Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


January 2017

St Brigid’s Eve Remembered



rambles 2
with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archive



The townland of Thorr was mentioned last week as the ‘end of the line’ into the very heart of the Highlands-across Sliabh Sneachta (only three miles as the crow flies!) lies the upper or eastern end of the Gweebarra Valley. Had we gone sea-wards from Crolly, the ‘end of the line’ would be located in the vicinity of Carraig Mheadhbha (Meave’s Rock) near the Tragh Bhán or White Strand at Tóin Rann na Feirsde (Bottom of Ranafast).



Tóin Rann na Feirsde (Bottom of Ranafast) to the right of the picture


The most Gaelic-minded community in all Donegal is to be found here-a fountain-head of folklore and a reservoir of resurgent nationalism. This is the rugged rock-strew peninsula which gave to Ireland Séamus (Fheilimidh) Mhac Grianna, known to, at least, three succeeding generations of language-learners and literati as “Máire.”

Father Murray, energetic and enthusiastic revivalist, travelled Tír Chonaill in quest of an ideal environment for the Irish college which he had then in embryo. He found his beav ideal at Rann na Feirsde (the Promontory of the Sea-Ford). And here he founded the now-famous Colaiste Bhrighde. Its emblem is St. Brigid’s rush “crosog” inside the circumscription “Brat Bhrighde Orraibh.”

On the night of Monday next, the last day of January, that old custom of the “rush-crosses” (on St Brigid’s Eve) will be observed in Rannafast and, indeed, all over The Rosses hinterland. The children may be seen at dusk, hooks in hand, down along the banks of some sweetly murmuring stream looking for the longest and most luscious green rushes that grow there.

A full fat sheaf of rushes ready for cross-making

A full fat sheaf of them is bound and brought home-to be placed standing against the gable (binn a’ toighe) until the supper and the festivities of oidhche-choinn-féile are over.

Binn a’ toighe (the gable end)


Among the Big Days of the Christian Year in the Gaeltacht of Tír Chonaill, Christmas, Patrick’s Day and Easter are the most outstanding-and for them much preparation is made, even in the poorest of homes. Who would sup sorrow to such dregs as:

‘Lá Nodlag Mór gan im,
Mairt Inide gan feoil,
Domhnach Cásca gan uibheach:
Sé d’fág mé ‘sileadh deor’?

[Christmas without butter,
Shrove without meat,
Easter without eggs: no wonder I weep!]

The Big Nights, that we look-forward-to during the bleak darkness of the winter in the wilderness, are Hallow E’en, Christmas and Oidhche Fheil’ Bhrighde. Though Samhain is synonymous with the beginning of a spell of ease-by-day and áirneal by night, St Brigid’s Eve is a harbinger of newborn hope-with lengthening daylight, early flowers and, later on, the lambs that frolic in Spring where frozen pastures pined and perished in the icy ear of wind and rain.

But the áirneal or cearbhachas (card-playing) is finished for the night. The big delph tea-pot is purring in the white turf embers. A speckled scone of currant-cake is being cut. And other appetising nuaidheachtaí add a fresh fillip of anticipation to hunger that youth seems ever blessed with! “Sé’n féasta is blasta a thigeas go h-annamh” (the sweetest feast is that which is seldom sampled).
The Man o’ the House has now gone for “Brigid.” He carries the sheaf to the doras mór (front-door) with the exhortation: “Gabhaighidh ar bhur nglúine, fosglaighidh bhur súile agus leigigidh isteach Bhrigid!” (Go on your knees, open your eyes and let in Brigid!”-to which all inside give welcome with: Sé beatha! sé beatha!” Similiar salutations are exchanged at the back-door, and then once more at the threshold. The third response from the kneeling household is:
Sé beatha! sé beatha! sé beatha na Mná Uaisle! (sometimes Brighid Bheannaighthe), ie., The Lady of Blessed Brigid. The sheaf is temporarily deposited under the table until the meal is partaken-of.


After supper, the whole family sit around the humble hearth and set about weaving those wonderfully variegated rush-and-straw crosses that are seen in both the houses and the byres attached to every Gaelic homestead in The Rosses.

Cross-making on St Brigid’s EveCapture 2

Holy Water is sprinkled on them next morning (Lá Fheil’ Brighde) before being placed on high as a protection against all ills and evils of the coming year.
In “olden days of undefiled belief,” each member of the family left some garment, e.g., a scarf, cap or handkerchief, out-side in a basket or creel all night. On the following morning it was collected and treasured as “Brat Bhrighdhe”-to be carried on journeys or in times of danger.
At the final night of the ‘Misiún Mór” over fifty years ago, the gallery in Dungloe chapel was overcrowded and sagging dangerously. A woman from “The Hills” tore off her silken head-dress and waved it “Brat Bhrighde idir sinn agus an urchoid.” No one was injured.
Sophisticated city-folk of to-day may feel inclined to scoff, perhaps; but the Rannafast foundation has become and remains the foremost Gaelic College in all Eire-“faoi Bhrat Bhrighde,” i.e., under the aegis of our Mary of the Gael.

Et floreat!

From a series of articles that appeared in the Derry People in 1949

Antiquarian Books

  1. Ac Fhionnlaoich Sean. Scéal Gaoth Dobhair. FTN Baile Atha Cliath. 1983 1st Ed. Stair Gaoth Dobhair.  F/F €45
  2. Ceallaigh Seosamh. Coláiste Uladh 1906-2006.Leinster Leader. 2006 1st Ed F/F €15
  3. Maille Padraig. Dudhuchas. Sairseal & Dill.1972 1st Ed. VG/VG €25
  4. Rabharaigh Tadhg. Mian na Marbh.2nd Ed 1946 Blue cloth with torn spine.€30
  5. Suilleabhain Diarmaid. Maeldun. Sairseal & Dill. 1972 1st Ed. VG/VG €25
Not for sale
  1. A Supreme Book for Girls. Dean. 1973 Girls Comic Annual. VG €15
  2. Bardon Jonathon. A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes. Gill & Macmillan  1st Ed 2008   Short accounts of Irish History from the Ice Age to O’Neill/Lemass  meeting in 1965. 528pp Gilt title on spine  VG+/F €30
  3. Breheny Martin & Keenan Donal. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Gaelic Football & Hurling. Carlton 2001. VG/VG €50
  4. Bodkin M.McD. True Man and Traitor, Talbot Press, 1921. The story of Robert Emmet and The 1803 Rising. 1st Edition 315 pp Torn Spine  G €40
  5. Butler Rev Alban. The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints. 1st Edition 1871 Duffy Dublin Vol IV (April) of vii. An interesting account of all the saints whose feast days fall in the month of April. 321pp Cloth with leather edges and spine six gilt raised bands NF €70
  6. Campell Donal & Dowds Damian. Sam’s for the Hills. Brockfield Dublin. 1st Ed 2003. An account of Donegal’s All Ireland Odyssey.409pp. Gilt titles on cloth cover and spine  VG/NF€35
  7. Carroll James. Mortal Friends. Raven Books. 1st Ed 1978.Novel. NF/F €15
  8. Coogan Tim Pat. De Valera. Hutchinson London. 1st Ed 1993.A Biography of Eamon De Valera 1882-1975 . Gilt Title on spine 704pp G/VG+ €25
  9. Cormican Brendan. Mozart’s Death Mozart’s Requiem. 1st Ed 1991. Limited Ed 306 of 963. singed by author. F/F €25
  10. Cowles Virginia. Winston Churchill. Hamish Hamilton. 1st Ed 1953. Biography. 378 pp. Red cloth with gilt title. VG €20
  11. Cunningham John B. A History of Castle Caldwell and its Family. Water Gate Press ND dated 1980. Signed by the author. An account of the Co. Fermanagh House  VG/VG     Ex lib €80
  12. Curtayne A. Patrick Sarsfield. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin. ND 1934 An account of Sarsfield and the Jacobite Rebellion. 178pp PDE loose. Gilt back  VG €24
  13. Deighton Len. From the rise of Hitler to the fall of Dunkirk. Book club. 1st Ed 1973. NF/F €8
  14. Fallon Niall. The Armada in Ireland. Stanford Maritime London. 1st Ed 1978. 219pp  reference to Armada Wrecks in the West Coast including Mullaghderg, Cloughglas etc. Gilt title on cloth cover  VG+/NF €90
  15. Fitzhenry Edna C. Henry Joy Mc Cracken. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin 1937 The life of a famous United Irishman.  157pp with b/w plate. Gilt back  VG €35
  16. Flanagan Thomas. The Year of the French. Holt, Rinehart & Winston New York 1st Ed 1979 A novel set in Killala Co.Mayo in 1798 Cloth cover, Gilt Title on spine, 512pp  G/VG €50
  17. Frazier Adrian. Behind The Scenes. University of California. 1990 1st Ed. Yeats, Horniman and the struggle for the Abbey Theatre. Ex lib VG/NF €15
  18. Gallagher Patrick. Paddy the Cope. Devin-Adair Co New York. 1942 1st Edition 5th printing, Preface by Peadar O Donnell. An Autobiography by Paddy the Cope Gallagher founder of The Templecrone Co-Operative Society in 1906 .288pp Gilt title spine slightly rubed. G/VG  €70
  19. Haverty Martin. The History of Ireland Ancient and Modern. Duffy Dublin 1st Ed 1860. Derived from the Annals of the Four Masters from the Partalonians to the Act of Union. 766pp VG+ €280
  20. Hemingway Ernest. The Old Man and The Sea. Reprint Society. 1953. Green cloth with gilt title. VG €25
  21. Herm Gerhard. The Celts. Barnes Noble New York.1993. A 2000 year story of the Celts. 293pp.Gilt title on spine. VG/NF €10
  22. Hughes Robert. The Fatal Shore. Collins 1st US Ed 1986. The story of the transportation of slaves to Australia.603 pp G/VG €25
  23. Kelly Joan Larson. Irish Wit & Wisdom Peter Pauper Press New York 1st Ed 1976. Contains Irish proverbs, folklore etc. 62pp pocket book G/VG €12
  24. Landor A. Henry Savage. In The Forbidden Land. William Heinemann 1st Ed 1898. Vol 2 of 2. 216pp with a map and 250 illustrations including 4 colour plates. Ex Christian Brothers. An account of a journey in Tibet capture by the Tibetan authorities imprisonment, torture, and release.VG  €70
  25. Lawerence D.H. The Lost Girl. 4th Ed 1928. Red cloth with gilt title. VG+ €15
  26. Lawerence D.H. Aaron’s Rod. Secker.6th Ed.1933 Red cloth with gilt title.VG+ €15
  27. Lawerence D.H. The Rainbow. Secker. 4th Ed 1929 Red cloth with gilt title.VG €10
  28. Lawerence D.H. The Plumed Serpent. Secker.4th Ed 1928. Red cloth with gilt title VG+ €10
  29. ^^^Set of 4 Above Books €50^^^
  30. Lloyd George David. War Memoirs. Odhams. 1st Ed c1936.Green cloth with gilt title. NF €15
  31. Lover Samuel. Irish Legends and Stories. Popham Radford & co Plymouth, No Date but signed by owner in 1943. Legends of old Ireland .386 pp  VG- €30
  32. Luce J.V. The End of Atlantis. Book Club. 1st Ed 1973. Red cloth with gilt title VG €8
  33. Mac Call Seamus. Thomas Moore. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin 1936. The life of the Irish composer.124pp PDE slightly loose. Gilt back VG €40
  34. Mac Leod Catriona. Robert Emmet. The Phoenix Publishing Co/Talbot Press Dublin. His life from 1778 to his hanging in 1803. 139pp 1935 Gilt back worn  VG €50
  35. Mac Manus Seumas .The Well O’ the Worlds End.  The MacMillan Co New York 1939 1st Edition illustrations by
  36. Marryat Captain. Childern of the New Forest. Dean. c 1930. Children’s story. VG €8
  37. Matty Grahams G.A.C Glen Maghera 1933-1984 History Book. Imprint Coleraine     1st Ed 1984 A rare copy of the club’s history 181pp with many b/w photos NF €60
  38. Mc Hugh Robert J.  Henry Grattan. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin. The life of the statesman famous for Grattan’s parliament. 188pp Nd 1930’s Gilt back PDE slightly parted. VG €45
  39. Mc Sweeney. Seascapes. Mercier.1st Ed 2008.Maritime heritage by the RTE correspondent. Gilt title on spine.NF/NF €25
  40. Morley John. Life of Gladstone. Vol 2. Macmillan & Co. Much Irish Interest.     Blue cloth  with gilt title. 1905 reprint .VG €15
  41. Morton H.V. In Search of Ireland. Methuen & Co London 1938. His travels round Ireland in the late 1920’s. With 16 plates and cover maps 273 pp Gilt back. VG €30
  42. Casey Sean. Picture in The Hallway. MacMillan & Co London 1942 1st Edition Novel set in Dublin .345pp VG+ €25
  43. Faolain Eileen. Irish Sagas and Folk-Tales. Oxford University Press. 4th Ed 1960. 242pp illustrated by Joan Kiddell Monroe. The Story of the Fianna and Cuchullin VG/VG €28
  1. O’Neill Elizabeth. Owen Roe O Neill. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin The life of Owen Roe O Neill brother of The Earl of Tyrone and leader of the 1641 rebellion. PED slightly parted. 111pp. Nd 1937 Gilt back VG €35
  2. Palmer W. Hazel’s Annual for 1903. Hazel, Watson & Viney.Red cloth. VG €16
  3. Pollock J.H (An Philibin) William Butler Yeats. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin 1st Ed 1935 A story of Yeats published just before his death.TP parted Gilt back PED Loose 112pp. G €28
  4. Prendergast K.M. Joyce. Windyhall. Mercier Press. 1st Ed 1946. Novel. G/G €5
  5. Quinn James. Soul on Fire A Life of Thomas Russell. Academic Press. 2002 1st Ed. A biography of the United Irishman. Ex lib  VG+/NF €50
  6. Schuster M.Lincoln. A Treasury of The World’s Great Letters. Heinemann. 1st Ed 1941. Red Cloth. G €15
  7. Sheridan John D. James Clarence Mangan. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin The short life of the great Irish poet.Gilt back PED loose, b/w silhouette plate 126pp. Nd 1930’s.  VG- €30
  8. Simpson Colin. Lusitania. Book Club. 1st Ed 1972. NF/F €30
  9. Stevenson J Sinclair. Stories of the Irish Saints. The R.T.S Office London. ND. 1908   Ex Library     A lovely account of Irish Saints including Colmcille and Congall told for children. Four colour plates  128pp VG €25
  10. Treasury of World Masterpieces. Octopus.1st Ed 1984. includes Robert L. Stevenson’s Classics. Beautifully bound book green with gilt titles NF €18
  11. Walsh Caroline. The Homes of Irish Writers. Anvil Books 1982 1st Ed. Ex lib VG/NF €15
  12. Wilmot Chester. The Struggle for Europe. Collins. 1st Ed 1952 Blue cloth with gilt title faded. G €15
  13. Wiseman Thomas. The Day Before Sunrise.Book Club. 1st Ed 1976. War Novel. VG- €5
  14. Baden-Powell Robert. Aids to Scouting for N.-C.Os & Men. Gale & Polden London.1915 pocket book with red cover parted from book but intact. contains reference to C.B.S.I. 5th Donegal Troop. G €30
  15. Devenney Donnchadh. Horsefeathers from Donegal. Rossan  Sweeney. 1995 1st Ed. Yarns from the characters of West Donegal. 159pp VG €20
  16. Ó Laoire Lilis. On a rock in the middle of the ocean CIC 358pp NF €30


  1. Donegal Annual 1977. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG €45
  2. Donegal Annual 1996.The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  NF € 30
  3. Donegal Annual 2000. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG €15
  4. Donegal Annual 2001. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  NF €25
  5. Donegal Annual 2002. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG+ €20
  6. Donegal Annual 2003. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG+ €20
  7. Donegal Annual 2004. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG+ €25
  8. Donegal Annual 2006. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG €25
  9. Mc Clintock May. The Silent Land. History of Derryveagh. 180pp NF €20
  10. Miller James. The Dam Builders, Power to the Glens.2003.250pp with b/w photos of the construction of the North of Scotland Hydro schemes from 1943 to 1975. VG+ €20
  11. Cuinneagain Micheal.On The Arm of Time Ireland 1916-22.Ronan Press.1st Ed 1992. Signed by the author. VG €35
  12. Donnell Vincent. O’Donnells of Tyrconnell. 2 Ed 2000 VG €10
  13. Silke Fr John J. Colum Cille 1400 a Saint and his legacy.ULL 1997. 20pp pamphlet. VG €15
  14. Tullaghbegley Past and Present. ND. 68pp pamphlet in Gaeilge and English depicting the history of the Cloughaneely graveyard. NF €10O Searcaigh Seamus. 2nd Ed 1984. NF €18
  15. Mac Cumhaill Fionn. Slán leat a Mhaicín €8
  16. Mac Cumhaill Sean. Gort na Mara & Scéalta Eile €5
  17. Mac Gabhann Mici. Rotha Mór an tSaoil €10
  18. Mac Grianna Seosamh. Aistritheoir €30
  19. Mac Lochlainn Antain. Ruball an Ein €10
  20. Mac Meannaman Sean Ban.Triú Mam €7.60
  21. Ní Fhearraigh Mairin. Gabhla an tOilean €10
  22. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Cuimhní ar Dhochartaigh Ghleann Fhinne €10
  23. Ó Baoghill Padraig. Amhráin Hiudaí Fheilimí €10
  24. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Nally as Maigh Eo €10
  25. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Paidaí Laidir  Mac Culadh & Gaeltacht Thir Eoghain €16.50
  26. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Scealai Mor Mhin an Lineachain €10
  27. Ó Baoighill Padraig. O Ghleann Go Fanaid €10
  28. Ó Baoighil Padraig. Srathog Feamnai & Scealta Eile €6
  29. Ó Grianna Seamus.Na Bliainta Corracha €6
  30. Ó Laoire Lilis. On a rock in the middle of the ocean €29
  31. Ó Muiri Pol. Mireanna Saoil €12

Donnchadh Duffy 1879-1917

100 years ago today, on Wednesday January 10th 1917, my grandfather’s brother Donnchadh Shéimidh Eoin na Bráid Duffy left his home in Carrickfinn with two of his neighbours, fellow fishermen in route to Dungloe.

After completing their business in Dungloe, they proceeded home along the Gweedore Road towards Annagry.

Donnchadh who was on a well earned break from the herring fishing, decided to visit the home of his aunt in Cruckaceehan having heard that she was throwing a party for her sons and nephews who were off to Scotland in the morning.  His neighbours parted company with him and they continued their homeward journey. That would be the last time they would see him alive.

Thirty seven year old Donnchadh was an able fisherman and was regarded as the steadiest of the Duffy brothers. He had just been squared up for the winter fishing season of 1916. It reputed that that he had £200stg on his person on the day, a fortune. Donnchadh had earn his living aboard the pioneering motorboat Summer Star and previous to that on the lugger St Augustine.

He went into the party, but didn’t stay too long, wanting to be back in good time for his daily chores. While Donnchadh crossed over the railway line on his way home, a few hundred yards from party house, he was set upon by several of the revellers. He put up a struggle, but was overpowered, bludgeoned, robbed and left to die. Grievously injured, he was placed on the railway track, so he’d be run over by the morning train, setting the scene for a tragic accident.


His siblings waited into the morning for Donnchadh return, but fearing the worse, his sister and brothers set off looking for him. They visited the men that accompanied him to Dungloe and on being told about his visit to his aunt’s house, they set off on foot to Cruckaceehan, some six miles off.  Nearing Cruckaceehan, there was no sign of their brother, which was unusual, as he was most reliable.

As they approached the railway line, they found his badly beaten remains on the track. The great shock was lessened only by the fact that the train didn’t arrive on time.

His remains were taken to a neighbouring outhouse where Dr McDevitt held an inquest the following day. The inquest returned the cause of death as “Heart failure following shock and haemorrhage from injuries received.


After hearing that the culprits were their own cousins, Donnchadh’s grieving family decided to let natural law take its course.

Donnchadh left £90 in his will along with several boats. He was laid to rest in a new plot in the newly opened Annagry Graveyard. Later that year, his brothers when to Derry and ordered a marble headstone from J. Shields Monumental Sculptors, which was later taken to Annagry by the Summer Star and erected over his mortal remains. It was the first marble headstone erected in the graveyard and is still to this day, one of the most outstanding.

The family, who knew the identity of his attackers, spoke little about the incident.  As time rolled on and both his family and attackers passed on, the events around Donnchadh Duffy’s tragic death faded by.

As a local historian and his grandnephew, I taught it only fitting that I recall that fateful night 100 years ago and say a prayer for the happy repose of all their souls….

Big Herring Harvest of 1916

From an article that appeared in the Irish Standard on April 8th 1916

The fishing community of Donegal has had a remarkably successful season. Up to August things were little better than average years so far as supplies went, but, of course, more advantageous in the better figures realized. Then towards the end of the month shoals of herrings appeared unexpectedly in the fishing grounds, and the whole fishing population was immediately astir.


The Congested Districts Board was apprised of the prospects, and arrangements were forthcoming for making available the motorboats and sailing boats provided by the Board along this section of the coast. In due course a contingent of Scotch and Irish buyers appeared on the scene, and, with keen competition, the Donegal folk have been able to reap a splendid herring harvest. There were times during the season when the price of herrings went up to as much as from £3 to £4 and £4 10s a cran, and even higher. Reduced to a more easily understood basis, the higher quotations mentioned worked out at as much as 2d apiece for the fine qualities which are attracted to these Northwestern grounds, and the fishermen, as might be expected, rejoiced in their luck. The Board’s steam-drifters were requisitioned by the Admiralty.
The New Motor Boats
One of the developments which has accrued to the fishing interests in the district is concerned with the matter of the provision of the motor-boats and steam-drifters by the Congested Districts Board. Up to 1894 only open boats of the Greencastle yawl type
had been in use by the Donegal fishermen.

Greencastle Yawl at Greencastle Maritime Museum, Co.Donegal

In that year a number of large decked sailing boats, known as the “Zulu” type, were introduced by the Board for herring fishing at Downing’s Bay and other centres. These boats were worked by crews on the share system, a boat and gear being handed over to a crew of six as joint owners, subject to a repayment to the Board of about one-third of the net earnings. The system worked satisfactorily for many years, and the Board were repaid the entire cost of the boats and gear originally supplied. There were still several others of these craft, however, in respect of which considerable sums had yet to be discharged before the debt to the Board would be cleared off.

In 1907 a big change had to be met. Steam-drifters, which had been introduced into Scotland and England, took part in the Donegal fishery, with the result that the crews of the local sailing boats were discouraged by their inability to compete with the steam vessels which were able to land large catches both in stormy weather and in calms when sailing boats had to remain in harbour. Even when sailing boats were able to go out, the steamers could go farther out to sea where the best fishing grounds are and get back sooner to harbour, thus securing better prices. The Donegal fishermen, therefore, urged the Board to provide them with steam-drifters and motor-boats, so that they might share upon equal terms in the fishery off their own coast. With the aid of a loan from the Development Commission the Board acquired some steam-drifters and motor-boats.


Changed System                                                                                                                                    
New conditions suggested to the Board that it might be well to vary the terms for repayment for these boats and gear. Under the share system the length of time before repayment in full could be made and caused the crews, after a number of successive poor seasons, to lose sight of the prospect of becoming owners, and men changed from one boat to another. In
many instances, too, the crews did not maintain their boats and gear-in good order, and it was quite evident that, in the interest of the fishermen as well as of the Board, nothing short of ownership would stimulate the crews to take care of their boats and gear. It was, therefore, decided that the Board “would sell each boat and gear on the loan system to some one or more fishermen. The present value of the boats and gear was ascertained, and these
amounts were treated as having been lent to approved applicants, the advances to be repaid by half-yearly instalments. The initial cost of the boatswith gear ranged from £1,000 to
£2,000 each for motor-boats, and present values were fixed according to the condition of the craft, with a discount of 20 per cent for cash paid at the time of sale. The prices of the sailing boats and gear were, of course, very much less.


Activity at the Centers
The principal centers of the industry are at Downing’s Bay, Kincasslagh, Gweedore, Burtonport and Killybegs. Each of these places is a port where the fishermen keep their boats and where buyers attend, and the marketing conditions, influenced by the scarcity existing in the chief centers across the Channel, have been such as to assure fair ruling quotations at
every center. Buncrana, on Lough Swilly, which used to be the chief market, and in years back was the biggest and most important fishing base in the North-West, has suffered
because of the Admiralty Order closing Lough Swilly tor fishing, except in a restricted way within certain local limits, and the principal market is now at Downing’s Bay in Sheep Haven. Here a very large quantity of herring has been cured for export, and at the other centers mentioned the season has been scarcely less busy. At Killybegs in August, 1915, herrings of extraordinary fine size and quality were landed. Only a relatively small proportion of the catches was dispatched fresh to the markets.
Donegal Salmon Fishing
An interesting story appertains to the very appreciable development in the salmon fishing which has taken place off the West Donegal coast in recent years. It was not known that
salmon, when proceeding from the deep water to rivers, followed the same course year after year. To the late Father Bernard Walker, of Burtonport, is due the credit of proving this theory, and that, too, in the most incontrovertible manner. During some boating trips well outside the islands which fringe the Rosses, his observation was directed on a few occasions to the splashing of salmon, as he conceived it to be, and curiosity tempted him to try his luck with a salmon net along a course where he had seen salmon rise. His acumen and his enterprise were rewarded in a fine capture, and his initiative was quickly followed by the fishermen of the West Donegal coast, who found in the new grounds a successful area of operations.

Ros Scaite

Ros Scaite covering around 300 hectares elevates from a machair adjacent to Donegal Airport to the highest point near St Andrew’s Church. Ros Scaite sometimes referred to as Pointe Ros Scaite is made up of four townlands, namely Mullifinns, Carnboy, Dunmore, and Carrickfinn.



Mullifinns (Na Maola Fionna) meaning the white flat-topped hillocks is the oldest centre of habitation in Ros Scaite and indeed in west Donegal. Evidence of human activity here can be found in a kitchen midden which nestles at the base of a large sand-hill situated northwest of the runway at Donegal Airport.


There have been various finds at this site over the years suggesting at least three phases of occupation.  It suggests that there were human habitation here in the Bronze Age, the Middle Ages and as late as the 19th Century when sand storms forced the inhabitants to move inland.


In prehistoric times this area was the edge of a forest, the roots of these trees are constantly been unearthed at Trá na Stacán or the beach of the tree stumps on the westerly edge by the constant pounding of Atlantic waves.


This forest sunk when sea levels began to rise about five thousand years ago. It was close to here that Donegal Airport had its humble beginnings in the 1970s, when a visiting Welshman landed his single engine plane there on The White Strand or An Trá Bhán. Before he could make a successful landing, he swept over the cows grazing below a number of times to clear the “runway”.

 1-Airport 1963img_7281


Moving north across the sand-hills is the town-land of Carnboy (An Carn Buí) meaning a yellow rocky place. Here we find a working example of a clachan; a small traditional settlement dating to the early 1700s. It was in this clachan that one of the first modern schools in the Rosses was founded in 1782.


The clachan is positioned between the tranquil waters of Carnboy Lake and Trá Shruthán na nEascann meaning the beach by the stream of the eels. The eels of Carnboy Lake pass through this white sanded beach reminisced of an idyllic Caribbean hideaway on their annual migration to the Sargasso Sea.


To the west Oileán na Marbh or the Island of the Dead lies just off a small fishing harbour, aptly named The Boat Strand. The island was used over hundreds of years as a burial place for unbaptised children and unidentified sailors, not received in Christian graveyards.


Donegal’s rugged coast is a graveyard for many shipwrecks down the years. The coastline of Carnboy has its fair share of these wrecks. Some had yielded “treasure” to the local beachcombers. One such wreck floundered close to Oileán na Marbh in the early years of the 18th century.


On inspecting the wreck, two local men received their prize; a large town clock. They put the clock into their currach and made their way about two km north to Gola Roads where they rendezvoused with a sailing ship bound for England. The ship’s captain agreed to sell the clock for them, which he did and on his return passage, he stopped at Gola Roads where he gave the beachcombers 600 guineas.


The men invested their “treasure” by buying the tenant right of Ros Scaite, where their descendants still reside today.




A weekly market day and annual fair in Ros Scaite was recorded at the inquisition held by the English in 1613. It would appear that this fair was then a traditional event similar to the old Irish Aonach where craftsmen came from far in wide to sell their wares and where musicians and bards congregated in the old Gaelic code.



To the east of Carnboy lies the townland of Dunmore (An Dún Mhór) meaning a large hill-fort; now gone in antiquity.


There are two lakes in Dunmore, Loch Cormaic and Loch an Dhún Mhóir, the later though mostly covered by reeds, drains into the Gweedore Estuary. Close by in 1908 naturalist Robert Welch identified a new type of Erigone spider measuring 1.45 mm in length, which named E. Welchii in recognition.


Over the years Dunmore and indeed Roscaite has lost and gained territory through erosion. In the early twentieth century a fierce storm cut off Inis Sionnaigh, a tidal island linked to Dunmore


and accumulated the sand around island of Dún Ramhair meaning thick hill-fort, to the east.


This area developed into a machair and a popular recreation area.


To the south of Dunmore is Carrickfinn (An Charraig Fhinn) meaning Fionn’s (McCumhaill) Rock. Carrickfinn is in many ways the administrative part of Ros Scaite. In 1822, a detachment of the coastguard service was set up here to curb the smuggling of contraband along this coastline.


Numbering up to thirty naval personnel, it remained in operation here until its transfer to Bunbeg in the 1850s. When the coastguard vacated their station it became the Church for the local Church of Ireland community. This Church dedicated to St Andrew has been in continual use until the present day.


There have been various education systems operating in Carrickfinn from Hedge Schools, to Bible Societies, Coast and Island, Robertson, and the National School which closed in 1968.


A number of folk living along the eastern shore provided a ferry to Bunbeg, which was the main shopping centre.


With the construction of a causeway into Ros Scaite in 1945, this mode of transport changed.

Written by Jimmy Duffy 2016

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