Memories and Reflections of Lough Foyle

Some of my earliest childhood memories is of the waters of Lough Foyle
shimmering beautifully in the summer sunshine.
Lough Foyle an estuary located between counites Donegal and Derry.
The bright sunshine seemed to make its waters reflect like strings of diamonds
shouting out to one and all, come and enjoy my bathing, my boating, my
Lough Foyle has always been associated with shipping, trading and emigration.
St. Colmcille sailed its waters on his way to Iona, Scotland in the 6th century.
Moville town which lies on the Western Banks of the Foyle played a key role in
this maritime history.
When St. Colmcille made his way along the Foyle he stopped off in Moville.
Along what is now known as the shore walk, St. Colmcille struck a rock and
water came forth.
This is now known as St Colmcille’s well.
Its waters are associated with cures and even today many people come from
far and wide to seek its cure.
Transatlantic liners bound for America or Canada dropped anchor in the deep
waters of the Lough just off Moville.
Throughout the 19th century emigrants began their journey at Queens Quay in
At Queens Quay they boarded smaller ships known as puddle tenders to
connect with the large Steam ships anchored 18 miles downstream at Moville.
This maritime activity continued until after the second world war.
Sailors from these ships often came ashore for recreation.
Local lore told stories of big dances held in St. Eugene’s hall Moville and of
popular music bands from Derry playing in this venue.
Often the sailors attended these dances.
This intercultural exchange brought a new world of dance, dress, language and
romance to the seaside town of Moville.
A culture of smuggling and barter also developed between these far flung
visitors and locals. During the scarcity of the war years locals exchanged
foodstuffs like chickens or beef for cigarettes and whisky.
A family story goes, my uncle often bartered a chicken for cigarettes, and it
was not unknown for a chicken to go missing off my Grannies street during
those years.
A ship known as the Scotch Boat also plied the route of the Lough Foyle making
its way to Glasgow Scotland.
This ship departed the Derry Quay with its passengers many of them emigrants
from the Moville locality.
A culture of goodbye grew up around this maritime journey.
Local families lit fires along the coastline which blazed brightly as the ship
passed by.
The emigrants on board returned the farewell greeting by requesting the ship’s
captain to sound the horn while passing local towns.
Lough Foyle has always been rich with a variety of marine life, mussels, crab
and salmon.
The Atlantic salmon returned to Lough Foyle annually stocking its waters in
abundance in months of May and June.
Throughout the nineteen sixties and seventies, it was said of Greencastle
harbour just below Moville “there was not a boat to be seen after seven pm on
a summer’s evening” they were all out fishing salmon.
A memory from my teenage years is the taste of fresh salmon baked in the
oven by my mother. A special summer delicacy.
A whole fresh salmon was expensive.
However, during the salmon fishing season if one were lucky enough to have a
brother or boyfriend doing the fishing one of these majestic mammals could be
had at a more affordable rate.
Lough Foyle has served humanity well down through the centuries.
I hope that it will be allowed to continue this service to all of humanity as we
move on in the 21st century.