The old rectory belonging to the Church of Ireland was occupied until a couple of decades ago, the last incumbent being Rev. Henderson, I believe. The two storey house is not visible from the Carn-Ballyliffin road; the entrance is off the slip road to Malin. The building is still in fair shape but the farm yard is in good heart with impressive red-brick buildings surrounding a courtyard still intact, a model of good design. In fact, I recall seeing Rev. Gilmore’s predecessor selling cattle at Carn Mart as he was the last of the rectors to engage in farming. The old rectory dates from the mid 1700s. In 1782, Rev. John Pitt Kennedy arrived to serve the congregation of Donagh. He was married to Mary Cary from County Tyrone. Her family had impeccable Inishowen connections. An ancestor was Recorder of Londonderry in 1613 and other family members had lands at Redcastle. Rev Kennedy had a short stay as he died six years later leaving a wife and twelve children. All of the children had outstanding careers: five attended King’s Inns and became barristers or solicitors and three were in the navy or military. Among those born in Carndonagh was Tristam who has been credited with the establishment of legal education in Ireland.
In ancient Ireland, the brehon laws were taught in schools but in 1541 King’s Inns was established in Dublin following a curriculum based exclusively on the English education system. For over three centuries Irish students had to attend the inns in London if they wished to become barristers of solicitors. Kennedy wanted to end this system and establish an Irish legal training programme. Called to the bar in 1834 he joined Thomas Wyse MP is setting a process in train which is regarded as establishing the foundations of Irish legal training as we know it today. Later, individual lawyers set themselves up in chambers in houses in Henrietta St. in Dublin and thus developed a rudimentary private system of chambers in Ireland. Tristam Kennedy was the foremost individual in this process.
His brother Evory became a famous obstetrician at the Rotunda hospital in Dublin. Both were very close having attended Foyle College in Derry together in 1815.
A third son of Rev John Pitt Kennedy established a reputation as a great administrator and served on several government commissions that had a major influence on changes in the laws on Ireland. He too was called John Pitt after his father. His passion was for education and he wrote a book on the subject which has been reprinted and can be bought on Amazon.. During a spell in India he met Sir Charles Napier and when he returned to Ireland he set up agricultural schools designed to improve the economy of the country. One was at Cloghan near Ballybofey and there was another at Eglinton near Derry. He became a farm manager and married the daughter of Sir Charles Styles who owned large estates around Ballybofey in 1838.
Outside Creeslough stands the isolated train station called Cashelnagor, made famous by Cathal O Searcaigh in his poetry. The Kennedys had a shooting lodge nearby and they wielded their political influence to have the station constructed at the foot of Errigal. Their house still stands with the windows made of glass from the sand of Muckish mountain, a reminder of Donegal’s world famous glass industry. The interior has a great wall mural depicting Moses crossing the Red Sea. They have left their mark on the county in more ways than one.
Today I visited the old rectory where the Kennedys once lived. I was shocked to see the roof had been removed and It looked as if there had been a fire. I was in the house ten years ago and it was in good shape apart from some dampness. The farm buildings are still intact. I visited the old one-acre walled garden overlooking Trabrega Bay and some of the old trees are still standing. I noted a fine driveway lined with sycamore trees to the east of the house. It was wide enough for a carriage. As the floor had been removed I inspected the basement which had its own entrance and quarters for servants. Definitely not a site for a Blue Plaque now!