County Donegal Historical Society


My name is Colm Ó Tuathaláin (Colm Toland) and I am the chairperson of the Fahan Heritage Group. you can find out about us at . We have embarked on a long term project to preserve St Mura's Cross and the adjoining graveyard.

It is an ambitious programme. At the moment we are in the process of raising €15,000. Our deadline is in seven weeks. We are doing this by 'Crowd funding' through a company called 'fundit'. We will need to contact people who are sympathetic to our goal. You can find out about the funding scheme by going to our website - click on the three bars on the top right hand side - click on Donate - then click on fund-it page. Alternatively you can click on this link which will take you directly to the page: Could you forward this email or the link to your members. Alternatively if you have a Facebook page you could use it to notify your members.

Yours sincerely
Colm Ó Tuathaláin
Fund it :: Save Saint Mura's cross


The President of Donegal Historical Society, Seán Boner, was born in 1959 and lived on Arranmore Island until his family moved to Meenmore, Dungloe in 1973. He attended the local national schools on Arranmore and then attended a secondary school at Holy Cross College, Falcarragh as a boarder when it was with Clochair Muire Na nAingeal, a girls boarding school run by the Franciscan Nuns, part of Cloughaneely Community School. He later studied law at University College Dublin graduating in 1981 with B.C.L. (Hons). He became a solicitor having worked as an Apprentice or trainee solicitor with the firm of W. Kelly & Co (later N. Sheridan & Co), Letterkenny. He went to work with the firm of O’Donnell & Sweeney, Solicitors, Dungloe in 1985 and remained with that firm until 2006 when he established the practice of Seán Boner & Co, Dungloe. He also ran a part time office in Letterkenny for a number of years.

He joined Donegal Historical Society largely at the prompting of the Society’s accountant the late John Mc Creadie and like John Mc Creadie felt stongly that there was a need for a County wide historical society to give emphasis and expression to the rich and diverse history of the county.

His father Patrick Boner, who died in 2007, was a local historian and an active member of the Society for many years.

He is a member of Forbairt Na Rosann the local development group in Dungloe since 1997 and sees that organisation as the main provider of a community infrastructure for the old but youthful town of Dungloe. The town was laid out by the Marquis of Conyngham in 1825 as the town of his Rosses Estate. Forbairt Na Rosann with the help of state grants has provided a community infrastructure for Dungloe. It renovated the old church in Dungloe to form the Ionad Teampall Chroine Community Centre that provides space for the County Council Library, The Tourist Office, the District Court, community rooms and a cafe. It built two commercial units for letting and developed a community playing field among other things . Seán Boner remains involved with a number of other community group including, The Burtonport Railway Walk, Burtonport Development Association and the Rosses Anglers Association as well as Donegal Historical Society and sees community groups as a useful way of filling gaps in local development that might not otherwise be filled..

He has been a long time contributor of article on local historal events to the Donegal Annual and other local journals. Since he comes from an Arranmore Island and is a native speaker of Irish it is hardly surprising that he has long had an interest in the Irish language and matters pertaining to the sea.

2018 Donegal Annual

The 2018 Donegal Annual, edited by Seán Beattie, has now been printed.

"It educates us, it enlightens us and it entertains us." The words of Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council of Ireland, who launched the 2018 Donegal Annual in Jackson's Hotel this month. She told us that her grandfather, Paddy McGill, was a past President of the Society in the mid 1950's, and she recalled the prominence every Annual had on his bookshelf - all arranged in order and highly valued. The current Annual, again with great credit due to Dr Seán Beattie its editor, contains 17 articles plus book reviews. Both in its pedigree of Donegal's history and in the visual presentation of photos, maps and art-work, the overall impression is one of perfectionism.
It's incredible to think that the DA has an unbroken run since it first appeared in 1947. Even after all these years, the amazing aspect is that we are presented with fresh topics and new insights and research - Donegal's history is a truly fascinating subject.
Orlaith finished by saying that after the launch she was she was on her way to the family home in Ardara to place this Annual on her grandfather's bookshelf, thus ensuring that it now had all the Annuals in their entirety.

Let's now peruse this year's Annual.
In the leading article, Dr Michelle Brown establishes connections between the stone crosses of Inishowen and the Mediterranean regions and beyond.
Belinda Mahaffy chronicles the history of Donaghmore parish in the Finn valley.
Next, Amateur Drama in Donegal, 1952-1961 is put under the spotlight by Siofra Ní Shluaghadáin.
Aidan O'Hara focuses on an open air Mass in 1867 at Bunlin bridge in the Milford/Carrigart region.
Tomás Ó'Canann examines aspects of the history of the Mac Suibhne dynasty.
The provision of Anglican places of worship in the parishes of Inishowen is the topic of Dr William Roulston's article.
Music features prominently in this Annual. Marcas Ó' Murchú writes about John McGettigan (1882-1958) in "Donegal's migrant, musician, minstrel and entertainer."
Seán Boner, President of our Society, looks at the life and times of Néillí Boyle, the Donegal fiddler from Keadue in the Rosses..
Rev. Raymond Blair focuses on a ballad, "The deliverance of Donegal", its background being an election in the 1870's marking the last days of the Tories in the county.
Helen Meehan, a contributor to the Annual for over 25 years, is by the banks of the Eanymore river near Inver, looking at all the history in its vicinity.
Ross Cooper investigates in various maps and documents the much larger reach of Upper Lough Foyle in the Strabane/Lifford/ Raphoe district in the not too distant geological past.
Staying with matters aquatic, Mervyn Watson transports us back to the days of the great trans-Atlantic liners and their immense contribution to tourism in the county. The Cynthia and the California are the two liners he has researched in immense detail.
Dr Sam Hanna writes about a map from Balintra in 1773 and the families associated with the region at that time.
The connection between Aldfrith of Northumbria and the Cenel nEóghain of Inishowen is examined by Dr Brian Lacey.
Dr Desmond Murphy delves into the files of newspapers such as The Derry Journal in the 1920's looking at John W. Nixon and his Derry libel actions.
The Editor of the Annual, Dr Seán Beattie, details the history of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Donegal from 1904 to 1927.
Terry Dolan features the Manor of Castlefinn in relation to the Ulster Plantation leases, 1680-1827.
? Complementing these articles are book reviews and a bibliography of Donegal material by Rory Gallagher.

Guest of Honour, Orlaith McBride with Seán Boner, President of the CDHS and Dr Seán Beattie, Editor of the Annual.

Front L to R Belinda Mahaffy; Seán Boner, President; Helen Meehan and Orlaith McBride
Back L to R Ross Cooper, Seán Beattie, Editor; Rev Raymond Blair and Terry Dolan.

The front cover is "Turf Harvest, The Rosses, County Donegal " by James Humbert Craig (1874 1944) RHA. By courtesy of Peter Kelly.

We would like to announce we have some past Annuals available at the reduced price of €20 each.

Dear All,
Judging is complete and the results are as follows:
Best Primary School – group

1st Place Scoil Mhuire, Glenties
Winning Primary School class in Historical Society's Schools' Competition

Fifth class, Scoil Mhuire, Glenties with their teacher Eleanor McGill, who recently received 1st place in the Primary School Group Category of the Donegal Historical Society’s Schools' Competition and were presented with the Harley/ McDonagh Trophy by Sean Bonner, President of the Society. Runner Up Buncrana N.S

Best Secondary School – Individual

1st Place Emma Ni Riain, Coláiste Ailigh
Runner Up Conor Ó Gallachóir

(L-R) Meave Sweeney, Principal, Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola, Seán Boner, President, Donegal Historical Society, Conor Ó Gallachóir, student, Donna Mc Fadden, Vice Principal. Conor was recently awarded 2nd place in the Secondary School-Individual category, in the Donegal Historical Society's Schools' Competition for 2018.

I will contact the schools next week to inform them of the results. We can then agree a mutually suitable date for the President to visit the schools with the awards.


Donegal Historical Society elects new President at recent AGM

Welcoming everyone to the 2018 AGM of the County Donegal Historical Society in Jackson's Hotel, the outgoing President Dr. Lochlann McGill recalled the three years he had been in office and how much of an honour it had been to fulfil that role.
The highlight of his term, he noted, was the field day at Marble Hill House in 2016 in which we were privileged to be given access by the owners to the hall near the house where Patrick Pearse attended a ceili and conversed with the fiddle player, local man Andrew MacIntyre, about traditional airs from the district. Hundreds attended that field day and it was truly emotional to be in the hall that day. (It must be stressed that this house and hall are private property).
Una McGarrigle, Honorary Secretary, outlined the main events of the year and flagged up a slight drop in membership. In follow-up discussion, it was felt that this was due to the popularity of local historical societies across the county. However, the DHS has been promoting the county's history since 1946 and for many decades it was the only group doing so. But it was stressed that all the historical societies in the county benefit by mutual contact and cooperation, as we all have similar aims and objectives.
The main item on the evening's agenda was the election of officers. The newly-elected President is Seán Boner, a native of Arranmore island and a solicitor based in Dungloe.
Seán recalled that his interest in Donegal's history was as a result of his father who was also very active in the Society, conducting field days in the Rosses and who had documented the life and times of Roise Rua from Arranmore in one of his books. Seán is also a historian of great renown, a contributor of articles to the Annual, and who is always ready and willing to promote the immense history and heritage of his native island and indeed the surrounding ones such as Rutland and Iniskeeragh and the entire Rosses.
Singled out for a special presentation during the evening's proceedings was Seán Beattie, the long-serving Editor of the Donegal Annual. Seán was presented with leather-bound, gold embossed copies of the first 2 volumes of reprints of the Annuals covering the 1940's and 1950's. Several speakers from the floor also congratulated Seán and wholeheartedly agreed with Dr. Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh's observation that the Annual is one of the best historical publications in the entire country.
Full details of the Society are at and new members are most welcome.

The 2018 Executive members of the CDHS.

Dr. L McGill handing over the President's chain of office to newly elected President, Seán Boner.

Sean Beattie (on left) receiving special bound volumes of the first copies of the Annual from Dr. L McGill.

Donegal Historical Society
All inclusive Annual Coach Outing
Sat, April 28th, 2018
Tea/Coffee & Scones at 8am in Dorrian’s Hotel at 8am
Visiting: Jackie Clarke Library & Museum
Visiting Killala – Church of Ireland Cathedral
Lunch in Ballina Restaurant
Also the ever-popular Ceide Fields in Ballycastle
4 course dinner en route home (Harrisons, Cliffoney)

Bus Leaving:
Letterkenny (Clanree Hotel) 7:00am
Ballybofey, (Butt Hall) 7:20am
Donegal Town (Abbey Hotel 7.40am
Tea/Coffee in Dorrians Hotel 8.00am
Ballyshannon(Dorrians Hotel) 8.45am
Price €70
(payable when booking)
Call 0872261378

Bliamiris Dhún na nGall
County Donegal Historical Society Donegal Annual Volume 2 1954 - 1959

Donegal's Wild Atlantic Coast Book Launch at Inishowen Maritime Museum, Greencastle, Co,Donegal. Paintings by the artist Ros Harvey, and text by the author ...

Launch of 2017 Donegal Annual

Dr. Lochlann McGill, President of the CDHS, making a presentation to Mr. Raghnall Ó Floinn.
On right is Sean Beattie, Editor of the Donegal Annual.

The first County Donegal Historical Society Annual appeared in 1947 and the 2017 edition was launched recently in Jackson's Hotel - an unbroken run in all that time.
In his welcome address, Dr. Lochlann McGill, President of the CDHS, said this was a magnificent achievement and a great tribute to all involved during those years.
Seán Beattie, its editor for many years, outlined the vast range of topics in the current Annual and he noted that they covered the entire county - not easy, he added, in a county as big as Donegal.
The Annual was launched by Mr. Raghnall Ó Floinn, Director of the National Museum. He then delivered an illustrated lecture on the medieval bell shrines of Donegal. This on paper might seem like a dry, academic topic but it was the total opposite. It was fascinating to hear how important these objects were in the lives of our ancestors over 1,000 years ago. For example, Raghnall pointed out to us from the slides those parts of the shrines near the top and corner that were worn down more than other parts. This was due to constant manual contact, requests from each individual in their own particular circumstances. So, we soon discovered that these shrines were treasures in the personal and theological aspects; in fact, it was very interesting to see close-up the scenes from the Bible on them.
There was time after the lecture for questions and answers from the floor. One of these was about the fact that some of the shrines are in museums outside Ireland. The question of "repatriation", said Raghnall, is a delicate one. He recalled that in 2015 there was great excitement in Donegal when St. Conall's bell was given on loan to the county for several months by the British Museum and this is reckoned to be the first time it ever left that museum in over 100 years.
All present agreed that this was a most enjoyable lecture and a unique opportunity to hear it from such an eminent historian.
The Society would like to express its utmost gratitude to the Director of the National Museum for launching the current Annual and delivering such an innovative lecture.

Review of the 2017 Donegal Annual

Historic rambles around Donegal would sum up the recently published 2017 Donegal Annual from the Co. Donegal Historical Society.
In fact, the opening article by the editor Dr. Seán Beattie is, "A Quaker tour of Donegal in 1880". He focuses on James Tuke from Hertfordshire who came to the county to document the extent of the famine in order to deliver direct aid. A lot of his reports and letters still survive in places such as the Quaker library in London; these tell us what he found throughout the county on his visit.
Helen Meehan has been contributing to the Annual for more than 25 consecutive years. This year she examines the history of Lough Derg and St Peter's turas in the Mountcharles area. Helen notes that 100 years ago everyone came to St. Peter's well to begin the turas on the saint's feast-day, then attendance dropped during the 20th century but its popularity is now on the increase again.
Belinda Mahaffy focuses on the achievements of William Robinson, an influential gardener, born in 1838 in Co. Down, and who was a major figure in the horticultural world. He visited France and the Alps and introduced many new gardening methods to Ireland and Britain. Glenveagh, notes Belinda, is one of the gardens in Donegal based on his ideas. He was also a friend of Charles Darwin and he promoted the science of ecology.
Several contributors put the spotlight on Inishowen. Emma Mahon looks at the history of poteen making. Claire Burke, an architect, examines the built heritage of the peninsula as a result of the Plantation and Margaret Lasch Carroll, a New York citizen, writes about her research into a US Naval Air Station that was in Ture in the days of WW1. She has visited the site and her interest is due to the fact that her grandfather was stationed there. There were only 5 of these stations in the whole of Ireland and some photos of the base in Ture accompany her article.
Another maritime theme is in Mervyn Watson's article on the SS Melmore and her final voyage. These were the days when the fourth Earl of Leitrim established a steamship link between Mulroy, Derry and Glasgow.
The Wray and Stewart families of Ards, Creeslough owned a vast estate from Doe Castle to Dunfanaghy. Edward Rowland documents these families in consecutive generations. Ards House is today famous as a Capuchin friary, although the original landlord's house no longer exists.
An appropriate time now to close the Annual for a few minutes and look at the cover, as it's a photo of the mountain in the vicinity of Ards - Muckish. The photo was taken in 1950 by Ludwig Schenkel and the scene is so idyllic and serene. A lot of holiday homes would be in the same photo today.
In these days of Brexit - a word that's hard to avoid in any context - it is perhaps fitting that Martin Lynch recounts the consequences of partition in the Derry district from 1920 to 1922.
Seán Boner, an Arranmore native, tells us about Dr. Josie Clarke, the island's first resident doctor and also her husband Liam. She worked on Arranmore from 1929 to 1935 and her only means of transport was on horseback. Liam was badly injured on Easter Monday 1916 in Dublin and suffered immense pain for the rest of his life.
Peadar Ó Donnell, a famous son of Donegal, also knew the island well, having taught in one of its two schools and was also an accomplished writer. Dr. Nollaig Mac Congáil has tracked down a piece he wrote as a young teenager for the Derry Journal about his ambitions. It won him first prize and is in the Annual.
The importance of the Raphoe diocesan archives is featured in an article by Moira Hughes and it really is wonderful to read her contribution and realise the treasure trove of archives in the totally refurbished coach house behind the Bishop's house in Letterkenny. And in a similar vein, Rev Raymond Blair browses the pages of the Strabane Morning Post of the 1820's and discovers a huge number of items about daily life in Donegal, eg the pillory as a form of punishment.
The life of farm labourers from 1870 to 1900 is the subject of Padraig. G Lane's article, accompanied by photos of some traditional farming methods.
Tomás G. Ó Canann has a historical piece on the townland of Baile Uí Chanann near Dawros Head. Dr Frank Sweeney looks at tithe problems in Donegal. This is also a reminder of the days of landlordism mainly in the 1830's and the unpopularity of the system. And a few years earlier we had the Battle of Waterloo and Richard Doherty tells us about Rev. William Ó Donnell, known as the Waterloo priest, who is believed to have served in Wellington's army at Waterloo; his ordination followed years after his military career.
Michéal Mac Giolla Easbuic in his article in Irish "An Píolóta Cósta as an Tamhnaigh, Cill Chartha" writes about a ship called Erin's Hope which arrived in Donegal Bay in 1867. However, when she left New Jersey she did so under a different name and 9 days later came the new name.
Finally, John Cunningham casts a backward glance at what was happening in Donegal in 1917. The loss of the Laurentic was the major incident of the year and John describes this incident in some detail.
So, there's certainly plenty in the Annual to interest everyone and congratulations are due to Dr Beattie and his editorial team. The Annual will be launched in Jackson's Hotel on September 23rd at 3 pm by Raghnall Ó Floinn, Director of the National Museum, and he will deliver a short lecture on the medieval shrines of Donegal. All welcome.

Full details of the Society are at

The Manorcunningham field day on August 27th

On Sunday, the Donegal Historical Society held the last of their 2017 field days in the Manorcunningham area. The guide for the occasion was Leonard Roarty who has devoted his life to studying the rich history and heritage of the entire district.

All eras of Irish history have left their influences here and Leonard spoke about the wealth of artefacts still to be seen in the vicinity : churches, standing stones, a Mass rock, a flax mill and a Plantation house to name just a few. In fact, before the Plantation, the area was known as Magheramore - the big plain.

Thankfully, the weather was perfect and so we enjoyed a pleasant walk around the town, visiting the local places of historical interest and admiring the panoramic views of Errigal and Muckish. A bus was provided to take us to the more outlying spots such as the Mass rock and the Plantation house and the bus brought us back to finish the day with welcome tea and light refreshments in the Resource Centre.

The day was summed up by a visitor from N. Ireland who remarked that in almost 40 years driving between Lifford and Letterkenny he never knew until Sunday that he had been passing an ancient standing stone so close to the main road and visible from the same road.

Leonard Roarty, left with Dr. Lochlann McGill, President of the Donegal Historical Society and members of Raymochy Historical Society

Interior of Raymochy Church of Ireland, Manorcunningham

Interior of St. Columba's Church, Drumoghill


Our guide for our field day in Letterkenny was Kieran Kelly, Chairperson of the town's Historical Society and author of "Letterkenny, where the winding Swilly flows", a book which covers the history of the town extensively. We met at St. Eunan's College and Kieran gave us a history of this imposing and magnificent edifice.
Then on to Sentry Hill and one could see from the panoramic vista how it attained that name. A stone monument there informs us that in Penal Times a sentry stood guard at this spot during Mass to warn those present if Redcoats were on their way.

Our next stop was Conwal Parish Church of Ireland and we were invited inside to admire this lovely building (see photo) and Kieran then mentioned some of the more well-known people buried in its cemetery. A stone on the spire is dated 1636 (see photo) and it's believed this spire is the oldest building in the town.

Across the road for our next interior venue, St. Eunan's Catholic Cathedral. Kieran explained the carvings on the interior pillars celebrating the two saints after whom the Cathedral is named - St. Columba's name is rarely mentioned in general reference to the building. (See photo). He also detailed the history of the construction of the cathedral.

Then down to Market Square and we were informed about the various events in the town's history that occurred in the vicinity. Kieran mentioned the Ancient Order of Hibernians' association with the area and produced a sash belonging to his great grandfather. (See photo)

We finished our day with a visit to Trinity Presbyterian Church, Upper Main St. and Derek Fleming, by prior arrangement, played a medley of hymns and light music; this was very much enjoyed by all present. Our President, Dr. Lochlann McGill, finished by thanking Kieran profusely and everyone else associated with the places we visited for allowing us access during our field day. And, as this was a walking tour of the town, we were also most grateful for a pleasant afternoon's weather. =================================================================================================== Old News Reports on earlier activities of the Association can be found in Past Events