At The End Of The Day provides a look at life in Donegal during the early 1800s. The plot mainly follows the relationship of Matthew Lyons and Nuala Green, from the time they first meet, to the time they become engaged to be married, and also the events leading up to their meeting.


Set in Bruckless in 1813, the show opens with a fishing fleet landing the catch from the previous night (Life On The Sea). A local elderly woman, Biddy Devenney, accompanied by a young neighbour girl, arrives at the pier. As usual, she is hoping to pick up some free fish (The Best Things In Life Are Free) from the fishermen’s allocation from the catch (dole fish). However, the fishermen have decided that she has had enough free fish and refuse her. Later that night, at Biddy’s house, Biddy places a curse on the fleet (The Spirit of Tarrach). Biddy places a bowl on the water in the basin and does incantations over the basin. The bowl sinks in the water in the basin, and at the same time, all the boats in Bruckless Bay are suddenly capsized.

Some years later, George Vaughan Hart meets with Henry Francis Conyngham (Earl of Mountcharles). Both are the Members of Parliament for Donegal. They discuss a recent report which indicates that exports from Ireland are down again. They come up with a plan to boost the trade of weaved cloth and yarns in their constituency (I Have A Plan).

A few months later, Matthew Lyons' father enquires why Matthew has not been out fishing since the tragedy in Bruckless. Matthew informs him that he has decided to make his living from yarn instead. Matthew’s father advises him to stick with what he knows (In The Real World), but will still support him whatever he does. The following day, Matthew sets up a stall selling fine yarns at the Fair Day in Dungloe (A Day At The Fair). He has a quiet day initially, but one of his potential customers is a young girl from Arranmore Island called Nuala Green. The other traders take a hand at Matthew about Nuala, but Matthew strikes up a conversation with her. They talk at length, and discover that they have many interests in common. They arrange to meet up at a ceili in Nuala’s sister’s house, on the evening of the next Fair Day. At the ceili, Nuala, who is a keen dancer, introduces Matthew to the latest dance craze (Nuala’s Waltz).

A month later, at the Fair Day, Nuala invites Matthew to Arranmore. Matthew tells Nuala the story of the Bruckless disaster (Twenty Four Sailing Boats), and how he lost many family friends that fateful night. He also reveals that he has a fear of going out to sea since the disaster, and doubts if he would be able to make the journey to Arranmore Island. Act one closes with Nuala reassuring that she will always be there for him (I’ll Be Here).


Act two opens in a yarn factory in Kilcar. Patrick Hegarty, one of Matthew’s workmates, is celebrating an improvement in trade (Things Are Looking Better Now). Hearing Patrick and co-worker Bridget O’Donnell talking about matchmaking, Matthew asks Patrick about how he met his wife, and how their marriage had been arranged (The Best Decision We Never Made). Realising that it is unlikely that his parents and Nuala’s parents will ever meet, and therefore will not ever arrange his marriage to Nuala, Matthew must arrange it himself. He also reveals that he is infatuated with Nuala (She Is Always On My Mind).

Meanwhile, back in London, George Vaughan Hart again meets with Henry Francis Conyngham. They come up with another plan, this time to repeal the Irish Stills Fine Bill, which had been enacted for the purpose of suppressing the illicit distillation of spirits in Ireland, with consequences for their constituents, and themselves (I Have A Plan - Reprise). A few days later, at Glen Head, Matthew notices a house fire on Arranmore, and reaffirms that he must arrange his marriage to Nuala (She Is Always On My Mind - Reprise).

At the next Fair Day in Dungloe, Matthew anxiously awaits Nuala’s arrival. She has been delayed after attending a mass on Arranmore, and also because of fog on the journey from Arranmore. Matthew asks Nuala if they could be married (I Was Meant To Be With You), and Nuala says yes, but she will need to get permission from her parents. As they might not see each other until the next Fair Day in a month’s time, Matthew is concerned that he will not know their fate until then. Nuala suggests that if permission is granted, she will light a bonfire on one of the highest peaks on Arranmore Island, and he will be able to see the bonfire from Glen Head, near his home. They arrange a time of just after dusk the following evening (When The Sun In The Sky Meets The Sea).

That evening, Nuala heads to Arranmore, but there is a thick fog at the port in Burtonport, and she cannot travel to the island. She is offered a ride to her sister's house, where her parents are now staying. The fog could last for days, so Nuala vows that she will not let this setback prevent her from getting permission to marry from her parents, and then letting Matthew know the answer (I Will Find A Way).

The following day, in a yarn factory in Kilcar, Patrick reassures Matthew that despite the fog he may still be able to see the island from Glen Head. Matthew arrives at the signal tower as dusk approaches, only to find the head covered in low lying cloud, and visibility down to a few yards. He wonders how he will know if the bonfire is lit on Arranmore (How Will I Know?). Matthew resigns himself to the fact that he will not know the answer on that day. As he does, out of the fog, Nuala, having obtained permission, joins him at the signal tower (I’ll Be Here - Reprise).