Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


February 2017

Biddy Duirín (1863-1933)

The National Education System finally came to Carrickfinn in 1898. The building which housed this school was recorded in the Ordnance Survey of 1835 and was inhabited by Edward Sweeney at the time of the Griffiths Valuation of 1858. The first teacher was Mrs Bridget Diver, known locally as Biddy Duirín. Biddy nee Durnin was born in Bunbeg in the neighbouring Parish of Gweedore where her father Hugh and his brother James worked as shoemakers. After her marriage to John Diver (Tharlaigh Mhicí), she taught in the National School in his native Gola Island. John died early in life as did their two young daughters. Heartbroken, she left for a new life in Canada. Soon after arriving, she found that life there didn’t suit her there, so she returned home to Bunbeg.

Biddy got the Head Mistress position in the new Carrickfinn National School which opened on May 5thth 1898. She rowed her currach across the narrow but hazardous estuary that separates Carrickfinn and Gweedore.

Carickfinn School 1898
First day roll call at Carrickfinn N.S 5th May 1898

When the days were short and inclement she stayed in Carrickfinn where she is recorded in the 1911 census in Tammy Alcorn’s household.

April 2012 ...A Carrickfin Farm with Gola Island in the background
Tammy Alcorn’s home where Biddy was recorded in the 1911 census.  Her former home in Gola Island in the background



Mrs Diver a well qualified and experienced teacher had children coming from surrounding areas to avail of her tuition. She taught only in the medium of English and one of her sayings was “who owns these rags” while holding a pupil’s coat up with a stick.

There were eleven boys and seven girls recorded on the first roll call on this historic day. The oldest pupil was Patrick Doherty (Phádraig Airt) a fourteen year from the neighbouring island of Inis Shionnaigh while five years old John Boyle (Mhicí) from Carrickfinn was the youngest.

Boyle, Ed, Cecilia, Patrick, Jimmy, Kate
Two first day pupils Edward and Jimmy Boyle (with dark ties) pictured with their brother and sisters in St Louis, Missouri, USA in the 1920s. Photo kindly given by their relative Diane Hurd McBride

When Mrs Diver was off on sick leave in 1915, a young teacher who had just graduated temporarily filled the position. His name was Jimmy “Fhéimidh” Greene from Ranafast who later was to become the most famous Gaelic novelist of the twentieth century under the penname Máire or Seamus Ó Grianna.

There are no records for the rate of the teacher’s pay but it could have be less than the £17 13s 8d per quarter, the principal of the two teacher Annagry National School received.

On July 19th 1904 an indenture was signed by Victor George Henry Francis Marquis of Conyngham of Slane Castle, Connell Gallagher Tenant and the Most Rev Patrick O’Donnell Bishop of Raphoe. The contract was start of a process which would see Carrickfinn Island getting the first purpose built National School.

The school was built on a site given by Connell Gallagher, a tenant of local Conyngham Estate and was supervised by Rev James Walker, Parish Priest of Lower Templecrone in which Carrickfinn Island was a part. The cost of the building was £228 stg, a grant £152 stg was given by Westminster to the Commissioners of Public Works while the remainder was raised within the Parish. Hughie McCole from the Hills was the stonemason that built the new school.

1-School painting original
Carrickfinn School 1905-1968 Artist: Kim Sharkey

Biddy and her pupils left the old school on the opening of the new building on March 28th 1906. She continued to teach there until the end of term in 1923, when she retired after 45 years of service. She was replaced by Seán McColgan who had assisted her from 1916. She spent her retirement with her sister in Rathmullan where she died on 26th March 1933.


Written by Jimmy Duffy 15th May 2016

Kim Sharkey Art

Multi-media Artist Animator, Kim Sharkey, lives on the North-West coast of Ireland in Co. Donegal.

Check out her work here

The Runaway Fair

The fair day held on or close to February 4th in Dungloe (the fair wasn’t held on a Sunday) each year was an infamous one. It was a particular favourite with couples who, without the blessing of their parents, could ‘runaway’ to get married. The decision to get wed at this time of year was influenced by a Church law forbidding weddings during lent. This fair more commonly known as the “Runaway Fair” was also remembered for all the mishaps and tragedies that happened on this day. While some of these were accidental, others occurred naturally or were acts of God.

See below for details of two of these calamities.

A similar fair in Meenaleck

The following verses tell the story of the “Runaway Fair.”


  (February 4th)

Oh, come from the castle, the cabin and hovel,

Get on your best suit, socks and tie,

Throw way the oul spade and the graip and the shovel,

Then oft to the fair we will hie.



For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe,

Wi’ tinkers and’ tailors and highclass and low;

Wi’ soldiers an’ sailors and sellers o’ clothes:

The folks will be gathered round staneens in rows,

For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe.


Though Mary loves Peter for many a season,

Her mother for Peter don’t care:

And as she won’t listen to love or to reason,

‘Tis off to Dungloe with the pair.

‘Tis off to Dungloe, but they don’t go together,

The secret between them is planned:

Sure Peter went early-a calf on his tether-

And Mary cross’d over the Strand.


At four the two meet down beside Mrs Brennan’s:

They stroll round town for a while:

At five the pair part at the door of Mulhern’s-

On both their young faces a smile.

Now Peter goes one way, and Mary the other-

A second sly couple come, too:

‘Tis Big Charlie John and wee Bella McCrudden,

The chapel’s their set rendezvous.


The priest is awaiting: the papers a-signing-

They witness each other in turn:

As Mary smiles shyly at Bella behind her.

A blush on each beauty doth burn.

Two rings are produced, and two pairs get a blessing,

But singly once more each departs:

No time for emotion or kiss or caressing-

Yet four leave with love-laden hearts.


Next day there’ll be talking and gossip in plenty-

What couples came here from Gweedore?

From Acres and Ardveen and far-away Glenties?

From Crolly, Croveigh and Falmore?

Then tighten yer trousers, oul’ Andy Neece Owen,

Ye’ll not yet be sixty till spring:

Put soft sort o’ ‘spake’ on yer Kitty McKeown-

And tell her ye’ll buy her a ring.



For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe,

Wi’ tinkers and’ tailors and highclass and low;

Wi’ soldiers an’ sailors and sellers o’ clothes:

The folks will be gathered round staneens in row,

For this is the Runaway Fair o’ Dungloe.

Composed by Dominic O’Kelly. Londonderry, February 4th 1942 and 

Published in Donegal Democrat. Saturday February 14th 1942

Disasters that happened on February 4th

Three lifelong seamen lost their lives close to their Gola Island home while returning from the “Runaway Fair” on February 4th 1943. (Larne Times)
prior to 1946
The interior of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, Annagry before it was seriously damaged by lightening on February 4th 1946.

Republished with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archive

The Banshee Stone

The Banshee Stone stands by the road
Near Mullachderg Strand
Beneath it lies a fair young maid
She is buried ‘neath the sand
This story it was told to me
By Peggy Mhicí Owen
About a maiden turned to Banshee
Who lies beneath the stone.

1-FB Mullaghderg Waves 6
Mullachderg Strand, looking west to the Old Kincasslach Tower

A loving couple had their home
Near Lovely Mullachdubh
They dearly loved each other
Each day their true love grew
Their romantic bliss was ripped apart
The young maid’s heart broke in two
The Atlantic claimed the young man’s life
Fishing just off Mullachdubh.

Fishing off the coast of Mullachdubh

Fair hair down o’er her shoulders
Her eyes like diamonds shone
The young maid clung onto a rock
She wailed from dusk till dawn
She cried out for her lover
Who was lost in the raging sea
Her cries were heard in Tory, Arranmore and Innisfree

A view of Innisfree and other islands including Tory in the distance from Mullachderg Strand


The young maid turned into a Banshee
Her wail like a wild wolf’s call
Her screeching screams would wake the dead
In each grave in Donegal
The Parish Priest on horseback came
He blessed her and she lay dead
Beneath the rock they buried her
‘Her soul was lost’ he said


If you ever pass the Banshee Stone
Stay quiet and lend an ear
The wailing of the Banshee
They say you’ll sometimes hear
The maiden with the long fair locks
Peggy Mhicí Owen said it is true
She lies beneath the Banshee Stone
Near Dear Old Mullchdubh.

Composed by Neil McGinley

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