A new book full of pictures and stories about the history of East Donegal and West Tyrone has been launched at the Alley Theatre, Strabane by UTV legend Joe Mahon.
‘Straight from the Horse’s Mouth’ is another proud accomplishment of the hIsTory Links Project which is funded by the International Fund for Ireland.
Mr. Raymond Craig, a member of the project steering group, explained that the idea for the book came about following an application written by North West Regional College, Co. Donegal Vocational Educational Committee and Lifford Clonleigh Resource Centre. He praised the contribution of his colleagues on the steering group, Brid Foley (Lifford Clonleigh) and Martina Needham (Co.Donegal VEC).
Project Coordinator, Stephen McNamee said: “Early into the project we realised there was a wealth of talent in our groups. The written pieces that were being produced were of an exceptional standard and most were first hand accounts.
“It was clear at that stage that we would have to publish them in some format in order that a wider audience could share in them”.
The book was organised around four central themes: Agriculture, Industry, Transport and Border.
Each of the individual stories are woven together into chapters that seem to flow effortlessly into one another.
“We are extremely proud of the finished result. It showcases the talent we have locally and also makes it very clear that no matter in what town or community you were brought up, we share a very similar and common history,” he said.
He continued “Finally, I would like to congratulate each and every participant in the History Links Project, because without their stories and creativity we would not have this book.”
The book is full of firsthand accounts in participants’ own words but there are also groups and individuals who went about recording local people with amazing stories to tell.
One such story is of Paddy Gillespie from Strabane who was interviewed by Dolores O’Kelly about the border and the years of smuggling that surrounded it.
Winston Patterson, Board member of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “The International Fund for Ireland is proud to support this innovative and exciting project which uses information and communications technology to promote reconciliation through the exploration of local history.
“In cross-border projects we often speak about building bridges.
“History Links is working to build ‘e-bridges’ which are supporting communities of different identities to engage with each other.
“I am confident that this project will assist participants in gaining a greater understanding of their communities, of the value of mutual respect and understanding.”
Joe Mahon of ‘Lesser Spotted Ulster’ said: “This work of compiling and recording first hand experiences of local people is extremely worthy.
“This is much more important than academic studies of history and is our best way of documenting our local story”.
Joe said the links made between different communities and the common stories and experiences each share.
He finished by reading a passage from the book that grasped his imagination.
There is now a wealth of information, stories and recordings available both in the book and on our project website www.historylinksproject.com
This is a wonderful resource to the wider area and submissions are welcome from anyone who would want their own story published online said Stephen McNamee speaking after the launch event.
The participating ‘hubs’ are: Border Arts, Castlederg; Douglas Bridge Development Association & Ardstraw Community Association; Strabane & District Community Network, Newtownstewart; Strabane District Caring Services, Strabane; Sollus Centre Bready; Raphoe Reconciliation Project; Lifford Clonleigh Resource Centre; Raphoe FRC; Manorcunningham Resource Centre; Castlefin SVDP.