One in Every
The degree to which readers will enjoy this article will very much depend on their appetite for nostalgia, ivy clad ruins and Donegal. Ours knows no bounds so this patchwork of pretty pictures and random insights was a dream holiday production. And so to enchanting Burtonport where wild flowers fringe the road and green climbers embrace the deserted Garda station and 18th century grain store. The tall chimneys of a ruinous rambling country house rise above the gables of a neat Victorian villa. The villa replicates itself to the rear: a double pile roof for a double block house.
A sign down at the harbour states: “An experiment buried by sand: Lord Burton Conyngham established his port here in the 1800s. His first idea was to develop a fishing industry on Rutland Island to benefit from huge shoals of visiting herring. His experiment failed. The herring departed and a sandstorm later buried some of the buildings. Lack of roads meant it was difficult to take fish to market. The railway finally arrived here in 1902. It was very slow and stations were often far from villages. Twice gales blew the engine off the tracks.” The apostrophe and ‘s’ after his surname have long disappeared and the two words become one. Appearing to float in the harbour is an archipelago in miniature. Burtonport is now the ferry terminal for Arranmore Island. Tourists have replaced herrings as a source of local income.
On the outskirts of Burtonport are impossibly romantic isolated houses. An abandoned cottage carries this sign: “Maggie Boyle lived here and died November 1924 age 98 years. Her mother died March 1880 age 98 years. Her brother Charles died 1897 age 80 years. Charles was an engineer. He went to the Hedge School in Carrickfin beside the lake below the airport. His first teacher was Mr McDonald from County Meath. He was replaced by Mr Carlonan also from County Meath. He studied in Maynooth in County Kildare to become a priest but decided to leave and do teaching. He married Mr McDonald’s daughter. Both men are buried at the Church of Ireland situated between Gortahork and Falcarragh. Charles was the first engineer that put the railroad from east to west in the USA. He married a lady from Creeslough and is buried in Doe Cemetery. Both parents and sister are buried outside the main entrance to the chapel at Kincasslagh. It has an iron railing around it. This is a little bit of history.”
A white cat gazes out from the upstairs window of an antiques filled white walled house. It’s a three bay farmhouse facing the road turning into a five bay country house overlooking the garden. Such are the vibrant colours and the still air that this vision is like a kaleidoscope slowly stopping. Nostalgia and ivy clad ruins, Burtonport has it all, Donegal in a seashell.