2023 : Field Day, Inishbofin

Inishbofin Island, Sunday 23rdJuly 2023

Another great day out to Inisbofin Island with our host Seán Boner.

We set sail on the Boffin Ferry, Saoirse Na Mara (Freedom of the Sea) from Machaire Rabhartaigh (Magheraroarty) on the 10 minute trip to the island.

Owner, Harry Coll skippered, with his brother Owenie Coll as deckhand. The boat was suitable for those of restricted movements as you could walk on board without having to climb over the gunwale. The fare is €12 for over twelves and €5 for under twelves.

Boffin Ferry have an excellent website

Arriving at the harbour on the island, the bright sunshine provided a magnificent view back across the water from the coast at Horn Head, the Derryveagh Mountains with the Errigal as it’s crown, Muckish Mountain and west to the Bloody Foreland.

A short stroll to the west of the village, past an example of the houses built with funds from the Congestion District Board, larger that you would see in the rest of Donegal as funds were more generous for the islands.

National School

At the far west of the village is the ruins of the National School.

Our guide, Seán, spoke of the standard design for a National School but how unsuitable a design for the weather conditions here on the island; with over-hanging eves and the door leading straight into the single classroom.

Modifications had made the school less prone to the weather with a chimney to allow a fire in the classroom and a partition to create a hallway to prevent the Atlantic winds from cooling the legs of the children unlucky to be seated at the back of the class.

The Island Field System

To this day you can see the fields laid out in long strips of land, this was the replacement of the rundale field system. Rundale on Inisbofin involved a village in the North East of the island that now no longer exists.

After a short stroll back to the harbour and onto to the east end of the village, we met at the church.

Arthur Kingsley Porter

Passport page of Arthur Kingsley Porter with his wife, Lucy.

Sean told the story of Arthur Kingsley Porter seen in his passport photo above with his wife Lucy.

He had a holiday home on the island and he disappeared there on the 8th of July 1933. He was a Harvard Professor who owned Glenveagh Castle and Estate. He was a troubled soul arising from the fact that he was gay but a married man who took a male lover Alan Campbell at the suggestion of his psychotherapist Doctor Havelock and with the agreement of his wife.

The new relationship did not seem to work. Kingsley Porter probably committed suicide by drowning but his body was never found.

The Island Church

We visited the Church, Muire Na nGras (The Virgin Mary of the Graces), on the island. It is a simple and attractive church. It could have been designed by an Architect who believed in Architectural Minimalism who had the mantra that ‘in minimalism less means more’. A local man Gerry Gallagher designed the church and we imagine he was more constrained by what money was available to build the church than any desire to build in a minimalist style. Nevertheless, it turned out very well.

 The commencement of the building of the church began in December 1963 and was done, dusted and blessed on the 23rd of June 1965. The driving force behind the building of the church was the Parish Priest of Gort A’Choirce, Canon Shields and he is spoken of with much affection by older people from Inishbofin. And by all accounts deservedly so. 

There seems to be a definite interest in Lourdes and the apparation of Lourdes. Canon Shiels probably had been to Lourdes. There is a photograph of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes and the Stations of the Cross are in French as well as English. They may have been bought in Lourdes.

Constable Charles McGee, RIC

https://donegalhistory.ie/constable-charles-mcgee-ric/

Sean spoke of Constable Charles Mc Gee a young man in his early twenties from Inishbofin Island who was a member of the Royal Irish Costabulary (RIC) and who was killed at Castlebellingham, County Louth on Easter Monday 1916 on the first day of the Easter Rising.

We have more on Constable Charles McGee in Other Resources / Further Reading

Paidir Inis Bó Finne

Dr Lochlann Mc Gill, who is no stranger to Inisbofin from his days of medical practise, produced a copy of Paidir Inis Bó Finne (The Prayer of Inisbofin). Seán read the prayer and translated it to English. 

While our views today across the water to Magheraroarty and beyond are indeed scenic, these waters are treacherous in bad weather with many lives endangered in these waters.

Salmon Fishing Tragedy, 1929

The story told of this tragic event is told on our website in Other Resources / Further Reading.

Daring Rescue from the Stowijk, 1940

Seán told us the story of the Stolwijk a ship that was grounded on a rock near Inisdooey. To read more of this daring rescue see the story on our website in Other Resources/ Further Reading.

Seán went on to tell of the hard life here on the island with no turf of their own, it was all carried from the bog beyond Magheraroarty and then by row boat to the island; at a time before the harbour was built. Although with the right spring tide, you can walk to the island on the stone beach causeway but local knowledge is essential.

There were no more than 120 souls on Inishbofin in the 1960s before they melted away to take up residence on the mainland; well before the harbour and church as we see them today were built.

After a short stroll over the island to admire the sands of the east beach we returned to the harbour for our ferry trip back to Magheraroarty.

Many thanks to Seán Boner for introducing us to this island, it’s history and the story of the people that called this home.

2022 : Field Day, Newtowncunningham

The Field Day to Newtowncunningham was weather wise not a great day. We went to the Church of Ireland, to the ruined Burt Castle and later to the local Orange Hall. It did rain when we were at Burt Castle but it did not take from our enjoyment of the day I think.

Seán Mc Clafferty led the field day and ensured access from the local landowners where Burt Castle is situated. Burt Castle in Autumn looks out over barley fields of gold. Refreshments were served in the Orange Hall. They had, upstairs, a model of a First World War trench complex that I found interesting.

Courtesy of the Historical Sites of Ireland.
Burt Castle

2022 : Field Day, Glencolmcille

The field day on 7th August was in Glencolmcille again in on a very sunny day. Glen is beautiful in all weather but it was a particularly sunny day.

Paddy Beag Mac Giolla Easbuig who is part of the bed-rock in Glencolmcille was to be our guide but he was immobile from recent surgery and had Liam Mc Ginley fill in for him, which he did admirably.

Liam told us about Colmcille and his association with the Glen. Liam is a bit of a character, as they say, and that comes across in his talk. Not surprising, his Saint Colmcille is a bit of a character as well. I was half expecting Liam to book himself and Saint Colmcillle into an Air bnb in Glencolmcillefor few days rest from the building works before he was finished. He also took us to a number of historical archaeological sites and dealt with the sites with the seriousness they deserved. He took us to the Church of Ireland and the Pillar Stone just beyond it, a visit that was particularly memorable. There is a souterrain or underground chamber in the graveyard of the church. This church is closing and it is an important ancient historical site that may have a community interest in the future.

The above is a replica of a broken stone that was located in Glencolmcille. The buildings with the flat roofs in the background are the Lighthousekeepers dwellings for the families of the staff who were manning Rathlin O Beirne.

Dr. Lochlann Mc Gill who is a former President of the Society and presently a member of the Executive relaunched his book In Conall’s footsteps. This was done on the same evening as the Field Day in Glencolmcille. Although technically not a DHS event in practice given Dr. Mc Gills close association with the Society many of the Society attended the launch that was a successful evening.

Dr. Mc Gill organises the Mc Gill Lecture that is named in honour of his father ‘wee Paddy’ from Ardara. There was no lecture last year but no doubt it will be back in future years.

2022 : Field Day, Inis Mhic A Durn / Rutland Island

Our first field day of 2022 was to Rutland Island/Inis Mhic A Durn off Burtonport on Saturday the 11th June 2023.

We took one of the car ferries to Arranmore and were dropped off at Rutland. This is the island with the ruins of an 18C fishing station that was buried by sand storms in the early 19th Centrury. James Napper Tandy visited the island on the gun runner Anacreon in September of 1798.

The week had been inclement weather wise and the day was no better. However, we did get a two hour spell in Rutland that was dry and warm but for the most part overcast with only the odd bit of sunshine.

Above the Union Store on Rutland, a kelp store built the year of the Union between Britain and Ireland in 1801.

One side of the street that was built in Rutland in the 1770s as part of the fishing station scheme. It is now made up of holiday homes with one or two exceptions. This street officially Duke Street but that did not sound right so the locals called the place Duck Street.

2015 : Field day in Rathmullan and Oughterlinn (July 2015)


Our July field day began at the home of Dermot and Jacinta Hardy where we received an interesting history of Rathmullan and its abbey from Áine Ní Dhuibhne. Their house is at the location of the 16th century McSweeny’s castle. Sadly, the abbey is closed at the moment due to its condition.

We then went out to St. Catherine’s Church, Oughterlinn where John McCreadie gave us an illustrated talk on the history of this wonderful edifice. This is an area of great peace and quiet with commanding views of the nearby hills and sea. Then a short walk followed to the mass rock, another of those hidden gems in the county.

Finally, we were treated to tea and refreshments in the St. Vincent de Paul Centre in Rathmullan by members of the local historical society in the town.

2015 : Field day in Finner Army Camp 16th August 2015 


Finner’s history is pedigree in status. “In the Middle Ages Finner appears to have been the residence of a Chief who lived on the strategic Finner hill above the old Finner church and graveyard.” So writes Col. Declan O’Carroll in his definitive history of the camp * and who acted as our guide for this field day. Declan is also a former President of the Donegal Historical Society and in his professional career he served in Finner, and also overseas with the Irish Defence Forces.

Our day began in the Officers’ Mess with some light refreshments; then a short walk to the lecture hall where Declan gave us an illustrated history of the camp. And it’s a fascinating history. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were based here at the end of the 19th century, training for the Boer War and the Great War. The British handed it over to the Irish authorities in 1922. In 1969 in the aftermath of the Battle of the Bogside, Finner housed refugees from the North.

In more recent decades a major rebuilding programme was completed and today Finner is an impressive sight with its modernity. We walked around the camp and heard historical details of the various locations visited. The panorama is magnificent – everything to please the eye: sea, sand dunes, Ben Bulben in the distance, an unbroken vista of nature at its most scenic. Only the chapel remains from the early days – it too has a most eye-catching interior featuring the stained glass artwork of Irish artist George Walsh. Here our day ended with our President, Dr. Lochlann McGill extending our gratitude to Declan and to 28 Infantry Battalion who all made our visit so enjoyable.

* ” Finner camp – a history” 2007, published by the Defence Forces.

2015 : Donegal Annual

Donegal Annual 2015

The 2015 Donegal Annual, which has just been printed, marks another milestone in the numerous achievements of the Co. Donegal Historical Society since its foundation in 1946. Sixteen articles span the county, followed by book reviews, a list of officers and members, plus the schools’ competition.

Notable to begin with is that of Helen Meehan’s. She has been a regular contributor for the 24th consecutive year and in this edition she looks at the astronomical features of pre-Plantation Donegal. On a related theme, Ross Cooper focuses on the stone circle at Beltany near Raphoe, regarding the winter solstice. Raphoe does well in this year’s edition. Myra D. Kavanagh writes about Sarah Porterfield’s emigration to the USA in 1741 and Frank Sweeney details a tragic incident at a fair day in the town in 1850. The area around Raphoe is known as the Laggan and Sam Hanna documents the Laggan Army and Land Leases 1642-1665.

Mervyn Watson shows the significance to the county of cultural tourism in the early 1900’s, greatly helped by the extensive railway system and the increasing number of new hotels.

Hibernian Sunday Schools in Donegal, 1809 -1847 are examined by Seán Beattie, the Editor of the Annual.

Music to the ears of many readers will be Eddie Ward’s article on “The Rose of Arranmore.” It’s poignant to read the real-life story of Grace O’Donnell, the islander who inspired this lovely song.

Brian Lacey’s feature reminds us that it’s the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St. Colmcille.

Several buildings also come under the spotlight. Port Hall, near Lifford, built in 1746, played an important role in recent history. Martin McGuinness came here to meet members of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. A previous owner of the house, Anthony Marreco, founded Amnesty International in 1961 while he was living there. Belinda Mahaffy has thoroughly researched the history of this house on the banks of the River Foyle. (N.B. The house and grounds are not open to the public).

Donald Munro remembers life in a Glencolmcille rectory while nearby Malinbeg is the focus of Seán Ó hEochaidh’s Irish language diary from a visit there in 1935, edited by Lillis Ó Laoire.

Michael Kennedy writes about Inishowen’s wartime coast watchers 1939-1945.

The cover of the Annual is a photo of the look-out post at Malin Head, taken by Adam R. Porter of Buncrana.

Born in nearby Greencastle in 1786, Gen Frederick Young founded the senior battalion of the Gurkhas and Rachel Magowan relates his achievements.

Around the 1870’s, Hugh Dorian of Fanad chronicled the everyday life and customs of the area. Rev. Raymond Blair’s article summarises letters and other writings by him, giving a fascinating insight into a vanished world.

The longest article in this year’s Annual is Notes on Medieval Donegal by Tomás G. Ó Canann. He begins by informing readers that in the 12th century the abbey of Assaroe at Ballyshannon was known by its Latin name of Samaria, from the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel.

The history of Donegal continues to fascinate the inquisitive mind and here we have a gem of a publication. Full credit to the Editor, Seán Beattie and his editorial team. All information about the Society is on its website at donegalhistory.ie

Beltany stone circle, Raphoe

The cover is the look-out post at Banba’s Crown, Malin Head, courtesy of Adam Rory Porter, photographer, Buncrana.

Aphort, Arranmore island. In centre is the football pitch.

2016 : Field Day in Marble Hill and Gortahork (August 2016)



The scenic splendour of Marble Hill, deep Sheephaven Bay and Gortahork were our final destinations for this year’s field days. But we were there to enjoy much more than the breath-taking views. Our President, Dr. Lochlann McGill, welcomed a very large group to Marble Hill. Our first stop was its gate-lodge where our guide, Charlie Gallagher pointed out a most interesting feature of the lovely lodge , ie the still intact roof made from the local Roshine slate. 

The house itself was once owned by Mr. Hugh Law, MP and TD. Robin Law, his grandson, who lives nearby, was also in attendance. We then walked to the dance hall and this was the first time in more than 50 years that it was opened to the public. Patrick Pearse knew the hall well, as we were soon to find out. Andrew MacIntyre, a postman from nearby Ballymore, played the fiddle at ceilidh evenings held in the hall when Pearse came.

Eamonn MacIntyre, his grandson, read a letter his father Eddie had written in 1966 to Dr. McGill’s father about Patrick Pearse’s visit to the house as Mr. Law’s guest. Eddie wrote, “I often heard my father say that Pearse was a frequent visitor…and collected a large quantity of Irish folklore in the district around Marble Hill. It was in Law’s house too that Pearse learned the Fairy Reel, a dance then peculiar to that part of Ireland. My father played the fiddle on that occasion and was personally thanked by Pearse.” For his work in preserving the local musical culture of the district, Mr Law in 1904 presented Andrew with a violin case with a silver plaque on it and Patrick Pearse contributed to the purchase. Andrew and Eddie were founder members of the Donegal Historical Society.
Charlie Gallagher spoke next and recalled the popularity of Marble Hill with many other distinguished guests at the house. They afterwards wrote about the locality and we are most fortunate, noted Charlie, in having such a wonderful amount of writings and art-work from that era relating to the district. He mentioned quite a few of these people and what they had to say and Charlie’s power of recall was amazing. Entertainment was then provided by two fiddlers,Seamus McGowan and Liana MacIntyre. The Society would like to take this opportunity to thank the present owner of Marble Hill House, Ms Juliet Joblin-Purser, for allowing us access to the dance hall and environs. NB…It must be pointed out that the house, gate-lodge, dance hall and grounds are private property and not open to the public.
On then to Coláiste Uladh, Gortahork where Dr. Seosamh ÓCeallaigh gave an illustrated lecture on the immense contribution the college has made to the language and culture of the district. Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Roger Casement attended the college and immersed themselves in the local culture and ways of life. The college itself is in immaculate condition and a joy to behold. Our day ended with a wonderful tea at the college. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

As the Society come to the end of our commemorations for 1916, it is surely fitting that we give the last word to Joseph Plunkett, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation and who was executed at Kilmainham Gaol on May 4th 1916. Years earlier, as a young man at Coláiste Uladh, enjoying the carefree days at the college amidst the heather-clad hills of NW Donegal, it was the arrows of Cupid that struck him. Here is the first verse of his poem, “Coláiste Uladh” which he wrote to his beloved, a local girl whose surname was O’Carroll.

Cloughaneely Irish College
Has a wealth of wit and knowledge,
Not to speak of health and beauty
Grace and graciousness go leor.
But among its charms entrancing
Men and maidens, songs and dancing,
There is nothing so delightful
As yourself, mo mhile stór