says goodbye to the old Post Office
The old post office in Ardara closed its doors to the public
for the last time on June 5 after Beatty Egan and her daughter,
Pauline McHugh, both former post mistresses, posted the
The last customer was Rosemary Breslin of Cronkeerin and
the 'An Post' sign was removed by post office officials.
This building, on the Diamond of Ardara, had served as a
post office since around 1902. Thus it had been the Ardara
post office for very nearly a hundred years. Peter McCaul
was the first post master. As this was the time of the British
administration, the Ardara sub post office was then under
the control of Strabane Head Office, County Tyrone. Seven
post men were based at the office then and they delivered
the post on foot. That number is now reduced to two, who
deliver mail in the familiar fast-moving post vans.
Back in 1906, postmen toiled the roads as far as the top
of Glengesh, Sandfield. above Carrickatleave, to Tullymore,
Tullyheag, and Meenarillagh, beyond Beagh, over the Nick,
and out to Leconnell and Maghera. Twice a week, mail was
delivered up over the pass of Granny.
The post office was originally in the McCaul family. Peter
was postmaster into the 1950s, and his sister, Maggie, kept
a drapery shop in the same building. On Peter's death the
post office passed to Tom Egan, his nephew. Tom was an ex-Garda
and it was his wife who operated the post office until it
passed in turn to her son, Tomas, in the late '60's. After
his death in 1971, his wife, Beatty, continued as postmistress
and draper until 1992. Her daughter, Pauline McHugh, took
over the job and kept the post office on the road until
2001.Thus the Ardara post office was run by one family for
a total of four generations.
When Pauline resigned from her position, the contract was
put up for tender. In accordance with modern regulations,
the selected person for a job as post mistress/master has
to supply the premises, as well as a kitchen, bathroom and
sorting-room for the post office staff. The office itself
must have sufficient space for modern office equipment.
Kathie Diver is the new Ardara post mistress, and the post
office is now located in the recently enlarged premises
of Divers' Newsagents.
Beatty saw various changes in her job over the years. The
old manual switchboard was changed to an automatic system
in 1984. Whilst in charge of the manual system, Beatty and
her family were on call for twenty-four hours a day. During
the night, a bell would ring upstairs if someone rang the
post office telephone exchange, and a member of the family
was duty-bound to go downstairs to put the call through.
Practical jokers used to turn the handle of the phone in
the call-box across the road, then run off when the post
office house-light went on.
"If there was a call at night between a boy and his
girlfriend, it could be hours before you got back to bed,"
mused Betty. "We used to have fun with the phone operators
in Letterkenny and Donegal. We knew their voices, but we
hardly ever met any of them said Pauline.
Kathleen Gallagher Ardconnell a former switchboard operator
in Ardara, was the person who formally switched the Ardara
telephone system from manual to automatic. "She actually
had to go up on a ladder to the control panel behind the
barracks to do that." recalled Pauline with a chuckle.
The most disturbing change which Beatty remembers was the
introduchon of computers. She never really took to them.
"I would not touch them for all the tea in China!"
she said. So her daughter, Pauline, became Ardara's postmistress
"lt was a tourist information centre as well as a post
office," said Pauline. "Tourists would come in
asking for directions to houses they'd rented, how to get
to Narin beach, asking the closing times of shops, the price
of a stamp for a postcard. We could nearly always get across
the language barrier with sign language. I remember a German
tourist who'd had too much Guinness, and who swallowed the
stamp he was licking. I laughed and laughed. lt didnt
put him off Ardara, because he came back again the next
summer. It didn't put him off Guinness either!''
Dishonesty had been almost non-existent. "It only ever
happencd once that people tried to break into the post office
at night. I had an iron bar fixed across the inside of the
door and they couldn't get in. I was very frightened,"
Pauline also recalled an incident last sumtner when three
central Europeans attempted to take the mission boxes from
her post office. After their departure she telephoned Glenties
Garda Station and was informed that the mission boxes from
Inver, Dunkineely and Mt. Charles post offices had all been
raided. The miscreants were arrested on the road to Dungloe.
The clientele of the post office more than doubled in Pauline's
time with an increase in the services provided by An Post.
The closure of the Loughros Point sub office also meant
more business and additional pressure, as Friday morning
queues in the post office became a regular feature of village
life. Christmas queues were also quite impressive, and although
they were opportunities for good humoured conversation,
it was difficult for the person working behind the counter.
After closing the post office for the last time, a small
group adjourned to the Corner House for a drink, and here
Beatty and Pauline were pleasantly surpised to find themselves
being honoured by the Ardara Town Traders. Beatty received
a lovely bouquet and Pauline received a picture by local
artist, Stephen Bennett. The Town Traders were represented
by Josephine Sweeney, Cathie Kennedy, and Kathie Diver marking
in this pleasant way nearly a hundred years of Ardara postal
Courtesy of Susan Boyd Donegal Democrat 2002