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The Boys are back in Town…Ballyshannon town

The Boys are back in Town…Ballyshannon town

If you hanker after the halcyon days of real rockers, the smell of patchouli, leather, cut-off denims faded threadbare; Marshall amps and feedback; the smell of two-strokes, spliffs, salt n’ vinegar; the purr of a Hog heading out the Belleek Road, a pair of z650’s in the rear view mirror; chip wagons and generators chug and purr all day and all night and the specials in the off licence are cider and Buckfast, then skin-up, this one’s for you.

I was fortunate to get to see Rory Gallagher in his prime in the 70’s at the Macroom Mountain Dew Festival and later on one wonderfully sweaty night in the Olympia. Standout tracks from the guitar maestro for me were Shadowplay, Philby and Messin’ with the Kid, all of which along with his extensive repertoire will get played, and played and played over and over again as they vibrate the taverns and fill the night air in Ballyshannon this weekend for the Rory Gallagher Tribute Festival.
I made it to the gig for the first time last year and it’s a fantastic event. To my surprise I found it far more interesting and well attended than the Ballyshannon Folk Festival which also takes place in the town every August bank-holiday weekend and stages its 41st offering later this year.
For many, the June bank-holiday weekend marks the official start of summer, with second level schools wrapping up in advance of the exams and the World Cup just around the corner. It’s a busy weekend on the roads as everyone heads for the hills, vales, seaside and festivals. The Whit weekend used to be the annual berth of the Portlaoise Jazz Festival when it was in its heyday and there are still lots of attractions locally (including a Country Music Jamboree in Ballyroan, if that’s your fancy) and festivals all over the country for the next four days.
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Rory Gallagher is more my cup of tea and rockers will flood to Ballyshannon as the boys will most certainly be back in town for another excellent line-up (see poster for details). Apart from the headliners there is Brian Downey’s Alive & Dangerous, a stand out for Lizzy fans; Wilko JohnsonPat Mc Manus Band – remember him when he played St. Mary’s as the front man with Mama’s Boys and their racy, Needle in the Groove; and I cannot recommend enough, Johnny Gallagher and Boxtie, who I once saw going seamlessly from an electrifying version of Jimi HendrixHey Joe to Take On Me by A-Ha, that sent the heaving crowd delirious in the Surfer’s Bar in Rossnowlagh.
If you hanker after the halcyon days of real rockers, the smell of patchouli, leather, cut-off denims faded threadbare; Marshall amps and feedback; the smell of two-strokes, spliffs, salt n’ vinegar; the purr of a Hog heading out the Belleek Road, a pair of z650’s in the rear view mirror; chip wagons and generators chug and purr all day and all night and the specials in the off licence are cider and Buckfast, then skin-up, this one’s for you.
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Old rockers never die, they just fade away, in faded denim – playing air guitar on Fenders, Gibsons and Stratocasters – flicking back their imaginary hair to where it used to be, to the songs that fuelled their teenage kicks and back now in Ballyshannon to play it one more time, once more with feeling before it too fades away for another year.
The festival has an official campsite on the Bundoran side of town which is served by a regular shuttle bus service for those camping. If that’s not to your liking I recommend the excellent Lakeside Caravan & Camping (071 9852822) on the other side of the town and it’s only a five minute walk into the heart of the action. Fortunately, there is a good footpath all the way along as the speed done by some vehicles on this stretch is treacherous.
The Lakeside Campsite is top class, pet friendly, with a playground and lots of other services and amenities, including ample free showers. The basic cost for a two-berth is €24 plus an extra fiver for electricity. Mungo, the manager is always helpful, runs a good show, and is based himself for the season in a striking and let’s just say, substantial motorhome.
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A great added advantage to the Lakeside Centre in Ballyshannon is its proximity as a staging post to places like Rossnowlagh for a surf or back towards Sligo to Mullaghmore, for its superb beach, paddle boarding, picnic area at the lovely harbour and a chance to go mackerel fishing off a local charter. 
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One of the best days I ever had out of Ballyshannon was fishing for mackerel out of Mullaghmore and then on to Rossnowlagh for a sunset surf before wrapping it up with a barbecue of the fresh mackerel we had caught back at the Ballyshannon camp site that night.
Hard to beat and so too is the Rory Gallagher Festival back in town this Whit weekend from May 31st to June 3rd 

About The Author

John Whelan

John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland www.communicateireland.ie. John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics. He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at www.thelastbeekeeper.ie. Safe travels...

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Portlaoise, IE
4:30 pm, December 1, 2022
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