Article by Cronan Scanlon

The craic was at least ninety for three Donegal sisters who got together for a very special occasion at the weekend.

Originally Gallagher from Meenacross, Maghery, outside Dungloe, the trio gathered for Rosie McBeth’s 99th birthday at her home in Strabane. Rosie was joined by her younger sisters, Eileen Carlin (96), who lives at Crossroads, Killygordon, and Bridget Bradley (95) who has also made the west Tyrone border town her home. With a combined age of almost 300 years, there was a lot of catching up to do. 

Younger brothers Jimmy (92) and John (85), who still live in Meenacross, and sister Anne (89) (Dublin) were, unfortunately, unable to attend. Another brother, Joe (Meenacross), passed away in 2020 aged 85 and sister, Molly, died in Scotland in 2015 at the age of 92.

At the birthday bash last weekend were the Gallagher sisters, from L to R: Eileen Carlin, Bridget Bradley and Rosie McBeth.

Speaking to Donegal Daily, Rosie gave an outline of her journey from The Rosses to Strabane. She said she met her late husband, Neil ‘The Barber’ McBeth, in Dungloe. Born and reared in Scotland, his family were from the Ramelton area. 

They ran the once-famous Campbell’s Hotel (now the Bridge Inn) in Dungloe and, later, the Barrack Brae pub and adjoining barber shop.

The couple subsequently moved to Strabane in 1967 where she opened a boarding house. 

A publican at heart, she took over what was then known as ‘The First and Last’ pub (later to become the Bridgend Bar) on Bridge Street. Going back to her roots, she went on to open The Rosses Bar (now Charlies Bar) in the town centre.

She gave up driving her car seven years ago, but ‘weather permitting’ now gets around the town on her mobility scooter.

Despite being resident in the North, Rosie says she’ll still qualify for the Centenarian Bounty – a big cheque from the President of Ireland – when she turns 100 next May. Of course, she admits, she’ll gladly accept the other one from King Charles too!

When asked what was the biggest change she witnessed in her 99 years, Rosie said it wasn’t the coming of electricity to the Rosses.

“The biggest changes I’ve seen were mobile phones and all that technology, not electricity,” she explained.

“The only technology we had at home when I was growing up was an old wireless with a wet and dry battery. We had to take the batteries into Dungloe to get them charged, and that’s where the nearest telephone was too.”

Rosie’s parents were James Joe Gallagher and Bridget (née O’Donnell). They also have strong historical ties to the islands off the west Donegal coast. James Joe, was from Inishfree and Bridget was from Meenmore, but both her parents came from Arranmore Island. Indeed, Bridget’s full cousin was none other than the famous Irish republican, socialist activist, politician and writer, Peader O’Donnell.

The Gallaghers were famous for, amongst other things, their great love and talent for traditional music. And that tradition has carried on through the McBeth and Bradley families. Needless to say, there was plenty of music, dance and craic in the McBeth household last weekend for Rosie’s 99th. And, they are already planning for the big 100th bash next year.