Arranmore to Buncrana, Lough Swilly

Day 133, Sat 13 May 

Before pushing any pedals today, I must add a little more Arranmore Island detail. An extra credit or two. I mentioned the famous 1940 rescue of the crew of the Stolwijk, and gave a link to the Arranmore Island Lifeboat history, where a brief account of the heroic actions of the crew can be read. It transpires that my host last night, Jerry Early, ex Lifeboat crew and DLA, local fisherman, landlord of Early’s Bar and Irish folk singer, was so moved by the Stolwijk rescue story that he wrote and recorded the song I’ll Go!  Available on iTunes plus several YouTube videos of Jerry performing his song. Here’s one for you. Also, a few videos of the Arranmore Severn class Lifeboat, Myrtle Maud in action, like this one. A very challenging coastline!

Meanwhile, off Arranmore and back on the Irish mainland, it’s chucking it down. The news that the short-cut ferry route across Lough Swilly to Buncrana is not available, means a revised plan, involving a big detour via Letterkenny and right around the huge Lough. To cut the route back down to about 70 miles, a little of the Donegal coastline (mostly shrouded today in cloud and heavy rain) had to be traded for a very scenic ride around Errigal Mountain and through the Glenveagh National Park.

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By the time I reached the highest point of the day it had stopped raining. After a long, cool, downhill dash it felt like I’d just had the best ever natural blow-dry. Better than time spent in a gigantic tumble dryer at the launderette.

Thanks John, (LOM) for the help & support that began before we met, with the bad news about the ferry and the good news about accommodation. Thanks also to the three members of Lough Swilly Lifeboat team, John (again), Mark (Cox’n) and Paddy Murphy (crew) for the kind welcome in the harbour alongside your pride & joy,  Ireland’s first and so-far only Shannon class ALB.

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With another sudden downpour under way, the very conveniently placed Drift Inn, directly opposite my home for tonight, became the agreed venue to re-convene our meeting. An excellent place for a full refuel and a great place to hear a lot more about Buncrana’s history.

As a young lad, sailing with his family on Lough Swilly, Peter Eyre was saved when all aboard had to be rescued, after getting into difficulties, by the predecessor of the current Lough Swilly Lifeboat. Years later, Peter became a very successful Naval/maritime Architect. He went on to design the amazing new Shannon Class All-weather Lifeboat, the eighth of which is now Ireland’s first, based right here and now in Buncrana.

Amongst many other gems I heard this evening was that this is Amazing Grace Country. Many more years ago, John Newton, a wealthy slave-trader en route to Liverpool, got into difficulties in stormy conditions off the north Irish coast, eventually managing to seek shelter in Lough Swilly and came ashore here. He was so grateful for his survival that he “saw the light”, quit the slave trade and joined William Wilberforce as a powerful abolitionist campaigner. He once was lost and now is found, here in Buncrana, where his gratitude led to his penning of Amazing Grace. 

Thanks also to Tommy, local character and historian, for many other pearls of wisdom about the military history of 20th century Buncrana.

This is a split site, two-boat Station, with an Atlantic 85 ILB a mile up the coast. That will be tomorrow’s first port of call.


4 thoughts on “Arranmore to Buncrana, Lough Swilly

  1. neilmca May 14, 2017 / 8:54 am

    You certainly are meeting some fascinating people, Steve. Great song, well sung by Jerry – love that guitar. And meeting Peter Eyre, responsible for those Shannons we saw under construction at Poole. Blimey. Pulls the whole story of your trip together.


  2. Catherine Clarke May 14, 2017 / 11:09 am

    Your account of our County is great and I’m really enjoying reading your email accounts Aranmore sounds like it was back when I used to thumb to it every other Friday night the craic was mighty and people great. Keep up these as I’m looking forward to next piece Safe Journey


  3. stevenmca May 14, 2017 / 4:11 pm

    Didn’t actually meet Peter Eyre. Just relaying the local connection to Buncrana and where the seed of his idea was possibly sown as a young lad.


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