I was asked by the the Why Donegal Facebook Page founder to write a piece on "My Donegal" so here it is.
The accent always gives me away. No matter where I am, the "where are you from" question always arises. "Ah Donegal," usually is the response with a smile.
We all have a fondness for where we are from and of course that fondness is for different reasons depending on who you talk to.
For me Donegal sculpted me into the person I have become and I often align my personality with its landscape - a rugged coastline, mountainous, inspiring beaches, and full of personality.
I was born and grew up in Downings, the wildest gem on the Wild Atlantic Way. It's a fishing village with so much beauty and growing up I took this for granted - watching the fishing boats make their exits when making toast in the morning, or watching the tide come in while washing the dinner dishes in the evening. Long evenings were spent with friends roaming the never ending hide-aways and the beaches. Creating memories and stories for our children. The village, while a haven of excitement in the summer months, became barren of that activity during the winter.
My memory takes me back to very hot summers and black winters. The beach was also a pull. The sound of the sea was medicinal and empowering and remains that way for me today. I remember training with the men's GAA team on the beach during the winter, the reason for my big muscly legs! A footfall pitch which felt the size of Croke Park but which served us well on away games! A vibrant social scene, the big lights of Letterkenny while a draw to meet new people, just didn't have the same something that Downings had.
Bus rides with Lough Swilly to Milford Tech; working in the many hospitality outlets, earning £5 a shift and laughing our way through each one; gathering with the whole youth popular at the big green for rounders; jumping over drains and mini mud rivers for short-cuts; playing in friends houses and not wanting to leave.
There are so many memories there and that attachment remains even though I'll never live there again. Surprisingly the little fishing village at the top of Ireland with a population of less than 1,000 is very well-known - in conversation people often reference The Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Course, The Singing Pub, or The Fleets or The Harbour Bar or the Church on the hill or Seamie's shop. My Donegal will always be Downings, Na Dunaibh. Where I made life-long friends.