McGilloway's Way: In and Around Strangford Lough

McGilloway's Way: In and Around Strangford Lough

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Portaferry, Strangford Lough, Windy Hill




August 1991


25min 26sec







Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

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ITV, Northland Films ltd

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This episode of McGilloway's Way features areas around Strangford Lough, particularly the small town of Portaferry in County Down. Strangford Lough is the largest sea inlet in the British Isles and so it's of no surprise that there is an abundance of sea life, particularly seals. McGilloway informs the viewer of the differences between the common seal, which populate harbours, and the grey seal which comes from the Atlantic ocean, both of which can be found in Strangford. Stories of myth surround the common seal which have been said to have 'human like eyes', one such story is that they are fallen angels, another being that when Noah's Ark was full, the people were turned into seals so as to survive. 

Turning away from the sea to the sky above, the viewer is told that birds migrate to the Lough from all around the world, from Lapland to Arctic Canada. Particularly populous is the pale bellied Brent geese, with up to two-thirds of west Europe's population ending up at Strangford during the winter, before taking flight again at the start of spring.

Attention then shifts to the surrounding area of the Lough and, from the Windy Hill overlooking Portaferry, McGilloway takes the audience through park grounds, as nature stirs and the first signs of spring appear - plants of note are 'snowdrops' and 'forget-me-nots'. However, the hawthorn bush takes the spotlight, with the superstitions surrounding the plant explained. Both, the leaf and the flower lends themselves to tales, with the leaves considered by some as a deterrent to witches and, so, were once embossed on old churches. The flower, meanwhile, is a sign of an invitation to death, and so forbidden from homes.

The programme wraps up with local farmer, Robert Orr, chatting about a donkey's nature and their importance to the Christian religion.


McGilloway's Way stands as a precursor to Lesser Spotted Ulster with Joe Mahon.   

Oliver, or Olly McGilloway as he was widely known as, was the presenter of McGilloway's Way. The series was unexpectedly cut short due to McGilloway's untimely death in 1994. The programme was relaunched as Lesser Spotted Ulster with Joe Mahon as presenter and continues to be broadcast today.


Presented by Oliver McGilloway.

Produced by Denis Bradley.

Directed and edited by Paddy Stevenson.



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