The Gathering

The gathering has been designated for this year, Government and tourism agents are in a tizzy over it. The idea is that people and communities organise events that would bring people home to celebrate with them – The Gathering. Irish names in the world of business, film and theatre are signed up to give their backing to it.

The Derry Journal reported that in 1956, 50,000 people came into Donegal for the Glasgow fair. Twelfth of July annual holidays in Scotland.

How and where did this information come from and why was it gathered?

Paddy McFadden worked for the Central Statistics Office in Dublin. His job was to gather information from people travelling into Donegal or the Irish republic. He wore a dark suit and peaked black cap like a Garda or customs officer, with a harp crest on it. He would board buses and hand out cards to travellers, two days on the Buncrana Road, Kildrum /Killea, one day Carrigans, Muff, and also give them to people travelling by car, although they were scarce then. People from that era will remember the Lough Swilly buses with their roof-racks packed with suit cases and bicycles loaded from the Scotch boat when it docked in Derry.

We felt sorry for the Postman who had to carry the parcels of cards which were sent to him from Dublin. Each parcel weighed about a stone and there were usually about four a time.

These cards had questions, enquiring about things such as your nationality, where you are coming from, the nature of your business in the area, how long you intended to stay, who you were staying with, and how much you intended to spend. The bus conductors would also give him information when Paddy was not on that route. The conductors were there for years and knew all their regulars and annual holiday makers, and where they had to stop, be it lane-end, crossroads, chapel, school, or pub. No one was compelled to fill in the card or give information, but he however got the job done. Each evening when he came home he would fill in the remainder of the card. Date and point of entry and correct any writing that was not legible and then send off the cards in the envelopes provided, to Dublin.

The fifty thousand who came, were returning emigrants or sons and daughters and maybe a work mate with no relations at all here, come to spend their holidays in Donegal, (Scotland had not yet enjoyed the delights of foreign travel) mostly with families or other relatives, they would help with the hay harvesting, turf cutting and carry the water from the well. In the evenings they went to the local hall to dance or ceili.

Kevin A. McFadden

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