County Donegal Historical Society

Past Events


Here we keep a record of the highlights of our annual proceedings, mainly photographs and news that featured on the NEWS page but removed when no longer topical.




Launch of Donegal Annual 2012



Rory Kavanagh was welcomed to the launch of the 2012 "Donegal Annual" by our President, An Dr. Oirmh. Pádraig Ó Baoighill. As our President said, Rory as a member of the current Donegal GAA team, has already contributed to the sporting history of this county with the winning of the Sam Maguire Cup in Croke Park in September.

Rory then spoke and delivered a most eloquent speech in which he acknowledged the importance of history in all our lives and he realised through his profession as a teacher the immense value of encouraging his pupils to appreciate their rich history and culture. He really enjoyed the Annual and said that the article on the history of hurling in the county told him much he was unaware of.

After the speeches it was time for tea and light refreshments and an opportunity for photographs and Rory was more than happy to oblige.



Rory Kavanagh and our President, An Dr. Oirmh. Pádraig Ó Baoighill.










The County Donegal Historical Society's 2012 Annual has just been published and among its 160 pages are articles covering every locality in the county. What follows is a dip into this superb publication.

Alastair Lings has carried out extensive research on the history of silica sand quarrying on Muckish mountain, a fascinating insight into how a sophisticated industrialised endeavour impinged on the lives of those in the Ards district and the role of the local landlord - the whole enterprise being dedicated to glass production across the water.

Inishowen features in several articles, eg Archaeology in Inishowen (Henry Doherty); Tip O'Neill's Buncrana links (Leonard Roarty); and William O'Doherty, M.P., North Donegal, 1900-1905 (Seán Beattie).

Ecclesiastical history is thoroughly examined, eg Church of Ireland Parish Churches in the Donegal Group (Canon Harry Trimble); St. Isodore's College, Rome and Donegal (Canon Bernard J. Canning) and Stair Eaglasta Bhaile na Finne ( An tAthair Pádraig Ó Baoighill).

And of course the significance of fishing in the history of the county is recognised with the Bruckless Bay fishing disaster (Aidan Mc Connell) and Fisheries on the Donegal coast, 1836 (Frank Sweeney).

All aspects of Donegal's history are thoroughly catered for. Read here the story of Neal McNamee from Convoy who lost his life on the Titanic. Sports historians will enjoy Martin McGonigle's in-depth research into hurling in Donegal before the time of the GAA. Rev. Raymond Blair writes about an abduction that took place in Fermanagh in 1839, the abductor was Thomas Russell from Castlefinn and the victim was Miss Catherine Hoey from Irvinestown.

Mingled among all those articles are wonderful little gems such as Donegal Design, 1950 by Alan Hemmings. He relates how he decided to set up a small textile enterprise in Dungloe. One of his initial headaches is that all the looms and other equipment ordered from England were transported by mistake to Dunloe, Co. Kerry and took quite a while to reach Donegal. Let's not spoil things by telling you any more than that!

This Annual documents all work of the Society during the year; it's a great credit to Seán Beattie and his editorial team. The cover is a painting of Raphoe Castle in 1800AD by Jane Allott. It is available from major bookshops across the county. Full information about the Society and how to become a member are on the Society's website at www.donegalhistory.com.




Field Day on Rutland island, August 2012

Rutland island, or Inis Mhic a'Duirn, its original name, lies a few miles off Burtonport and is a quiet hidden gem these days. Hundreds of years ago, however, it was a bustling, commercial fishing enterprise, a jewel in the crown. Dr. Pádraig O'Baoighill, our President, welcomed us all to the island and handed proceedings over to Seán Boner, an Arranmore native and our guide for the afternoon. We heard about the island's former landlord, Col. Burton Conyngham who named the island after the then Lord Lieutenant and who is himself immortalised in the mainland village of Burtonport. In 1784 and 1785, 300 boats landed £40,000 of herrings in each of those years so a street of houses was built on the island for the employees and their families along with ancillary stores to handle the bumper harvest. Fishing vessels from England and Scotland frequented Rutland.

In 1798 a French corvette, the Anacréon, landed and on board was General James Napper Tandy, one of the chief organisers of the United Irishmen along with 180 Frenchmen. This is without doubt the best-known incident in Rutland's history and vividly described by Rupert S. O'Cochlain's article, "Napper Tandy's raid on Rutland in 1798". (Donegal Annual, 1970) We stood at the plaque erected around the spot where he came ashore. So famous did Napper Tandy become that several years later Napoleon refused to sign a treaty with England until Napper Tandy was safely back on French soil. Rutland became deserted around the late 1960's and holiday homes are now starting to be seen there, including the original street. Nevertheless, this is a place of stillness and silence these days in contrast to previous centuries, a scenic oasis in this corner of the Rosses.

Seán also outlined for us the fascinating history of its nearest neighbour, Inishcoo, but that's another story or maybe another Field Day.






FIELD DAY IN STRANORLAR, JULY 2012

Our second Field Day of 2012 was in Stranorlar Parish Church and its adjoining graveyard. Aubrey Oliver, the Church Archivist, was our guide for the occasion.

The Church of Ireland has a long history in this area dating back to the late 1500's. By 1622, the Parish Church is decayed and is being repaired at the parishioners' expense.

Over the centuries the Church has undergone several enlargements and, of course, maintenance, with donations of fittings installed during all this time in memory of parishioners and this continues up to the present. For example, in 2000AD new quarter foil stained glass windows were added and in 2009 a new lighting system was fitted. The graveyard contains headstones dating back centuries and Aubrey took us around many of the graves. Isaac Butt is buried here (his father Robert was Curate from 1814 to 1829) and also the family of Frances Browne, the blind poetess. (She herself is buried in Richmond upon Thames). Many of those interred here were in military service in Europe and Africa, all now at their rest in the tranquillity of this secluded corner of the Finn valley.

The afternoon ended with light refreshments in the nearby hall. We also had the opportunity to peruse old parish records and the magnificent penmanship skills from more than a century ago was the focus of much praise. The CDHS would like to thank most sincerely Rev. Tony Adamson, who welcomed us warmly to his Church; Mr. Aubrey Oliver, our guide and the staff of the hall who had tea and refreshments waiting for us at the end of our visit.






Isle of Doagh Field Day ( June 24th 2012)

Our first Field Day of 2012 was to the Isle of Doagh, near Clonmany, with Marius Harkin and some of his colleagues as our guides.

The first stop was Carrickabraghy castle. Here we stood the foot of one of the O'Doherty castles of Inishowen and were given a most informative talk on its history. Sadly, only part of this 16th century castle now remains. "The view from this spot on a fine summer's evening is singularly beautiful", wrote Maghtochair the local historian over 100 years ago and luckily we were blessed with the weather and able to agree unanimously with his observation.

We also heard about Sir Cahir O'Doherty's sister, Rosa, who left Ireland with the Earls in 1607 and became a most influential leader of the Irish community in Flanders. She died in 1660 and is buried in the Irish Franciscan college in Louvain.

From there we drove back to the Famine Village, dedicated to the history of Ireland from famine times up to the present. This is a most impressive museum, full of artefacts reflecting everyday life in the area especially over the last century and our guide was a mine of knowledge regarding the social history of rural Ireland. A visit of this nature is a stark reminder of the incredible changes in Ireland in our own time and the rapidity of progress, if indeed progress is the right word for such.

Our afternoon in the Isle of Doagh finished with light refreshments in the café and most welcome too.


Our New President( March 6th 2012)


Our new President, An Doctor Oirmh. Pádraig Ó Baoighill, elected at this year's AGM on the 6th March last.


The Executive Committee elected at the AGM on the 6th March last.





Launch of 2011 Donegal Annual

The 2011 Donegal Annual was launched recently in Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey. A unique feature of this year's launch was that it was done so by relatives of those who were present when the Society began back in the 1940's.

Editor, Seán Beattie and his team have once again excelled themselves with a truly superb publication. The front cover is a drawing of Dunlewy by James Humbert Craig (1877-1944) and one of the paintings on the back cover is a dramatic scene of the wreck of the Sydney in 1870 by R. Kent which occurred off Glencolmcille.

A full list of the contents can be found on the Previous Annuals section of our website. Members of the Society always receive this Annual in the post; it is also for sale in shops across the county or it may also be ordered from our Honorary Secretary.

Photo shows (left to right) Dr. Louchlann McGill; Eamonn MacIntyre; Donaill McLaughlin; Dolores O'Kelly; Ernan Coughlan; Col. Declan O'Carroll, President CDHS and Seán Beattie, Editor of the Annual.

This was the final event in the Society's calendar for 2011, one of the busiest years in its existence. Thanks to all involved who contributed to what has been a truly successful and rewarding year. The next general date for the diary is the AGM in March 2012.




County Donegal Historical Society launches its first seven Annuals (1947 to 1953)

"Truly fabulous" was how Donegal County Manager, Mr. Seamus Neely, described the contents of the book which he launched in the County Council chamber on October 7th, 2011. He was referring to a major project undertaken by the Historical Society, ie the re-issuing of its first seven annuals in one volume.

Emphasising the importance of the publication, Mr. Neely said that to understand where we're going we have to know where we've come from in order to establish our identity. He also noted that the Irish diaspora would find the volume of immense value and it would strengthen the bonds among us all, resulting in benefits for the tourism sector.

Little did the founding fathers of the Society realise back at the inaugural meeting in this same chamber in December 1946 how the world would change in the decades to follow. For example, the launch made history in that it was the first event involving the Society to be streamed via live internet TV across the globe. Check the Council's website to see the launch.The early print runs were about 200, mainly in the county; today the Society membership edges towards the 1,000 mark with members all over the world.

Speaker after speaker at the launch praised the Society for its immense contribution to the cultural life of the county, preserving and promoting Donegal's tremendously unique past.

Browse through the pages of these seven annuals, scanned as they first appeared all those years ago, and you'll be in complete appreciation of the range and depth of the articles to be found there. Even the advertisements evoke a wonderful atmosphere of an era long gone. It is now available in the major bookshops. The good news is if you're far from the county we can send it on. It is available in HARDBACK (40 euro) and PAPERBACK (25 euro). Postage is extra. Click here for an application form to be returned to our Honorary Secretary, Mrs. Una McGarrigle 087221378.



The launch ceremony in the County Council chamber was filmed and can now be viewed on the Council's own website. It also made history in being the first event involving the Society to be sent live via the internet world-wide. To see the video of the launch click here.

Photos below show the cover, some pages from the volume and an advertisement for Convoy Woollen Mill.








(1947) No. 1.
Donegal in Song & Story by Venerable Archdeacon Kerr, P.P. Gortahork.
Co. Donegal in Anglo Irish Literature.by J.C.T. MCDonagh.
Notes on Shore Dwellers & Sandhill settlements by P.J. McGill.
Pádraic Ó Beirn 1875-1927 by Micheál Og MacPhaidin
Bibliography of Co. Donegal by MacDonagh & McIntyre.

(1948) No.2.
The O’Hegarty’s of Ulster and their Kindred Families by Rev. Walter Hegarty
Rambles in Drumholm by Hugh Deery
A Memory of a young pretender by Capt. Eamon O’Boyle
Rural Villages & Rundale systems by Very Rev. Peadar MacLoinsigh
Flints from the Lowry Collection by Prof. Owen Davis.
Wolfe Tone & Donegal by Seamus Brady (and more)

(1949) No.3.
The Woollen Industry from Earliest times by P.J. McGill
Cointeann na mBard by Nial Ó Domhnaill
Capt. Manus O’Donnell by Rupert S. O’Cochlainn
Co. Donegal in Catholic Qualification Rolls (1778-1790) by Sean O’Domhnaill M.E.
Hearth Money for Co. Donegal by Dr. R.J. Dickson (and more)

(1950) No. 4
As others saw us by J. O’Donovan
Sandhill settlements of Donegal by J.C.T. MacDonagh
Thrills & Disappointments of a Donegal Collector by Andrew Lowry
The O’Donnells in Thir Conail by R.S. Cochlain
Willie Reilly & His Colleen Bawn by Marcus McEnery

(1951) No.5.
Historic Fords of Donegal by Very Rev. Dr. T. Molloy
Memories of the Twin Towns by Dr. Sarsfield Kerrigan
History of the Diocese of Raphoe by “Kit Taaffe”
Crannogs of Tirconaill by J.C.T. MacDonagh
In Foreign Fields by Rev. Ernan McMullin (and more)

(1952) No. 6.
The story of Doe Castle by J.C.T. MacDonagh
Donegal in Industry
Donegal’s First District Justice
Antiquities in the parish of Donegal
The Ballyshannon Fishery District (and more)

(1953) No. 7.
Kidnapping & Imprisonment of Red Hugh by Morwenna Donnelly, Essex.
Gleanings of O’Donnell history by Fr. Canice Mooney
Ancient Roadways of Donegal by Patrick J. McGill
Hearth Money Rolls by J.C. MacDonagh
The Name Beal Atha Seanaigh by T.S. O’Maille (and more)




Col. Declan O'Carroll, President 2009-2012


The 36th President of the County Donegal Historical Society is Col. Declan O'Carroll, a native of Bundoran who now, resides in Letterkenny. He served in the Defence Forces for 42 years before retiring in 2005 in the rank of Colonel.


Declan joined the Army as a Cadet in 1963 and was commissioned into the 6 Inf Bn in Custume Barracks, Athlone in 1965. He was posted to Donegal at the outbreak of the conflict in Northern Ireland in 1969 and served in a variety of appointments with the 24 Inf Bn FCA and the 28 Inf Bn within the county. He later had the honour and distinction of commanding both battalions.

Declan moved to Defence Forces HQ., in Dublin when he was promoted to Lt. Col and was appointed Director of Public Relations for the Defence Forces. In 1998 he returned to Donegal as Officer Commanding 28 Inf Bn in Finner Camp until 2001.

During his career he served with the United Nations in Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Syria on the Golan Heights and finally in Croatia in 1996.

On promotion to Col. in 2001 Declan became Director of Administration in Defence Forces HQ., Dublin. Following a year in that appointment he finished his military career in as head of the Irish Military Office on the Partnership for Peace programme at NATO HQ.in Brussels for over three years from 2002-2005.

Col. O'Carroll played Gaelic football for Donegal (1961-1974) and was a member of the first Donegal team to win an Ulster Championship in 1972. He is the holder of two Railway Cup medals with Ulster.

An enthusiastic local historian, our President has written and published histories of Finner Camp Ballyshannon, Rockhill Ho. Letterkenny, Fort Dunree, the Battle of Scarrifollis 1650 and a biography of Lt Col James McMonagle as well as being a regular contributor on historical matters to the DHS Annual and the Letterkenny Community Christmas annual.

He is married to Eleanor with three adult children Emma, John and David.





2011 Events

FIELD DAY AT DOE (Sept. 4th)



"The great McSwyne lies buried
Without the castle wall,
And silent gloom pervades each room
Beneath those turrets tall."

That opening verse of a poem called, "Doe Castle" reminded us that we were in McSwyne Doe territory for our last Field Day of 2011 with Tom Sweeney, Chieftain of the clann, as our guide.


Members of the Donegal Historical Society at Doe Castle.


The solitude and peace to be found in the castle environs these days are in complete contrast to 6 centuries of its history, its prime location overlooking Sheephaven Bay, a few kilometres from Creeslough. It was constructed c.1425AD and reputedly given to the McSwyne clann when peace was made between Owen O'Neill, Prince of Tyrone and Nachtan O'Donnell, Prince of Tirconaill.. Many a tenant lived there down through the centuries, including Sir Henry Dowcra in 1603.

In more recent times, the Office of Public Works undertook the task of preserving the castle against one of the most powerful forces of them all - Mother Nature. McSwyne's famous tombstone has been moved inside and protected within a strong glass container.

In popular folklore, the castle has been immortalised by the Creeslough poet, Niall MacGiolla Bhride, taking as his theme the romance between Turlough Og O'Boyle and Aileen McSweeney, a romance that ended in tragedy. The local sean-nos singer, Denis Sweeney, gave a wonderful rendition of some local songs in one of the rooms of the castle, the light rain falling at the time adding to the atmosphere.


Our President, Col. Declan McCarrol, Denis Sweeney, sean-nós singer and Tom Sweeney, guide for the day.


The group then made their way to Ards friary. A welcome sight to conclude the event was the tea and refreshments in the Creeslough community centre. Thanks to all involved for a most pleasant visit despite the weather.




FIELD DAY IN PORTHALL (August 14th 2011)



Cavanacor House, near Lifford, one of the earliest Plantation houses in Donegal was our meeting point for the August Field Day. It has been in continuous occupation since the 17th century and we were welcomed by the present occupants - Eddie and Joanna O'Kane. A book could be written on its history; no room here for such but hopefully a few snippets will suffice.

In 1689 King James 2nd dined at Cavanacor House prior to the Siege of Derry. The house has a commanding view of the River Deele, a main fording point for east Donegal, so it was obviously a perfect venue to combine military vigilance with culinary enjoyment!

A former resident and who was also born at the house, Magdalene Tasker, married a Capt. Pollock. Both emigrated to Maryland, abbreviated their surname to Polk and one of their descendants - James Knox Polk - became 11th President of the USA.

Eddie gave us a conducted tour of the rooms of the house open to the public. Understandably, no interior photography was permitted as it is fundamentally a family home. Joanna then showed us around the adjacent art gallery and informed us of the artists, their works and achievements.

Next stop was the Ulster Scots - Scots Irish Heritage and Education Centre at Monreagh, Carrigans. This is a restored 19th century manse. Brendan, our guide, explained who the Ulster Scots were, a story which goes also back to the Plantation. The Centre contains a wealth of information on the Ulster Scots and Scots Irish and also their extended influences in the new world and is committed to preserving the rich heritage of the Laggan district of east Donegal.

The day ended here with welcome refreshments and it was such a large turn-out that at both venues we were split into groups of 20 to facilitate the tours.


Cavanacor House

The Heritage Centre at Moneagh







CARROWMENAGH FIELD DAY (July 10th 2011)



Carrowmenagh, near Culdaff, on the Inishowen peninsula, is a townland abundant in heritage, steeped in history and with a very strong community spirit. Local historian, John A. McLaughlin was our guide for the occasion.



The Community Centre, for example where our day began, is a former National School erected 90 years ago; most of the original building is still intact, even the old wall maps! Nevertheless, it is a well-maintained structure with all mod cons, as they say, and in use every night of the week.

This small part of Inishowen knew the pain of evictions. Our first stop was the Garden of Remembrance where in December 1881 stood a house whose tenants were the victims of that awful deed. The gable and chimney brace are still there - a sad and poignant reminder of what was once a vibrant homestead. Twelve other families in the locality suffered the same fate.

Two strands featured on our programme. Tremone strand has a plaque to the memory of Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825-1868), the Young Irelander who escaped at Tremone Bay and went to Canada, where he played a leading role in that country's Confederation history. The stone was unveiled by the Canadian Ambassador, Mr. Michael Philips, in August 1998.

Kinnagoe Bay, spectacular from our elevated viewpoint, was the landing place in 1688 of La Trinidad Valencera. The wreck of this magnificent ship and many of her contents were discovered in 1971 by the City of Derry sub-aqua club. Amazingly, 350 Spaniards survived the shipwreck and reached shore.



One of the final stops was the old threshing mill with its working machinery and we had a most enjoyable demonstration of it in action. Also shown was the skill of making straw ropes. What a joy it is to see these skills being kept alive and promoted in their original location.



The above is a selection of the many stops made on our itinerary. The occasion ended back in at the Centre with lashins of tea, sandwiches and buns followed with some musical entertainment from the younger generation. In conclusion, our President, Col. Declan O'Carroll thanked everyone who made us so welcome and organised our visit.






Coach Outing (18/6/2011)




Members of the Donegal Historical Society and friends outside Mount Stewart House during the 2011 Coach Outing 18/6/2011.




Viewing the gardens at Mount Stewart House.






Kilcar Field Day (12/6/2011)




Members of the Donegal Historical Society and friends attending the first Field Day of this year 12/6/2011; seen here at the site of the Battle of Derrylaghan.





Members of the Donegal Historical Society and friends attending the first Field Day of this year in and around Kilcar.




Members Honoured




Seamus Gildea and Arthur Spears who were made Honorary Members of the Society at the AGM. Standing: Declan O'Carrol, president; Una McGarrigle, secretary and Sean Bonner, treasurer.Photo Conor McGonagle, Donegal Democrat




 

2010 Events

 

Emerson Lecture


Wed. Nov. 10th

A large and representative crowd attended the Annual Emerson lecture in Coláiste Cholmcille Ballyshannon recently. Mr. Anthony Begley, Museum Curator, welcomed the attendance to the fourth annual lecture organised by County Donegal Historical Society, in memory of Kathleen and Louis Emerson who had contributed so much to the development of local studies in County Donegal. The guest lecturer was Mr. Michael MacDonagh, Senior Archaeologist with the National Roads Authority (NRA), who had been in charge of the Ballyhanna excavations before the construction of the Ballyshannon-Bundoran By-Pass. The title of his lecture was: “Ballyhanna- The Story of a Lost Church and its People.” Thanking the Society for the invitation, Mr MacDonagh expressed his honour at delivering a talk dedicated to the memory of the Emersons, reminiscing on Lucius’ delight upon the discovery of the site back in 2003. Setting the important archaeological discovery within its landscape setting, Michael explained the importance of Ballyhanna townland in the life of medieval Ballyshannon. The townland had been at the strategic fording point across the Erne River and Ballyshannon would have been a bustling town throughout the medieval centuries, its port facilities and salmon fisheries being of huge economic importance. The fording point of Ath Seanaigh was the only safe crossing point on the western reaches of the Erne into the kingdom of Tyrconnell.

The discovery of a medieval church and graveyard at Ballyhanna, one of the largest such sites ever excavated in Ireland, was remarkable, explained Michael, and it was somewhat surprising that its existence had fallen out of folk memory. It was explained that this may have been due to it having been walled off behind the estate walls of Rockville House in the 17th century. Once out of sight, it became out of mind, and over time memory of it faded. Historical documents from the 17th century refer to a chapel of ease at Ballyhanna under the administration of the diocese of Clogher and Michael explained that it is now believed that this is the site that was discovered



 




Mairéad Ní Mhaoinigh launches this year's "Donegal Annual."

Donegal Person of the year, Mairéad Ní Mhaoinigh, launched this year's "Donegal Annual", the Journal of the County Donegal Historical Society,  in Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey on 2nd of November last. It was a lovely evening crowned by Mairéad ending the launch by playing a few of Johnnie Doherty's reels.

 

Once again edited by Sean Beattie, this edition contains 20 main articles and a wealth of other material, including book reviews, books about Donegal published in 2010, and a detailed account of the proceedings of the Society. The scope of the articles is wide and varied, ranging from the Donegal Militia and the 1798 Rebellion, the history of Freemasonry in Donegal to a contemporary article about Donegal and the N.I. conflict.

November 1947 was the date the first Annual appeared and it has been in print ever since, a truly remarkable achievement. From small beginnings at the inaugural meeting in the County House, Lifford in December 1946, today the Society has over 900 members across the world. Many of them plan a visit to Donegal each Summer in order to take part in at least one of the four Field Days. A very poignant and emotional Field Day this year was our very first one and we went out to Arranmore Island to remember the Arranmore disaster which happened 75 years ago. Keeping in touch with all the members these days is so much easier than it was back in the 1940's as the Society has a website at www.donegalhistory.com. Every event of the Society is featured there. (This website will be revamped over the next few months).

The Donegal Historical Society also works in conjunction with local historical and heritage groups throughout the county, something that can only be of mutual benefit to us all. The invitation is always there to any newly formed group to contact us. Our aims and objectives are similar; our Constitution sums it up as follows, "the study and preservation of the historical antiquities of County Donegal."

President of the Society, Col. Declan O'Carroll says, "If you are considering a Christmas gift for relatives and friends in Ireland or overseas, then this is the perfect choice." The Annual is available from the Secretary and in bookshops across the county.


2010 Coach Outing

3-day trip to Glendalough

Members of the Donegal Historical Society in Glendalough during the 2010 coach outing.


Members of the Donegal Historical Society at Cavan County Museum during the 2010 coach outing.




Arranmore Field Day 2010

Members of the Donegal Historical Society at grave of some of the victims of the 1935 boat tragedy during the Arannmore Island Field Day.

Our first Field Day of 2010 was one of poignant and sad remembrance as we recalled the Arranmore disaster in this the 75th anniversary of that awful tragedy. For any emigrant, homecoming is the most joyful emotion, an experience shared by the entire family at home waiting with anticipation and excitement. What presents from Glasgow would be in their suitcases? What football matches had they been to and would relate to their their younger siblings? What films did they enjoy seeing in Scotland?

On Saturday evening, November 9th 1935, 19 islanders perished in the sea just off Arranmore on the last leg of their homeward journey, having spent the previous months tattie-hoking (harvesting potatoes) in Scotland. There was just one survivor, Patrick Gallagher. "The whole island was weeping," wrote Barney Gallagher in his book, 'Arranmore Links' . Barney was an islander and was there at the time.

Our Field Day began in the Ionad Culturlann, part of the island co-operative's holiday village, with an illustrated talk by Seán Boner about the disaster. We then walked the short distance to the graveyard to visit the mass grave in which 17 of the victims lie buried. Its location is close to the Chapel strand, the mainland in the distance and numerous islands in between. Sadly, not all the bodies were recovered.

We strolled from there along a path close to the shore, past the old graveyard they call 'the Caiseal' which brought us to St. Crone's, the beautiful island church and inside Seán gave us a brief history of the church. It was built in 1825 as a barn style church but extended into a cruciform structure in 1917. We were then bussed to the lighthouse, originally built in 1798, and we were fortunate to be able to enter and climb up the narrow spiral staircase to experience a truly magnificent view. Some of the more intrepid of the group went down a few of the cliff steps, certainly not an experience for the faint-hearted.

Finally, on to the Glen Hotel for another very welcome view - copious amounts of tea and sandwiches! The hotel itself is steeped in history; it was once the home or 'The Big House' of the island landlord, John Stoupe Charley and the building, on a slight rise overlooking the sea, still retains its old-world atmosphere.

The highest degree of thanks is extended to everyone on Arranmore who made the Field Day so memorable: the staff we met at the Coop, on the Siob buses, up at the lighthouse, at the Glen Hotel and on the fast ferry. And of course, a special word of thanks to Seán Boner, our guide and seanchai for the occasion, himself a native of Arranmore and whose father Packie taught for many years at Aphort school..




FIELD DAY AT GARTAN

St. Colmcille, (521AD - 597AD) one of Ireland's greatest saints was born at Gartan, baptised in Templedouglas and first went to school in Kilmacrennan. For our second Field Day of 2010, Christy Gillespie, Principal of Schoil Cholmcille, An Tearmann, was our guide as we sojourned, "in Colmcille's footsteps."



The first stop en route was the newly-constructed Columban monument near the National School, modelled on the abbey at Kilmacrennan. Here we were shown the famous mitred head, said to represent Archbishop Art O'Friel. This is a stone with an absolute wealth of history behind it, eg, it would have witnessed the inauguration of Red Hugh O'Donnell.



One of the most poignant moments of the Field Day was the visit to Ethne's Well (Ethne was Colmcille's mother). On the path up to the well, there is a child's burial ground, marked on the old maps as the Calluragh burial ground. This was the era when babies who died before they received the Sacrament of Baptism were buried close to a sacred place. This site used to be packed on June 9th each year, Colmcille's feast-day, for a turas. Sadly, that lovely old tradition has long gone.

Then on to Rath Cno, once the home of Colmcille. Later a monastery was erected on the site. In the nearby graveyard, Christy showed us the grave of Manus a Phice (Manus the Pikeman), a great hero of 1798.



The final two venues were Doon Well, probably the most famous holy well in Donegal, and then on to Doon rock with its wonderful panoramic view, once the place of inauguration of each new O'Donnell chieftain. From here, they could survey their entire kingdom from the Swilly to Gweedore. Cahir O'Doherty made his last stand here at Doon to try and keep the Irish way of life alive after the Flight of the Earls, but without success.

The Gartan district is truly spectacular and has been fairly-well spared the concrete intrusion that unfortunately has been the fate of other rural havens. This Field Day complemented the one in Derry last year, with Dr. Billy Kelly as our guide, as we toured the city named in the saint's honour - Doire Cholmcille.


FIELD DAY IN DOOCHARY, August 2010

Beside the placid waters of the Gweebara river, Col. Declan O'Carroll, President of the Donegal Historical Society, introduced our guide for the occasion, Mrs. May McClintock, one of the best-known and most erudite historians in the county. We were soon to discover that Doochary may be a small quiet village but it has a wealth of history.

The Placid river at Doochary

May began with a detailed account of the era of landlordism in the vicinity - Marquis Conyngham owned land on the southern bank of the tidal part of the Gweebara estuary. In 1906, a large number of locals fished the estuary in tidal waters below the bridge in order to enact a legal test case. Conyngham brought the case to court, as he had to, if he believed he could control the estuary fishing which he had been doing up to then. The lower court found in his favour but the High Court reversed on appeal.
Historically, the legalities are utterly fascinating, though quite complex, and one of the central issues was when the Magna Carta of 1215 AD was first applied to Donegal. It was argued that it applied in SE Ireland soon after its completion but was not applied to the Doochary district until 1541 AD when Manus O'Donnell surrendered his lands to King Henry 8th and then had them regranted back to him. The Doochary case held that the notion of a private fishery did not exist under Brehon law and, that being so, the fishery belonged to the State and so could not be granted to Conyngham's predecessor under a Plantation Grant or Patent of the 1670's.
May then paid tribute to a Doochary native, Dominic O'Kelly (1897 - 1970), a poet, teacher and journalist, also known by his pseudonym, "An Ceallach." He was May's teacher in the Prior School in Lifford and she informed us that her appreciation of the history and folklore of Donegal was due to his influence. Dominic was educated at St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny and later in Rome, where he obtained a degree in Philosophy. A native Irish speaker, he wrote for several Irish language publications, eg Amarach, Inniu, and An tUltach. and did a weekly column in the People's Press for some years on "Wild West Donegal." He was Principal of schools in Donegal, Sligo and Mayo. In 1934 he founded Cumann Gaelach na Rossan.
Peadar O'Baoighill then gave us a wonderful rendition of, "Gaoth Barra na dTonn", written by Donall MacDiarmada, also known as File Ghaoth Barra." This song has been recorded by many musicians down through the years including Clannad.
We then walked the short distance to a local holy well, Tobar Sorcha, and from there to St. Conall's Church. This Church was built in 1896 and still has the book presented by Lord Mayo, the local landlord, for the opening ceremony - St Patrick's Day, 1897. Dr. Patrick O'Donnell, Bishop of Raphoe officiated at the occasion.

St. Conal's Church.

Mr. J.C.T. MacDonagh of Ballybofey was the Society's founder; he became President of the Society in 1958/59. His son, Terence, who now resides in England, and his daughter Etta, who resides in the USA were in Doochary for the Field Day. They expressed their utmost appreciation of the sterling work being done to continue the work and aspirations of the Society's founders which began at that first meeting in Lifford in December 1946.

L to R, Terence MacDonagh, May McClintock,Rev. Dr. O'Baoighill, Col. Declan O'Carroll & Etta MacDonagh-Dumler


FIELD DAY IN BALLYSHANNON (August 29th)

"William Allingham country" was the theme of our last Field Day of 2010 and Ballyshannon our destination.
Anthony Begley acted as our guide for this occasion; this was a subject very close to his heart - understandably, of course, both being natives of the town.

We visited many of the places associated with the poet and the town is fortunate in that most of them are still extant (especially when one must consider that he was born in 1824).

The poet began his working life in the Provincial Bank and so we stopped opposite there to view it and then strolled a short distance to his birth-place on the Mall. At each stop, Conor Carney, a local school Principal, recited extracts from his poetry and this contributed immensely to our appreciation of his literary skill.

The house on the Mall where Allingham was born.


And William Allingham was indeed a major literary figure, much highly thought of by his contemporaries, eg. Tennyson and Rosetti. He corresponded with them a lot.

We visited the poet's grave in the grounds of St. Anne's Church of Ireland and were kindly granted access to view the interior. In his final words of tribute there, Anthony gave great prominence to a most interesting facet of his life - his marriage to Helen in 1874; she established a superb reputation as a water-colour artist and is recognised as such today. The town has a Helen Allingham gallery and there is a Helen Allingham Society in the USA. A google search will show the magnificence of her work which now command very high prices.

Anthony addressing the group at St. Anne's.


The poet, who died in 1889, is also highly celebrated in his native place. There is the Allingham Park, a memorial plaque on the bridge named in his honour, also a plaque on the house in which he was born and a commemorative bust by Arthur Breen in the bank where he worked.

The plaque on the bridge.


After our President, Col. Declan O'Carroll, thanked everyone who had made the day so enjoyable, we bade a fond farewell to Ballyshannon recalling the poet's own words as he departured from the same town many, many years earlier.

"Adieu to Ballyshannon! where I was bred and born;
Go where I may, I'll think of you, as sure as night and morn,
The kindly spot, the friendly town, where everyone is known,
And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own;
There's not a house or window, there's not a field or hill,
But, east or west, in foreign lands, I'll recollect them still.
I leave my warm heart with you, though my back I'm forced to turn -
So adieu to Ballyshannon, and the winding banks of Erne!"


("The winding banks of Erne", verse 1)


2009 Events


Unique historical meeting in Ballybofey...

Ballybofey, Nov 2009

The County Donegal Historical Society has organised a unique meeting of local historical societies/groups throughout the county in Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey on November 24th at 8 pm.

The President of the Society, Col. Declan O'Carroll says that the purpose of this special meeting is to examine all the ways the various historical groups can be of mutual benefit to each other in preserving and promoting the rich heritage of the county. Declan adds:

To date, we have identified and notified 20 such groups, but there may may others unknown to the Society and this is an invitation to them. If you are a member of any history group within the county, feel invited to this meeting.

Two representatives of each group are welcome to attend and each group will have the chance to introduce themselves and say a few words to the assembled audience about their work. Any group not yet contacted and who would like to attend this meeting should notify the Hon. Secretary, Una Mc Garrigle, Parkhill, Ballyshannon. Telephone 087 2261378, or via the Contacts part of this website.




Donegal Historical Society - 4th Field Day

Derry, Aug 2009

The fourth and last Field Day of 2009 was across the border in Derry. This city, of course, has many links with Donegal, perhaps the best-known being the site of a monastery founded by St. Colmcille in 546 AD. The monastery in the oak grove led to the settlement being called Doire Colmcille, perhaps the only city in the world named after a Donegal native.

On the walls above Bishop's Gate, our President, Col. Declan O'Carroll introduced us to our guide, Dr. Billy Kelly, Research Projects Co-ordinator at the Institute of Ulster Scots Studies, University of Ulster, Magee.


On the walls at the Guildhall, Dr. Kelly our guide on left along with our President, Col. Declan O'Carroll

Over the next few hours, Dr. Kelly took us through the history of the city, especially the times of the Plantation and the Siege. Apart from the "academic" he also regaled us with numerous anecdotes regarding day to day matters of life in the city. One of these concerned a request to the crown to send a full supply of salted fish to the city during the Plantation, as food was running low. The reply from England pointed out that the Foyle was one of the best salmon rivers anywhere and nets would be sent from England instead.

Dr. Kelly also explained the London connection with the city. In 1613, Derry was renamed Londonderry, having been granted a Royal Charter by James 1 and the involvement of the London companies.

The walls of the city are the most important surviving 17th century fortifications in the British Isles and we walked about half way around them. Their full length is just over one mile. On the way we stopped at St. Augustine's Church (1872, C of I) and the nearby St. Columb's Cathedral (C of I).

In front of St. Columb's Cathedral

The next stop on the walls was facing the Guildhall (1812) among the row of cannon. There was also a reminder at this point that Derry is a city proud of its past but also looking to the present and the future, with a multi-million pound urban renewal project ongoing in front of the Guildhall over to Waterloo Place.

The weather was rather inclement during most of the afternoon but it did not spoil a most enjoyable Field Day. In thanking Dr. Kelly, Declan described him as a magnificent raconteur and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Derry's history.




Donegal Historical Society - 3rd Field Day

Kilclooney, Aug 2009

Our third Field Day of 2009 was to Kilclooney, near Portnoo. A large attendance filled the hall of the very fine Dolmen Centre. The President of the Society, Col. Declan O'Carroll welcomed everyone and introduced our Guide, Ms. Paula Harvey, Lecturer in UCD and who, as a former curator of the Donegal County Museum and Field Monument Officer with Donegal County Council, is a well known and highly regarded authority on Donegal's ancient heritage.

Paula began with an informative, illustrated talk on the various types of megalithic tombs, their purpose and current states of preservation, particularly those in Donegal. This whetted the appetite of the audience, eager now to set out and view the local examples of these awe-inspiring structures.

A short walk brought us to the first monument, the large portal tomb of Kilclooney, the one seen in many tourist guide books and archaeological journals. This funerary monument has dominated the local landscape for more than 5,000 years. We could only marvel at the engineering skills that enabled its construction in the Neolithic Age. This site is unique in that, within the same mound, there is a second portal tomb, an exact replica of the larger tomb and only about nine metres from it.


Portal Dolmen (Capstone ~ 13 tons)

Our next stop was the court tomb of Kilclooney. The massive entrance-jambs lead into a larger chamber, the place of burial. The knowledge and enthusiasm of our Guide opened our minds and stirred all our imaginations as we considered the effort required in the construction of these massive monuments and their possible uses in funeral rituals and community ceremonies.

The Field Day concluded with some very interesting questions and creative speculation, making for a most enjoyable experience. Declan then thanked Paula for acting as our Guide for the occasion and enlightening all present about the significance of the Kilclooney monuments.


Some of the group at the Kilclooney Field Day

The final Field Day of 2009 will be in Derry on August 30th, with Dr. William Kelly as Guide. We will visit the historical areas of the plantation city. See Field Days for more information.




Donegal Historical Society - 2nd Field Day

Carrigart, Jul 2009

Our second Field Day of 2009 was in Carrigart and well over 100 people turned up for this event. The first venue was Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, Parish of Mevagh, a very fine building dating back to 1895. The President of the Society, Mr. Declan O'Carroll, welcomed all present and extended a particular cead mile failte to some fellow historical society members from Armagh - Seanchas Ard Mhacha. Also welcomed were those from other countries, e.g. the USA and Austria.

Declan then introduced our guide for the day, Mr. P.J. Boyce. Mr. Boyce began by extending a very cordial greeting to everyone, adding that it would be his pleasure as a native of the area to act as our guide and he hoped that the weather would be in our favour for the afternoon. He went on to give us a summary of the history of the church and informed us that it was built on the same site as a previous one which had been built in 1675.

From there it was on to Manorvaughan House, home of the Hon. Hedley Strutt, who is also a member of the Historical Society. Now in his 94th year, he began by expressing his delight at seeing members and guests of the Society at Manorvaughan, adding that as a member of the Society, it was an occasion that meant so much to him, having the Society in attendance. He gave us some of his own biographical information and how he came to live in the house, his formative years had been in England.

Driving from there around Rosguill peninsula, we parked the cars and made a short dander down a narrow lane to Mevagh graveyard to see the old cross there. This cross fascinated the early Victorian photographers, such as R.J. Welch. Sadly, the wishing stone that used to be close to the cross in those old photos has disappeared.


Old Mevagh Cross

There is no rule saying that something new cannot be on the itinerary, and that came next. We were taken to see the Harry Blaney bridge over scenic Mulroy Bay, and it's hard not to sing John Kerr's song lauding the magnificence of Mulroy. No doubt about it, this new bridge is a landmark in the locality; there are footpaths on the bridge allowing visitors the chance to view the splendour of the bay and surrounding countryside.

The new Harry Blaney bridge at Mulroy Bay

And to finish the day, some levity. On second thoughts, that's not quite accurate, because we were taken to see a 13 ton glacial lump of granite. The joy of a Field Day is the opportunity to see some of the hidden gems of Donegal and there it was near Lackagh bridge, on its own, a complete unknown...a rolling stone. This is the shuggling stone of Lackagh, which can only be described as being like a rocking chair. Its unique feature was discovered in 1834 by Ltnt. Lancey during the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland. He noted that it could be rocked back and forth with one finger. On Sunday's field day, there was a queue to verify his observation, thus ending the occasion on a note of mirth.

The Shuggling Stone near Lackagh bridge

Even better, the weather did indeed stay dry for us. A wonderful day and thanks to all involved. Next Field day is in Portnoo on August 9th.




Donegal Historical Society - Coach Outing

Clonmacnoise, May 2009

Visiting Clonmacnoise during the 2009 coach outing




60 Years of the Donegal Annual

Ballybofey, 10 Mar 2009

The launch of this year's edition of the Donegal Annual, the publication of the County Donegal Historical Society, marks a superb achievement, i.e. its Diamond Jubilee. From the first print run of 250 copies 60 years ago, the recent editions are well into 4 figures, such is the status of and demand for it.

Sean Beattie and his editorial team have spent the winter months bringing to fruition this first-class publication. The full-colour cover is very eye catching, featuring a very classy watercolour of Lifford in the year 1815. This rare painting of the county town is a real gem in itself, showing how the area looked all those years ago.

One constant feature of the Annual is the geographical spread of the articles - there is hardly any part of the county omitted among the 344 pages. A quick skim through these pages shows the range and diversity therein. The Royal and Prior School, Raphoe; the GAA and Association Football, 1884-1914; the monastery in Fahan; the Drumboe martyrs; Donegal's farming heritage; the Lough Swilly Railway; the lost tombs of Finner; cottage industries in the county, 1880-1920. That is just a small selection of the 20+ articles.

A full account of the work of the Society and the Field Days for 2009 are also included.

2008 Events


Coach Outing

Benburb, 24 May 2008

Art Ó Dálaigh (guide) speaking to members of the DHS




First 2008 Field Outing

01 Jun 2008

The Society visited Brown Hall (near Ballintra)



Members enjoying a talk in the local Drumholm Church




Another Field Outing

Killybegs, 20 Jul 2008

Tony O'Callaghan conducting the Killybegs Field Day




2007 Events



Emerson Memorial Lecture

Ballyshannon, 07 Nov 2007

The first Emerson Memorial Lecture was held in Ballyshannon on the 7th November 2007.

The committee had secured a room in Scoil Cholmcille and had set out about 30 chairs but it soon became evident that it would be too few. More and more chairs had to be brought in until the room was packed to capacity with people standing along the walls.

The lecture, The Flight of the Earls and its effects on Ballyshannon, illustrated and delivered by Anthony Begley, a past president of the Society, was excellent (as is everything done by Anthony!). Anthony was ably assisted by Conor Carney who sang and read extracts from various texts.

It was a fitting tribute to Lucius and his passion for history.


Back: Matt McNulty, Declan O'Carroll, Conor Carney

Front: Anthony Begly, Helen Meehan (President), Vincent O'Donnell




2007 Coach Outing

22-24 Jun 2007

Our annual coach outing took place on 22-24 June 2007. 36 people in all travelled. En route to Westport we made 3 stops - Foxford Woollen Mills, Straide Abbey & Michael Davitt Museum and Ballintubber Abbey. After dinner on Friday night we were entertained by local Church of Ireland Rector, Garry Hastings and his feadóg mhór.

On Saturday morning we met our guide, Brona Joyce who took us out to Murrisk where we saw the remains of the abbey where Gráinne Mhaol was baptised and married (1st time), famine memorial and some of us climbed (part of) Croach Patrick. From there we journeyed to Achill Island where we got a grand tour and as much history as we could absorb, not to mind the beautiful scenery. After dinner we sang and danced till bedtime.

On Sunday morning we went to 9.30 Mass in the Catholic Church. Afterwards some went on a walking tour of Westport led again by Brona Joyce while a dozen or more attended Garry Hastings' Anglican Mass in the Church of the Holy Trinity. Afterwards both the walkers and those coming out from Garry's service had to shelter from a heavy shower. Then it was onto the coach and off to Newport for lunch. After lunch we had a slide show by Peter Mullowney depicting the rise and fall of the Newport O'Donnells. We then visited the local Catholic Church to admire a Harry Clarke window.

From there we travelled to Burrisule Abbey where lies the remains of Rory O'Donnell of Lifford who along with 2000 of his kinsmen was banished to Connacht sometime around 1660 by Oliver Cromwell. Peter Mullowney filled us in on the history of the Abbey. There also we saw the grave of Fr. Sweeney who was hanged in Newport for acting as translator for the French in 1798. We then made our way to Bundoran where we dined and agreed we had had a wonderful weekend. A huge thanks is due to our secretary Una McGarrigle for all the planning and organising. The one big question on everybody's lips as we said goodbye to one another was, "Where are we going next year?"


Outside Newport Church

The tall grey-haired man at the back is Peter Mullowney

Photo taken by Una McGarrigle who, alas, is not in the picture




50 Years of Minutes

17 Apr 2007

On the 17th April 2007 the Donegal Historical Society handed over the minutes books for the first 50 years of the Society to the County Donegal Archives.


Back: Eamonn McEntire, Helen Meehan (current President), Una McGarrigle (Secretary), Eddie O'Kane, Patrick Perry

Front: Arthur Spears, Vincent O'Donnell (then President), Niamh Brennan (Archivist), Kiera Joyce (Assistant Archivist)


Liam MacMenamin (Falcarrach), the Society's first secretary was replaced in 1960 by Kathleen Emerson who served in that role until 2004. Both kept accurate and copious minutes of meetings and proceedings. Along with the minutes were many press clippings of the Society's activities. All are now part of the County Archives and are available to anyone, especially members of the Historical Society.




2007 AGM

24 Apr 2007

Helen Meehan, Frosses was elected to the high office of President of the Donegal Historical Society.


Seen here with previous president, Vincent O'Donnell after the 'handing over' of the presidential chain