1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

DONEGAL (County of), a maritime county of the province of ULSTER, bounded on the east and south-east by the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh, from the first-named of which it is separated by Lough Foyle; on the south, by the northern extremity of the county of Leitrim and by Donegal bay, and on the west and north by the Atlantic ocean.

  • It extends from 54° 28' to 55° 20' (N. Lat.), and from 6° 48' to 8° 40' (W. Lon.); comprising, according to the Ordnance survey, a surface of 1,165,107 statute acres, of which 520,736 are cultivated land, and 644,371 unimproved mountain and bog.
  • The population, in 1821, was 248,270 and in 1831, 291,104.

County Donegal in Ireland's History

In the time of Ptolemy it was inhabited by the Vennicnii and the Rhobogdii, the latter of whom also occupied part of the county of Londonderry. The Promontorium Vennicnium of this geographer appears to have been Ram's Head of Horn Head, near Dunfanaghy; and the Promontorium Rhobogdium, Malin Head, the most northern point of the peninsula of Innisoen or Ennishowen (Inis Eoghain aka Inishowen).

The county afterwards formed the northern part of the district of Eircael or Eargal, which extended into the county of Fermanagh, and was known for several centuries as the country of the ancient and powerful sept of the O'Donnell's, descended, according to the Irish writers, from Conall Golban, son of Neil of the Nine Hostages, monarch of Ireland, who granted to his son the region now forming the county of Donegal.

Hence it acquired the name of Tyr-Conall (Tír Chonaill) modernised into Tyrconnel or Tirconnel, "the land of Conall," which it retained till the reign of James I.

  • The family was afterwards called Kinel Conall, or the descendants or tribe of Conall Fergus Ceanfadda, the son of the founder, had a numerous progeny, among whom were Sedna, ancestor of the O'Donells, and Felin, father of St. Cohunt.
  • Cinfaeladh, fourth in descent from Ceanfadda, had three sons, one of whom was Muldoon, the more immediate ancestor of the O'Donnells; and another, Fiamhan, from whom the O'Dohertys, lords of Innisoen (Inishowen or Ennishowen), derive their descent.
  • A second Cinfaeladh, eighth in descent from Fergus Ceanfadda, was the father of Dalagh, from whom the O'Donnell's are sometimes styled by the Irish annalists Sioi na Dallagh, the sept of Daly, or the O'Dalys. Enoghaine, his eldest son, was the father of Donell, from whom the ruling family took the surname it has borne ever since. His great-grandson, Cathban, chief of the sept in the reign of Brian Boroimhe (Brian Boru), first assumed the name of O'Donnell as chief, which was adopted by all his subjects and followers.
  • Besides the O'Dohertys, the septs of O'Boyle, Mac Sweeney, and several others were subordinate to the O'Donnells of Tyrconnel.
  • The chieftaincy of Nial Garbh, who succeeded his father Turlogh an Fhiona in 1422, was the commencement of a sanguinary era of internal discord aggravated by external warfare. This chieftain, after having endured much opposition from his brother Neachtan, and maintained continual hostilities with the English, by whom he was at length taken prisoner, died in captivity.

O’Neill and O’Donnell correspondents

The first effort of importance made by the English to subjugate this territory commenced by their seizure of the convent of Donegal and a castle of the O'Boyles, giving them a temporary command over the adjacent territory, from all which they were quickly expelled by the celebrated Hugh Roe, or Red Hugh O'Donnell, who succeeded to the chieftaincy in 1592. This powerful toparch, at an early period of his government, marched into Tir Owen (Tír Eoghain) against Tirlogh Luineagh O'Neil, chief of the sept of the same name and a partisan of the English, whom O'Donnell, although he had recently entered into terms of amity with the Lord-Justice of Ireland, expelled from his principality in 1593, forced him to resign the title of O'Neil in favour of Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, and afterwards compelled the whole province of Ulster to acknowledge his superiority and pay him tribute. He then sent an embassy to the king of Spain to aid him in the total expulsion of the English and having obtained a reinforcement of mercenaries from Scotland, carried on a successful war far beyond the limits of his own territory.

The English government, after various disasters, particularly the defeat of Sir Conyers Clifford in the Curlew mountains, resolved to transfer the seat of war into O'Donell's country, for which purpose a large fleet, having on board a force of six thousand well-appointed troops, was sent from Dublin under the command of Sir Henry Doewra. Having landed in Ennishowen (Inishowen) in the summer of 1600, they possessed themselves of the forts of Culmore, Dunnalong, and Derry. Each of these fortresses was immediately invested by O'Donnell, who, while his troops maintained the blockade, made two expeditions into Connaught and Munster. During his absence, his brother-in-law, Nial O'Donnel, and his brothers were prevailed upon to join the English, and to give them possession of Lifford, which they fortified. Here also they were hemmed in by the Irish, as likewise at the monastery of Donegal, which they had afterwards gained. The landing of the Spaniards in the south caused a total suspension of arms in Ulster, and the subsequent defeat of the invaders at Kinsale compelled O'Donnell to proceed to Spain in quest of further succours, where he died in September 1602, being the last chief of the sept universally acknowledged as the O'Donnell.

Co Donegal: Government

Prior to the union, the county sent 12 members to parliament; two for the county at large, and two for each of the above-named boroughs, but, subsequently, it has been represented by the two county members only, who are elected at Lifford.

The number of voters registered in January 1836, was 1745; of whom 181 were free-holders of £50, 169 of £20, and 1159 of £10 per ann.; 33 clergymen of £50, and 1 of £20, being the free-holds of their respective benefices; 1 rent-charger of £50, and 10 of £20; and 48 leaseholders of £20, and 143 of £10.

Co Donegal: Legal

It is included in the north-western circuit.

  • Lifford, where the county gaol and court-house are situated, is the assize town; quarter sessions are held four times in the year at Donegal, twice at Letterkenny, and once at Lifford and Buncrana.
  • There are bridewells at Letterkenny and Donegal, and session-houses at each of those places and at Buncrana.
  • The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 19 deputy-lieutenants, and 66 other magistrates, with the usual county officers.
  • The number of persons charged with criminal offences and committed, in 1835, was 472, and of civil bill commitments, 49.
  • There are 29 constabulary police stations, having a force of one stipendiary magistrate, 7 chief and 30 subordinate constables and 116 men, with nine horses, the expense of whose maintenance is defrayed by equal Grand Jury presentments and by Government. The district lunatic asylum is in Londonderry and the county infirmary at Lifford.
  • There are dispensaries at Lifford, Ballintra, Raphoe, Taughboyne, KillybegsMoville, Clonmany, Killygarvan, Kilmacrenan, Kilcar, Letterkenny, Donegal, Muff, Culdaff, Stranorlar, Rutland, Donagh, Killygorden, Dunkaneely, Ramelton, Buncrana, Carcygart, BallyshannonDunfanaghy, and Mountcharles, maintained by voluntary subscriptions and Grand Jury presentments in equal proportions.
  • The amount of Grand Jury presentments for 1835 was £27,609. 1. 4., of which £163. 10. was for the public roads of the county at large; £14,799. 2. 4. for the public roads, being the baronial charge; £5301. 18. 11½. for public buildings and charities, officers' salaries, &c.; £3480. 10. 3. for police; and £3863. 19. 9½. in repayment of a loan advanced by the Government.
  • In the military arrangements, the county is in the northern district. There are infantry barracks at Lifford and Ballyshannon, and artillery forts at Greencastle, Inch Island, Rutland Island, and at several places along the shores of Lough Swilly, each of which, except Greencastle, is garrisoned by a single gunner.

The Plantation of Ulster in Ireland

On the attainder in 1612 of Rory O'Donnell, to whom James I had given the title of Earl of Tyrconnell and the greater part of the family possessions, the district, which had been erected into a county called Donegal, by Sir John Perrot, in 1584, was included by that king in his plan for the plantation of Ulster. By the survey then taken, the whole county was found to contain 110,700 acres of cultivable, or, as it was styled, profitable land. Of these, the termon lands, containing 9160 acres, were assigned to the bishopric of Raphoe, to which they had previously belonged; 3680 acres were allotted for the bishop's mensal lands; 6600 acres for glebe to the incumbents of the 87 parishes into which the county was to be divided; 9824 acres of monastery lands to the college of Dublin (Trinity College); 300 acres in Culmore fort; 1000 acres to Ballyshannon, and 1024 acres, named the Inch, to Sir Ralph Bingley. The remainder, amounting to 79,074 acres, were to be divided among the settlers or undertakers, as they were called, in 62 portions, 40 of 1000 acres, 13 of 1500, and 9 of 2000 each, with a certain portion of wood, bog, and mountain, to constitute a parish. Of these portions, 38 were to be granted to English and Scotch undertakers, 9 to servitors, and 15 to natives. The 2204 acres still undisposed of were to be given to corporate towns to be erected and entitled to send burgesses to parliament, 800 to Derry, and 200 each to Killybegs, Donegal, and Rath: Lifford had 500 acres previously assigned to it. The residue of 604 acres was to be equally allotted to free schools at Derry and Donegal. All fisheries were reserved to the Crown. The distributive portions thus assigned do not correspond with the general total above stated, and the proposed provisions both as to distribution and regulation were far from being rigidly observed in practice.

County Donegal's Baronies, Parishes and Towns

The county is chiefly in the diocese of Raphoe, but parts of it extend into those of Derry and Clogher.

For purposes of civil jurisdiction, it is divided into the baronies of Raphoe, Kilmacrenan, Ennishowen (Inishowen East & Inishowen West), Tyrhugh (Tirhugh), Bannagh (Banagh) and Boylagh. It contains:

Topography of Donegal - Ireland

Topography. Part of Donegal from "Geological magazine" (1864)

Donegal is the most western of the three northern counties of Ireland. The surface, which is much varied, may be arranged into two great divisions of mountains and champaign. The latter, which is subdivided into two portions by the Barnesmore mountains, comprises the barony of Raphoe and the maritime parts of that of Tyrhugh, round Ballyshannon and Donegal.

Donegal mountains, comprehending all the remainder of the county, is interspersed with fertile valleys and tracts of good land, especially in the baronies of Kilmacrenan and Ennishowen. The most elevated mountains are Errigal (An Earagail), which, according to the Ordnance survey, rises 2463 feet above the level of the sea; Blue Stack (An Chruach Ghorm), 2213 feet; Dooish West (An Dubhais), 2143; Slieve Snaght (Sliabh Sneachta), 2019; Silver Hill (Cruach an Airgid), 1967; Slieve League (Sliabh Liag), 1964; and Aghla (An Eachla) 1958. There are also five others which have an elevation of more than 1500 feet and twelve more exceeding 1000 feet in height.

  • The most improved and populous district is that on the borders of the rivers Fin and Swilly, and the eastern confines near Lifford.
  • In the western champaign district, between Ballintra and Ballyshannon, the surface is in many places moory, heathy and rocky, particularly near the south-east, where ar a distance of three of four miles from the sea it rises into a tract of mountains ten or twelve miles broad, which sweeps round by Pettigo, Lough Derg, and the confines of Fermanagh; from these, a range extends westward by Killybegs to Tellen Head, whence a vast expanse stretches by Rutland, the Rosses, and the shores of the Atlantic, across Loughs Swilly and Foyle, into the counties of Londonderry and Antrim.
  • From Barnesmore to Donegal and Ballintra, the country is composed of bleak hills, many of which, though high, are covered with a sweet and profitable vegetation, while several points in the ascent from Killybegs into the mountains of the north present fine views of the bay and harbour of that port. Even amidst the wilds of Boylagh and Bannagh are cultivated and well-peopled valleys, but the district of the Rosses presents mostly a desolate waste.
  • On its western side is a region of scattered rocks and hills, some on the mainland, others insulated: the larger of these rocks are thinly covered with peat and moss; a few admit of some degree of cultivation, while almost all the innumerable smaller rocks are entirely bare. Collectively, this group is known by the name of the islands of the Rosses. Arranmore, the largest, containing about 600 acres, is about two miles from the mainland; on Innis, Mac Durn is the little town of Rutland; the largest of the rest are Irvan, Inniskeera, Inisfree, Owey and Gruit.
  • Northward of the Rosses lies the district of Cloghanealy, in Kilmacrenan, entirely composed of disjointed rocks and dark heath, except where, at a lesser elevation near the sea, a stunted sward appears. On the northern coast, about five miles from the shore is the island of Tory.
  • The peninsula of Rossuill, formed by the bays of Sheephaven and Mulroy, and that of Fanad by Mulroy and Lough Swilly, are of similar character, except that in the latter the mountains attain a greater altitude, are separated by larger and more fertile valleys, and command prospects of such extent and variety as to attract visitors from distant parts. Lough Swilly, an arm of the sea penetrating far into the land, and receiving at its southern extremity the river from which it derives its name, has on its western shores a tract of rich arable soil losing itself gradually in the mountains, while its eastern side presents a tract of similar character extending towards Derry, under the general denominations of Blanket-nook and Laggan.
  • To the north of the city of Londonderry lies the barony of Ennishowen (Inishowen East & Inishowen West), a large peninsula bounded on the east and west by the bulges of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly. It consists of a central group of mountains with a border of cultivation verging to the water's edge: in the mountains of Glentogher is an expanse of 4000 acres of peat and heath. Besides the great inlets on the northern coast already noticed the shores and indented with numerous small recesses.
  • The islands, except some of those of the Rosses, are very small, the principal being Rockiburn island, off Tellen Head; Inisbarnog, off Lochrusmore bay; Roanmish, off Iniskeel; Gold island, Inismanan, Inis-Irhir, Inisbeg, Inisduh, and Inis-bofin, off Kilmacrenan barony; and Seal island, Ennistrahull and the Garvilands, off Ennishowen.
  • The lakes are numerous but small. The principal are Lough Derg, near the southern boundary of the county, celebrated for St. Patrick's Purgatory, a place of annual resort for numerous pilgrims, the particulars of which will be found in the account of Templecarne parish; and Lough Esk, near Donegal, a fine expanse of water environed with wild and romantic scenery. The others are Loughs Fin and Mourne (the headwaters of rivers of the same name), Salt, Glen, Muck, Barra, Bee, Killeen, Broden, Veagh, Cartan, Dale, Kest, Fern, Golagh, and Nuire, with several others round the base of Slieve Snaght mountain; one near Dobeg, in Fannet; others in the Rosses, and others near Nairn, Ardara, Glenona, Glenleaghan, Lettermacaward, Brown Hall, Ballyshannon and elsewhere.

The climate was formerly cold and unhealthy, with an incessant humidity of atmosphere; but the drainage of some of the lakes and marshes, and the lowering of the levels and deepening of the beds of several rivers, during late years, have produced very beneficial change, both as to the health of the inhabitants and the increase of arable land: the soils are very various: the richest are those of the champaign district in the south-east.

  • Near Leitrim county, it is deep, coarse, and sometimes incumbered with rushes, but in the vicinity of Ballyshannon it assumes a richer character. The change arises from the subsoil, here limestone, the bed of which extends to the neighbourhood of Donegal, supporting a light, gravelly, brown soil; thence to the mountains of Boylagh and Bannagh the soil gradually deteriorates, having a brown clay and rubbly substratum.
  • From Dunkanealy to Killybegs and to Tellen Head the soil of the cultivable glens is a light gravelly till, resting on variously coloured earths and rocks; while that of the mountain region, with the exception of a few green spots, consists of a thin surface of peat on a substratum of coarse quartz gravel, under which are found variously coloured clays, based for the most part upon granite. The soil of the little dales in Fannet is a brown gravelly mould, or a kind of till based on gravel, soft freestone or clay-slate of various colours: but both here and at Horn head, to the west of Sheep Haven, the drifting sands, impelled by the gales from the Atlantic, have covered much good land. The soil of the arable lands of Ennishowen is mostly similar to that of those last described. The chief tillage district is the barony of Raphoe, in which, besides potatoes, wheat, oats, and barley, flax is grown and manufactured largely.
  • From Ballyshannon to Donegal and Killybegs tillage is general; and in Boylagh and Bannagh much land is now under cultivation, though formerly scarcely sufficient was tilled to supply the inhabitants with potatoes and grain. Oats and potatoes, the former chiefly for distillation, are the principal crops throughout the mountainous districts; but latterly the growth of barley and flax has been encouraged.
  • Agriculture, as a system, however, is not much practised except among the resident gentry, by whom great improvements are annually made. They have formed and strenuously support farming societies, have awarded premiums, and recommended improved implements and better rotation of crops. The effects of their exertions shew themselves in a very striking manner in the baronies of Raphoe and Tyrhugh, in each of which there is a farming society, which has been attended with very beneficial effects; wheat has been raised in both these baronies with the greatest success. Ballyshannon formerly imported flour to the amount of several thousand pounds annually; during the last two years, considerable quantities of wheat were exported. Turnips, vetches, mangel-wurzel and other green crops are common. In the two last-named baronies the fences, also, have been much improved: they are now generally formed of quickset hedges, while in most other parts, except the north of Ennishowen, they are sode ditches of dry stone walls. The iron plough is in general use among the gentry and larger farmers, but the old cumbrous wooden plough is still used in many parts. The angular barrow is becoming very general, and all other kinds of agricultural implements are gradually improving. A light one-horse cart, with iron-bound spoke wheels, has nearly superseded the old wooden wheel car, and the slide car is seldom seen out of the mountain districts, in which the implements are still rude in construction and few in number, consisting, on many farms, merely of the loy (a spade with a rest for the foot on one side only), the steveen (a pointed stake for setting potatoes), and the sickle. Good grasses of every species grow in the champaign tracts; but in the mountains, they are coarse and bad. Cattle, which have been fed for twelve months on the latter, where the vegetation consists of aquatic grasses, rushes, and heath, are seized with a disorder called the cruppan, a sort of ague that is cured only by removal to better herbage; yeat the change of pasture, if long continued, gives rise to another disease, galled the galar, no less fatal, unless by a timely removal to the former soil.
  • Even the pastures of the champaign parts are unfit for fattening and are therefore used only for grazing sheep, young cattle, and milch cows. A peculiar herbage, called sweet-grass, formed of joints from two to three yards in length, grows on the shores of Innisfree, several feet under the high watermark of spring tides, to which the cattle run instinctively at the time of ebb. In Raphoe, irrigation is general. Besides the composts usually collected for manure, lime is in universal demand. In the maritime district from Ballyshannon to Killybegs, sea-weed and shelly sand are the chief manures; throughout the mountains, sea-coral alone, except on the grounds of a few gentlemen where lime is used. The character of the cattle has been much improved by the introduction of the English and Scotch breeds, particularly the Durham, Leicester, and Ayrshire. A cross between the Durham and old Irish produces an animal very superior in appearance, but not found to thrive. The favourite a present is a cross between the old Leicester and the Limerick, which, being again crossed by the North Devon, or Herford, grows to a large size and fattens rapidly. The breed of pigs has also been greatly improved; when fattened, they are by some sent to market alive, by others slaughtered at home and the carcases carried to Strabane or Londonderry for the provision merchants there. Fowl and eggs in large quantities are transmitted to the sea-ports for exportation.

Co Donegal Natural Resources

Donegal Mountains

The county is very bare of wood, though there is some good ornamental timber in many of the demesnes, and young plantations, formed in several places, are very thriving. Well stocked orchards and gardens are to be met with round many of the farm-houses in Raphoe.

  • Granite forms the summit of all the mountains, and with the new red sandstone, rests on a substratum of limestone mostly of the primitive formation and containing no organic remains, although secondary limestone abounds in several parts. The limestone is found through all the level districts near the sea and elsewhere, and in the mountains forming the manors of Burleigh and Orwell. 
  • On the eastern shore of Lough Swilly, and in some other parts of Ennishowen, is found a species of calcarous argillite, having the appearance of grey limestone, but containing too much silex to burn freely. Round Carndonagh, in the same barony, is a dark blue limestone of superior quality.
  • Many species of valuable marble have been discovered. One of these, of a pure white, free from flaws or discolouration, and capable of being raised in blocks of any dimension at a trifling expense, has been found in the Rosses; but the want of roads, though the quarries are at a short distance from the sea, prevents its exportation. Grey and black marble of very fine quality have also been found. Little advantage has hitherto been derived from any of the other mineral productions.
  • Lead ore has been discovered in several places in the barony of Boylagh; in the river flowing from the mountain of Killybetgs; on the surface near the western shore of Loughnabroden; at the foot of the Derryveagh mountains; in the Barra river; in Arran-more and other parts of the Rosses; and at Kieldrum, in the barony of Kilmacrenan, where there is a considerable deposit of ore collected for a lead-work which was carried on a few years since, but discontinued as being unprofitable from the want of experienced miners.
  • Copper ore and iron pyrites may be traced in Errigal and Muckish mountains, and detached masses are found in several of the mountain streams and near Ballyshannon. Both these ores are abundant, and in several other parts, the numerous vitriolic springs indicate larger deposits. Iron ore abounds in several parts. As long as fuel could be procured from the forests of Donegal, Derryveagh, Slievedoon and Kilmacrenan, the mines were wrought and the ore smelted. The remains of bloomeries are often met within the mountains and the foundations of forges near some of the rivers.
  • Manganese is also abundant. Coal appears in a thin seam at Dromore, on the shore of Lough Swilly, and indications of it are frequent in Innishowen, but no attempts have yet been made to raise it. The same remark applies to steatite or soapstone, here called "camstone," though found in abundance in all the mountains of Kilmacrenan and Bannagh: it is mostly of bright sea-green colour.
  • At Drumarda, on the shores of Lough Swilly, on Tory island, and in the Rosses, are extensive beds of potter's clay, which is used in a small degree in manufacturing coarse pottery.
  • Pipeclay and other kinds of useful clays are found frequently, but little used.
  • Silcious sand of a very superior kind is abundant at Lough Salt, and in the Ards, whence considerable quantities are exported for the manufacture of glass.
  • Excellent slates are raised near Letterkenny, Buncrana, and in some other places.

Rivers of County Donegal

The principal rivers are the Foyle, the Swilly, and the Erne. The first-named, and by far the most important in a commercial point of view, rises in Lough Fin, in the mountains of Branagh, and under the name of the Fin-water proceeds to Lifford, where, on its confluence with the Mourne from the east, the united stream takes the name of the Foyle, and flowing past the city of Londonderry, of which it forms the capacious port and harbour, opens out into Lough Foyle.

  • The Swilly rises in the mountains of Glendore, and passing by Letterkenny forms a large estuary between Ramelton and Newtown-Conyngham, which at flood tide appears like a large arm of the sea, but at low water exhibits a dreary and muddy strand. Further on, and opposite to Rathmullen, is Inch island, beyond which the waters expand into a deep and spacious gulf, which was considered of such importance during the late war with France, as to be protected by numerous batteries and martello towers.
  • The Erne, anciently called the Samaer, flows from Lough Erne, enters the county at Belleek, and after a rapid course of four miles forms the harbour of Ballyshannon, which, should a rail-road be formed between it and the Lough, would acquire a large accession of trade, and by the union of Loughs Erne and Neagh, so as to form a more speedy communication between the north and west of Ireland, become an important harbour.
  • The Burndale river rises in Lough Dale in the mountains of Cark, and flowing eastward, joins the Foyle: it is navigable to Ballindrait for vessels of 12 tons.
  • The other rivers are the Esk, Inver, Awen-Ea, Onea, Barra, Golanesk, Guidore, Clady, Hork, Awen-charry, Lenan, Binnian, Awencranagh, Awenchillew, Sooley, and many smaller streams.

The roads, although, in consequence of the late Grand Jury act, considerably improved, and several new lines opened, require much to be done. They are, in general, badly constructed and not properly repaired, although the best materials are in abundance.

Donegal County Industries

carpet factory donegal 1905

The manufacture of linen cloth of every kind of texture, chiefly from home-raised flax, is carried on to a considerable extent. Several bleach-greens are in full operation, and an extensive factory has been recently established at Buncrana. Cotton cords, velveteens, fustians, and checks are woven to a considerable extent for exportation, as are friezes for home consumption. Woollen stockings of excellent quality, manufactured in the barony of Boylagh, are in great demand. Whiskey is made very largely both in licensed and unlicensed distilleries: the latter are chiefly in the Rosses, Boyalgh, and Ennishowen, which last place has long been celebrated for the quality of the spirit produced there.


The north-western coast fisheries are chiefly confined to Donegal. They had declined greatly for many years in consequence of the herring, the chief object of capture, having deserted the coast. In 1830 it was ascertained that the shoals had returned, and the fishery consequently revived, insomuch that the value of the take in 1834 exceeded £50,000, and in the two succeeding seasons has been still greater. The coast everywhere affords the means of an abundant summer fishing, but the want of proper boats and tackle deters the fishermen from venturing to struggle against the stormy seas that break upon the shores during the winter.

  • The white fishing for cod, ling, haddock, and glassen, and that of turbot and other flatfish, all of which are in inexhaustible abundance, is little attended to beyond the supply of the neighbourhood. The sunfish resorts hither and is sometimes taken.
  • Seals are caught in large numbers in Strabreagy by and near Malin.
  • There are several salmon fisheries: the principle is that on the Erne at Ballyshannon; there are others in Loughs Foyle and Swilly and in some of the smaller bays.
  • Eel and trout abound in all the lakes and rivers.

The bays and harbours are numerous, capacious, and safe. The principal are Lough Foyle, forming the entrance to the port of Londonderry and navigable for vessels of the largest draught to that city, and by lighters of 20 tons' burden to Lifford, and thence by the Fin-water to Castlefin; the small but secure bay of Strabreagy, well sheltered by Malin Head; Lough Swilly, the entrance to which is safe and easy; Mulroy; Sheephaven; the numerous inlets of the Rosses; Buibarra and Loughros bays, and the capacious bay of Donegal, containing within its scope the smaller harbour of Ballyshannon, on the improvement of which several thousand pounds have been expended by Col. Connolly.

Donegal's Antiquities and Buildings

Reelan bridge County Donegal

  • Near the junction of the county with that of Fermanagh is a relic called "the Giant's Grave;" it is a cave, the sidewalls of which are formed of large blocks of unhewn stone, and the ceiling of flags of limestone.
  • Another singular relic of antiquity connected with the O'Donnell family is called "the Cash." It consists of a small box containing the Psalter of Columbkill, said to be written by the saint himself.
  • Another, consisting of a flag-stone raised 18 inches from the ground on other stones, perfectly circular and regularly indented with holes half an inch deep and one inch in diameter is in the deer-park of Castleforward.
  • The ruins of seven religious houses still visible out of 41 are those of astrath near Ballyshannon, Bally Mac Swiney, Donegal, Kilmacrenan, Lough Derg, Tory island, and Rathmullen.
  • The principal castles yet remaining, wholly or in part, are Kilbarron, Killybegs, Donegal, Castle Mac Swiney, Dungloe, Ballyshannon, Fort Stewart, Burt, Doe and Green castle at the mouth of Lough Foyle.

The modern seats, which are neither numerous nor peculiarly ornamental, are noticed in the accounts of their respective parishes. The farm-houses are comfortable, but defective in cleanliness. The cabins of the peasantry, especially near the coast, are wretched and extremely filthy, the cattle and swine generally associating with the family, a custom also observable at times in the champaign country. The fuel is turf: the food: potatoes, oaten bread, and fish. with some milk and butter; the clothing mostly frieze, though articles of cotton are common, especially for the women's wear.

The English language, pronounced with a Scotch accent, is general in the flat county, but in the mountain region, it is little spoken.

  • The most extraordinary natural curiosity is a perpendicular orifice in one of the cliffs projecting over the sea near Dunfanaghy, which in certain states of the tide throws up a large jet of water with a tremendous noise: it is called Mac Swiney's Gun. Not far from Bundoran is a similar orifice, called the Fairy Gun, from which perpetual mist issues in stormy weather, accompanied by a chaunting sound observable at a great distance.
  • Near Brown hall is a subterraneous river with numerous caves, the water of which possesses a petrifying quality: reeds and pieces of boughs are very soon encrusted with the calcareous matter, and large deposits of sulphur are found on the banks. Natural caves are found on the shores near Bundoran and numerous others in various parts.
  • In Drumkellin bog, in Inver parish, a wooden house was found perfectly framed and fitted together, having a flat roof: its top was 16 feet below the present surface of the bog.

SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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READ MORE 1837 Lewis' Parish Reports


  • James McGee, b.abt. 1818 or 1808 I believe in Falacarragh (Crossroads) possibly Killuit townland. Immigrated to Mauch Chuck, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, USA. Married Eunice (Unity) McGinley, from Gortahork, Tullaghobegley, Donegal, Ireland in 1821. They married in Northern Liberties, Carbon County, Roman Catholic, December 30, 1844. James died Feb 16 1893 in Mauch Chuck, and Eunice died on March 20, 1882.  Both deaths were before death certificates were issued in Pennsylvania. Eunice is buried in the Immaculate Conception Cemetery,and on her tombstone, is her location in Ireland, and her parents names. Her mother was Grace, but the inscription of her father is hard to read. It could be either Dominic or Daniel. Their children are as follows.

    Rose A, McGee b. Oct. 5, 1847 and died Jan 2, 1929

    James McGee b. July 12, 1849 and died Dec 20, 1919

    Grace McGee b. June 30, 1851 death unknown

    John McGee b. Sep 10, 1853 died Feb 1923 Union Hill, Hudson County NJ (My 1st great grandfather)

    HUgh McGee b.1858 d,Jan 5 1903 Butte, Silver Bow County,  Montana

    Mary McGee b. Oct 2, 1859 d.March 22, 1862 Mauch Chuck, Carbon County PA, buried with mother Eunice

    I have DNA results for 5 of the grandchildren of John McGee, All on Gedmatch,My Heritage,FTDNA, and 23 & Me.

    Would like to identify the parents and siblings of James McGee and the siblings of Eunice McGinley.

    I have a tree on Ancestry.com listed as Keller Tree

    Thanks for reading.

    Mary O'Shea,





    Thursday 16th January 2020 09:01PM
  • The Ua Canannáin (O’Cannon) dynasty produced twenty-two kings who ruled Tir Conaill (Chonaill) periodically between 941 and 1250.  From 950 to 1250, the ancient Irish annals record the deeds of more than thirty O’Cannons, virtually all of whom were Chiefs of the Name and most of whom were Kings of Tír Chonaill.  


    Wednesday 29th April 2020 02:09PM
  • My ancestors DNA results : 4 th great grandfather James Kelly was born on 1 November 1814.Derrynanaspol, Lettermacaward, Donegal, Ireland Married Mary Devine my 4th great grandmother .Thier son Patrick Peter Kelly was born 1838 My 3rd great grandfather they had another child Constantine born1848 .


    Saturday 30th May 2020 01:25PM
  • I have been researching my GG Grandfather Robert Hamilton for some time. He was a Land Steward and lived in Drumnasillagh, Glenties, Donegal. I have no birth information, but very recently have a date of death, 6 May 1859. I know his occupation from his son William’s Australian marriage certificate and the baptism records for Robert’s children. My Great Grandfather, William Hamilton, was born in Glenties on 23 Mar 1847 (from his marriage certificate). He was baptised on 15 Jun 1847 in Ardara Parish, Donegal, Church of Ireland. William was a Monitor and then First Monitor (teacher’s aide) at Glenties National school. This information is from the Teachers Salary Books and from his Australian Teachers record. His sisters were Sarah (1849-1919), Catherine (1844) and Mary (1840). Sarah was a school mistress in Glenties (from her marriage certificate). I found the baptism records on Roots Ireland. The father and mother are Robert and Mary and the father’s occupation is Land Steward. Both Catherine and Mary (Maryanne) were also teachers in the area. This information is again from the Teachers Salary Books. William left Ireland and emigrated to Australia in 1867. His occupation was teacher. He joined the Victorian Education Department as a teacher rising to Chief Inspector of Schools and being awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University. He died in Melbourne in 1919. In William’s Australian Marriage Certificate his mother’s maiden name was Macevery. Robert Hamilton was I believe a guardian of the Glenties workhouse and was the chair of many of the meetings. I found Robert in the online records for the workhouse. I also found Robert in Griffiths Valuation in Drumnasillagh. I have identified his land which he leased Mary Hamilton, Roberts wife, died on 16th of January 1880, the widow of a Land Steward. She died in Drumnasillagh. As I mentioned, Robert Hamilton was a Land Steward for the Marquess of Conyngham. The Marquess, an absentee landlord, owned the all land in Glenties. On Facebook there is a website that is a news site for people of Glenties. I posted William’s and Robert’s Story hoping that there may still be a relative in Glenties or someone who may know something. I knew that Robert was a member of the Church of Ireland and that there is a Church in Glenties. A person, Ella, from Glenties was tagged. She made contact through Facebook. She said that she was a member of the Glenties Church of Ireland and thought that there was a gravestone for a Robert Hamilton in the Churches Graveyard. Next time she was there she said that she would have a look when she was able to leave lockdown because of the COVID 19 situation. She got back and said that there was indeed a gravestone. It was the first time that she had been out since the lockdown. The inscription was: This stone is erected in the tender remembrance of a Kind & honest Father by the sons of ROBERT HAMILTON who for nearly 20 years discharged his duties in this place as overseer to the Marquis Conyngham without reproach. It gave his date of death as May 6th, 1857.


    Monday 20th July 2020 03:40AM
  • Hi Graham

    Drumnasillagh is in the Civil Parish of Inishkeel. Have you joined irelandxo.com/ireland/donegal/inishkeel

    We'd love if you shared Robert Hamilton's story to our Ancestor Chronicles for Inishkeel.

    Here's how... irelandxo.com/ireland-xo/news/ancestors-masterclass

    Rua, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘︎

    Thursday 10th September 2020 01:49AM
  • Graham,

    Where did you find the "Teacher's Salary Books"?  One of the few things I know of my GG-Grandfather is that he was a teacher from Donegal.


    Thanks for your help.



    Linda McFadden

    Saturday 7th November 2020 03:33AM
  • Hi Linda


    I found them on a site - Donegal Geneology.

    See below






    Saturday 7th November 2020 05:16AM
  • Graham,


    Thanks for getting back to me!  I could not find his name on this page.  I think he may have immigrated in the early 1840's which predates most of these records.  I enjoyed going through the information though.



    Linda McFadden

    Monday 9th November 2020 04:03AM
  • My great grandfather, Patrick O'Gara (Garragh), emigrated in 1842, He followed his older brother, Michael. who came out in 1839. They were from Kinnakillew, Kilgoly, Glencolumbkille. Some cousins, McGinleys, still live there.

    I believe the O'Gara brothers were the sons of a Michael O'Gara who, with Edward of Drum Roe, were brothers of John, father of Patrick, who's daughter, Bridget, was wife to Hugh McGinley. Hugh is the ancestor of the Kinnakillew McGinleys.


    Thursday 1st June 2023 04:00PM
  • Hugh McGinnis b. abt 1835 I believe in County Donegal, immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri and the first record I can find him is his son’s baptism.  At some point, he married Mary Ann Barrett born in Belmullet, County Mayo in 1837.


    Michael McGinnis b. 7 May 1861 in St. Louis  d. 1864

    Margaret McGinnis b.21 Dec 1862 in St. Louis d. 17 June 1929 Denver, Colorado

    William McGinnis b. 5 July 1864 in St. Louis  d. 16 Aug 1925 Phelps county, Missouri (My great-grandfather)

    John McGinnis b. 5 Jun 1866 St. Louis,  d. 23 Aug 1947 St. Louis

    Michael McGinnis Sept 1869 Missouri, d. 19 Sept Louisville, Mississippi

    Hiney McGinnis 10 May 1871 Madison county, Missouri, d. 7 July 1940 Dent county, Missouri

    Mary Jane McGinnis 24 May 1874 Missouri, d. 3 Oct 1959 Collinsville, Illinois



    DNA matches lead me to Hugh McGinnis being from County Donegal, I have McGinley matches who immigrated to Carbon, Chester and Montgomery county Pennsylvania, who go back to Gweedore and Gola Island in Donegal.  I have O’Donnell matches from Inishmeane, and Boyle and O’Donnell matches from Gweedore. And I have McFadden matches from Dunfanghy. And McGrenra and Collum matches leading back to Ardsbeg, Tullaghobegley.  But never do I find a McGinnis in any of these places.  I find McGinnis in Inishowen, but my DNA matches do not reflect that area.


    Seeking any siblings or the parents of Hugh McGinnis.


    Cindy Jacob 24 August 2023



    Thursday 24th August 2023 05:06PM
  • Brian Lacey in his book Cenel Conaill and the Donegal Kingdoms, AD 500--800 points out the O'Donnell (O Domhnaill) were not from the Cenel Conaill but originated from an entirely different people, the Cenel or Sil Lugdach of the Tullaghabegley or Cloghaneely district on the west coast. From the ninth century onwards, they very successfully claimed the mantle previously held by the Cenel Conaill. The O'Donnell clan was the most successful in trying to wipe out any and all memory of the Cenel Conaill and the septs that actually ruled Tyrconnell from 950 CE to 1250 CE before they took over.


    Thursday 24th August 2023 06:21PM
  • The historical account of land distribution sheds light on the complexities of colonization. Understanding such historical events is crucial for grasping societal dynamics. For students interested in exploring argumentative essays on topics like these, platforms like Gradesfixer https://gradesfixer.com/essay-types/argumentative-essays/ offer valuable resources. Engaging with diverse perspectives and honing argumentative skills through essay writing can deepen one's understanding of historical and contemporary issues alike. Let's continue to delve into the nuances of history and society to foster critical thinking and informed discourse.

    Tuesday 12th March 2024 08:43AM

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