Renowned Donegal journalist, writer and sports reporter Gerry McLaughlin is launching a book celebrating people who are local legends of the Fermanagh/South Donegal region.

The book is based on Mr McLaughlin’s Local Legends series. The collection is a must read for any fan of sports or indeed, social history. It brings together some greats largely but by no means exclusively from the Fermanagh GAA and allows them to tell their own life stories.

This style of storytelling is very close to Mr McLaughlin’s heart.

He told the Donegal Post: “It is very fitting that the book will be launched on the site of the old Rockfield School because that is where I was educated and came under the influence of teacher Frank O’Donnell from Kilcar.

“When I was a small child in the teacher’s room there was a partition between rooms. I remember listening through the partition to Frank teaching Irish history to bigger students. Those stories have stayed in my heart and in my mind ever since. He made Irish history so very interesting. It was a series of battles for freedom. You were kept wondering, ‘When will we win the final battle?’

“Because of that, I always loved to listen to people telling their stories. Because that is what history is to to me, a series of stories.”

And indeed it is that concept of letting people tell their own stories which makes this book special.

“It is not a dry academic fact-based thing,” said Mr McLaughlin. “It is people’s lives and their stories and memories about their native places. And they are told in a language that is accessible to all.

“I don’t see this as ‘my book’ as such. As far as I am concerned, there are 82 authors. I consider myself to be very lucky that they told their stories with me.”

The book tells stories not only of great sporting prowess but also of overcoming the lesser known personal challenges that earned these men and women the status of local legends.

“One that stands out is Cormac McAdam, a former Fermanagh goalkeeper who suffered a terrible accident which left him in a wheelchair,” said Mr McLaughlin. “But he is a shining example to all of us. He now runs his own business, travels in his own van and plays golf competitively.”

Launch

The ‘Local Legends’ book will be launched by former GAA President Peter Quinn in Rockfield Community Centre on Friday, May 31 at 8.00pm.

It is a unique record of social history from the 1920’s right up until the present day.

“This is the first time a project of this nature has been published,” said Mr McLaughlin. “The interviews were conducted with farmers, footballers, actors, craftsmen and women, priests, politicians, builders and musicians. They all spoke very movingly and eloquently about their native places, their lives and their memories of this lovely land of wood and water.”

Some are major GAA figures like former Uachtaran Peter Quinn, Fr Brian D’Arcy, Peter McGinnity, P T Treacy, Barry Owens, Marty McGrath, Dominic Corrigan, John McElroy, Joe McGurn, Patsy Dolan, Peter Carty, Sean Duffy, Ollie McShea, Ryan McCluskey, Tommy Gallagher, Gerry Gallagher, Shane McCabe and Ryan McCluskey. There are many other people from various backgrounds in an area from Belleek to Roslea.

It also includes interviews with well-known personalities like Seamas MacAnnaidh, Joe O’ Loughlin, Sister Edel Bannon, Margaret Gallagher, Joe Mahon, John Reihill, Frank McManus, Pat O’Doherty, Terry McCartney, Roy Cathcart and Florence Creighton.

The book which is in excess of 200,000 words will retail at STG£20/€25. All proceeds will go to Rockfield Community Centre which is on the site of Mr McLaughlin’s alma mater, Rockfield NS.

Rockfield Community Centre can be found approximately one mile from Belleek, on the main Ballyshannon to Belleek road. Everyone is welcome to attend the launch.

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