‘Tara the Jack Russell terrier’ saves the day for Sean-nós singing festival in Falcarragh

Tara with Corn Éamoinn GhráinneThe actions of a dog from Falcarragh are drawing comparisons with the heroics of Pickles,the famous mongrel who found the World Cup after it had been stolen three months before the 1966 world cup finals in London.

Tara, a three year old Jack Russell terrier, is being feted in the Gaeltacht village this week after retrieving a trophy that went missing from An tSean Bheairic, the arts and cultural centre in Falcarragh.

The Corn Chuimhneacháin Éamonn Ghráinne (or the Éamonn Ghráinne memorial cup) a trophy awarded to the winner of a prestigious sean-nós singing competition was reported missing last Thursday evening when a member of staff noticed it was gone from the storage room.

Despite an extensive search of the venue, the staff could not locate the trophy and the cup remained missing for four days. All hope of finding the trophy seemed lost, and An tSean Bheairic were fearful that Minister Joe Mc Hugh would have no cup to present to the winner of the sean-nós competition, due to be held this day next week in Óstán Loch Altan, Gortahork (Friday the 26th of June). However, last Sunday, thanks to a stroke of good fortune, Tara the terrier saved the day by sniffing out the trophy in a patch of overgrowth in the car park at the rear of the venue.

Tara’s owner, Máire Ní Chasaide, who is the manager of an tSean Bheairc, had called to the venue on Sunday evening to check on a faulty alarm. On her return to her car, Máire let Tara out of the car so the dog could have a short run about and do “her business” before facing a long journey to Glencolmcille. That is when she noticed Tara rummaging in a piece of overgrowth next to a skip, and saw that something was grabbing the dog’s attention. “I went over to see what Tara was sniffing and scratching at”, Máire said, “and to my amazement, I saw a number of items in the bushes with something shiny in the middle of them. It was the cup. I was absolutely delighted”.

It's not clear how the trophy ended up under the overgrowth in the first place, but Máire thinks the cup may have being inadvertently dumped during a spring-clean of the venue last week. The trophy had being packed in a cardboard box along with other items, and the manager believes the box may have being mistaken for items of rubbish and thrown onto the skip. “As the skip was full, the box and its contents may have fallen into the overgrowth”, Ní Chasaide said. Speaking about the incident, she said the following:

“We are absolutely delighted that Tara helped find this very important trophy. The Éamoinn Ghráinne sean-nós competition is one of the most important events we organise. The competition and cup are named after the late Éamoinn Ghráinne Mac Ruairí of Tory Island and Falcarragh, who was highly respected as a singer, musician and folklorist and is acknowledged as one of the masters of the Donegal sean-nós singing tradition. Some of the best exponents of sean-nós singing in the county participate in this prestigious competition and it would have being catastrophic to have lost a trophy that means a lot to so many people. ”

Although, the recovery of the Éamoinn Ghráinne Commemoration cup may not have quite the worldwide appeal of Pickles and the saga of the 1966 world cup trophy, Tara has nonethelessachieved celebrity status among the staff and regular patrons of an tSean Bheairic. And like Pickles the dog, Tara is also to be handsomely rewarded for her heroics. Josie Doohan, the chairman of an tSean Bheairic said: “Those of us who remember the story of Pickles and the World cup trophy will know that particular dog became an international celebrity and was rewarded with a year's free supply of dog food. Although, we are unable to match that, as a retired butcher I can guarantee that Tara will be presented with the best quality prime T-bone steak to be got in Donegal”. Ní Casaide said she rewarded Tara with a few treats from an tSean Bheairic’s café and with a long walk on Ballyness beach, “Tara’s favorite walk”.

The family of Éamonn Ghráinne Mac Ruairí singing at last year's cometition

The Corn Cuimhneacháin Éamonn Ghráinne (or the Éamonn Ghráinne memorial cup) will be held on Friday 26th of June in Óstan Loch Altan, Gortahork. The Minister of state Joe Mc Hugh TD will be on hand to present the trophy. The competition is the flagship event of the Sean Bheairic’s Arts and Cultural festival which takes place next weekend. Full information on the event and on the festival can be obtained at www.falcarraghvisitorcentre.com