Bookbinding and book finding in Donegal

From the Zambezi to the Finn: a bookbinder is plying his trade in a Donegal bookshop which is flourishing three years after closing

Bookbinding and book finding in Donegal

Danny McIntyre of House of Books in Ballybofey

Mary’s Meals provides one good meal to some of the world’s poorest children every school day.
Currently, they feed almost a million and a half children. In Ballybofey, Danny McIntyre of House of Books has devoted his retirement to his love of literature, and Mary’s Meals!
Three years ago, when the House of Books closed, Mary’s Meals extended their “sincerest thanks for the support that Danny - and his volunteers - have given to Mary’s Meals over the years.
“House of Books, in Ballybofey carried a wide range of novels and specialised in rare and out-of-print books. Danny’s love of literature could be seen in the richness and variety of the titles in his bookstore which included history, DIY, crime fiction, cookery, and bestselling Irish authors.
“Danny has been sponsoring a school in Montserrado County, Liberia, for several years. Although almost a decade has passed since Liberia’s brutal civil war, families there are still recovering, and many are having to rebuild their lives after the devastating outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014/15.”

Sponsoring a school in Liberia

Children who receive Mary’s Meals in Liberia are served a daily meal of either vitamin-enriched corn-soya porridge, or rice and beans, with fresh vegetables grown in their school gardens.
The guarantee of this daily meal helps to unlock the potential of children like 17-year-old Robert, who attends the school that Danny sponsors.
“I love geography, I want to study about the earth and its naturalness…Mary’s Meals tastes good. I like corn meal, I feel fine when I eat it”, he tells us.
Mary’s Meals extended a big “Thank you to Danny and his volunteers for their dedication and hard work, and to his customers for their support and generosity. We’re sure House of Books will be missed by many but we wish Danny and his team all the best for the future!”
Mercifully, House of Books opened six months after that initial closure and I visited their new premises recently, above Alexander’s in Ballybofey.
Bookbinder Rob Salter (below) was busily working on an old County Clare Ordnance Survey Map, left in by a retired teacher, originally from the Banner County, Dan Liddy, but now a resident of Westmeath.
He also showed me a number of beautiful Bibles from the mid 19th Century, in need of binding, and told me of his own fascinating journey from the Zambezi to the Finn.

“When Robert Mugabe came to power, we knew it was going to get uncomfortable, so we moved to Johannesburg. I was a fitter by trade and eventually six of us came to work in Mulrine’s in Ballybofey. I’ve been bookbinding here for the past five years...I really enjoy it but it requires great patience.”
His colleague, book expert Liam Hoey, laughs: “He might bind, Frank, but he doesn’t read books!” Liam, on the other hand is a voracious reader and an avid collector.
“I remember as a wean, going to Ruskey School in Convoy. If I saw a piece of a newspaper on the ground, I’d have to read it.
I go to book fairs in Belfast, Dublin, wherever, and of course you can find me and my books at the Patrick MacGill Summer School in the Highlands Hotel in Glenties for the whole week. Enda Cunningham from Carrick who ran the wonderful Cathach Books in Dublin was a huge help to me. It’s now called Ulysses Rare Books and run by David and Aisling Cunningham.”
I reminded Liam that there was no library in Carrigart when I was young and that I would read the back of a Corn Flakes packet!
He knew the feeling in Convoy. My mouth literally waters as he shows me a beautiful hardback edition of Paddy Tunney’s ‘The Stone Fiddle’...a 1953 edition of Michael Traynor’s wonderful “The English Dialect in Donegal”...a copy of MacGill’s “Songs of a Navvy”, signed by Patricia McGill and “The Big Windows”, signed by Peadar O’Donnell in Glenties in 1985.
The list goes’s a Nirvana for book lovers and the book searches are free...rare or out of print. As Mary’s Meals are still the main charity beneficiaries - well over €100, 000 raised to date - your books, old or unwanted, stamps, photographs, coins etc are most welcome, as are donations.

Reminder of lost friend

Finally, as I savour the aromas and dust of books galore in this veritable treasure trove, I am once again reminded of our mutual friend, Enda Cunningham.
When he passed away nine years ago, I wrote: “Up until last year, we corresponded fairly regularly, and I learned more from him than had he been my own teacher.
“When I was a young lad running around Carrick, the pedagogue and historian in him enjoyed my naïve curiosity, and he never failed to engage my precocious tendency to what Rudyard Kipling referred to as his '...six honest serving men...who taught me all I know, their names are Who and What and Where and How and When and Why?' I may have that order slightly wrong but Enda answered them all. I shall miss him greatly.”
Danny, Rob and Liam carry the tradition proudly.

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