28 May 2022

Local delight at Heritage Council funding to begin process of restoring Kinny Cally Hall in St Johnston

“It’s a really big part of our history here and the social life in the area…at one time it was a real ‘Ballroom of Romance’ for East Donegal.”

Local delight at Heritage Council funding to begin process of restoring Kinny Cally Hall in St Johnston

Kinny Cally Hall in St. Johnston today

Members of the St Johnston and Carrigans community have expressed delight over a recent Heritage Council announcement that €3,690 has been awarded to begin the process of restoring Kinny Cally Hall.

The one-room stone hall with a corrugated tin roof was popular for miles around as a social gathering place and dance venue in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, later serving as a site for traditional music
lessons, community meetings, jumble sales, and even football practice sessions.

Located in the St. Johnston townland of Kinny Cally, the currently ivy-covered hall is in a state of disrepair and in danger of ultimately tumbling if steps are not taken to preserve and restore it.

“We are absolutely delighted to secure funding from The Heritage Council to commence the Kinny Cally Hall Restoration Project,” said John-Edward McGill, a member of a Kinny Cally Hall Restoration Project Group comprised of local volunteers.

“We look forward to working closely with The Heritage Council, other relevant bodies, and the local community to complete this restoration project.”

Other members of the volunteer group which applied for Community Heritage Grant Scheme funding on behalf of Kinny Cally Hall include local community members Julie Costello, Mary Crossan, and Fr Oliver McCrossan.

“Growing up in the area, Kinny Cally Hall was always something that was spoken about by the older generation from a music perspective and also from a social perspective,” Mary said.

“It’s a really big part of our history here and the social life in the area…at one time it was a real ‘Ballroom of Romance’ for East Donegal.”

Monies received from The Heritage Council will be applied to the compilation of an architectural conservation report by well-known Moville-based architectural conservation firm Dedalus Architecture.

Previous conservation projects that the firm has taken part in include Lifford Old Courthouse, the John Colgan Memorial Hall in Carndonagh, Manorhamilton Castle, Rathmullan Friary, and Pettigo Mill.

Work by Dedalus Architecture on the project will include historical research and collation of existing documentation about Kinny Cally Hall, a survey of the site, preparation of existing reference drawings and visual information, and generation of a final report which includes recommendations and an itemised schedule of building fabric repairs.

Once the report is complete, members of the local group will undertake a community consultation process via a number of public meetings in order to share the report recommendations with community members and to learn which of these and any others there is strong local support for pursuing further.

A plan for the next steps of the restoration process will then be drawn up by the group in time to be launched at an event during National Heritage Week 2022, which runs from August 15th to 23rd.

“The story of Kinny Cally Hall is inextricably connected with the unique social and cultural history of St Johnston and surrounding areas,” John-Edward said.

“Indeed, one of the hall's founders was James Peoples, who was the grandfather of renowned Irish fiddle player Tommy Peoples.

“In its prime, the hall would have functioned as a lively social venue where people gathered to socialise, play music, and dance,” John-Edward added. “Many local people first met and fell in love
there, including my own grandparents in the early Forties.

“By preserving the hall as a heritage site, we hope that people will be able to reconnect with their personal family history and, by extension, the rich social and cultural history of the area,"
John-Edward concluded.

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