Donegal's prophetic poets of yore

Derry Fire Brigade’s escapades in Buncrana recalled in rhyme

Liam Smith

Barber Liam Smith

An elegantly hirsute, Liam Smith, owner of Liam’s Barber’s Shop on Buncrana Main Street called into Inish Times this week to discuss two recently unearthed poems.

Liam who has plied his trade in the seaside town for the past 21 years, revealed the first poem, ‘Things to Come, Buncrana Urban Council, Town Planning’ was written by his uncle John 'Teddy' Smith.

Liam said: “John was my father’s brother. He was a professional soccer player who played for Coleraine, Dundalk and Derry City during his career. John dictated the poem to my cousin Paula Smith in the late 50s, early 60s. There must have been a council election coming up at the time because this was what the poem was about, the promises of politicians.

“Some of the things he has said, they are still talking about today. 

“I was prompted to call into yourselves because of all the goings on after the recent general election. 

“Thanks, must go to my cousin Paula Smith, also from Buncrana, for keeping the poems,” said Liam. 

The second poem, ‘We Are Atoms’ was written by Liam’s father. 

Liam recalled: “Well, he didn’t actually write it, he had it in his mind and he told it to Paula, and she wrote it down in the year 2000 and gave it to me. 

“My father’s nickname was Gingle, Willie Gingle Smith because nobody knew him under any other name. He was also from Buncrana. 

“’We Are Atoms’ was his musings on life and friendship. He wrote other poems as well, some of them quite famous or infamous at the time he wrote them. 

“There was one poem about the Fire Brigade, he was in the Fire Brigade for all his life while he was able, from 1932 until he took a stroke in the 1970s. There was also the time there was a Christmas tree in Buncrana, which was set on fire and the Fire Brigade from Derry came down and put the fire out, before the Buncrana Brigade got to it, so my father wrote a poem about it, so there was a good poem about that,” chuckled Liam.

The cheerful barber also recalled another of his father’s poems about a “very famous Garda about Buncrana.”

He confided: “He wrote a poem about Garda Grey, who has since passed away. Garda Grey was presented with the poem on the occasion of his retirement from the force and he was immensely proud of it. One day he met my mother and father in Letterkenny, and he was manager of Letterkenny Shopping Centre and he brought them into his office and to give them tea and show them the poem framed on the wall.

“My father wrote the poem and it took place in the old Cruiskeen Lawn, down where Topline is now.”

Things to Come

Buncrana Urban Council

Town Planning


Our local Urban Council are in the news once more

But they’re much the same as councils we had in days of yore

This time they say it’s different - for us to wait and see

As they’re going to make Buncrana a metropolis by the sea


The first thing on the agenda, is a carriage-way through Fahan

It will be a two way highway for jet buses to speed on

We’ll have bathing pools and car parks - amusement halls galore

And a miniature railway to take the kiddies round the shore


Skyscrapers will be the order, an art gallery and zoo

A suspension bridge across the Lough for traffic to get through

We’ll have a luxury airport convenient to Porthaw

And thousands of Yankee tourists will fly into Donegal


There’ll be cable cars to Aileach and a subway to Moville

An artificial ski-way for the tourists on Fahan Hill

Our pier will be like Blackpool’s, electrified at night

You will think you are in Disney Land, a real fantastic sight


The job will be colossal but the work it must go on

Buncrana will be a Florida amid the Hills of Donegal

A drive-in cinerama, a casino by the shore

Horse racing in the evening - who could ask for more


Now young people pay attention, and think of what I say

For thirty years I’ve heard this tale that you are hearing today

We lost our Fishing Industry, our tourist trade as well

That’s why Buncrana say today - to Connaught or to Hell


Now our council’s off to Dublin, they’re off with the green, the green

They’re going to take drastic action in the press I’m sure you’ve seen

Why this useless journey? Why make such a scene?

The people of Buncrana know the council haven’t a bean


T’is fourteen years and maybe more since a house was built in town

The latest news I have to hand - they’re going to tear three down

O God bless dear old Ireland, God help us one and all

Instead of one Lord Leitrim there’ll be ten in Donegal


By John ‘Teddy’ Smith


We Are Atoms


We are atoms that flow on the river of time

On our way to the ultimate sea.

Life with its sorrows, it’s cares and it’s woes

Brings trouble to you and to me.

But if as the swift flowing years roll along

Our pathways are parted at last.

Always remember that once you and I were

Friends in the far distant past


By Gingle

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email To contact Donegal Post, email To contact Inish Times, email

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.