Seán Ó Beirne PICTURE: LINDA CUNNINGHAM
There are 47 townlands in the Parish of Kilcar. As a schoolchild in Straleel National School nearly 80 years ago, teacher Barney Bryce taught them the mantra: “Croibh Uachtar, Croib Iochtar, Croibh Lar, Ruchro ‘s a Duchro agus Barra Cro Ban”.
All of the aforementioned are in the townland of Crove, through which travellers must wend their way from Carrick to Glenges . . . from the parish of Glencolmcille to the parish of Ardara.
Crove, however, is in the parish of Kilcar. In Dublin footballer Dessie Farrell's autobiography, he describes Crove as his 'bolthole' and 'sanctuary', his mother Ann Carr coming from there.
Two of Dessie’s uncles, Noel Carr and Seamus Carr, won a county title for Naomh Columba in 1990 and Everton and Ireland captain, Seamus Coleman, is a first cousin.
Another famous son of Crove, who prefers to work quietly under the radar, but who may have no choice come May to succumb to the highlight is the very able and popular Seán Ó Beirne.
Sean is the PRO for the Kilcar Parish Council and although his first foray into Council politics did not see him elected, he is still very much the 'In Through Community Man'.
I first got to know Sean in the Tech in the early 70’s when he was involved in Macra na Tuaithe and the Youth Club, and he is forever grateful to teachers Brian and Kathleen McCauley for their tireless work with young people in Carrick.
It was during his time in the Student’s Union there that Sean first got immersed in music promotion.
He recalls one momentous night: “In 1972 or ‘73, we had the local band ‘The Seafarers’ playing a gig for us, and before the session was over, they had changed their name to ‘Pluto’!” The rest is history! At last year’s Donegal Association do, Mary B and Paul were still rocking it, all those years later.
Sean joined the Kilcar Parish Council in 2004 and worked for nine years in the Aislann Centre, primarily in History and Heritage, and he showed me his wonderful photo archive some time ago.
In fact, they hope to publish a book of the photos, in the mould of Father Browne SJ later this year. Another great source of pride is the Leitir Corn Mill Conservation and Restoration Project.
Patrick McBrearty and Sean took me through it a few years ago, and the extraordinary development is a credit to the committee and renowned architect Duncan McLaren.
As has been observed, few of Ireland’s traditional corn mills have survived to the present day with this level of preservation and intactness.
The site is an important part of the 19th century industrial heritage of not alone Kilcar, but of the county and entire northwest region.
The grain milled was grown throughout this locality and served to provide for some of the food needs of Kilcar, Carrick and Killybegs.
It also catered for the corn corps of small farmers in Glencolmcille, Killybegs and Teelin. Self-sufficient farmers brought their cut corn to the mill.
Sean is a member of the Kilcar Tourism Committee or of the Cultural Committee he has been responsible forbringing many leading national and international artists to Kilcar, including Moya Brennan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, De Danann, The Henry Girls, Paddy Glackin & Donal Lunny, Dermot Byrne, Steve Cooney, Zoe Conway, Tommy Peoples, Brendan Quinn, Henry McCullough, Gay McIntyre and many more.
He has worked with the Arts Office of Donegal County Council to promote events in Kilcar during the Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival and with the Donegal County Council Heritage Office in the hosting of a seminar in Kilcar on Vernacular Architecture. He is one of the organisers of the various events that take place every year as part of Heritage Week in conjunction with the Heritage Council and Donegal County Council.
As a member of the Tourism Committee in 2007 he was one of the people involved in the revival of the Kilcar Fleadh and as a member of the Heritage Committee was involved the setting up of the Leitir Corn Mill Restoration project.
He was a member of the Carrick Development Committee in the late 1970s, responsible for booking the bands for the popular ‘Carrick Carnival’, and was a founder member in Co. Donegal of the second level Irish Union of School Students and was a member of the National Executive of that organisation Winston Churchill’s advice to budding politicians could be Sean O’Beirne’s mantra…”Speak softly and carry a big stick!”
Sean laughs: “A few people said that I wouldn’t be cut out for the rough and tumble of politics but I’m passionate about my community and I’m not unfamiliar with Council. In fact I’ve sat in the Chamber as I’ve chaired our Tourism Committee and other groups.
“It’s not just Kilcar, but Glen, Ardara, Glenties and all of the south-west that needs major assistance and infrastructure.
“The Wild Atlantic Way has been great but the Crove Road is crumbling, so is the Leitir to Towney road and the old coast road to Carrick is not even on the Wild Atlantic Way!” He recalls me writing a piece on the latter controversy a few years ago defining the word ‘Wild’ in Donegal parlance for bureaucrats outside Donegal.
When he has time for pastimes, his love of music predominates. “I love traditional music, American Country, Bluegrass, Jazz and Rock.” He broadcasts as Gaeilge on late Monday afternoons and other occasional days on South West Donegal Community Radio. Although it’s online only, he and his colleagues have listeners in the US, Australia, India, Argentina, even Egypt. Mmmm?
If he could organise votes there, it would compensate rightly for Leamagowra! As we say in Donegal, Sean is ‘well got’, a man of unquenchable passion, quiet resolve and crucially, integrity. “Speak softly and carry a big Crove stick!”
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