Boasting two of Ireland’s great links, Ballyliffin Golf Club has a long and colourful history. In the boom years before WW1, it hosted the annual summer camp of Foyle College, Derry for one week. Why Ballyliffin? Well, it had a rail link to Derry and it was ideal for young students and staff on an outdoor activity. They dropped off at Ballyliffin station and a carter was on hand for luggage. Bikes were carried in the guard’s van.
In mid July, 1913, 5 white canvas tents appeared overnight on the edge of the old links. One of the tents was a kitchen where the college cooks were deployed to feed the hungry lads. Boys took a swim before the cooks yelled at them to take their breakfast which began with a steaming pot of porridge, a traditional boarding school staple. Then it was on their bikes for a run to Malin Head, via Carn, to see the new wireless telegraphy station. Dinner was at 3 pm and consisted of stew, rice pudding, and lemonade. Tinned food was rarely on the menu.
Budding archaeologists gouged the earth for arrow heads, shell middens and bits of pottery which were useful souvenirs. Cricket was played in the afternoon while staff played a few rounds of golf. The Yorkshire Regiment dropped in from Dunree and gave the boys a run for their money on the cricket pitch on at least two evenings. For the soldiers, it was the calm before the storm. Other visitors included the Dills from Muff who were old Foyle boys. Foyle had a long tradition of catering for Donegal students. Rev. Edward Chichester of Culdaff was a student here as were the Montgomerys from Moville and Youngs from Culdaff. Pattersons of Grouse Hall, Gleneely also attended Foyle.
As night drew in, it was time for a sing-song around a turf camp fire. Occasionally the night watch was disturbed by dogs foraging for pieces of meat.
The camp continued throughout the war years but the College would pay a heavy price as the war progressed. There were only 200 students on rolls at this time but a total of 420 old Foyle boys served in the armed forces. 72 would later join the Roll of Honour for deceased soldiers. Major Myles was an old Foyle boy who came from Ballyshannon, one of many from Donegal in the college and he survived the war and became an MP for Donegal. Harry Swan was also a student and probably attended the camp here. Myles survived the war and played cricket for Ireland. His caps are in the museum in the college.
Local shops supplied food for the camp. Mrs. Doherty of Ballyliffin baked loads of bread when supplies of bakery bread ran out because of the bread strike at this time. Local bakeries objected to bread coming in from Derry on the train. J. Doherty supplied groceries at a cost of £1. 18.5 for the week. George Doherty was the butcher and he received £1.12.6 for supplies of meat. Mrs Doherty also provided fresh milk, turf and jams. Rent was £15. A local carter received 6s for ferrying luggage from the station at Ballyliffin. The camp continued after the war but ceased to operate once the border came into operation. Thereafter it was Castlerock or Portrush but Ballyliffin was a place they would never forget and records show how much the students enjoyed the camp. Long before the Wild Atlantic Way was created, this is a small addition to the colourful history of the village of Ballyliffin and its place in the history of tourism in Donegal. (Sean Beattie – please acknowledge website in future publications, websites or blogs)