Rory Gallagher’s Father Remembered by Ballyshannon Musician.
Tom Gallagher, well known Ballyshannon musician, can say with some justification that he remembers Rory Gallagher, the rock legend, who was born in the aptly named Rock Hospital on the 2nd of March 1948. Indeed, he played in a band with Rory’s father while the family lived in Ballyshannon.
Tom worked at a variety of careers in Ballyshannon, commencing with employment in Vaughan’s Grocery shop on the Main Street .The Cementation Company opened an office opposite Vaughan’s in 1946 and Tom, like many townsmen, was anxious to gain employment with the company. He crossed the street for an interview and on being asked what position he was applying for, said that he wished to be a chainman. He had heard others talking about this new job and although he wasn’t too sure what it entailed was successful in gaining employment, along with his brother Eddie. His wages took on a massive increase as they went from £1 to £3 overnight. This was a time of little alternative work in the town and he was delighted to be employed at a rate of pay vastly superior to that in any local employment. Tom grew up in the area now occupied by the Abbey Centre and remembers the houses as being thatched down Tírconaill Street. He recalls that his father had replaced the thatched roof with a corrugated iron roof. When these houses were eventually condemned as being unsuitable for habitation, many of the families were moved to the new Falgarragh Park .No compensation was given to any of the residents.
Working with Cementation
Tom was employed with Cementation at work sheds on the Knather Road where the salmon hatchery is today. His job entailed taking levels and working with theodolites on a 48 hour week. Other chainmen he remembers were P.J. Drummond and Jack Moore, both of whom he later worked with in the E.S.B. He recalled a young man from Barnesmore being crushed by a machine on the construction work. Kathleen’s Falls was not as spectacular as the Assaroe Falls and indeed it could be quite shallow in the summer time and easy to cross. (Perhaps this explains the horsemanship of Kathleen who jumped across the Falls which are named after her since ancient times). Reflecting on the impact of the Erne Scheme, he believed everyone in business shared in the money created by the works, and that it was seen as guaranteed work by local people. He realised that fishermen were unhappy because it threatened their livelihood and regretted that so much had to be destroyed including the Assaroe Falls and houses like Stonewold. He recalled the camp out the Knather where Cementation workers lived and that local entertainment at the time included, the cinema and Céilí’s in the ‘98 Hall with shows in the Rock Hall. He recalled innocent days in the Rock Cinema when the admission was four pence, and that if you were short a halfpenny, Ms. Mulhern would let you in and tell you to be sure to bring it the next time, which you did.
Danny Gallagher and the Modernairres
Tom Gallagher worked with Danny Gallagher, father of Rory, on the Erne Scheme. Danny was a concrete checker who took samples and tested the quality of concrete used, and saw that materials were up to standard. Tom Gallagher also played in a band called the Modernairres with Danny, Maureen and Lily Slevin and James Hoey. Danny Gallagher played the accordion and they played together locally in Ballyshannon, and in place like Maugherow and Ardara. Danny Gallagher also played the accordion with Joe Mc Bride who used to run the old Marine Ballroom in Bundoran. Danny Gallagher had been in the army during the Second World War and Tom recollected that he was an accomplished boxer in the army. Donal Gallagher, a brother of Rory, unveiled a plaque to his memory in 2000 at the Rock Welfare Home, (formerly the Rock Hospital) where the legendary blues and rock star was born. Donal also attended the inaugural tribute festival in Ballyshannon in 2002 and has been a regular supporter of the festival.
Remembering Rory Gallagher
Danny Gallagher and his family resided in accommodation owned by Frank O’Neill on East Port. The Rory Gallagher Festival is chaired by Barry O’ Neill and a vibrant committee who have developed a mural at Rory Gallagher Place in East Port and certainly put Rory Gallagher’s birthplace on the rock and blues scene. Tom Gallagher also remembered the family living in Milltown opposite Heitons ( formerly Myles) in a house owned by the Sweeny family which was later demolished for road widening. Tom recalled going upstairs in that house, where he was picking up Danny for a night’s playing and that he met Danny’s wife with a young baby in her arms. This was the young Rory Gallagher who had been born in the Rock Hospital and baptised in the Rock Church. Like many families who were in Ballyshannon for the Erne scheme, the Gallagher family later left the area and settled in Cork.
Nostalgic Memories of Bygone Days in Ballyshannon
Returning to Tom Gallagher’s musical career, he is the longest serving member of Ballyshannon Brass and Reed Band which he joined in 1943, and of which he is still a member in 2015. He has contributed much to Ballyshannon Musical Society, the Assaroe Ceilí Band and to the political and sporting life of the town. Tom has been a supporter of Aodh Ruadh football team since his boyhood and is the proud possessor of a County Senior medal won in 1951. He recalls playing against Corlea and the Abbey Shamrocks and walking to Bundoran to play football. He remembers playing in Erne Park which was on the Belleek Road, opposite the gates of Kathleen’s Falls Station, and when that was acquired by Cementation for workshops, he recalls playing in Stonewold. This was all prior to the G.A.A. constructing the Fr. Tierney Park. The arrival of the E.S.B secured a permanent job for Tom and many local families were glad of the good employment opportunities which the Scheme provided. Tom and his wife, Angela, have a family of seven children, many of whom play music like their father. Tom is typical of many men from Ballyshannon who worked in local premises, then worked for Cementation and later the E.S.B. Their story like Tom’s is one of service to their community in a wide range of activities.
Legacy of the Hydro-Electric Scheme
The bust of Rory Gallagher in the Diamond in Ballyshannon, which is the most photographed place in Ballyshannon, also recalls a link with the days of the Erne Scheme and the countless people who passed through the area in the years following The Emergency. Rory Gallagher is annually remembered in Ballyshannon with a tribute Festival organised by Barry O’Neill, a grandson of Frank O’Neill, who first provided accommodation, for a family who were one of many who passed through the town, during the days of the Erne-Hydro Electric Scheme. The annual Rory Gallagher Festival commenced in 2002 and still continues in 2015.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]
By Anthony Begley, local historian
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