Donal Gilligan’s ultimate Pollock recipe

October 15th, 2010

Donal joined us for Festivibbledibble last summer.  A restrained gathering of introverts – not.

Donal was so unforgettably enrolled in the whole thing, and consistently cheerful, fun and involved. he was also an extremely good cook, and the pollock he produced was beyond compare – we have been trying to make pollock taste good for years, he made it look so simple. Here’s his recipe.

Take the dangerously light blow-up canoe out into the bay and spend three hours with a hand line , trying not to get it hooked into the canoe, and bringing about rapid doom. Finally bring in two ocean fresh pollock.

Drag squeamish children down to the stream to gut them.

Spend at least half an hour sharpening the knife.

Fillet the fish.

Don’t bother to compete with the women for space at the stove, just bring the charcoal bucket in from the rain and spark up an inside barbecue. Get the most battered frying pan of all.

Simply melt butter in pan till frothy, flash fry the fillets quickly and add a squeeze of lemon. Do not at any point make a fuss, but do hum quietly.

Serve, and beam.

Donal, we’ll miss you next Festivibbledibble. Goodbye mate, and thanks for all the fish xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I mink, therefore I ran.

October 10th, 2010


5000 minks were recently on the run after the fences were cut at a mink farm (whole mink population 32,000!) in Ardara, a few miles from the cottage . Opinion is divided as to whether this was done by “animal liberation terrorists” or just some “young fellas from the dances”.

Cute- but just not from round 'ere

We spent an amazing hour last spring watching a mink female who must have taken up residence near the cottage. She would presumably have been the product of a previous break out. She was moving her brood from the granite slabs right by the sea, to better quarters up the stream. She would disappear into a crevice in the rock and then emerge with one of her young in her mouth, and carry it up into the streambed. She did this four times. She was white, hard-working, focused and very beautiful.

Bernie Wright of the Alliance for Animal Rights would have been happy to see this, I guess.  Of the recent mass exodus, he said, “We have nothing do with it. However, I commend whoever risked their freedom to do this as these animals have a horrendous life.”

And who indeed could begrudge their new found freedom?

Quite a few, it turns out.

An anglers spokesman was worried about the effect on local fish stocks  “The salmon spawning beds are fair game to mink. I am speaking as an angler, but this release will also have a huge effect on tourism in the area.”

For myself, Id like to speak up for a creature without a voice – the timid little Irish stoat who hangs out in our turf store. The mink, for all her glamour, is twice the size, an efficient killer and not indigenous. Our stoat wouldn’t have a hope in tough competition for food out here. Her livelihood would be very much threatened by an influx of bigger, stronger predators. Indeed, the presence of released minks all over Ireland has reduced stoat and pine marten numbers to critical levels.

The Irish Stoat - possible a member of the National Party

So next time, lads, if you love wildlife really, take some sacks with you and be prepared to repatriate those you release back to their  homelands far far away.

For full story,  go to:

Feedback from the summer

September 14th, 2010

Our first season, unequivocally a huge success.It was great summer, basically.

The sun shone, it rained,  people passed through, and the tide came in and out, constant, reassuring,  like all was well with the world. And the world here in Port, is. It is a timeless place.

So far, the DIY holiday home concept is working. Everybody has left it impeccable. A blow for freedom from cleaning ladies, and well, you all got it, and loved it. Thanks, everybody, really.

There were three technical hitches – the gas camping fridge is temperamental but the default button is putting stuff in the outside larder, which works, and chilling wine/milk in the mountain cold streams.  If something glitched, people texted our technical team (er- me and Roland) and fixed it themselves – a triumph for self-sufficiency. And we only has to call in the cavalry (Conor, the plumber) once.

Here are some excerpts from the post holiday emails:

From Conor (not the plumber) :

Just a very quick note to thank you for a fantastic week in the Port.It really is a special place. We were looking to get away from everything and couldn’t have done it in a better place. I’ve a few pics i’ll email you with – just need to sort them all out first! Thanks again – you’ve created something very special with the cottage …

From Stephanie:

Just to say many thanks for letting us stay in the cottage at port and for making sure we had everything we needed. We had a really fantastic weekend, it is a very special place to chill out. I think that we left everything as we found it, and hope to return some time soon !

From Ashley:

We had an amazing time in the cottage at Port every thing was fine. The new gas was there but we didn’t use the fridge we decided to use the stream.
Plenty of hot water and lights at night.We had one little mishap on sat. night we were so excited when we arrived we ran outside
and left the keys on the table not knowing, my youngest shut the door tight, so off we set to find help,you can guess how hard that was driving through the sheep and at the end of the road we found the lovely Mary and her husband whom i never got his name, he came to the cottage and managed to crow bar the front door open with little or no damage hence the phone call. BIG SORRY but we taught we might find someone with a second key, everything was fine. The house was perfect when we arrived and same when we left. I want to thank you for letting your cottage to us we had a very fun and memorable holiday.

(Easy on the crowbar, in future, but very little damage done, and now we have spare keys sorted-Ed)

From Tom:

I cant find his feedback, I think he sent it by text, but he has a great turn of phrase and in the run up called it “a
quiet place at the rough edge of the old world.”
Love that.

Bookings are pouring in,now, makes me think we have something that people really want.  We are even already booked for three weeks next summer! But the best thing, actually, is sharing it. Thanks for all that came, and loved.

The Glengesh Rule (or how to drag kids away from electronics)

August 14th, 2010

There is a stunning pass which we have to ride up on the way to Port from Ardara; it marks the beginning of the wilderness for us. By the time we reach the top of the pass. all electronic equipment has to be switched off – no phones, no nintendos, no ipods .

Ive always thought we were going to get a mutiny about this at some point. The kids accepted it when they were younger, but coming into teens I wondered about the complaints.

But  we don’t  have to push them to do it anymore – and  these are not wierd Amish children, they are as addicted to  their electronics and computer games, and Ipods and movies, as any normal teens.

In Port they know they do other stuff – make music, read,  play games, mess about, invent stuff, make things, like old fashioned children – not exactly get the Noahs Ark and samplers out, but definitely Enid Blyton stuff.

Like this: the homemade monopoly board

Geez how much fun can one family have?

But,  seriously, the Glengesh Rule – come here and practice it, it works.

Things we do on dark nights 1

July 20th, 2010

There are lots of dark nights here. We have electric light from the solar, wind turbine system – but at night, mostly we go for candlelight and lanterns.

Number 1 Dark Night Activity – Ibble dibble

Equipment required. Cork (provided), a lighted candle (provided) and a gang round the old wooden table,  lashings of fine wine.

Atmosphere: Good and cosy, stove lit, supper on.

Weather: Variable, but preferably  a big storm raging round the cottage and the sound of pelting rain on the tin roof.

What is an Ibble dibble: A mark normally on the face, made by a cork which has been scorched (and cooled) on the end creating a homemade charcoal stick.

Dear Lizzie -getting totally Ibble Dibbled

First person starts: I, (name), with no Ibble Dibbles give this Ibble Dibble to  Ibble Dibble (name of person who cork is handed to).

If you hesitate, stumble or get the number of Ibble Dibbles that you have on your face wrong , you are given another Ibble Dibble.

You also have to have another go. if you get through it, the cork goes to the person you selected, and they have their turn. Simple.

Not neccessarily. It’s the adults who screw up mostly (something to do with the wine? -Ed) , everytime you get it wrong, you get another Ibble Dibble , and it gets really hard to keep track.

One night it got so rowdy we think we gave the hampster a heart attack. She had a good life, may she rest in peace.

With thanks to Og and Jo, who taught us.

Rockwell Kent and Port

May 24th, 2010

Annie McGinley at Port

This is a painting by the American artist, Rockwell Kent, of the woman he  is thought to have fallen in love withduring a summer he spent in Donegal in 1926.

The visual impact of Donegal was not lost on Kent who was fascinated by the dynamic and constantly changing play of light  between the skies, seas and brooding valleys.

Annie is pictured here on the heathered cliff top just above the bay, her home.  She was born, and lived in our cottage.

He also painted the cottage – but I haven’t been able to find a reproduction, just yet.

Rockwell found his way to the dark, moody , very isolated valley just north over the hill from Port.

Here he met Dan and Rose Ward, who lived here totally alone, presiding over one thousand acres of peat and bog.

The Wards owned a small cottage that was in deep disrepair and was being used as a cow shed. Rockwell rented the oneroom ruin, evicted the cow, and once again transformed a hovel into a home.

Just over a decade later, Dylan Thomas rented the same cottage, in an attempt to dry out – the pub was ten miles walk away. But the darkeness and the wildness of the valley drove him to the drink just the same.

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Snow in April…c’mon….

March 31st, 2010

port snow

Well…the plan was… for a large  party  to gather in the spirit of group labour and plenty of wine, slap bucketfuls of whitewash on the outside walls,  rebuild some stonewalls, and generally frolic around in the gorgeous spring weather. Up to now its been winter in the shade, but summer in the sun – but  NOW , more bleedin blizzards are forecast!!!!Well -  we will slope up there anyway, gather up armfuls of turf and spend the weekend squabbling over who gets the thick pair of socks.

Wish you were here

November 10th, 2009

John Hinde postcards – absolute classics , from the Seventies. Note one is titled Glencolmcille (the next village south) – but the picture is most definitely Port.

mont postcard

Extract from the captions:

Donegal: a region famous for its scenery…blablabla…Whether you seek health and gaiety in one of its many coastal resorts, take rod or gun among the highlands, or climb, walk or travel by road, Donegal will cast her spell over you and will draw you irresistably.


November 3rd, 2009

A kind friend just sent something he found (sorry, not sure yet of the source):

“In Spenser’s Images of Life, CS Lewis coined the term “donegality.” ….

…Lewis thought that many places, like many books, had an indefinable quality, – hard to put into words, but unmistakable.  London has its peculiar ‘Londonness’ and Donegal has its ‘Donegality’. ….

….Ward further deploys the encompassing term “donegality” (which Lewis coined in his lesser read posthumous work, Spenser’s Images of Life), to denote this state or quality underlying and encapsulating Lewis’ philosophy of Enjoyment, a total immersive experiencing of something ….

Donegality is the atmosphere to be Enjoyed, so pervasive that it is unnoticeable, because we are constantly experiencing it.”

The friend adds:

“Is there anywhere more blessed with Narnian Donegality than Port??????????”

Dead on.

Whale bones

October 29th, 2009

Going through the stone turf shed, I found the sack of whale vertebrae that we found in the  sea cave in the Port bay this summer. They are well bleached now, and  smell of the sea.  Circles of growth on the round inner bone like those on the cut trunk of a tree. They have meaning when you hold them, cupped between two hands,  like  stepping stones into the heart of the beast, its real nature.

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