Seamus Harkin

Creeslough Singer, Author and Undertaker

Early Life

Born in Derryart Creeslough in 1935 Seamus was the third of 6 children born into a typical Irish family who wasted nothing and held strong religious values and faith. 

Both his mother and father had the same surname, and in times gone by if two people were married with the same surname the family would have the gift of curing the mumps. 

His early life was spent working on the family farm, visiting his grandmother Hannah and grandparents Jim and Anne of Ballymore and attending the school at Faugher until he turned 14. 

Career

During the 1950’s he worked with Donegal County Council quarrying stone at Portnablagh and doing various jobs such as building walls, laying roads and stone crushing. It was a found time to work with such a great team of local men. He later joined the Forest department in Ards forest park and by 1960s was working in the Veneer Factory until it closed in 1970s.

After getting married Seamus continued selling Insurance and collecting payments in the area for the New Ireland Assurance Company whilst at home he was fattening pigs. He married Tessie Wilkinson in 1965 in St. Michael’s Church in Cashelmore. He travelled all over the local area and later covered Kilmacrennan, Letterkenny and Ramelton. 

In 1978 he was mostly singing in the pubs and doing weddings and socials when he got the opportunity to take over Edmund Boyle’s Undertakers business. His family continues the business to this day. He was fondly named the singing undertaker. 

Music

Seamus Harkin and Coyle Brothers 1989 photo credit: It took a life time. by Seamus Harkin

As a young man he often sang at house parties and local concerts but in 1958 he decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar. In the early days he would practise with Danny Langan and other locals at Danny Lafferty’s house. 

Extract from his book It took a Lifetime.

Jimmy Lafferty’s house was the place we did our practice, which was at least once a week. I do not know how Jimmy’s father and mother put up with the racket. We would get together on a Sunday afternoon and start to play and soon the people would start to gather and join in the fun. The house would be full of neighbours and visitors who would be staying at the Portnablagh hotel and other guest houses in the area. The crack would be mighty and the fellows and girls would dance round the kitchen and even on to the street. Mary Lafferty would make tea for everyone and we all went home happy.’

Seamus Harkin 2008

During the 1960s singing in the pub became more popular in the local area and Seamus was approached to sing at Dan Devine’s Pub in Dunfanaghy. He joined together with local teenager Ben mcFadden and did many gigs in the pub singing mostly old ballads and American country songs. Dance halls were also popular and Seamus would often play but the trend was mostly large show bands and not many one may outfits. He did perform at various local socials and weddings across Letterkenny, Aranmore Island and Gweedore and even played for the McElhinney family in Glenveagh during the Summer when they had guests.  In the 1970s Seamus travelled to Scotland and London as well as Philadelphia to perform his Irish music there. 

Music and Books

Seamus recorded a single called the Maid of Marble Hill written by Andrew McIntyre and on the B side he sang an old song that his father used to sing called Skibereen this was released in 1980 and helped get his name out even further getting more bookings. 

In 1992 he released an album called Quality of Life with 6 of his own compositions.  At the launch of the tape local singer Bridie Gallagher performed at the Corncutter’s Rest.

He also co-authored, providing local knowledge on a book called the Disappearing Irish Cottages.  Another book he produced was a series of Photographs titled Hallowed Halls, which was a collection  of the various Churches in North West Donegal. 

And in 2008 he published a book about his life in Creeslough. The book title It took a Lifetime is still on sale today. Seamus sadly passed away in 2014.

Published by mairead collett

Living the rural Life in Donegal, raising children and writing about my local area.

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