‘Selling the Past’ exhibition shows that it’s the little things that matters

It’s the little items that can mean so much. Just visit an exhibition in Letterkenny to prove the point.

‘Selling the Past’ can be seen at the Irish Wheelchair Association’s charity shop as part of National Heritage Week.

Donated items with links to Donegal’s history are part of the exhibition.


Throughout the shop are items with tags on them that connect us to the past events and the people of Donegal.

A red book was on show at the exhibition with a tag that read: ‘In the 1940’s there was a small shop on St. Columba’s Terrace, High Road Letterkenny. The shop was owned by husband and wife, Willie and Fanny Carr. Fanny wanted to rouge her cheeks so she found a creative way to do it. She would wet her fingers, rub the red cover of the ‘Sacred Heart Messenger’ book and rub dye on her cheeks.’

A bracelet symbolised the last Sunday in July which was known as Blaeberry Sunday or Garland Sunday for all in the area of Gweedore. It was tradition for young people of the area to climb either Cnoc na Bealtaine or Carn Traona- two hills on either side of a river and pick Bilberries. Young men would travel across the river to accompany their sweethearts to wherever they had decided to go. The groups picked bilberries and the boys would thread them onto string to make bracelets for their girlfriends to wear. After this the group would share stories and music until it was time to go home. Before departing, the bracelets were left on the mountainside. This tradition is part of Lughnasa festival from Pagan times.

A camera represented the late John McDermott from Letterkenny who was a great friend of the Donegal County Museum. Over many years, John took hundreds of photographs of archaeological and historical sites across County Donegal, many of which have become part of the John McDermott Collection in Donegal County Museum. This was an extraordinary achievement as John could not drive yet he still managed to get to many remote sites. He took great pride in his work, sometimes going back years later to get a better shot. He was very well read and had a great knowledge of Donegal and Letterkenny history. Even during his long illness, he would call in or ring the Museum to share historical facts he had discovered.

A ball of yarn symbolised Frank Thompson from Stranorlar. Frank was born around 1880 and lived in a small thatched cottage. As a teen Frank became fascinated by the precision involved in spinning wheels. He observed old craftsmen in the area making them and it was an intricate, tedious and highly skilled job. Frank mastered the skill and went into business working from his cottage as one of the few full-time wheel makers in County Donegal. His reputation grew and he soon had more orders than he could handle. Frank’s wheels were sent to Canada, America, Australia, England and Scotland. A wheel he sent to Korea was the start of the weaving industry there and Cheju carpenters copied his design in the mid 1960s.
Frank was still making spinning wheels well into the ‘80s and could have an entire spinning wheel ready in only three days.

There were also stories from the Titanic, the Butt Hall, the Fiesta and much more.

The public is invited to call into the exhibition at any time to view the items during National Heritage Week which runs until August 21.


Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland