Co. Donegal Historical Society

History Lecture - Ballyshannon Rural Council

Ballyshannon, Nov 2009

The final event in the 2009 calendar of the County Donegal Historical Society is the Emerson Memorial Lecture. The theme of this year's lecture is, "Ballyshannon Rural District Council, 1898 - 1925, a rural revolution."

This occasion celebrates the immense contribution of Louis and Kathleen Emerson to the success of the Society. Louis was one of the original founders of the Society in Lifford 1946 and remained totally committed to the Society in every way he could right up to his death in 2005. Most readers might have met him in his role as Curator of the Society's museum which is in the Friary at Rossnowlagh.

Kathleen was secretary of the Society for an incredible 44 years until her death in 2004 and would have been most people's first contact with the Society. Their home in Cluain Barron, Ballyshannon, was a welcoming place for everyone interested in Donegal's history and heritage. It has often been said that the Society owes a lot of its success to the hospitality they bestowed on all visitors to their home.

The lecturer is Arlene Crampsie and the venue is Colaiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon on Sat. Nov. 7th at 8 pm. Refreshments will be served.

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.

Program of Events for 2009

Fri. March 27th - Spring Lecture in Letterkenny I.T. at 8pm by Prof. Jean-Michel Picard, French Dept. U.C.D. Title: Donegal Saints of Medieval Times Tue. April 28th - A.G.M. in Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey at 8pm Wed. May 13th - Annual School's Competition in Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey at 7pm Topic: Donegal and the Ulster Plantation Sat. & Sun - May 9th & 10th - Coach outing to Clonmacnoise Visiting places of historical interest (See above for details) Sun. June 14th - Fanad (Harry Blaney), Church of Ireland car park at 3pm Visiting graves of Fr. John Gallagher and Neil Blaney Moross Castle Sun. July 19th - Carrigart (P.J. Boyce), The Square, Carrigart at 3pm Visiting Manorvaughan House, Old Meevagh Churchyard, Shuggling stone at Lackagh and Church of Ireland Sun. August 9th - Portnoo (Paula Harvey), The Dolmen Centre at 3pm Visiting the Kilclooney Megalithic Tombs, Portnoo Sun. August 30th - Derry (Dr. William Kelly), Bishop's Gate at 3pm Visiting the Historical areas of the Plantation City of Derry Sat. Sept. 19th - Paddy McGill memorial lecture, Heritage Centre, Ardara at 8pm Speaker: Paula Harvey Sat. Nov. 7th - Emerson Memorial Lecture, Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon at 8pm Speaker: Arlene Crampsie Title: Ballyshannon Rural District Council, 1898-1925, a Rural Revolution


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