A May Day celebration of Kinnagoe Beach, organised by local residents, Toni Devine and David Simpson saw an enthusiastic group of us meeting on the beach at 2.00pm. Toni and David plan for this to be a regular event, and it’s now a firm entry in my calendar for sure.
Excited locals gathered on Kinnagoe Beach for the May Day Celebration, as did visitors from other parts of the country who had heard about it.
Casual visitors to the beach were invited to join in which many did, encouraged by the inviting, aromatic scents of a turf fire on the beach.
The turf had been harvested from the neighbouring hills.
We all had to be prepared to move around a bit to avoid the smoke as it danced in all directions, choreographed by the gentle wind.
Adults and children alike contributed to the natural artwork, a symbol of thanks to Kinnagoe Beach. Driftwood, shells, stones, seaweed, sticks, water, sand, grasses, flower petals, footprints, and handprints all contributed to our impromptu creation.
There was a real sense of joy on the beach. You can see it clearly in these wee faces.
And, just look at what they made!
I made the mistake of kneeling down to get this shot and was ever so grateful to the helping hands which got me back on my feet again. Long gone are the days when I can kneel and get to my feet again of my on accord.
So, I make my contribution from this crouched position. No more kneeling for me today.
Toni read this most beautiful piece she has written, which she has generously allowed me to share with you all in this post.
Kinnagoe Bay, the Long Glen and Surrounding Land
By Toni Devine
“On a wall of the Doges Palace in Venice, the sixteenth-century map of Renaissance Europe highlights the edge of Venetian temporal and spiritual interest in the west of Europe, as the diocese of Templemore in the North of Ireland, in the Barony of Inishowen.
Here in the north-east of that diocese lie the Three Glens with its own story and its connection to the stories of wars and peace, heaven and earth and all things in between.
War and Peace
At the end of the clan wars, the defeated McLaughlins retired to the Long Glen in Inishowen. There are McLaughlin families still living here today. Some local families can trace themselves back almost a thousand years.
There are no remains of a documented fort at Glenagivneybuilt in Norman times to complement the protection of the entrance to the Foyle. There are the remains of a fortification at Greencastle.
Kinnagoe beach offered a false haven from the September storms of 1588, during the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to defeat the Elizabethan land and sea defences. The Spanish ship, La Trinidad Valencera was shipwrecked on the rocks at Kinnagoe Bay. The sailors who managed to get ashore were offered shelter and food by the local people but herded to their deaths by the nearby English garrison.
Two of the sailors who escaped back to Spain wrote in their report to the Spanish King that the local women were very beautiful.
For those who want to hear the story of ‘history in the making’, Archie Jack, an original member of the Derry Sub Aqua team, which found the Valencera, is available to talk to visitors at the shore of Kinnagoe beach in summer time about the excavation, and artefacts can be found preserved in Derry Museum.
In more recent times, ships were tracked into safe harbour in the Foyle by a lookout point above Balloor by Lloyds of London.
One ship, The Mary Snow, did not make it around to Shroove, and foundered on the rocks on the opposite side of the shore to the Valencera. Songs and poems have kept the memory of these events alive locally.
The coastguard station at Balloor was blown up by the IRA during one of their campaigns. The tracks to the lookout post make a beautiful and bracing walk with panoramic views to Inishtrahull, Rathlin Island and the Western Isles of Scotland.
Off the coast, from the Swilly to the Foyle, are the remains of the Second World War German North Atlantic submarine fleet, which surrendered at Derry at the end of the war. There is war ordinance dumped in these waters. Many local fishermen have foundered in bad weather along this coast. Their passing is remembered at the maritime museum in Greencastle. The Montgomery family home is at New Park in Moville. Field Marshall Montgomery of Alamein spent his summers on holiday at New Park. It is quite possible that he visited the beach at Kinnagoe.
It was to the beach at Kinnagoe Bay that John Hume brought world and local political leaders and ambassadors to relax, clear their heads and stretch their legs during breaks in the long process of peace making in Northern Ireland.
Kinnagoe Bay also offered a place of beauty, inspiration and privacy to Brian Friel and the Field Day Company as they transformed their genius and creativity into a cultural vehicle, which spoke to the world about the hope and potential for the arts in a time and place of war.
Heaven and Earth
Recent archaeological digs have supported known and newly uncovered evidence that northeast Inishowen was a religious centre of many small monastic establishments. These include Cooley, Carrowmore, Clonca and Culdaff. It is known that Saint Patrick visited Cooley.
The last place St. Comcille set foot on Irish soil was at Port Cill near Stroove. From Stroove Head, he had his last sight of Derry and Inishowen before he set off on that famous voyage to Iona in Scotland. From Iona, he and his followers spearheaded the sparkling period of Ireland’s influence on temporal and Christian Europe.
As more digs and research occur, the story of the collection of early Christian communities will be uncovered. One story shows that the monks moved between these sites. The Three Glens is part of this unfolding story.
All Things In Between
The entrance to the Long Glen is marked by a church and graveyard.
The notice in the chapel courtyard displays the names of local people buried there. The current church is the second on the site. The first church dates back several hundred years. On the right the Long Glen river rises and flows parallel to the road down to Kinnagoe Bay in a deep and quiet valley through native trees and shrubs into a small hazel wood, under a bridge, and into Kinnagoe Port. It is the third cleanest river in Donegal.
The undulating hills are covered with heather and have turf cut every year.
Further into the Glen on the left-hand side is Crockbrack Hill known as Wallace’s Hill, named after a local landlord. On top of this hill is a megalithic tomb called the Giant’s Grave and on the National Monuments Register. It is evidence of habitation going back more than two millennia. In the shade of Wallace’s Hill there is a sweathouse at Lecamy, (Lecamy means religious flagstone in Irish). There is a mass rock off the Altara road. On the side of the hill is Ballymagaraghy, the oldest inhabited clachan in Ireland. There are standing stones close by. A children’s grave is closer to the coast on the Balloor road overlooking the beach.
The gentle slopes of Crockbrack hill are laid out in an ancient farming system of fields known as Rundale. The strip fields are verdant, well-tended pasturelands with ancient and new hedges running up the hill to the commonage.
Along both sides of the Long Glen road from the church to the bay and round to Glenagiveny, there is an almost complete, well-maintained spectacular fuchsia hedge at its best in July and August.
Watercourses, limekilns, nineteenth century two story farmhouses and yards bear witness to a self-sufficient rural community.
When looking at the map (Map 6), Carrowmenagh and Ballymagaraghy are easily recognised as communities because they are a small village and a clachan. The housing in the Three Glens is of a linear nature, dictated by the road network, the field system and access to water it is a community.
There are music evenings in Glenagiveny, dancing in Meenletterbale, barbecues on the beach and Christmas carols around the tree. We have one of the longest running residents groups in a rural setting in Inishowen.
Living in this community, and visiting this community and its landscape, there are artists, musicians, poets, painters, singers and historians who all pay testimony to the spirit of this place that inspires their work.
For locals, and visitors, there are opportunities for rock and shore fishing, paragliding, hill walking, cycling and bird watching. There are many bird species (some of which are rare but not yet endangered) such as buzzard, merlin, skylark, kite, hen harriers, sparrow hawks and peregrine falcons. Wild geese and swans migrate up the Long Glen in the autumn and spring. If you are out at night you will see or sense bats. The shore line is protected by European legislation.
The area has been recognised for its uniqueness by its inclusion in the Wild Atlantic Way.
I feel proud, privileged and blessed to have a small part in it”.
Ringing the Bowl
Toni and David brought along their fantastic 18th century Japanese Ringing Bowl.
The monks used the bowl to signal when one of them or a visitor to their temple offered up a prayer.
We were invited to offer up our prayers or wishes, or whatever we felt moved to do in the moment.
I offered up to the sky one deep hope, one fervent wish and a number of sorrows.
Some people shared their stories of what Kinnagoe Beach meant to them, some romantic, some funny, some moving and all tender.
Music on Kinnagoe Beach
Local musician, Paul Carlin gets the music underway with fabulous fiddle playing.
Some enthusiastic singing takes place and where we don’t actually know the words, we just make them up.
Time to Go Home
All too soon, it’s time to go home. The fire is carefully doused, the area cleared and all litter gathered.
We say our farewells, to each other, our work of art and Kinnagoe Beach itself.
I hope you enjoy this post and the sharing of this magical day; the kind of day, “to catch the heart off guard and blow it open”.
Seamus Heaney ‘Postscript”
Beir Bua agus Beannacht,