Arriving in Swanlinbar, or Swad as it is fondly known by locals, the village was fairly quiet but for a tractor driving through the town. The farmer smiled and nodded a hello as he drove past, his sheepdog wagging its tail happily as it enjoyed the ride.

It was a warm welcome to the rural Border village, one we continued to receive as we met it’s business owners and residents on a rather cold autumnal afternoon.

Although the town was quiet, O’Reilly’s shop and filling station in the centre was busy with people coming and going.

Michael O’Reilly (pictured right), who runs the business with his wife Breda, explained that they opened 25 years ago.

“The Border had just been opened up and we had the freedom of being able to go up and down,” he said, noting how he is very grateful for the support from the local community and across the Border: “This is Kinawley Parish here, it straddles the Border so we have people coming across the Border all the time. They come for the fuel, the shop and the lottery.”

He explained that on a Monday night, Swanlinbar becomes very busy because of the Bingo which is run by St. Mary’s GFC.

“The GAA club is a great thing [for the village], involving all communities. There’s a great community spirit,” said Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “The Bingo brings people to Swad on a Monday night from as far away as 40 miles. It’s a drive-in Bingo where you can sit in your car.

“You can go in your wellingtons if you want,” he added with a laugh.

Susie Maguire left Swanlinbar when she was 18 to go live in Hertfordshire.

However, she later returned home to the village, and set up her hairdressing business Susie’s Hair Salon over 30 years ago.

“I used to come home to the festival. The festival was brilliant and my grandparents and relations were here, so I always kind of knew that I’d come back anyway,” said Ms. Maguire.

She described Swanlinbar as a “lovely, quiet place”.

“It’s always been a very nice kind of place. For children growing up, it’s a great little spot.”

Talking about businesses based in the area, she noted how the Cuilcagh Cafe opened earlier this year at Trivia House, a guesthouse which is currently housing Ukrainian families.

“That’s open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and it’s brought the people together. It’s great, you can get dinners and coffee.

“We also have Barry Brogan’s the Butchers,” said Ms. Maguire, commenting that she would love to see more businesses come to the area.

“Really there’s just [O’Reilly’s shop and filling station], myself and the butchers now. But when I first came here there were two clothes shops, there were lots of little trinket shops.

“When I came there were 12 or 13 pubs. Now we’re down to one, The Swan. We have the doctors and there is a good business outside the village called Priors which sells fruit and veg.

“Stanley Melanaphy, he used to do mushrooms but he has changed his business to engineering, where he makes cattle trailers,” she added.

Like Ms. Maguire, Eugene McGovern lived away from Swanlinbar for a number of years before deciding to return to the village.

“I lived in America for about 30 years. I came back in the 1990s and now I go back and forth,” he said as he stopped to talk as he walked his very friendly Scottish Terrier, Disney.

When asked what he likes about living back home in Swad, Mr. McGovern said: “There’s good fresh air. There’s lots of walks around the place and everything.”

Going on to share some history of the village, Mr. McGovern noted that Swanlinbar was the first village “lit with electricity” in County Cavan back in the 1950s.

Pointing over towards a building which he explained had the old mill situated at the back, he added: “That’s where the guy produced the electricity from. I was born but I was too young to remember.”

Down the road, in Trivia House, we met with its manager Tony McGovern (pictured below), who went into more detail about the iron mill in the village.

He explained that Swanlinbar was named after the four founders of the iron mill in the 1750s, and at one point was known as Swadlinbar, hence why locals call it ‘Swad’.

Mr. McGovern described how one of the murals in the village, which was painted by artist Kevin McHugh, depicts a blacksmith in honour of Swanlinbar’s iron mill heritage.

He said: “The mill produced iron ore at the time, but it was known as pig iron because it wasn’t great quality. When you look at the mural again, you’ll see a pig and piglets. [Kevin] has it artistically done that it looks like a load of piglets.”

Throughout the town there are various other murals including one of Gulliver’s Travels.

Noting the relevance of this mural to the village, Mr. McGovern shared a story about Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels whose uncle Godwin Swift was one of the four founders of the iron mill.

“Jonathan Swift used to come down here in the summer months to visit his uncle. One day he was out in the bog and he got lost in the fog, he couldn’t see where he was going.

“In the distance he could see the wee light of the house so he went down to the house. There was a Mrs. Gallagher living in the house who told him he couldn’t go out until the fog lifts,” he said, explaining that Mr. Swift sat down on a rocking chair by the fire.

“Jonathan Swift had lovely long hair at the time, in the 18th century. There were two little boys in the house, Paddy and Mick, aged eight and six. They seen an opportunity with Jonathan asleep in the chair so they tied his hair to the rocking chair. When he woke up, he couldn’t move, hence the inspiration for Lilliput.”

The Cuilcagh Cafe, which is based in Trivia House is run by Trish O’Reilly.

“I have a great team of staff behind me that makes the business a great success,” she said, adding that she is grateful for all the local support from the community and surrounding areas.

Ms. O’Reilly currently lives outside the village but has lived in the area all her life.

“It’s just a nice quiet and idyllic [place]. Everybody knows everybody.

“Whoever you meet on the street, it’s always somebody that you know so you can always have a conversation,” she said, adding that it’s a very friendly place to live.

She explained that the village has a “very good” bus service.

“Martin Leydon does a bus service up to Cavan every day, I think twice a day and he goes to Enniskillen once a day - he’s got a double decker.”

Throughout Swanlinbar there are plenty of family connections, which adds to the strong community spirit.

Local undertaker Michael Leydon, whose brother Martin is the local bus driver, commented that “everybody helps each other out”.

“We are a very, very close community,” he said.