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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Mary From Dungloe Festival

“Oh, then fare ye well, sweet Donegal, the Rosses and Gweedore.
I'm crossing the main ocean, where the foaming billows roar,
It breaks my heart from you to part, where I spent many happy days.
Farewell to kind relations for I'm bound for Amerikay.”


When Pádraig MacCumhaill wrote these lyrics in 1936 about the courtship of Mary Gallagher way back in 1861, little did he realise how his song would capture the imagination of generations of Irish across the world. In doing so, he put the small town of Dungloe in West Donegal, situated on the northwestern tip of Europe, firmly on the map of consciousness for millions of Irish and their Diaspora.

Today, the Mary from Dungloe International Festival continues to go from strength to strength. Now in its 47th year, previous ‘Marys’ have come from places as far and near as Melbourne, Philadelphia, Manchester, Edinburgh, Armagh, Kildare, and Dungloe itself, to name but a few. Each year the festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the area and many cross the foaming billows to get there; although it may be more across the clouds these days. 



Dungloe is part of the large Gaeltacht region of West Donegal and is also known by its Gaelic name of An Clochán Liath which means ‘The Grey Stepping Stone’. This name originates from a grey granite slab that lay on the riverbed at the bottom of the town that was used to cross the river before the erection of a bridge in 1762. It is the commercial hub of the area known as the Rosses, which along with the neighbouring districts of Cloughaneely and Gweedore, are collectively known as the ‘three parishes’, an area which boasts 16,000 Irish speakers. This area of outstanding beauty in West Donegal has to be experienced rather than just seen. 


You need to feel the ground beneath your feet, engage with the friendliest people on Earth, and wine and dine just as proposed by the protagonist of that famous song. This year’s festival takes place from 26th July – 4th August, 2014 and could be your stepping stone to West Donegal with its many wonders of natural landscape and culture.

And I wish I was in sweet Dungloe and seated on the grass.
And by my side a bottle of wine and on my knee a lass.
I'd call for liquor of the best and I'd pay before I go

And I'd roll my Mary in my arms in the town of sweet Dungloe.”