….fare thee well for a while.

Perhaps an odd title for the first in a series of entries on a place rather close to my heart. Let me explain.

I was born in the town’s Erne Hospital some years ago now and spent the first 20 or so years of my life in a village just outside the town, completing my schooling in Enniskillen.

I continue to visit on a fairly regular basis.

1The words “Fare thee well Enniskillen,” come from the chorus of a recent Tommy Makem (of Clancy Brothers fame) song (to a very traditional Irish tune) relating the story of a local British Regiment – The Enniskillen Dragoons – leaving Enniskillen and heading of to battle in Spain. The chorus continues “fare thee well for a while”. There was a clear intention to come back one day which indeed they did (last verse) – such that:

“—never more we’ll have to say:
Fare thee well, Enniskillen….”

Perhaps one day the final verse will play out for the Rambling Wombat.

This song goes thus:

Our troop was made ready at the dawn of the day,
From lovely Enniskillen they were marching us away.
They put us then on board a ship to cross the raging main,
To fight in bloody battle in the sunny land of Spain.

Fare thee well Enniskillen, fare thee well for a while,
And all around the borders of Erin’s green isle,
And when the war is over we’ll return in full bloom,
And you’ll all welcome home the Enniskillen Dragoons.
Final verse:
Well now the fighting’s over and for home we have set sail.
Our flag above this lofty ship is fluttering in the gale.
They’ve given us a pension, boys, of fourpence each a day,
And when we reach Enniskillen never more we’ll have to say:

Fare thee well Enniskillen, fare thee well for a while,

Enniskillen, from the Irish, Inis Ceithlean, is the County Town of County Fermanagh in the south-west of Northern Ireland. It is a small, traditionally garrison and market town the centre of which is on a small island between Upper and Lower Lough Erne. The town’s current population is around 15,000.

Some History

1400 to 1689

4The town’s oldest building is the Maguire’s stone castle, built by Hugh the Hospitable who died in 1428 and this forms the basis of the current castle. The castle was finally secured by the English in 1607, after which and in conjunction with the Plantation of Ulster, the Cole family, from Devon, England supplanted the Maguires.

Over the next 80 years the town was developed by the Coles and by 1689 the town had grown significantly. During the conflict which resulted in the ousting of King James II by his Protestant rival, William III, Enniskillen and Derry were the focus of Williamite resistance in Ireland.

Enniskillen and Derry pledged support for William III and a famous Williamite victory over the forces of James occurred at Newtownbulter (close to Enniskillen) in 1689. As a direct result of this conflict Enniskillen developed not only as a market town but also as a garrison, which became home to two regiments – the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and The Inniskillings (6th Dragoons).

James was finally defeated a year later, in 1690, at the Battle of the Boyne – just north of Dublin. The battle is commemorated to this day each 12th of July by Ulster loyalists and members of the Orange Order around the world.

Post 1689

Post 1689 a relative quietness descended on Enniskillen and the County of Fermanagh more generally and they faded back into the mists and squalls of Ireland.

Alas, Enniskillen shot to (unwanted) fame again in the 1970s and 1980s when it was the site of several events during ‘The Troubles’, the most infamous being the Remembrance Day bombing in which 11 people were killed on 8 November 1987 when an IRA bomb exploded at the towns war memorial, shortly before a Remembrance Day service was due to commence.

Fermanagh had earlier, in the 1980’s, achieved worldwide notoriety on another front. On 9 April 1981 the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone elected Bobby Sands, a member of the Provisional IRA then serving a prison sentence in the notorious Maze or Long Kesh prison, as their Westminster Member of Parliament. Sands, who was on hunger strike at the time, died within a month and never took up his seat in Westminster – most likely he would have not taken it up anyway.

Come to Enniskillen and County Fermanagh

2The island town and County Fermanagh have since returned to more peaceful times and are (as they always have been) delightful places to visit. In addition to being scenically beautiful with Lough Erne and beautiful rolling green hills, the town and county have a rich history, afford great walking/caving opportunities, and the people are great, too boot!

Given that nowhere in Country Fermanagh is more than roughly 30 minutes drive from Enniskillen I have included entries/reviews of both Enniskillen and the whole County of Fermanagh in this Enniskillen (Co.Fermanagh) location/category.

Follow in the footsteps of Messers Obama, Putin, Cameron, and Frau Merkel who visited Enniskillen in June 2013 (G8 Meeting !) and visit Enniskillen now!

This blog entry is the first of a group (loop) of entries based numerous visits to Enniskillen.  I suggest you continue with my next entry – When to visit and how to get to Enniskillen.

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