Opening Speech

James Sharkey
Irish Ambssador to Denmark

1 of 7

I am greatly honourd to be invited to open this summer school and to have a chance to meet you, Mr. Chairman, and the other distinguished speakers whom you have invited. You did not have to go very far out of the parish - and hardly at all out of the Inishowen region - and as we all know Derry and Glasgow are really tribal dependencies of Inishowen - to bring together your impressive panel of contributors.

Having grown up in Derry, I have only a half claim to be part of this parish - but since my connection is with the Urris half of the parish, it is I think a very big half claim indeed. I spent all my summers in Urris from as early as I can remember staying mostly with my cousins, the McGonigals, in Dunaff and I started making the journey from Derry to Clonmany unaccompanied from the age of 10. In 1955, the first time I came here on my own, I had three instructions from my mother. The first was not to get lost - under no circumstances was I to get lost - as if I would plan to do so. The second was to tell anybody who asked me that I was one of Mary Ann Boyles. She was sure that would make a difference if I did get lost. The third was to go to the house of Hughie Farren who was a taxi driver here in the fifties with a big trade in Urris and give him 6d. to take me out to Dunaff.

Well, a six pence was a lot of money in those days so when the the bus arrived from Buncrana, the day being good, I set off on foot for Urris.

When I reached the bridge, I met a man on the road and asked him the way and he replied "What names on you?". I answered "I'm one of Mary Ann Boyles". "Well", he said "sure I know your people well. If you are going to Urris we'll go part of the way together". He gave me a penny for a penny bar.

We had got as far as Straid when he flagged down a car and asked if they were going as far as Urris. They said they were and I got a lift. The driver turned out to be Hughie Farren and he asked me "Who are you?". I said "I'm one of Mary Ann Boyles", "Oh" says he, "sure I know your mother well and I'll take you to Dunaff". Hughie Farren left me at the crossroads near the post office and gave me three pence. There were others in the car and they each gave me a penny - they must have had great pity for me. Needless to say I never told my mother what had transpired.

I have had many journeys in my lifetime but I never made any journey as pleasent, as precious or as profitable as the first trip I made on my own to Urris. Obviously to be one of Mary Ann Boyles, to be of the seed, breed and generation of the parish in the nineteen fifties, even with the liability of a strong Derry accent was the entry ticket to a very exclusive club which looked after its own membership very well and its own special secret one of the loveliest spaces on the whole of the earth




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