That was the festival that was…2018

Our closing press release for 2018 by James Scully:


The Fifth That Beats Banagher Festival held recently, was by all accounts an enormous success. All through the weekend, the town was thronged with visitors and locals alike and all the events enjoyed unprecedented attendances as people took advantage of the really fine weather. Among the highlights of the festival a great fireworks display on the Shannon Bank on the Saturday evening which drew a record crowd.

Other successful events included a creative heritage walk from Johnny Hough’s iconic pub to the Martello Tower just west of Banagher Bridge. The walk involved a cast of twenty-five persons who performed as characters from Banagher’s Historic Past. William Mackenzie, the contractor for Banagher Bridge (1841-43) and James Collier Harter, the philanthropic landlord for Esker returned to grace the West End of the town with their considerable presences. Other remarkable personae to appear were the members of the Banagher Masonic Lodge, No. 306, who were attending a meeting which reconstituted the lodge in January 1821 and also Lieut. Colonel Benjamin Fisher, the engineer for Banagher’s Napoleonic Fortifications, who on Christmas Eve 1805 was busy finalising a report on the mid-Shannon defences against a strongly anticipated French invasion ; the Banagher train driver, Billy Phelan and his wife Gerty, the celebrated midwife of the town and members of the Donohue family who managed the Banagher Railway Station for decades also arrived on time. A large folder of archival material on the Clara to Banagher Railway was displayed at the Railway Bar and is available there on request for public perusal. Living legends Bobby Ryland and Thomas Nallen recalled the exploits of the 1953-54 Banagher Billiards team who won the Western League defeating the might of all the large towns in County Galway.

A crowd well in excess of one hundred ambled along to quiet corners and back alleys of the lower end of the town and thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic performances of the large cast. Many thanks to all who kindly allowed access to their private homes and gardens. For many of the participants, the highlight of the walk was gaining access to the Fanesker Martello Tower on the Galway side of the bridge with the kind permission of Wolfgang and Ursula Fisher, a genial Swiss couple who have resided in Banagher for a few years.

Other festival events included afternoon tea in Charlotte’s Way Guest House, (the home for forty-five years of Arthur Bell Nicholl, widower of Charlotte Brontë), willow-weaving and coppersmith demonstrations, stand-up paddle boarding and wakeboarding, art exhibition, food and craft market, foraging workshop and a host of other activities. The That Beats Banagher Festival is now truly well established and next year’s festivities are eagerly awaited. Well done to all concerned. Beannchar abú.