This weekend gone by saw me in Inishowen in Donegal. Inishowen is the most northerly peninsula on the island of Ireland (although it is part of the Republic, and not Northern Ireland). My specific location was the historic market town of Carndonagh. The reason for my presence was to attend a birthday party.
Onto the big orange bus to Donegal I boarded at Parnell Square at 9.30am on Saturday, and off to Carndonagh we departed. The journey takes approximately five hours and includes such stops as Dublin Airport, the Maxol Service Station in Coolshannagh, county Monaghan, and the city of Derry. People from Ireland will be aware of the naming dispute over that city. People in the south call the place ‘Derry’ – this is the name that appears on all road signs in the Republic. The official name in the North is ‘Londonderry’ but the nationalist community refer to the place as Derry (for example the TV show ‘Derry Girls’ indicates the background of the writer of that programme). The unionist community tend to refer to the place by its official title, as do the road signs in the North – well at least the ones that have not had the ‘London’ section unofficially painted over. On the bus, sitting close by me was a very polite German gentleman.
At the service station stop he approached the driver and asked in that very precise German manner ‘I wish to go to Londonderry’.
The driver looked at him and replied in a deadpan manner ‘I have no idea where that is.’
Well this caused quite the confusion. I guess he sorted this dilemma out by chatting to a fellow passenger, because he disembarked at the correct place. It was quite mean of the driver. It’s not like Ian Paisley Junior was on the bus asking to be taken to the town where the ‘Londonderry Girls’ TV show is set. Although I suppose it could be regarded as a learning opportunity for the German man.
Carndonagh was how I remembered it on the few times I’d previously visited. I was staying in a spacious two bedroomed apartment across the road from the Garden Chinese Restaurant near the Diamond – which is the central part of town. After a lasagne lunch at the Butterbean Restaurant I did my usual walk around– over to see the 7th century Carndonagh Cross. Then I took a wander through the Carndonagh Shopping Centre where I purchased a work-shirt in Global Fashions upstairs. Onward to Caffe Banba on the Diamond where I had a cup of coffee. This café is a slight embarrassment to me. When I was there three years ago, I succumbed to curiosity and pulled the red emergency string in the toilet. I resisted temptation this time, but based on past experience I must commend the staff on their speedy reaction to a potential crisis. For supper I crossed the road to the Garden for a curry which I took home with me, along with a 2020 Chinese calendar.
The point of my visit was to attend a birthday party. The location was Farren’s Bar close by the Butterbean. The party was for my friend Maureenb (or J.R. Ewing as I used to call her). Last April she lost her fight against cancer. While I knew her from the city under the sea, she had lived for many years in Australia. Originally she hailed from Carndonagh. December 5th would have been her 47th birthday. It was decided to throw a party to honour this birthday.
It was a wonderful night in the cosy bar – great to meet up with her friends again and laugh over the good memories. An air of sadness permeated the air slightly – which is only natural – but not in an intrusive way. It was a lovely way to celebrate her life, and the joy she brought to so many people.
The following morning, feeling decidedly ropy, I enjoyed a dirty great fry-up in the Flamin’ Grill restaurant before heading over to Maureen’s memorial stone which has been erected on her family farm. Flowers and shrubs we planted at the stone and an accordionist played some tunes. It was very moving.
At 3.30pm I boarded the big, orange bus again and headed back to Dublin – and was entertained by the film ‘Into the West’ on the TV screen as the bus headed east back to Dublin.
Happy birthday Maureen.