What better way to taste the delights of Derrylin than in the company of two of its greatest champions!

Colourful local raconteur Vincey Martin may have been living in Lisnaskea for around 40 years, but his big heart is in the town with a population of almost 1,000 in the extended area, with the longest single street in Fermanagh.

And it’s citizens have a bit of that broad Cavan brogue ,as the Breffni county is only a few miles down the road.

Vincey’s brother-in-law is Martin McBrien, retired principal of St Aidan’s High School who is also a noted photojournalist and social historian of the town they both love so well.

It is a crisp May morning as Vincey and Martin give the Impartial Reporter a potted history of Doire Loinn or the ‘Oakgrove of the blackbirds’

Both are also staunch members of the Derrylin O’Connells GAA club which plays a big part in the life of the close-knit local community.

But in the world of horses, Derrylin has an All-Ireland Point to Point champion in’ Winged Leader’ which is owned and trained by David Christie Snr just outside the town.

The town is steeped in history from the Callowhill graveyard with headstones dating back to the C 17 and there is also the ruins of Corratrasna Castle which was built around 1611 for the Balfour family-but local tradition says it was built for Brian Maguire one of the last Gaelic chieftains.

Vincey outlined with some pride the wide range of shops and services available in the town and is “the longest village in Fermanagh if not in Ireland and is over a mile long.”

He is especially proud of St Aidan’s High School who are just after winning their third GAA All-Ireland title and the girls just missed out in their final.

Crust and Crumb who supply pizzas all over the country Brian McCaffrey and Sons Ltd, Steel Solutions is one of the main suppliers of steel in Northern Ireland and Mannok who have a work force of around 800 are the main employers in and around this prosperous town.

“We have to say that the contribution of the Quinn Group to this town since 1973 would be immeasurable.

“There was no work here and all of that changed and now Mannok are carrying on the torch and our most famous man would be David Christie, the horse trainer and his horse ‘Winged Leader’ has won 22 races.

“Derrylin is my home town and I am very proud to be from here and it is thriving village and most of my generation are still around here largely due to the employment given locally, initially by the Quinn Group.

Martin McBrien added that the original employment by Quinn also attracted in other people both national and non-national and “contributed hugely to the growth of Derrylin and that growth is on-going.

“The GAA is very important to the town and is the main activity centre and we have a walkway for the public and it gives a sense of belonging and a sense of loyalty and a sense of place.

Martin taught in St Aidan’s for 39 years and the last twelve of which were as Principal after he joined the staff in 1975.

“I saw many social and economic changes and the increase in employment greatly increased the school population as well.

“I started out as a photojournalist with the now defunct Fermanagh News, and I have a lot of photos of the village, but I enjoy it.

“Cross-community relations are very good here and as it is a rural village, and rural communities always have more of an inter-connection and all help each other out.”

Owing to its location on the main Dublin road, Derrylin has a huge volume of traffic passing through.

“If a person could stop the traffic here, they would make a fortune,” said VIncey.

On the cultural side the Derrylin/Teemore Heritage Society who organized a number of public events and Aughakillymaude Community Association has also organized events in its iconic location.

Meanwhile up in the Derrylin Pharmacy, it is all business as manager and Irvinestown native, Conor McQuaid explains how is central location attracts people from a wide area-including across the border in Cavan.

“We have a big shop here and we get a lot of people from the south as well and I have been here just over a year and a- half and I find the people here the very best.

“They look after me well anyway and we even get customers from as far away as Longford and Leitrim.

“Everybody looks after each other very well here and we have ten full time staff and we have part timers to work at the weekend.

“We cover a big area and we all get on very well and the businesses are all very well kept.”

Ivan Willis runs what he describes as a “1960’s style” filling station/garage, shop and place where you can get anything from heating oil to really good home- made jam” on the Lisnaskea.

His father Dessie founded the business in 1947 after he was wounded in the Second World War and the soft- spoken Ivan, who is a former engineer with Fermanagh District Council, and his brother John run the business  

“My father was wounded and captured by the Germans in Italy, but he never talked much about it.

“He started a bicycle shop, and it is here since and it has not changed much-but we have no bicycles.

“We are in a good location here on the road to Lisnaskea and we have a great cross community trade.

“Derrylin is a friendly village, and we all get on very well together.”

Ivan also owns a beautifully restored Corn Mill which is an accommodation centre and is a most historic spot.

“It worked as a corn mill up until the 1950s and my father Desmond bought it and he used to keep pheasants and other animals in it, and we have it rented out as tourist accommodation.

“The last miller to work in it was Owenie Gunn and he gave an interview to the BBC and it is a special place.”

Down in a very busy St Aidan’s High  School, retiring Principal Pat McTeggart is a happy man as he sits surrounded by an historic three Ulster trophies won by the boys and the girls just lost out on another Ulster title.

“Every boy in this school has an Ulster medal and we have about 85-90 boys playing football and that is some record and some of them have two Ulster medals.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for the boys and their trainer Richie O’Callaghan and also to all the clubs in the area.

“Our success is their success.

“It also raises the profile of the school as people now associate St Aidan’s with being Ulster champions and our intake is very healthy now.

“Sadly, the girls did not win an Ulster title, but they have set a mark.

“We have a total of 255 pupils at the school and ten years ago there was 169 pupils and the school was under pressure but the community rallied around and we survived and thrived.

“We are not just a sporting football school as we had a few musicals a few years ago and this year we were fourth in Northern Ireland in the top achieving schools.

“I am immensely proud of the school, and we are very much part of the community.”

Martin Hanna, manager of McDade’s Centra Supermarket said they were very much focused on their customers and the shop is very much a community hub.

“We are very conscious of the local people and would like to think that we are very much part of that community.

“We like to sponsor as many local activities as we can as they support us and recently. we provided fruit for the St Aidan’s football teams at half time.

“I am here for ten years now, and I have moved from Enniskillen and live here and very much feel part of the community.

“It is a great village and has great people and we have a cross- border trade that is second to none.”

Finally, we got to see a real champion 10-year-old thoroughbred gelding aptly title ‘Winged Leader”at the stables of top trainer David Christie just outside the town of Derrylin as the sun peeped out as a crisp wind blew up the yard.

David Jnr was our genial host as he proudly paraded the All-Ireland champion so that John McVitty could capture for posterity.

“We usually have around 35 horses in here during the season.

“My father set up all of this in 2007 and he had been training horses in the Agricultural College before that.

“Fermanagh is not a racing county, but my dad has done pretty well so far.

“Winged Leader is from ‘Winged Love’ and he is one of the last of his kind to be raced.

“Dad bought him as a five- year- old and he has won nine point- to points in row which was unbelievable, and he has won the All-Ireland title which was great.

“And he was just pipped by Billaway from the Willie Mullins stable in Cheltenham a few years ago

“We also have Vaucelet, a French horse who is quite a performer as well.

“This a beautiful location but so is Fermanagh,”

And so is Derrylin, teeming with life and all sorts of activities in our lovely land of wood and water.