Local Festivals and Events
Every village and town in Ireland has its own distinctive programme of parades, festivals and other events. Most have a spiritual or religious origin and may have a nationwide basis while others are totally unique to particular areas. Dunfanaghy is no different, having an impressive line-up, which serves to entertain tourists and locals alike. Some are evergreens, some last a few years and then fade away and sometimes we have one-day-wonders. Listed below are the evergreens. Others will be added under News, as they arise.
In former years, the most important event marking the end of winter was the making of Bridgets’ Crosses on the night of 31 Jan. This was an interesting, simple and valuable tradition, the history of which seamlessly encompassed our pre-Celtic, Celtic and Christian legacies, all in one. Sadly this tradition has fallen into decline in all but a few rural regions but it is alive and well in this part of Donegal. I also carry on the tradition wherever I might happen to be at that time of year, which these recent winters is the Canary Islands, so people in remote villages there join with me every 31 Jan in the making of the Bridget's Crosses.
After the repose of winter we are all looking forward to the first festivities which nowadays largely begin with what was meant to be the celebration of a Welsh boy (although some accounts say Scottish and other say he was born in Cumbria ... but anyway, he was British!), pressed into slavery by Irish pirates in the 5th century, and kept in very difficult conditions for six years. He must have decided to get his own back on the Irish, by bringing a new, middle-eastern/Roman religion into Ireland. Wasn’t it Oisín himself, the Celtic poet, son of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, who promised us that this new religion, being too austere for the Irish, would never catch on here ... ? We all know how that ended up so we have been celebrating his death, on 17th March, ever since.
This is another religious festival which is celebrated in different ways according to taste and commitment. My mother reminded us children that it was about celebrating the Resurrection of Christ and she brought us to a secret nook in the garden where she boiled eggs for us in an old pot on an open. I carry on that tradition to this day at the bottom of the Mill House garden but we adults have extended the menu to include brown bred, smoked salmon and wine. My father was more interested in the commemoration of an Insurrection which began at the GPO in Dublin on Easter weekend in 1916. Both celebrations usually culminate in the same result so we raise a glass to both their memories at Easter (see Easter Lily, in Brendan’s Stories).
Eragail Arts Festival
The Earagail Arts Festival is a venue-based music and arts festival with eclectic and alternative music, visual arts, circus and theatre programmes alongside spoken word, film, family and children-centered events, bringing inspiring performers to this captivating European frontier, showcases artists from the area and provides opportunities for cultural exchange. Venues range from purpose built theatres and galleries, to village halls and outdoor venues created for the occasion, serviced by professional technical crew and production management.
Celebrating the best in international and local artists has produced a rich vein of collaborations and partnerships but there will be a huge emphasis this year on celebrations involving the famous Clannad and Altan musical groups. Additionally, there will be movie screenings in forests and castles to innovative theatre, street arts and circus in gardens, parks and state of the art venues, the unique programme reaches out across County Donegal, so you’ll be able to enjoy a feast of entertainment located in the heart of one of Ireland’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty.
The final event, called An Cosan Glas, is celebrated locally and is an incredibly stunning, outdoor, visual arts event which takes place just after dark every year on the sand dunes beside Magheraroarty pier, near Inis Bo Finne and Bloody Foreland.
The Dunfanaghy August Fair actually runs mostly in July but the main highlights take place over the weekend at the beginning of August. The fair reflects the interests and history of this unusual rural community and it begins with the Sheepdog Trials, a fascinating event which depicts the skill of sheepherders in training their wonderful little Collie dogs, which take place in a local farmer’s field on the Falcarragh side of the village at Rincleaven.
The week unfolds with the crowning of the Fair Queen on the Sunday, the Beetle Drive on the Monday; Road-races, Discos; Car Treasure Hunt; Ceili dances; a Pub Quiz or two throughout the week. Coming into the following weekend the Parade of Floats takes place on the Friday; the annual Dog Show and other attractions can be enjoyed on the Square on Saturday and the Marathon Run/Walk round the Horn Head road circuit on Sunday.
The week-long extravaganza culminates in the actual August Fair proper, which takes place on the Monday afternoon in a large field on the edge of the village, over-looking New Lake. At this hugely popular finale you can enjoy marching bands, all sorts of children’s entertainment, Clay Pigeon and Airgun shooting, Ceili Dancing, Pony and Trap rides, Rare Breeds show, Classic Car and Farm Machinery exhibits and a host of country traditions on display and as much good food as you can eat.
Dunfanaghy Jazz and Blues weekend
Dunfanaghy Jazz and Blues Festival usually takes place on the second weekend in September (see www.dunfanaghyjazzandblues.com).
The line up of musicians set to play at each year’s event just gets progressively bigger and better. Jazz and blues musicians perform a series of free concerts to a growing audience each year. The Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival features free live gigs from as many as 20 bands on 10 different music stages in pubs and bars throughout the village.
There are often additional activities added to the line up such as Jazz workshops and dance classes as well as singing classes for the younger audience.
Dunfanaghy Country markets
One special local event which should not be missed is the Dunfanaghy Country Market which runs every Sunday morning between Easter and Halloween, both festival dates included. The market is not only a place to get good quality, locally and privately produced products (food, crafts, etc) but it is a spectacle and an institution in itself. It is advertised as being open from 1100-1200 and strictly speaking, that’s true … very strictly!
You’ll quickly discover that the market is run with typically Irish, Protestant efficiency and that’s not an oxymoron … nay, it’s a proud claim (of mine, at least)! The market starts at 1100, as I’ve said already but if you arrive at 1115, all the good stuff is gone! If you arrive at 1045, then you’ll wait … hail, rain or snow, until the dot of 1100, when the doors are opened and the rush begins.
Then something else happens - the people don’t want to leave. They linger, so coffee and seating is laid on and if you’re lucky and some of the excellent cakes or buns are left over, you’ll be served for free, with a smile and a complimentary top-up of coffee. What more could you ask for?