When Gareth Hegarty rolled up the shutter on Christmas Day at his home in Newmills to show his father, George, what he got him for Christmas, the tears and the memories came flooding back to a proud and popular Newmills man and his wife Kathleen.
The sight of George Hegarty back behind the wheel of a Morris Minor pulled on the heart strings of so many, 120,000 actually and still rising as they viewed the footage on social media on Christmas Day. Even for those that don’t know George Hegarty, would have recognised the love between this father and son.
For those of us that know George Hegarty it was just the perfect gift.
George is to the Morris Minor what The Dolphin Café in Letterkenny was to chips! Long after the Minor went out of production, George kept his many minors that he owned over the years on the road. Back when George first met his wife Kathleen, originally from Portlean, near Kilmacrannan, George was driving a Minor.
George and Kathleen had 14 children (8 girls and 6 boys) many of whom would pile into their old black Morris Minor when it was heading into the town a run. To meet George on the road it would lift your spirits as he would let you out and at a junction, give you a wave of the hand and who could forget his friendly toot on the horn.
George could not ask for more that to enjoy getting behind the wheel and greeting all that he met.
£11.00 was the price George paid for his first car insurance on one of his first Morris Minors. In those days he worked in Roulston’s Coal Yard at the “foot of the town” in Letterkenny. In those days the work was hard and times were hard as well, where he would see children landing into the coal yard with the family pram which would be used to carry a bag of coal home to heat the house.
In those days George would have thought nothing of heading of to Dunfanaghy on a Massey 35 with a load of coal which could have taken a full day to deliver. Later he worked with the Donegal Creameries when the coal yard closed.
George knew every bolt and split pin on the Morris Minor and would regularly take his own car apart at the gable of his home in Newmills to carry out needed repairs, head gaskets, clutches, gearboxes were all repaired in the open air and in no time him and his late brother Willie had the car back together and ready for the road again.
When George was a boy he would get the odd days work down in the nearby Newmills giving the workers a hand to spread the crop of flax in the dam to prepare it for scutching in the mill.
It was a different world in those days. He even has childhood memories of the train on the track where he has his home built now with three grey wagons attached with white writing on them.
George had a wee run out in the car on Christmas day. He went in as far as the town and out again. Even though he drove and worked on the Morris Minors all his life, he was nervous driving it, even nervous starting it and using the choke for the first time in years, something that is all taken care of in with the cars of today.
George always has a very simple and positive outlook on life, his friendly toot on the horn greeted everyone he met and his good nature has brushed off on his family when his son brought home probably the classiest 1959 Morris Minor that George has ever sat in.
It won’t be long to the sound of the tooting horn and the sight of the classic Minor with George and Kathleen onboard will soon be seen again on the roads around Newmills and Letterkenny.
Happy Motoring Folks.