From a series of articles that appeared in the Derry People from January to March 1949
Down Kincasslagh Way
It was here at Kincasslagh last week that readers of these columns were introduced to that renowned son of the Rosses, Paddy the Cope. A village it might be called, for the houses in it are few; but those few are most imposing for a rural area. Three things impress the stranger to Kincasslagh: its fascinating name, which in Gaelic (Ceann na gCasloch) means the “Head of the Winding Creeks”; both land and seascape around it are superb; and the detached residential buildings about it seem just a bit too grand to belong to such rocky surroundings. They are more the type one finds in suburban localities. There are more marble and costly tombstones in Kincasslagh graveyard than in any other, perhaps, in the diocese of Raphoe.
Donegal’s Best Port
Kincasslagh is not a focal point of The Rosses like Dungloe where so many roads meet, and yet its name is more widely known along the coast from Fanad to St John’s Point. In olden days of drifters and trawlers, this little hamlet of the Lower Rosses used to be, like Downings and Killybegs, a very busy place indeed during the fishing seasons.
It possesses the deepest berthage of any port in Donegal, with the added advantage of an excellent pier and the further amenity of having running water laid-on from a lake reservoir near Mullaghderg. Yet it has been more or less neglected of late years. There is more local optimism now since my old friend, Anthony Doogan, has become a Director of the Sea Fisheries Association.
Meet Anthony Doogan
Anthony, like the Copeman, is one of the most unassuming of men. His crest should be circumscribed: “Suaviter in modo: fortiter in re” (gentle in method but resolute in result)! He is a man of deep devotion, be it to an ideal or as a personal friend. Anthony Doogan of Gort na saide, midway between the village and the Pier, is truly a man of many parts.
Born into a farm, he combines fishing with agricultural pursuits. He is, in addition, a Fish Salesman-and also Postmaster of Kincasslagh. A Gaelic enthusiast, he has been a lifelong worker in the cause of Irish Freedom. One of those unusual men, sometimes met in backward places, who not alone reads the news of the day, but studies it. Most men have read the story of our land, but Anthony digests the philosophy of its history as well-the whys and the wherefores and the underlying motives that determine propaganda and prejudice.
There is no man in The Rosses i prefer to meet. His conversation is a tonic, for he is not of the “strong silent” type, who generally look wiser than they actually are! He is the “thinking man” who weighs the pros and cons of almost every word he utters-what is called around here: a “reliable” man.
The O’Dubhgain Clann came originally from Raphoe, where they were skilled tradesmen at the Episcopal Palace until the end of the sixteenth century.
Daniel E. O’Boyle, Co.C.
Most of the people one meets around Kincasslagh are outstanding, each in his own individual way. One common characteristic seems to be that of gentleness and tact. There is prehaps no better liked member of Donegal Co. Council than Daniel E. O’Boyle, whose home and business place is along the sea, almost opposite the Post Office and Co-operative Store.
This cultured scion of Clann O’Boyle, whose old home is further up the road at Belcruit, is also a Director of the Tourist Board. His brother, Charlie retired from the Derry GPO, enjoys the “notoriety” of having been mistaken for Eamon De Valera on numerous not-so-pleasant occasions in the Maiden City! Another brother, Barnie, is teaching in England, and Miss Sally is the popular proprietress of Belcruit House.
The tallest building in Kincasslagh is the local hotel with its combined bar-and-grocery annexe, owned by another quiet but most efficient ministrator to public requirements, Peter Logue, who hails from the Gweebara Valley district. Its genial hostess, Mrs “Brigid” (as even the local aristocracy are familiarly and affectionately known in the Gaeltacht!), is a lady whose door I “never pass”-even on a bus. And that means, in the Rosses parlance, that even a ten minutes’ conversation with this kindly lady enhances the value of the nectar she retails.
Incidentlly, there would appear to be keen competition between this family and the O’Duggan clann in the matter of the future colonisation of the Lower Rosses. Go mairidh siad!
O’Donnell’s of Rockfort House
If I tell the truth again, there ia a danger that someone may call me a flatterer. But, verily, a visit to the “Head of the Winding Creeks” community would be in-complete without having met that burly, humorous, good-natured “giant of a man,” Seamus O’Donnell, Harbour Master, at his beautiful home up at Rockfort House. On as solid soil as any residence in the land of Eire!
Seamus is a sort of man who never grows old. He will always find something to laugh at, some politician to abuse, some Communist to kick-and, if all else fails, sure he will preach temperance till the cows come home. With all his wisdom and his wit, Mr. O’Donnell has one predominant weakness-he takes politics too “deadly seriously”! But up for this failing-in being quite the reverse. “Positive and negative” attraction, one might say.
None are now at home-of all their splendid family: all are in intellectual positions in different parts of the country and outside of it. Father Terence, who was once known as John-and M.A.(hons), too, is a distingushed member of the Capuchian Order in Killarney. One daughter is a Reverand Mother and recently gone to Africa. Another is married to Donal Bonar, B.D.S., of Lackenagh House, Burtonport. Two others are in the Nursing profession and served in and flew over most of the Middle East during the last war. Paddy holds an executive post with the N.I. Transport Board. And last, but most intriguing member of this gifted family, is erudite and vivacious Miss Frances, M.A, H.Dip.Ed., A.C.P., etc, now a prominent Secondary Teacher in the metropolis. A visitor to Rockfort House leaves with fond and happy memories.
A MOST FRIENDLY PEOPLE
It is difficult, indeed, to write-up the beauties of Kincasslagh, both its inhabitants and environs, in the short space at one’s disposal here. Assuredly no exile from the Lower Rosses would forgive me if I did not pay a passing tribute to “Mother Healy” and to Charlie McBride himself, the Grand Old Man of the village. And the name reminds me, what would Kincasslagh be without Charlie Pat (of the O’Doherty clan)? And Neal, too. And “Patrick the Post.” And the McGarveys-famed on many a football field.
But some others are sadly missed, alas. When I called to see Owen O’Donnell and his sister Mrs. MacGinley, the “vacant chair” of their prayerful, folklorefull, saintly nonagenarian mother, Peigí Rua, was there-a reminder of the friendly faces of those dear old people, whose likes we shall never see again. One of the most beautiful situations in Tír Chonaill is that occupied by “The Red House” at Mullaghderg-sheltered from the rolling Atlantic behind those golden sand-dunes… But the sands of editorial patience are running out! And I must away- lonely after Lovely Kincasslagh. FANAIDHE