A retired army officer who relocated to south west Donegal during lockdown has just published a beautiful book on the coast guard stations of the area.
Páraic Lavelle, from Kildare, certainly made the most of the nine months there – the result: ‘Guarding the Wild Atlantic, the Coast Guard Stations of Kilcar and Glencolmcille’.
Páraic’s wife, Margaret Sweeney, is from Kilcar and, in 1983, he made his first visit to Donegal to meet her parents.
From Margaret’s home, he spotted the ruins of the Teelin Coast Guard Station.
Páraic 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.
“I wrote the book over a period of nine months during Covid lockdown, when living in Kilcar,” he told Donegal Daily.
“Carrying out historical research is a strange journey. You never can tell where information is going to pop up.”
The Coast Guard stations were bequeathed to the Church of Ireland Parishes of Kilcar, and Glencolmcille.
They were administered by the Representative Church Body, however, Páraic was having difficulty getting access to their records.
Indeed, it was a chance conversation during a round of golf in Killiney, County Dublin, that opened up a key source of historical information.
“I had considerable difficulty getting access to the Representative Church Body,” he explained.
“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 their 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.”
Paraic also got much of the human interest aspect of the stations by talking to locals.
“It never fails to amaze me 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.”
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.
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.
During that period, the service had a continuous presence in Teelin bay and in Malinbeg/Malinmore.
What remains today to indicate the presence of the Coast Guard?
The ruins of the station at Teelin; elements of the front of the Glen Bay 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 €15/20 and can be purchased from the Oideas Gael shop, Glencolmcille, or online via their www.siopagaeilge.ie website.
It is also available to purchase from all shops in Kilcar, Carrick and Glencolmcille, as well as The Wild Atlantic Craft Shop, Killybegs, Ardara Post Office and The Sliabh Liag Visitors Centre Teelin.
For those unable to get the book in person in the above locations, Páraic is also selling the book directly.
You can contact him by email firstname.lastname@example.org and he will post it.
The only extra cost here is the postage, which is location dependent.