This week in Donegal Life we speak to Noeleen NíCholla and discover a great love of language, music, culture and song

This week in Donegal Life we speak to Noeleen NíCholla and discover a great love of language, music, culture and song

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend out in Donegal?
I would get up early and cycle to Port Arthur beach and have a picnic in the sand. I would then have dinner at night at one of the amazing restaurants in Gaoth Dobhair. I would then go to Hiúdaí Beag's for the traditional music session. It really is one of the best pubs in Ireland for traditional music and Hugh Hiúdaí beag is an amazing fiddler, pianist and box player. The next day I would go to the Poisoned Glen or hike up the majestic Errigal.

Who has made the greatest contribution to Donegal in your lifetime - and why?
The groups Clannad, Altan and singers Enya and Daniel O'Donnell have made the greatest contributions. They have made Irish songs and language relevant in the music industry.

What do you think gives Donegal its unique identity?
The Irish language, the wealth of traditional music and our culture. There is such talent in Donegal.

Do you have a favourite local singer or musician?
Clannad and Altan have always been my favourite bands and musicians. Iremember being so proud as a child when I discovered that Clannad were from Gaoth Dobhair, and even more excited, when I discovered that they were from Dore, the same village as my mother. Their music has always been so beautiful and haunting. They, together with Altan, put Irish language songs on the world stage. It was an inspiration for me when I started singing on stage myself aged 7. I am proud to be in a group called ‘Nollaig’ wth one of my childhood heroes, Noel Ó Dúgáin, a founding member of Clannad. Altan inspired me with regard to playing traditional music. Their tone is so unique. You can always pick an Altan tune out, it has the amazing Donegal vibe especially on the fiddle. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh's melodic singing is so beautiful. It is always an honour to sing on the same stage as Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Moya Brennan, Noel Duggan, Clannad and Altan. They are such heroes here in Gaoth Dobhair, we are all so proud of them and grateful for what they have done for the whole country with their exceptional talent.

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
One of the greatest challenges in Donegal at the moment is creating employment for the young people. We are relying on the next generation to keep our unique, beautiful and ancient language alive. However, we do need to create employment in order to retain our youth. A lot has been achieved in terms of tourism in the county especially with the introduction of the Wild Atlantic Way and we could do even more to attract tourism into the more remote areas of the county.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Donegal, what would it be?
Nothing. I love that Donegal is wild and wonderful. I wouldn't want to change that. We have peaceful places to retreat and we also have busy towns. Donegal really has so much to offer to locals and tourists and it really is a truly magical place.

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