Donegal poet celebrated in homeland


William Allingham may not be one of our greatest poets, and may not even have been highly rated by contemporary scholars, but that will not stop some of Donegal's finest musicians and singer-songwriters from gathering tonight in Killybegs to commemorate him. Kevin Doherty, formerly with Four Men And A Dog and now pursuing a solo career, will be among those taking part in a night of music and poetry, as will singer-songwriter Mickey McConnell.

The event is being hosted in the Sail Inn pub by Martin McGinley, a fiddler and former member of Dervish, now resident in the town, and traditional musicians can be expected to descend on the town for the weekend, regardless of their views on the merits of Allingham's poetry.

Allingham (1824-1889), from Ballyshannon, is best known for The Fairies, which was recently voted among the 100 favourite Irish poems. It was written when Allingham, a Customs official but also a fiddler and ballad-writer, visited Killybegs in January 1849.

Mr McGinley, who bought the Sail Inn three years ago, discovered that Allingham was staying in a house directly across from the pub when he wrote the famous lines "Up the airy mountain/ Down the rushy glen . . ." and decided he would do his bit to keep the man's memory alive while also providing a great weekend's free entertainment in Killybegs. This is the third year of the Allingham anniversary weekend in the Sail Inn - it is sponsored by the arts office of Donegal County Council.

Performers taking part include Dervish accordionist Shane Mitchell, piper Jarlath McTiernan and young fiddle player Liz Kane. Other Donegal musicians, such as Percy Robinson, Alec Somerville, Conor Sinclair and Pat Sharkey, will also be contributing.

Several Donegal writers will be reading from their works at tonight's event, which starts at 8.30 p.m. Traditional music sessions will be held in the Sail Inn over the weekend.