Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


February 2017

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Kim Sharkey Art

Multi-media Artist Animator, Kim Sharkey, lives on the North-West coast of Ireland in Co. Donegal.

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The Runaway Fair

The fair day held on or close to February 4th in Dungloe (the fair wasn’t held on a Sunday) each year was an infamous one. It was a particular favourite with couples who, without the blessing of their parents, could ‘runaway’ to get married. The decision to get wed at this time of year was influenced by a Church law forbidding weddings during lent. This fair more commonly known as the “Runaway Fair” was also remembered for all the mishaps and tragedies that happened on this day. While some of these were accidental, others occurred naturally or were acts of God.

See below for details of two of these calamities.

A similar fair in Meenaleck

The following verses tell the story of the “Runaway Fair.”


  (February 4th)

Oh, come from the castle, the cabin and hovel,

Get on your best suit, socks and tie,

Throw way the oul spade and the graip and the shovel,

Then oft to the fair we will hie.



For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe,

Wi’ tinkers and’ tailors and highclass and low;

Wi’ soldiers an’ sailors and sellers o’ clothes:

The folks will be gathered round staneens in rows,

For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe.


Though Mary loves Peter for many a season,

Her mother for Peter don’t care:

And as she won’t listen to love or to reason,

‘Tis off to Dungloe with the pair.

‘Tis off to Dungloe, but they don’t go together,

The secret between them is planned:

Sure Peter went early-a calf on his tether-

And Mary cross’d over the Strand.


At four the two meet down beside Mrs Brennan’s:

They stroll round town for a while:

At five the pair part at the door of Mulhern’s-

On both their young faces a smile.

Now Peter goes one way, and Mary the other-

A second sly couple come, too:

‘Tis Big Charlie John and wee Bella McCrudden,

The chapel’s their set rendezvous.


The priest is awaiting: the papers a-signing-

They witness each other in turn:

As Mary smiles shyly at Bella behind her.

A blush on each beauty doth burn.

Two rings are produced, and two pairs get a blessing,

But singly once more each departs:

No time for emotion or kiss or caressing-

Yet four leave with love-laden hearts.


Next day there’ll be talking and gossip in plenty-

What couples came here from Gweedore?

From Acres and Ardveen and far-away Glenties?

From Crolly, Croveigh and Falmore?

Then tighten yer trousers, oul’ Andy Neece Owen,

Ye’ll not yet be sixty till spring:

Put soft sort o’ ‘spake’ on yer Kitty McKeown-

And tell her ye’ll buy her a ring.



For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe,

Wi’ tinkers and’ tailors and highclass and low;

Wi’ soldiers an’ sailors and sellers o’ clothes:

The folks will be gathered round staneens in row,

For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe.

Composed by Dominic O’Kelly. Londonderry, February 4th 1942 and 

Published in Donegal Democrat. Saturday February 14th 1942

Disasters that happened on February 4th

Three lifelong seamen lost their lives close to their Gola Island home while returning from the “Runaway Fair” on February 4th 1943. (Larne Times)
prior to 1946
The interior of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, Annagry before it was seriously damaged by lightening on February 4th 1946.

Republished with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archive

The Banshee Stone

The Banshee Stone stands by the road
Near Mullachderg Strand
Beneath it lies a fair young maid
She is buried ‘neath the sand
This story it was told to me
By Peggy Mhicí Owen
About a maiden turned to Banshee
Who lies beneath the stone.

1-FB Mullaghderg Waves 6
Mullachderg Strand, looking west to the Old Kincasslach Tower

A loving couple had their home
Near Lovely Mullachdubh
They dearly loved each other
Each day their true love grew
Their romantic bliss was ripped apart
The young maid’s heart broke in two
The Atlantic claimed the young man’s life
Fishing just off Mullachdubh.

Fishing off the coast of Mullachdubh

Fair hair down o’er her shoulders
Her eyes like diamonds shone
The young maid clung onto a rock
She wailed from dusk till dawn
She cried out for her lover
Who was lost in the raging sea
Her cries were heard in Tory, Arranmore and Innisfree

A view of Innisfree and other islands including Tory in the distance from Mullachderg Strand


The young maid turned into a Banshee
Her wail like a wild wolf’s call
Her screeching screams would wake the dead
In each grave in Donegal
The Parish Priest on horseback came
He blessed her and she lay dead
Beneath the rock they buried her
‘Her soul was lost’ he said


If you ever pass the Banshee Stone
Stay quiet and lend an ear
The wailing of the Banshee
They say you’ll sometimes hear
The maiden with the long fair locks
Peggy Mhicí Owen said it is true
She lies beneath the Banshee Stone
Near Dear Old Mullchdubh.

Composed by Neil McGinley

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