Daniel O'Donnell 2Country singer Daniel O’Donnell bringing in the turf for a big winter fire.

Special feature by BILL HEANEY

Tell Daniel me Mammy was asking for him, said the girl at P&O Irish Sea when I e mailed her to book my ticket on the ferry from Ayrshire to Northern Ireland.

I told her I was heading for Donegal and specifically to Kincasslagh, a tiny village on the western seaboard with beautiful strands and stunning views out towards Arranmore Island and the Atlantic Ocean. The next stop’s America, according to locals.

The woman, who does the marketing for Stena Line’s Cairnryan-Belfast crossing, clocked the name of the place immediately – “That’s where Daniel O’Donnell comes from. Tell him me Mammy was …”

She wouldn’t admit that lovely young things like herself would go running after the Donegal singer, but there’s a fair share of thirty somethings and even younger women amongst Daniel’s fans. They range all the way from teenagers to “girls” in their eighties.

Busloads and cars full of women, many of them from Scotland, make the pilgrimage to Kincasslagh each springtime and summer to try to catch a glimpse of country singer Daniel – or to have a cup of tea and a scone with his Mammy.

So, Kincasslagh’s a grand place for men to meet women and to chat and have fun with them – so long as they’re prepared to play second fiddle to Daniel.

When three of us dropped into Iggy’s pub in the village for a Guinness, one local asked us: “Are you lads enjoying yourselves here — or are your wives with youse?”

We were indeed enjoying ourselves. Kincasslagh’s a great spot — a haven of peace, quiet and beauty with nice places to eat, like the Viking House Hotel, of which Daniel himself was once the proud proprietor.

There’s walking, golfing, fishing, painting, drinking and dining to be had in an abundance of nice restaurants with excellent seafood and steaks on the menu and snug wee pubs, which are free of smoking since the ban came in last year.

If it’s shopping you’re after then there’s Letterkenny to go to for a day out or there’s nearby Dungloe, just a step down the road, where there’s souvenir shops, and supermarkets with everything for people who go in for self-catering.

Maire in Beedi's Alehouse, Dungloe

Maire Mullis in Beedi’s Irish alehouse in Dungloe, Co Donegal.

Stop off for a pint and say hello to Moya and Dave and the friendly crowd in Beedi’s Bar in the Main Street. You can put a bet on the horses in Bonner’s, the bookie’s next door.

We picked up tips in Beedi’s, not just for the horses but on how to deal with the difficult business of painting the sky when you’re doing a water colour landscape – “Just throw a few breadcrumbs on to the canvas, the effect on the clouds is amazing,” said a blow-in from Dublin. And it is!

The Brexit row was going on while we were there. People were upset that God hadn’t been given a mention in the proposed Constitution.

“Europe without any reference to God would be a disgrace – a bit like mentioning Donegal without Daniel,” said Father Pat Ward, the priest in the local church of St Mary’s.

One last story about the Great Man (Daniel, that is). Out walking towards Cruit Island, I hopped up on the wall of the narrow bridge to let a car pass – but it stopped right beside me.

A group of women of a certain age with English Midlands accents asked: “Do you know where the O’Donnell’s house is?”

I pretended I didn’t have a clue. It’s a game the locals play often.

“Now which O’Donnell would that be? Everyone around here is called O’Donnell,” I said. “You’ll have to ask a local.”

Who better to ask then than Daniel himself?

He said: “If I hadn’t made my name as a singer, I’d still be known at home as Daniel Bosco. Growing up, we were known as the Bosco family. That name distinguished us from the other O’Donnells living in the area.

“My eldest brother is called John Bosco and it was derived from his name. It’s a common feature in our neck of the woods, where there are numerous families bearing the same surname. Letters would arrive at our house with just the name Bosco written on the envelope. The post would reach its destination without a hitch because we were the only Boscos living in the locality.”

Bill Heaney travelled to Donegal as a guest with Stena Line from Cairnryan to Belfast.

To be shore to be shore: a fishing boat on the strand at Kicasslagh with Mount Errigal, the Donegal Highlands and a collage of picture from Donegal.
















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