As the very lifelike statue of Ballyshannon’s favourite son, Rory Gallagher is about to be installed on the Diamond in Ballyshannon one Ballyshannon man gives his own personal insight into the man who has become a musical legend world wide.
Cllr. Barry O’Neill has been a Gallagher fan all his life and is currently the Chairperson of the Rory Gallagher Festival held in the Town every year.
O’Neill told the Donegal Democrat, “Rory Gallagher’s connections with his birth place Ballyshannon are as strong now in 2010 as they were in the year of his birth at the Rock Hospital in 1948.
“In several interviews in the years prior to his untimely passing in 1995, Rory was quoted as saying that when he would retire, he would like to do so in his native Donegal. Gallagher was born at the appropriately named Rock Hospital on 2nd March 1948 to parents Daniel and Monica. The Gallagher’s like many other families in the late -1940’s had flocked to Ballyshannon in search of work as the biggest engineering project of its time was underway, the construction of the ESB Hydro Electric Station by the Cementation Company.
“Rory’s Dad, Daniel was a tradesman, a talented carpenter who resided at East Port Road, Ballyshannon during that time in an apartment rented to the Gallagher family by the Late Frank O’Neill above Owen Roe’s Bar.
“Anne O’Neill-Pastoor who has resided all her life at East Port Road, recalls as a youngster the excitement in her home, the day that a new-born baby arrived home to the Port, that being Rory Gallagher. The Gallagher’s remained in Ballyshannon for two years, but in that time forged great relationships with members of the Croal, Drummond and Grimes families.
“Music and performance was very much apart of their lives while living in Ballyshannon. Rory’s father Daniel played the accordion and sang with the Tir Chonaill Ceile Band, and mother Monica was a singer and was a notable actress with the Abbey Players in Ballyshannon. Its quite extraordinary that the Theatre where the Late Monica Gallagher performed is now called the ‘Rory Gallagher Theatre’ at the Abbey Arts Centre.”
RETURNED TO BALLYSHANNON
Rory returned on several occasions to his birthplace. Rory Gallagher Festival Chairperson Cllr. Barry O’Neill recounts conversations that he had with Rory’s mother Monica before her untimely death in August 2005.
Cllr. O’Neill said «I became very friendly with Monica several years before her death and annually met her when attending Rory’s anniversary masses in Cork City. On one occasion, Monica recalled both herself and Rory taking a break in Donegal and Derry in the mid-1980’s, they walked around Ballyshannon before calling to see her life-long friend the late Patsy Croal, who at that time had a newsagents on Main Street, Ballyshannon.
“She told me of her friendship also with the Grimes family who once lived on Market Street back in the late 1940’s and her love for drama in Ballyshannon. I am sure Monica and Patsy would be having quite a laugh at the fact that the two theatres in the Abbey Arts Centre are named after Rory Gallagher and Patsy Croal.»
Cllr. O’Neill added «Rory returned on several other occasions when playing gigs in Strandhill and in Omagh. It was without doubt one of his and Ballyshannon’s regrets that he never got the opportunity to play a gig in the town of his birth, but I think over the last nine years we have in some way made up for that.
“There is a well known story when Rory played in Strandhill that he came to Ballyshannon for an afternoon and made a call to Maggies Bar, just off the roundabout. He sat at the Bar counter and when several locals who were playing Darts shared the line that ‘your man is a ringer for Rory Gallagher at the counter’, Rory laughed to himself and sometime later before departing made quite an exit, quietly informing the Darts throwers that in fact he was Rory Gallagher.»
HARTY’S RAGTIME BAND
A mystery surrounding Rory and Donal’s late father Daniel Gallagher was solved by another family friend
Mr. P J Drummond. In 2002, on a visit to Ballyshannon Donal was introduced to P J Drummond by Owen Roe O’Neill. Mr. Drummond worked along with Daniel Gallagher on the construction of the Hydro Station and also resided beside the Gallagher’s at East Port Road.
However, P. J. who is now a resident at the Rock Nursing Home, was at the time able to recite word for word the song that Daniel Gallagher had penned «Harty’s Ragtime Band». In the following five years, Donal had not managed to get the words on paper, however Peter Daly assisted P J Drummond and in June 2008, the song in full was presented to Donal and the Gallagher family in Ballyshannon.
Rory Gallagher sadly passed away following complications after a Liver Transplant in King’s Hospital, London in June 1995. However, Ballyshannon have not forgotten the legendry Blues / Rock Guitarist with the establishment of the Rory Gallagher Festival in 2003 that saw the unveiling of Rory Gallagher Place on the street of his first home at East Port Road.
In 2005 the main theatre at the Abbey Centre was renamed the Rory Gallagher Theatre and in 2008 Rory posthumously received the freedom of Ballyshannon from the Town Council.
The ultimate tribute to any public figure is to have a statue erected in their honour and for many involved in the Rory Gallagher Festival Committee, Wednesday 2nd June 2010 will be a night to remember when well known musicians along with members of the Gallagher family will assemble at Main Street, Ballyshannon for the unveiling of the Bronze Statue of Rory, commissioned by Donegal County Council and the Rory Gallagher Festival Committee.