The birds were singing as the February sun shone over the rocky hills of Coa, where perched on the top of a hill sits Coa Community Hall.

Inside, a brightly-painted mural paints a picture of the activities at the heart of this rural community: the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band, Old Tyme Dancing, and bowls.

Coa is small – only a townland – but the community there has a heart bigger than some of the villages in the area.





When asked to sum up the people of Coa in one word, Tony Harte, a former Secretary of Coa Community Hall, said: “Volunteers.”


Tony Harte

Tony Harte


He continued: “People are always ready at the drop of a hat to do something for you. For a small area, the support is unbelievable.

“We have a brilliant community. If we have a party, dances, quizzes, charities, funeral lunches – the help is fantastic. At the drop of a hat, everybody appears out of nowhere.

“We have great facilities. The hall is a great facility with its proximity to the church, the post office, etc.”

Mr. Harte recently authored a book recalling Coa school days which caused great reminiscing in the area.

“We did a wee photographic exhibition back in November. It was brilliant; about 300 people came through the door to see it and, as a result, we published a book.”

Mr. Harte described how he has handed over the running of the community hall to “capable young hands”, namely new Chairman, Fergal Trainor, and his wife, Frances, who serves as Secretary.


Fergal and Frances Trainor

Fergal and Frances Trainor


Mrs. Trainor summed up the idyllic nature of the area: “We were going to Mass last night, and you were driving down and it's like a wee village, as the houses were all lit up. It was lovely.”

Both described the packed itinerary of the hall, from pilates to boxercise, to rehearsals for the pipe band, to a very active bowls scene, as well as the Old Tyme Dance which has endured in popularity.

A fresh addition to the hall is badminton, which has become a popular fixture for teenagers.

The sport has risen in popularity in Fermanagh, and the hall received a grant from Halifax to paint sports lines, which are put to good use.

Summing up what is special about the area, Mr. Trainor said: “It is one of those areas – we have all our friends from school when we were young.

“We went to Irvinestown school, as Coa was part of Irvinestown parish, but now the children go to Mullanskea.

“We have band practice on a Tuesday; I’ve been in it since I was about 11.

“The band was 200[-strong] in 2015, and is one of the oldest in Ireland, but it has dwindling numbers.”

Mrs. Trainor added: “They play every St. Patrick’s Day at the chapel, and there is something very emotional about it.”

Hailing from neighbouring Lisbellaw, but now at the heart of the community, she laughed and said: “I’ll always be a blow-in!

“Another neighbour told me, ‘You’re on your provisional licence, but I don’t know if you’ll ever get your full licence’, and that was about ten years ago!”

The recent storms and poor weather could not keep dancers away from Coa, where people come from near and far to enjoy the Old Tyme Dances.


Patricia Moohan

Patricia Moohan


They are welcomed to the dance by Patricia Moohan, who serves tea and home-made bread to the dancers.

The dance is on the third Friday night of every month, with people coming from all over, including Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal and Glenfarne.

Describing the atmosphere, Mrs. Moohan said: “It is social dancing, two-hand dancing, barn dance, Polka, Jiving, Shoe the Donkey ... The minute the band clicks on the stage, the floor is full.”

In addition, she helps with the bowls, and the hall is preparing for a pair tournament coming up from March 5 to March 7.

As for her reason for helping, she simply said: “I like to keep it going”, before explaining how the community “dig in” together, especially for funeral teas, which are hosted in the hall.

“If you are off, you dig in, and give a hand if you are free. I love being part of [the community support here]; the time my husband died, it was lovely to have.

“If you go back to a hotel [for funeral teas], you can only bring a few people, while here they are asked by the priest at the altar and if they come, they come.”


Anne McCarney

Anne McCarney


The once traditional country post office which was run out of a home in a small community is no longer as common as it once was, but the tradition remains in Coa, where Anne McCarney is a fourth-generation postmistress.

She explained how the family dynasty came about: “It was started by my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father and mother and I took it up and brought it up to here [to her home] and converted this wee bedroom into the Post Office, our Martin slept in here.

The Post Office has changed but never the less it still plays a vital role in the community, she explained.

“It is not as busy as it used to be, but anything you can do in a bank now, you can do it a post office. A lot of parcels and returns.

“I have people come here to do their banking, instead of going to Enniskillen, trying to get parked.

“A few customers would like to come and sit out. Sometimes people will end up in the kitchen for a cup of coffee.”

Summing up her connection to the area, Mrs. McCarney said: “I was born in the house down there, and I will end up just across the ditch there [in the nearby graveyard].”

Elsewhere in the Parish, Eleanor Farry is making history as the first female Chair of the Coa O’Dwyers GAA Club, where Mrs. Farry says she will do her best in her new role.


Eleanor Farry

Eleanor Farry


“The GAA is another family”, she said, explaining her passion for the club.

“It is good for the young to have their sport, and they are all involved in other sports as well. Sport unites everybody.”

Mrs. Farry spoke with pride about those who play from the area. She said: “Our Ladies [players] go to Tempo, but one of our Coa ladies, Shannon McQuade, is the Fermanagh Captain.

“We have a good Senior team, and the wee underage team, the underage is here in the hall on a Sunday morning, and it is well supported.”

You would be forgiven for thinking that a lady with such a passion for the area was born and bred there, but Mrs. Farry moved to the area upon her marriage.

“I got him to Ederney for a few years, but then he took me to Coa!” she laughed.


Colm Donnelly

Colm Donnelly


Elsewhere, Colm Donnelly, who sits on the Development Committee for the club, said: “We are known as the smallest club in Ulster – that is a fact. I would say we have the biggest heart in Ireland!”

He praised the volunteers within the community. “Coa is a unique area; the communication skills in this area are unbelievable, and everyone here seems to gel together and work together, and that’s the most important thing.

“It's all voluntary work; no one gets paid for any of these groups,” he added.

Mr. Donnelly described the ambitious development programme, which aims to have a floodlit walking track installed at the club grounds, for the benefit of the while community.

He noted that the GAA club has a strong link with sports clubs including Ballinamallard Football Club and Enniskillen Rugby Club.

He sees the value in having sport at the heart of the community. “We put a lot of emphasis on youth in this area, as unfortunately, our youth moved out, people got married, left the area, and now we are housing them here and keeping them here.

“We have no school, no shops, so we focus on community spirit. We also work in conjunction with people on their own, older people or widowed people.”

Mr. Donnelly added: “This is the most close-knit area I have ever come across, having worked all across Northern Ireland.”


Jayne Paget

Jayne Paget


A hidden gem in neighbouring Garvary is the Croft Farm Shop, operated by the Paget family.

Jayne Paget spoke of her pride in the area and the customers who seek out the hidden gem of a café and farm shop.

“We have lovely customers here and local support. We have a lot of visitors who call – I don’t know how everybody finds us!

“We started as the jam business with the Erin Grove; coming out of the pandemic we opened what was a farm shop, and we put in a coffee machine and it took off.”

Mrs. Paget added: “We still have the local artisan producers; there are people like us who do things on a small scale.

“Everything is made in-house here, and everything is made from local products, and our menu is designed to use our artisan products.”