Ballyshannon. Image © Paul McGuckin
Ballyshannon meaning The Mouth of Seannachs ford is stiuated at the mouth of the River Erne in south Donegal. The river Erne that flows through Ballyshannon marks the southern boundary of historic Tir Chonaill. Sites dating back to Neolithic times have been excavated in and around the town of Ballyshannon showing evidence of early human settlements
Ballyshannon had long been an important stronghold for the ODonnells. Niall Garbh O Domhnaill built the castle at Ballyshannon in 1423. It is said that the grave of Red Hugh O’Donnell is situated beneath St. Anne’s Church.
The towns architecture reflects its history - every way you turn there are landmark buildings and sites such as the Mall Quay, The Workhouse, and St. Annes Church. The Mall and College Street date from the late 18th Century.
The towns main industries included distilling, brewing, tanning, tobacco processing and saw milling. This prosperity continued to grow due to foreign trade coming from the port and as a result tourism from France and Spain grew.
Ballyshannon also housed a workhouse with the present building opening in 1843, with occupancy for 500 paupers. By the C20th, the workhouse was used as a Fever Hospital.
The most significant development in the 20th Century was the hydroelectric development of the Erne. The dam brought benefits on both a local and national scale.
One of Ireland’s most famous poets, William Allingham (1824-1889), came from Ballyshannon. He described his native town as “the kindly spot, the friendly town”. Ballyshannon is also home to rock singer and guitarist Rory Gallagher and hosts a Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival to honour him each year. Another notable person from Ballyshannon is singer/songwriter and Eurovision song contest winner, Charlie McGettigan.
Ballyshannon plays host to one of Ireland’s longest running folk festivals called the Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional music festival.