Dungannon soprano and harpist, Gemma Prince

Dungannon soprano and harpist Gemma Prince performed some of Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies at St Macartan’s Cathedral Clogher. “Sing, Sweet Harp” provided a fine opening to the 25th annual William Carleton Society Summer School. The school director Aidan Fee introduced Gemma, with a talk on Moore. Cathedral organist Diane Whittaker provided the music at the start and finish of the performance.



Jack Johnston, President William Carleton Society, at the Blue Bridge Emyvale  Photo: Michael Fisher

William Carleton’s ‘Blue Bridge’ across the Mountain Water at Inishdevlin outside Emyvale was one of the points of note on a 5m walk this afternoon organised by the Clogher Valley Ramblers. It started and finished in Emyvale village, with cups of tea beforehand and afterwards at John’s Plaice.

William Carleton, a leading Irish writer of the 19thC came originally from the Clogher area. He wrote about life’s experiences and as he used to walk from his relatives’ house at Derrygola to Glennan for his education at the hedge school there (beside Glennan chapel). He always rested at the Blue Bridge. He has written in his Autobiography about its beauty and about the famous Fair of Emyvale.


Mountain Water at Inishdevlin near Emyvale Photo: Michael Fisher

The Emyvale Development Association organised a festival under the Banner of the Fair of Emyvale for a number of years while money was being raised for the Emyvale Leisure Centre.  On Sunday, August 4th 2013 during the annual summer school, all came alive again as Michael Fisher, Director of the William Carleton Society, unveiled a Plaque commemorating William Carleton’s connections with the Blue Bridge.

This event was organised by Emyvale Development Association. In 1997, Monaghan County Council in conjunction with Emyvale Development Association erected a Plaque on the Bridge but weather conditions eventually rotted the  plaque backing and it came away from the wall. A new Plaque was prepared and is now in place.


Clogher Valley Ramblers at the Blue Bridge, Emyvale Photo: Michael Fisher



Michael Fisher in Tyrone GAA jacket borrowed at the secret training location in Co. Wicklow

EXCLUSIVE! A New Year exclusive from fisherbelfast news! I have been on a secret mission today and have been shown the mountain hideaway where the Tyrone GAA senior footballers have begun training since St Stephen’s Day in their mission to win the Sam Maguire Cup. I am under strict instructions not to reveal the exact location in case of infiltration by spies from Kerry and Dublin. A full report will however be provided on request for Monaghan GAA whose supporters accompanied me this afternoon on an 8km walk in the pouring-rain.


Section of the Wicklow Way from Glenmalure to Moyne

The two hour trek led along the Wicklow Way up a mountain, Slieve Maan. But in the pouring rain and wind there was in the end no evidence of a Red Hand. The only one in sight was on the jacket I borrowed from the legendary Frank Quinn from Pomeroy. He even leaves copies of his beautiful Sam Maguire book with his photos of historic places such as Knockmany and Carleton’s cottage as an inspiration for all who make their way for wilderness adventures to deepest Wicklow, not far from the Glen of Imaal where the Irish army trains.


Sam Maguire book edited and with photos by Frank Quinn

Asked to compare his native ground around the Sperrins with the likes of Lugnaquilla, Mr Quinn, whose adventures to the Antarctic Circle featured in the Irish News a few years ago, replied: “sure the Sperrins are wee buns compared to the landscape we have here!!” Memories of the 1798 rebellion all around. So be prepared for a new wave of Tyrone football as the McKenna Cup gets underway in the coming weeks. It remains to be seen whether Wicklow GAA footballers will head Northwards for their training…….!


Sam Maguire Cup at Knockmany near Augher Photo: Copyright Frank Quinn

Update: Obviously this extra training over New Year at the secret location in County Wicklow has already paid dividends for the Tyrone team. Their first outing in the Dr McKenna Cup was on Sunday (3rd January) and this was the result at St Enda’s Park in Omagh:

Tyrone 3-17 Queens University 0-11  





Gabriel D’Arcy, Chief Executive of newly formed LacPatrick Co-op and Aidan McCabe, Dairy Adviser, with the new LacPatrick logo Photo: © Michael Fisher

34,000 views for fisherbelfast news in 2015

The announcement of the new LacPatrick Co-Op in July was my most viewed story with 537 hits. It was written for the Northern Standard in Monaghan. I am delighted to know that 2015 was a record year for my blog with 34,000 views in different parts of the world, especially the UK, Ireland and the US. This is significant because I blogged only for seven months, publishing 212 posts until the end of July. I will now have to re-assess whether to resume blogging in 2016. The great thing is that many of the articles I posted since 2013 are being read. So a big THANK YOU to anyone who has taken the time to click on any of my stories and I wish all readers a Happy New Year. The full statistics can be seen here thanks to WordPress.


Holy Well, Carrickmacross   Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Holy Well, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Walk Around Carrickmacross

Northern Standard Carrickmacross News Thursday 28th June


Holy Well, Carrickmacross   Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Holy Well, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Leaving the Fever Hospital, the walk route proceeds from the Shercock Road and turns back towards the town towards Mullinary Street, formerly known as Penny Street as it is close to Penny Bridge. The name was formally changed by referendum in 1956. At the footpath on the right hand side (heading towards town) there was a holy well, the site of which is marked by a large stone. The inscription on the stone contains a cross with the sign ‘IHS’ (a symbol for Jesus) at the top. It proclaims that this water supply was erected by EPS (EP Shirley, the landlord) in the year of 1876. There is also a Bible quotation from John, chapter 4:

“Who drinks hereat shall thirst again

But waters are in store

So pure so deep that all who will

May drink and thirst no more”.

The well was covered in and was replaced by a pump, which now forms an attractive part of the annual Tidy Town display.

Penny Bridge, Carrickmacross   Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Penny Bridge, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Nearby a stone marks the site of what was once the Penny Bridge on one of the entrances to the town. It got its name from the one penny cost of the toll that used to be charged for those using the bridge over the river that feeds into Lough na Glack. According to Henderson’s Carrickmacross directory for 1856, boot and shoemaker Patrick Tumelty had a premises at the Penny Bridge and other members of the Tumelty clann were in the same trade at Main Street and Monaghan Street.


Alicia Ehrecke, Inver College, Carrickmacross  Photo: HotPress

Alicia Ehrecke, Inver College, Carrickmacross Photo: HotPress

A 17 year-old secondary school student from Inver College in Carrickmacross Alicia Ehrecke has been shortlisted for the Hot Press ‘Write Here, Write Now’ short story award. The top prize is an internship with the Dublin-based magazine later this year. The overall winners will also receive a €250 cash prize, a Certificate of Achievement from WRITE HERE, WRITE NOW and a Toshiba Click Mini and Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse. They’ll also have their winning entry published in a special issue of Hot Press, a significant achievement that will greatly enhance the CV of any young writer.

Each of the 22 winners will receive a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, an invaluable tool for students and creative types. The overall winner will be announced tomorrow. Alicia comes from Cottbus, a university city in Brandenburg, near Berlin in Germany. Until 1990 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the area was part of the GDR (East Germany).

Alicia is among forty students who have made the final list from thousands of entries. She has been studying at Inver College since the end of August last year. She says she is looking forward to returning home on Friday after her eight months stay, hosted by a local family. During her time in County Monaghan, her parents came over to Ireland on holiday with her older brother and two younger sisters and they went on tour for a week, taking in Dublin, Galway, Donegal and the Giant’s Causeway.

Roddy Doyle heads the panel of judges who will decide the winners. The public can also have their say by looking at the shortlisted entries including Alicia’s and voting online at for the ‘Write Here Write Now’ Readers Award.

Over the years, Hot Press has nurtured some of Ireland’s finest creative talent in music, literature, writing and journalism. Now, as part of a celebration of one of the great modern Irish sagas – The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle –  Hot Press, in association with the One City, One Book Festival, has uncovered the very best new, student writing talent in the country. The competition is supported by the Dublin City Libraries, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Eason and Microsoft Office 365.

The judging panel consists of Man Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle, IMPAC Award winner Kevin Barry, Rooney Prize winner Claire Kilroy, Hot Press editor Niall Stokes and composer / songwriter Julie Feeney.

“There was a huge level of interest in the competition, with thousands of entries pouring in,” Hot Press editor and chairman of the judging panel, Niall Stokes said. “It was really tough narrowing this tsunami down to a shortlist, but that’s what you have to do. In the final analysis, all of the judges were in agreement that the quality of the shortlisted entries was extraordinarily high, and that we have uncovered some remarkable young Irish writing talent. Everyone who is on the shortlist has good reason to feel very proud, as indeed do the schools and colleges in County Monaghan. In that sense, they are all winners”. 

Roddy Doyle himself has commented that some of those shortlisted are “frighteningly good – surprising, sharp, sometimes chilling, confident.” On the evidence of the shortlisted entries, Ireland is teeming with young people with real writing talent.

For his three novels, Roddy Doyle invented a suburb on the north side of Dublin and called it Barrytown. The challenge for students, in this unique writing competition, was to create, in a similar way, an imaginary new place, as the location for a piece of creative writing; to set the scene; describe the surroundings; create a sense of the environment and its people; to capture the language they use; to tell enough of a story to draw readers in and to evoke the special qualities, or atmosphere, of the students’ imaginatively constructed local area. They did just that – and with aplomb!


Mary O'Donnell listens to Dr James Heaney Photo © Michael Fisher

Mary O’Donnell listens to Dr James Heaney Photo © Michael Fisher

Monaghan poet Mary O’Donnell’s new collection of poetry, ‘Those April Fevers’ (Arc Publications), was launched last week at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin. Dr James Heaney, a lecturer in English at Carlow College, introduced the poems and Mary herself read some of them. Chair of the Centre’s Board Liz McManus welcomed guests to the event. Among the attendance were a number of supporters of the William Carleton Society Summer School (two of them patrons) and several poets.