USUALLY when books are written with a rural Donegal setting, they tend to generally fill up with the usual tropes—a thatched cottage, the straw roof with a donkey and cart thrown in somewhere along the way. No News at Throat Lake, however, takes a uniquely modern and humour-filled story told through the memories of a journalist spending time in Creeslough.
Told through the persona of Lawrence Donegan, a Scottish-born journalist and former musician, the story takes place in the late 1990s. We come to know this through his subtle references to the era of the Britpop music scene—when bands like Oasis, Blur and Pulp were topping the charts—and through his mentions of the ongoing Clinton-Lewinski White House scandal.
What the writer does so well in this book is account his bemusement and wonder about life in this particular part of the world. Having previously spent much of his life and career in more cosmopolitan surroundings in Glasgow and London, Creeslough must’ve seemed like a world apart for him.
Something that makes Donegan come across well in the story is that he is not afraid to be self-deprecating. As the outsider looking in, it’s not that the local farmers or smalltown journalists are the butt of the jokes. He’s quite happy to ridicule himself. This comes across very early on when he recalls the horror he felt when helping two brothers de-horn a rather irate bull in the build up to market day.
There are numerous other enjoyable anecdotes that he takes us through. Signing up to St Michael’s GAA Club in order to learn Gaelic football for the first time as he bid to help their Junior B side survive a relegation battle. Even if, by his own admission, he did his level best to avoid touching the ball during his first training game.
How Donegan comes to know about the county comes through his work with the Mildord-based newspaper, the Tirconnaill Tribune. No doubt this was a far cry from his days when he plied his services to the more illustrious working offices of The Guardian. Nonetheless, he seemed to fully embrace the opportunities it led him to meeting and—briefly— interviewing Meryl Streep for the launch of Dancing at Lughnasa in Glenties probably being the pick of the bunch.
Although much of the story is based in Creeslough, it does give great nods to places like Letterkenny, Downings, Ramelton, Derry and Tory Island to name but a few. You get the feeling that Donegan did his utmost to study the social history and scenery of the county in a fairly effortless, and sometimes hungover, manner. And yet it comes across so well to the reader.
There’s no doubt that had he got this wrong and depicted Donegal natives in a bad light, there would have been a backlash. This isn’t the case however. Through humorous storytelling and by not being afraid to occasionally poke fun at himself, Lawrence Donegan successfully covers the ups and the downs that go hand-in-hand with life in Donegal.
No News at Throat Lake is superbly written and highly amusing. It’s certainly not your typical travel memoir and it’s a witty account of a summer to be remembered. A summer he spent right here in the Hills.
Follow Johnny Foley on Twitter: @JohnnyFoley1984. Keep up to date with his new podcast on Twitter too: @ArmchairFanatic