DONEGAL TIMES

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July 10th 2002

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Local Composer wins prestigious Song Contest

Local musician/songwriter, Jody Gallagher, is celebrating this week, having won first prize on Sunday night, 7th July, in the biggest song-writing contest to be held in the country this year. The event, held in the Galway village of Glinsk, has been running since 1988. Jody joins the ranks of winners from the past, including Charlie McGettigan and Niall Toner to name but two. First prize was a crystal trophy and 1000 cash.

Jody fought off stiff opposition from Ireland and overseas to win the competition. Jody’s song ‘Guilty’ proved a big hit with the ten judges, and led the competition almost from the word go.

Jody, as many know, was a keyboard player with Pluto for many years, before moving to Rock Stewart and the Plattermen. Since he started song writing two years ago he has found great success having written Conal Gallen’s smash ‘I want to be a Millionaire’. Jody says “It’s nice to have success with a serious song this time round!”

McGettigans Butchers - 50 Years in Town

Founder Michael McGettigan with sons Diarmuid and Ernan

On the 10th July 1952, Michael McGettigan opened a Butcher Shop in a premises on the Diamond that he had leased from Andrew Begley (where Begley’s Pharmacy is now). Tomorrow (Wednesday) sees this business celebrate its 50th birthday. Standing at the counter at 9am. on the opening day was Minnie McGahern, who, by purchasing three lamb chops for half-a-crown, became Michael’s first customer. At the start, the shop had two employees, Jimmy Stevenson and, soon after, Paddy O’Donnell. In 1954, Michael re-located, having purchased his present premises from Frank McNeely.

‘My Dog did Flossie in’

Charlie Doherty admits canine involved in duck’s demise

A visibly upset Charlie Doherty talked to Donegal Times about the day his dog Darkie attacked the internationally known duck ‘Flossie’, causing injuries that led to her death. “It broke my heart” Mr. Doherty said. “I haven’t been right since”.

Flossie hit the headlines nationally when she built her nest and laid eggs in the stern of the waterbus, travelling up and down the bay with the passengers, as she hatched her ducklings.

The Tourism Trail

Mixed reaction from local operators

Mavourneen’s Home Thoughts - Darren minds the shop

Reports and figures show that 2002 could see visitor numbers in Donegal drop by up to 40%. According to Mark Wheeler, Chairman of the Donegal branch of the Irish Hotels Federation, his members are “looking at something awful” in the months ahead. Many of the organization’s local members said they suffered a downturn in June of around 20% and were now putting staff on short time and not employing students who would have depended on Summer jobs to send them through college.

Last year there was a drop in visitors which was attributed to F & M and September 11th. But now local hotelier, Jim White, says “this is only an excuse”. While acknowledging it was a disappointing season, with business down 15%-20% in the Abbey and Central, Jim said “People are just not around, the bus tours are arriving half-full, usually we don’t have to advertise for July and August. There are a lot of factors, price structure, marketing strategies abroad, lack of all-weather facilities and, of course, the rain. September 11th is only an excuse, it has no bearing on the downturn”.

Sheila Callaghan of The Gap Lodge said the season was quiet, though she was kept going with regulars and walking tours. “There is a 50% drop in tourists. Weather is the main factor in the home market - the World Cup and September 11th in the European and American markets. Also from listening to some guests, I feel that the 12th July scares-off people from coming North”.

Shauna McNeice of the ‘Lakeland’ B&B, Lough Eske, said her figures were down 70% for June, with July and August not looking good, “If it wasn’t for the bookings from guests attending weddings in Harvey’s Point, the season so far would be a disaster and unless the weather improves we will suffer a huge loss in the tourist industry.”

Sean McLoone from Donegal Castle said it’s early days yet for them “there is a slight drop in the American market but there is an upturn in Europeans, especially Germans. We saw a lot of day trippers in June and have a big number of coach tours booked for July and August. Overall, to date, I would say there has been a drop of 10%.”

Billy Bustard of the Waterbus says business is up 30%, with the weather not affecting them. Indeed he would go so far as to say that a bad day encourages people to go down the bay as it is something to do and see without getting soaked. “This year we sent brochures around to all the Day Centres and it worked. Each day we have several coaches, though access to the Water Bus is difficult for wheelchairs and this is a problem that needs to be addressed”.

Patrick Nugent from Murvagh Golf Club said May was a good month though June was down 5% with the weather being the main factor.

Eddie from Schooners declared it was a disaster season. “If it wasn’t for the World Cup and the locals, business would be down even more.” He puts it down to the weather, with the Northerners not travelling. “We need now, more than ever, indoor facilities, progressively every year the weather is getting worse, the town is not able to market itself as there is nothing to offer on a bad day”.

Niall Bruton of the Craft Village said the year to date had been quiet and July has started really badly. “We blamed the foot and mouth last year, but I think the truth is we are too expensive and the euro has highlighted this - we can no longer hide behind a monetary disguise.”

Anne Temple of The Railway Society said it has been a poor season so far with business down 20%. She blames a combination of Euro and weather.

Catching up with two bikers, Bill and Ryan Johnson, a father and son from Canada, who had travelled Ireland and were spending two nights in Donegal, I asked their opinion. It was their first time in Ireland and they thought the country was beautiful. “Ireland has lived up to our expectations, it is a beautiful country, ideal for the cyclist. The weather does not bother us. Back home it is really hot – we knew Ireland has a lot of rainfall so we came prepared - the only fault we have found is a lot of the camp sites are not adequately equipped for campers - they cater more for the caravaners.”

Jo in the Harbour said business is on par with last year. “Tourist-wise we were quiet in June but since the beginning of July it has been very busy. Customers comment from time to time that the town is quiet and we are the busiest place they have come across.”

Seoirse Williamson of ‘Mavourneens Home Thoughts’ says business is good, even though there is a drop in the American visitor, “there is more of a mix of tourists coming to town, on one afternoon last week there were ten different nationalities in the shop including Austrialians, Japanese, Asians and South Americans. The season has extended with bus tours in town from Christmas right through.”

Jackie Gallagher in Molloys on the Diamond said June’s sales figures were up on last year, “There are not as many bus tours, though the Europeans are up and the American market down in a ratio of two Europeans to one American.”

Edith Brown in Atlantic Guest House felt June was very quiet though bookings for July and August look good.

Mr. McKean of Magees said the season is down considerably - at least 20%. “The American market is poor and the outlook for July /August is not good. September 11th is the reason for the Americans and weather is the factor affecting the day-trippers.”

So on a quick sample of the early season, that’s a mixed flavour of local reaction. However, counting down to the traditional start of the season proper on July 12th, it will be interesting to see if there is an improvement in what is traditionally Donegal’s most important industry.


The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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