End of an era for the Clonmany Hut

The following article first appeared in The Inish Times on Thursday April 20th 2000 pp8-9. Thanks to Liam Porter, editor of the Inish Times newspaper, for allowing us to reproduce this article. A link to the Inish Times website can be found on our links page.

TWO weeks ago, the Clonmany Tug O War team threw down the rope and took the sledge hammer in hand to demolish their old training hut and within a few days laid the foundations for their new purpose built premises. The new clubhouse must be finished for the end of August so that the team can begin training for the new season and make preparations for the Championship stakes, firstly at home in Ireland and then for the World games in Tokyo in July 2001.

This is a new beginning for the men who have travelled to such places as Spain, Switzerland, South Africa and in February of this year, Holland, to pick up Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in a sport that has world wide recognition. Unfortunately for the boys from Clonmany, they can take on some of the World's strongest men and beat them but when it comes to 'Official recognition' in Ireland, they are fighting their toughest battle and cannot seem to win over Public Representatives and Politicians to help them get assistance in building a new Clubhouse. When the Clonmany team, together with their neighbours Cloontagh, returned from the World Championships in Holland two months ago with a fistful of medals between them, there was no State reception at the Airport to greet them and when they were greeted home in Clonmany by hundreds of local people and the Parish Priest, there was a noticeable lack of Public Representatives in the crowd and on stage to congratulate the men who had travelled at their own expense to represent their Country.

Encouraging Youth

With some of the more senior members of the team considering retirement from competitive pulling, they are encouraging a very strong squad of youth to maintain the great reputation held by the men from Clonmany in the future years, but a little financial encouragement from Government or Funding Bodies would go a long way to keep this sport alive and well in Inishowen.

A lesson to learn

Perhaps those who control the 'Public purse' strings could follow the example of the Clonmany people themselves and enter into the Community Spirit of things and repay their gratitude. This week, the Committee of St Bridget's Youth and Community Centre in Clonmany presented the Clonmany Tug O War team with their first donation of 1500 to help build their new Clubhouse. When the Community Centre was being built in the early 1990's, the Tug O War team were first to donate 1000 towards the building costs. Maybe the men from Clonmany deserve some form of repayment for representing their County and Country abroad, flying the Irish flag and doing an excellent PR job.

End of an Era

The 'Green Hut' which hosted the Clonmany Tug O War team for the past number of years and produced many medal winning teams, may not have been the most luxurious of training camps, but it certainly had an interesting history attached to it. One local man who has lived as long as, or even longer, than the 'green hut' and remembers many a tale about it, is 89 year old Charlie Doherty (Owen) from Gortnahinson. Charlie was born on 12th September 1910 and was a young lad in Clonmany when the British army occupied the Glenfield camp at Glenfield house where there were up to 5,000 soldiers based during the years up to 1918. Early in 1919 the camp was being dismantled and the huts being sold and the remainder being sent to army headquarters in Derry. The Parish Priest of Clonmany at the time was Fr Mc Guire, and he decided to purchase one of the huts. but no-one knew for what purpose. Rumour had it that it was going to be erected as a parking stable for the jaunting cars coming to Mass on Sunday. The hut was one of the largest ones in the camp and it was made from the best of pitch pine timber, tin and red bricks. Everything was transported to the corner site where it was to stand for the next 81 years.

Local Tradesmen

The foundations of the hut were put in by local stonemason Art Devlin from Bocharna and was helped by labourer Ned Gill from Gortfad. The foundations were in the form of large concrete slabs and as seen in the photograph, were the final pieces of the hut to be demolished. Although Art and Ned were native Irish speakers, Charlie recalls that every now and then you would hear Art calling "Fatten it up", telling Ned to strengthen the concrete a bit more. Coincidentally, Art's grand nephew Denis Devlin was one of the men who laid the new foundations last week. Mick Grant from Turnabratley and Sean Grant worked on the North side of the hall, while the roof and tin were put on by Eddie Grant from Cliffin and Hugh Harkin from Cross. Eddie was also in charge of the upkeep of the Chapels and Schools in the Parish.

Penny Dances

The hall was completed at the end of 1919 and was officially opened by Dr Cecil Doherty. The regular function in the hall, was the dances, which started at 7pm and ended at 10pm. Admission to the dance was one penny. The first doorman who collected the pennies was Ned Harkin from Glebe. There were no bands at the time and entertainment was provided by a single man sitting in the corner of the hall playing a melodian, The seat was often filled by Barney Harkin from Glebe. In 1930 the admission price to the dances doubled to two pennies and there was an uproar which resulted in alternative dances beginning in Cloontagh. During the summer months, people would go to the dance in the hall, leave while still daylight at 10pm and go to Mc Carron's barn in Cloontagh for a 'new night'. When the war broke out in 1939, the price went up again to three pennies, and according to Charlie, there was a fierce revolt about the increase.

As well as the dances, although it was only maybe once a year or even every two years, the travelling picture show came to the hall. 'Dangels' travelling picture show was the only chance people had to see a movie at that time.

The 'Smart' Derrymen and Fr Devine

One of the amusing tales remembered by Charlie was of Fr. 'Major' Devine who had come to the Parish in 1947 and he was not too fond of the men who travelled from Derry to the dances as he thought that they were too 'smart' for the local girls. In order to discourage the Derrymen from travelling the whole way down to Clonmany and 'Protecting' the local lasses, Fr Devine increased the admis-sion price of the dances to six pennies. Charlie laughs about the tale of the man from Derry who was travelling to the dance one night and was unfortunate to break down on the way. Fr Devine's house-keeper had heard the report and was telling the priest, but they were unaware of from where he was travelling. In trying to get help, they discovered that the man was from Derry. Fr Devine sat himself down again and said " Well, Be God my Prayers are being answered. They'll be stopped one way or another."

Black and Tans

In 1921, during one of the regular dances in the hall, two Black and Tan soldiers came in among the crowd, walked up to the stage, ripped down the tri-colour, spat on it and tramped it into the floor before leaving. The same two soldiers, by the name of Clarke and Murdock, were ambushed and killed two weeks later.

Education From 1925 to 1930 the hall was used for night school as Fr Mc Guire thought that people would appreciate the chance to get a little education which had been missed out on.

There was no legal age limit at the time for people to stay at school, and a lot of the young people had left school at a very young age to work. The nightclasses ran from October to Easter and were conducted by two brothers, Master Reynolds and James John.

The hall was also used as a temporary school while a new school-house was being built in1924. The old schoolhouse was built in 1834 and demolition began on 18th March 1924 with the new schoolhouse completed and opened on Monday 27th October that year.

Other uses The 'green hut' was vacated when a new Parish hall was built in the early 1950's and one of the first new tenant's was the late John Toland from Rasheeny, who set up a carpentry workshop for making kitchen and bedroom furniture.

A shirt factory also had a short spell in the hut around this time.

The F.C.A also use the hut in the 50 under the supervision of local Officers, the late Bobby Ivors and Paddy Downey.

Table Tennis was one of the sporting use that the hall had in the 50's with Randal Joseph Doherty being the organiser.

The early 60's saw the hut being taken over by Donegal Handwoven Tweeds and some of the workers at the time are believed to be Anastasia 0' Donnell; Betty Toland; George Devlin from Gortfad; George Devlin from Tullagh; Michael Barney and Phonsie O'Donnell; Willie Gordon; Jim and Noel Devlin The business was taken over by James Mc Laughlin and Charlie Kelly who later built a new factory in Ballyliffin.

When the weaving factory moved out, the hut was in use as a amusement arcade for a while and in 1972 Hugo Boyce and Pat Doherty took over the premises for Star Furniture.

And finally . . . . . . .

The last tenants, the Clonmany Tug 0 War Club moved into the hut in the early 90's and it is they who have laid to rest this 'green hut' which was not too easy to look a but which carried with it an extremely interesting life story an hopefully it's replacement will record a equally interesting an historical chapter for the people of Clonmany, and maybe just maybe, someone who has a tight grasp on those public purse strings will ease the grip and give a little help.



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