Date posted: 7 December 2022
Updated: 18 December 2022
Posted by: Peter Bennett
Paraic Lavelle was busy during Covid lockdown. He relocated to Donegal and wrote a fascinating book about The Coast Guard Stations of Kilcar and Glencolmcille. A chance meeting during a round of golf in Killiney opened up a key source of historical information.
Paraic’s wife Margaret is from Kilcar, Donegal. In 1983, Paraic made his first visit to Donegal to meet Margaret’s parents. From Margaret’s home, he spotted the ruins of the Teelin Coast Guard Station at Teelin Bay. Paraic was in the army at the time, working in Cathal Brugha Barracks where military archives are located. Curiosity got the better of him. He researched the army records of the Civil War and came across a radio report of the burning of the Coast Guard Station. On his retirement, along with improving his golf, he decided to research the history of the Donegal coast guard stations. The result of his efforts is this fascinating book.
"The Coast Guard stations were bequeathed to the Church of Ireland Parishes of Kilcar, and Glencolmcille. They were administrated by the Representative Church Body."
"I wrote the book over a period of 9 month during Covid lockdown, when living in Kilcar. Carrying out historic research is a strange journey. You never can tell where information is going to pop up."
"I’d considerable difficulty getting access to the Representative Church Body. I was golfing in Killiney with David Lane and my research on the book came up. David, had access to the Representative Church Body and introduced me to the head archivist. The introduction opened up the archives and pointed me to other sources of information. One of those was the Church of Ireland records for Glencolmcille."
"I got much of the human interest aspect of the stations by talking to locals. It never fails to amaze the amount of local historic information available in people’s heads when you start to scratch the surface and talk to them. Little was documented."
"To this day the locals will speak about the killing of John Cunningham in 1823. Two very different versions of his death are recounted. One version was that he was encouraging youths who were throwing clods of turf at a coast guard patrol and that they shot him. It is also said his wife was widowed three times that year."
"I got access to the Kilcar Church of Ireland Records through Lulu Chestnutt, a parishioner. When I first met Lulu, she told me she had approached a friend enquiring if a family by the name of Lavelle had recently moved into the village. She’d received a request from a Paraic Lavelle looking for access to the records. She assumed I was a student in the local secondary school doing a project on the coast guard stations. She discovered I was married to Margaret. To this day, I introduce myself as Margaret’s husband."
The 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Coast Guard along the Kilcar and Glencolmcille wild Atlantic coastline is a suitable time to recall that presence. This book records the history of the ten stations that operated in the 100 years between 1821 and 1921 and provides some remembrance of the Coast Guard personnel and their families who worked and lived in the locality.
What remains today to indicate the presence of the Coast Guard? The ruins of the station at Teelin; elements of the front of the Glenbay hotel resemble the structure of the old Coast Guard station; the ruined boathouse at Malinmore pier, and the two remaining Coast Guard cottages in Kilbeg now a holiday home. However, little is remembered of the Coast Guard personnel, six of whom lost their lives in the performance of their duties.
Paraic’s book is priced at €20 and can be purchased from the Oideas Gael shop, Glencolmcille, or online via the Siopa Gaelic website. Or, talk to Paraic.
"Of all the representatives of foreign rule in Ireland, the old Coast Guard was the most in sympathy with those among whom he lived?"
Captain O'Baoighill - commander of the volunteer party which destroyed Malinmore War Signal Station