present and has been involved in the production. Paul McCarroll can be complemented for this initiative which is the result of a year’s research; Rita Farren has also been involved in the production. If you missed this, you can see it again at the Macklin School in October in Culdaff.

If I were to alter anything, I would have left the line, ‘For I’m the last of the name’ as the final words as they have such a powerful resonance; on looking back at the text, I noticed that the scriptwriter appeared to follow McGlinchey word for word, thus leaving the line quoted in its original place in the text and this may indeed act as justification for not changing the position of the line. McGlinchey will never be lost in translation whether to other European languages or to the digital age which we now inhabit. McGlinchey has got a new lease of life and one wonders what next he will get up to!

Earlier in the afternoon, I attended the launch of the Allingham Festival by Paul Hannigan of LYIT. A team of students from Magee College have produced a fine film on the author’s life on a budget of 3,000 euro and the committee had a real live walking and talking Allingham in the audience to make the event more authentic. The idea of launching the festival before a Derry audience is good for marketing and there was  a large number of visitors present in the craft village. Magee has a new Digital Arts and Humanities hub which has received nearly 7 million euro in funding so hopefully Donegal story tellers will be able to access some of this. I am aware that there are several Donegal students doing Ph.D.s in Magee at present.

The highlight of last week was the launch of ATLAS OF DONEGAL by the Deputy First Minister at LYIT before an audience of 200. Cork University Press were very happy with sales running into three figures. Among the audience were guests from all over Ireland, England and Germany with Canada being represented by Denis Noel of the Archives of New Brunswick which hold a large archive on Donegal emigrants. Martin McGuinness spoke about his mother being a native of the Illies who spent her working life in the City Factory in Patrick St., Derry. She never walked on the walls of Derry until a few years before her death.

Last week also witnessed a remarkable event in McGrorys of Culdaff when Max Adams and Colm O’Brien outlined the results of their excavations and geophysics activity at Carrowmore, Cooley and Cloncha to a large crowd, many of whom came from Derry. All three monastic sites have double ditches surrounding them. At the Carrowmore site, two locations were investigated and the results will be published later. Carbon has been found which will enable carbon dating to be completed. Other issues that were raised Excavations at Carrowmore on one of the two ditches surrounding the siteincluded the sudden and unexplained appearance of a mysterious sink-hole close to the north cross about 15 years ago and the existence of a souterrain, as noted by Magtochair, in 1867. Curiously, during the dig, several groups of visitors came on a pilgrimage at different times to pray at the cross and holy wells and they had no connection with the excavations.  So the spiritual values of the sites are still intact although the traditional pilgrimages and medieval rituals have been lost in time.

The old primary school at Carrowmore is still on the site in private hands and would serve as a great heritage centre. The original hedge school can still be seen and is marked on the OS maps on the road opposite the old primary school. This indicates that there was a school on this site in the late 1700s. The information is important as it highlights that fact that the Carrowmore site was a  place of learning in the post-monastic age. The school was situated at Carrowmore because people appreciated the importance of the site in the 1700s and 1800s. Thanks to the Bernician studies team for their dedication and all the best to Max with his new book on Oswald, King of the North. Thanks for the copy.

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