Rambling House radio series

In late 2009, the BAI commissioned a six-part series of hour long programmes which were recorded and broadcast on local station, Inishowen Community Radio. Called 'Rambling House', the idea was to conjure up a treasure trove of stories and lore about the unique area that is the Inishowen peninsula, as told by some of its most colourful local characters. These stories have been passed on to these locals from generation to generation and we are delighted to offer this audio archive for a new generation to enjoy.

Now in 2021, the full series has been remastered and broken down into approximately 140 audio clips over the six episodes and seven hours, including plenty of previously unheard footage. There's plenty of local music thrown in, poems, recitations and a fair few unexpected guests along the way. Click here for full Audioboom series link and here for full Spotify series link.

"There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling."

Jimmy Neil Smith, International Storytelling Centre Director

All hail the Rambling Reporters!

Steering the whole show along were two great characters of Inishowen, J.P. Bradley (left) and Tony McLaughlin (right). Close friends for years, these are the voices you hear giving the overview at the start of each episode: Tony's voice has the slower drawl while J.P.'s is gravelly and full of mischief. J.P. won't mind us thanking Tony in particular as researcher and writer of much of the background material. Without Tony, the gem we now have to enjoy would simply never have happened - he had the contacts and he sure knew the stories. A special debt of gratitude and appreciation goes to Tony as we reissue this remastered series of Rambling House.

1. Malin Head - living off the land

Date: 20th August 2009
: Willy the Pet's old rambling house, Backlands, Malin Head

Theme: Living off the land. In 1947, Malin Head was cut off from the rest of the country due to the Big Snow. Six weeks later when the melt came, the locals were found to have flourished. 
Highlights: 3) Preparing for Winter in the 40's, 17) Crawford the henman, 22) Having some earn about the house!
Notes: Willy the Pet was the nickname for William McLaughlin who as the youngest sibling was regarded as his mother's pet and thus the name.
Spotify playlist: Yes.

2. The Poitín Republic

Date: 3rd September 2009
Setting: Dan's cottage, Urrishmanagh, Inishowen
Theme: The area from Mamore down past Urris to Dunaff was known as 'The Poitín Republic' for several years of the early 1800s, a self-governing region renowned for its moonshine. We delve deeper beyond the myths and look at some of the sad realities brought about by this 'integral part of farming'.
Highlights: 2) Poitín intro, 18) Uisce Beatha, 20) Libyan poitín case! 
Notes: Dan's Cottage was an authentic thatched cottage where stories and songs were performed on Thursdays during July and August.
Spotify playlist: Yes.

3. Border Tales of Donegal/Derry

Date: 10th September 2009
Setting: Sam Laird's house, Lenamore near Muff, Inishowen
Theme: Sam Laird's house, known as The Flough referring to the marshy soil around it, was in its day was a notorious smuggling house along the border on which it sits. Where better to set an evening's recording on the many border smuggling tales?
Highlights: 2) BT overview, 9) A smaller border? 13) Winter Willy
Notes: Essential listening on partition's centenary year, but also to hear the ingenuity of the locals when facing adversity..
Promo video: Yes.
Spotify playlist: Yes.

4. The Big Night in White Harra's

Date: 1st October 2009
Setting: 'Dinnygal', Shandram, near Buncrana
Theme: 'The Big Night' is what a rambling house in Inishowen provided and the absolute best one going was in McLaughlin's of Shadram, now home to Dinny 'White Harra' McLaughlin. 
Highlights: 3) tribute, 17) first session 18) only eight notes!
Notes: The evening was a tribute to Dinny's immense contribution to the musical heritage of Inishowen as well as revealing some choice tales of the locality. 
Spotify playlist
: Yes.

5. Greencastle's Maritime Heritage

Date: 15th October 2009
Setting: The Cairn theatre, Drumaweir Upper, Greencastle
Theme: As the premier fishing port in Inishowen and the gateway to the Foyle estuary, Greencastle has a long maritime heritage with many tales to tell. 
Highlights: 11) long haul 17) WW2 role 21) Foyle's many visitors
Notes: Patsy Cavanagh made us welcome in his Cairn theatre, but it was Rambling Reporter Tony McLaughlin who was in his element as a lifetime sea lover. His impeccable research and enthusiasm ensured it was a busy night with much ground/sea covered! 
Spotify playlist:

6. Superstitions on trial!

Date: Friday 13th November 2009
Setting: The Courthouse, Carndonagh
Theme: The Twilight Court was a mock trial looking at the pros and cons of the superstitions of Ireland with the audience as jury. 
Highlights: 3) Love 10) Seven things fairies hate 17) Paudge's big case
Notes: This was a Friday 13th to remember with a fun-filled night of comedy and music, as well as legends in the form of Eddie Lenihan and Paudge Dorrian telling their tales too!
Dedicated webpage: Yes.
Promo video:

Credit where it is due


From left: contributor Dessie McCallion, sound recordist Marie McDonald and director Seoirse O'Dochartaigh. Thanks also to all musicians and attendees for their support throughout.


Thanks to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for funding under their Sound and Vision scheme and to Inishowen Community Radio  for broadcasting the series.


From left: contributors Dr. Sean Beattie, the late Bertie Brice (the series' talisman), Dermot McLaughlin and particular thanks for delicious catering week in week out to Anne McLaughlin.

Secrets of storytelling

Feel you can tell a story but are looking for a bit of inspiration from a pro? Hear top tips from two of the best in Ireland, Scotland's very own Rab Fulton and Donegal's own Keith Corcoran. Many thanks for the insights, gents!

Want more on Donegal?

Ireland's most beautiful county has a lot going for it besides the wonders of Inishowen. Below is our Spotify playlist which serves as an eight-hour soundscape for the county with dozens of stories and music associated with the county. To find out more, go to our sister site's dedicated page on the project which evolved as part of National Heritage Week 2021.