Exciting Find at Inishowen Monastic Site

The monastic site at Carrowmore near Culdaff, with two ancient High Crosses, was surveyed by University of Sunderland this week. Using magnetometry, which is a non-invasive surface mapping procedure, the team searched for soil activity below the surface. A circular enclosure or ditch encompassing the crosses was discovered with a circumference of 125 metres, and a defined entrance. Part of the ditch is above ground on the north side of the site. Several possibilites emerge:

1. The enclosure could be part of an ancient pre-historic fort and the monastery was situated within this space. The location is a major archaeological site with a stone circle, two megalithic tombs, a souterrain and a double-ringed earthen fort in the vicinity. The fort had a dwelling of which no trace exists. The combined sites, which are within a few square miles of each other, represent some of the richest archaeological treasures in  Europe. It is not a coincidence that the Culdaff river, once a rich source of salmon, flows through the landscape. Other minor sites include Queen Maeve’s Cairn, the Crown field, a Mass rock, holy wells and inscribed stones. Stepping stones that linked that linked the two monasteries no longer exist. 

The enclosure is part of nucleated settlement which continued from earliest times, through the monastic era, the Plantation, the growth of clachans and modern times. 

3 It is fair to conclude that there is a connection between the ancient sites and the enclosure.

4. The enclosure or ditch which has been discovered clearly defines for the first time the precise layout of the Sanctuary of the monastery, within which monastic rule was paramount. Monks were not bound by the strict monastic rules once outside. Colmcille insisted on the sacredness of the concept of the Sanctuary particularly in Iona. For example, he punished those who violated it when they killed an animal within the precincts; he broke the knife they used into pieces. 

The site at Carrowmore is of interest to all families with Inishowen connections because our ancestors travelled from all corners of the peninsula to bury their dead here. For example, according to folklore, funerals coming from Clonmany rested at a designated place at Carndonagh overnight before forming the final procession to Carrowmore. At the monastic site at Fahan, the leading families vied with each other to bury the dead as close as possible to the Cross of St. Mura.  

6. The folklore of the sites is no less interesting. One story relates how a monk from Cloncha left his breviary behind at Carrowmore and wished to have it returned. It happened that a crowd of monks was walking in single file back to Cloncha. A request was sent to the monk at the head of the procession to have the breviary returned. There were so many monks that it was possible to pass the prayer book back from one monk to the other until it arrived with its owner. Part of this causeway or path was discovered by turf cutters some years ago

7. The monastery produced monks who became Abbots of Derry. In 850 the Annals of the Four Masters refer to the site as Both-Chonais, the hut of Conas. The abbot was called Ceann-faeladh, a wise man and son of Ultan. St. Ultan’s well and cross can be seen at Falmore. In his Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae, John Colgan describes the site as follows:

“Fuit olim magnum et celebre monasterium Dioecesis Derensis . Hodie locus prophenatus est et in vicinia asservantur, apud viros pios multi libri isrius loci St Moelisae” – a great and celebrated monastery and library in the Diocese of Derry. Editors of the Annals of the Four Masters incorrectly referred to the site as Templemoyle.

In 887, the lay head of the monastery died; his name was Dubhdabhoireann, which may be translated as Black Devenney or Davern or Doran. As lay head, otherwise known as herenagh, he was in fact the administrator of the monastery and therefore was highly respected. He had certain rights and held up to sixty acres of land owned by the monastery. The family had rights of succession and therefore could be regarded as a type of minor royal family. By 1049, the Deveneny family died out and the Ua hUails were named as herenaghs. In that year, Tuathal Ua hUail died. The name was anglicised as Howell but it could also be a corruption of McFaul, the family associated with Carraigabraghy Castle in the Isle of Doagh. The interesting fact about this information is that the monastery was fully functioning in the twelfth century. Its reputation was such that two of the herenaghs were documented in the Annals of the Four Masters, published four centuries later.\

The best known monk from Carrowmore was Mael Iosa O Brolchain, who wrote the famous hymn Deus Meus, Adiuva Me. He was also a scientist, linguist and poet. He died in 1086. He had a son who was a monastic lector and died of plague in 1059. In 1150, Flaithbertach O Brolchain, abbot of Derry, visited Inishowen and received tribute from the people of horses and cattle, together with a ring and battledress from the King of Aileach. A great church builder, he demolished eighty houses in Derry to create a sanctuary for the monastery. In 1164 he started work on the Tempeall Mor, or Great Church in Derry.

The importance of the monastic site at Cloncha, a few hundred metres away, can be measured from a letter in the Vatican Library in Rome dated 12 May 1492 in which the Pope intervenes in a dispute over the rights to the fruits of the vicarage. He directed that the fruits of the vicarage should be devolved on the church at Raphoe for the purpose of creating a canonry in the name of David O’Moran, a deacon of Raphoe. By the medieval period the great monastic era was fading and Rome was asserting its authority over a universal church.

Interest has been shown in the discovery by 360 Productions, which filmed DIG WW2 for the BBC and the successful Timewatch series. We must acknowledge the work of Max Adams, Colm O’Brien, Cowan Duff and the team at the NE Centre for Lifelong Learning for their dedication, commitment and professionalism. Their research is part of the Lough Swilly Hinterland Project which aims to uncover the landscapes that are part of the European ecclesiastical superhighway. The Carrowmore site is linked to other Donegal sites, Iona, Lindisfarne and central Europe.  Local landowners deserve our sincere thanks for their cooperation. Fr. McGonagle PP, Bocan gave the group access to the tenth century Bell of St. Boden which is in the care of the parish. Faller Jewellers of Derry have recently designed a new range of silverware in the form of crosses based on the six crosses in the peninsula and the Cloncha Gallowglass stone (see earlier post on this subject). For more background information, see the work of Magtochair, William O’Doherty, Brian Bonner, Mabel Colhoun, Brian Lacey and Harry Swan. Back issues of Donegal Annual may be consulted at http://www.donegalhistory.com which lists the titles of all articles written since 1947, the most recent being by Brian Lacey of the Discovery Programme (see Donegal Annual No. 61, 2009 in Carndonagh library). The research team may be contacted at bernicianstudies@yahoo.co.uk. And why not visit Carrowmore and simply meditate for a short period. Signage remains a problem. Travelling from Moville to Carndonagh, watch out for the sign “Carrow” which points to the site. (It should of course read Carrowmore but someone was in a hurry.) Both RTE News and the Irish Independent (Monday, 3 September 2012) have highlighted this important discovery. Further updates may be found online at the Independent News site. At this time, it is important to note the cooperation of Harry Molloy and Danny Green (Goorey Fort) who act as unpaid caretakers of the monuments. 


Clonmany Heritage Walk

Margaret Farren has a firm grip on Clonmany history.

Clonmany celebrated Heritage Week with a history walk through the village. The sun shone down and 30 of us were enthralled by Marius Harkin’s knowledge of his native place. The tree growing in front of the Hall is a Laburnum, the only survivor of 4 planted many years ago. Marius spoke at length about the work of Fr. Hugh Gallagher in bringing movies to the hall. Fr. Gallagher had spend time in San Diego, California and brought his ideas with him. I knew him well and travelled on the continent with him twice and his Super 8 camera. At the Garda barracks – which opens one hour per day on 3 days only –  we examined photos of the Inniskillings marching to the war and an RIC sergeant giving the salute. After Mass meetings were held in front of the barracks and Michael Davitt addressed a meeting at this spot in 1900.Marius described Gallans as an hotel ahead of its time  -visitors had the use of a boat on the Meentiagh Lakes for fishing. The Austrian Jewish refugee, Ludwig Schenkel, dined there and a photo of the dining room can be seen in my book DONEGAL IN OLD PHOTOS  taken in 1960. The history of the village is well outlined in wall plaques. The Market House, built by the Loughreys, is in fine condition after its restoration. I came away thinking that the Festival Committee should commission a pageant to bring the history of the village to life, starting with none other that that celebrated tourist, Colmcille.

The University of Sunderland is carrying out an archaeological survey of Cloncha, Carrowmore and Goorey Fort. More details later.

John Nee gave two talks today in Greencastle on the Monneydaragh Spitfire and the Liberator that crashed in the Foyle. He had the original Spitfire bullets on display. Watch Dig WW2 on BBC this week for more information. (August 26-29 2012).

Famine Rents in Inishowen 1845-46

Hugh Gordon ploughing in Clonmany, c. 1950

The Great Famine was the nail in the coffin of landlordism in Ireland and dealt a master stroke to the concept of Plantation. The Land Acts of the next 80 years finished the process. While rack-renting and landlordism go hand-in-hand in most of the history books, recent research provides a different perspective. Not all landlords pilloried their tenants during the Famine. For example, in Clonmany the Loughreys suspended rent payments for a period. My ancestors were fairly fortunate in that they were on the 6,000 acre estate of James Steele Nicholson of Falmore near Culdaff. I recently discovered a rare document from the estate which listed rents in the townland of Tirmacroragh where I live and provides conclusive evidence that a certain toleration was exhibited during the first years of the Famine. Most of the families still live here. All were permitted to go into arrears. Some tenants paid up on time throughout the Famine. One was Edward McFeely and his grandson Johnny, a neighbour, died in March 2012. I had shown him the document before his death. Miss Morfoy lived in the house now owned by Eileen Doherty. For her bizarre life story, see Brian Bonner’s OUR INISHOWEN HERITAGE. Robert Mitchell was a strong farmer and acted as an agent for Nicholson and their correspondence is still extant. His house still stands in Kindroyhead. The name Beatty does not appear here as we lived in Drumaville at that time but later bought the farm of John Lochery when he emigrated when he was unable to pay the rent. A neighbour later met him in America and told him that if he had remained another day, he was entitled to stay and could have avoided eviction. It is worth noting that wages varied from 8d per day to 10d for those lucky to find work on public schemes or with other farmers such as the Morfoys (Murphys) or Mitchells. I have been looking at the evidence presented to the Devon Commission when in Donegal in 1845 and the wages are from that source. It is interesting to note that the Chairman was a Carndonagh man John Pitt Kennedy whom I wrote about earlier. (see earlier blogs). He wrote a guide book for farmers and his ideas on the modernisation of agriculture would be adopted several decades later. The book was called INSTRUCT, EMPLOY, DON’T HANG THEM.  It was priced at 175 euro in a catalogue some years ago but is now available on Amazon for about 10 euro.

Tenants of Termacroragh and rents 1845 and 1846 (PRONI D1405/61)

Mrs. Morfoy £6.

John Lochery £2

Patrick McFeely £2.18

Michael McFeely £2.18

Charles McFeely £2.18

Widow McIntyre £8.13.8

Robert Mitchell £9.12.8

Shan McEleney £4.11.1 (arrears £6.16.7 in 1846)

Patrick McEleney £4.11 (arrears £5 14 .4 in 1846)

Daniel McEleney £2.3.6 (arrears £6.14.7 in 1846)

James Rodden £4,11.1 (arrears £6.16.8 in 1846)

Bryan Rodden £14.6.6

Hugh Toner £3.9.3 (arrears £5.18. 3)

Owen Rodden £3.19

John Doherty £2.12

Harry Doherty £11.17

Widow McLaughlin £7.18 (arrears £11.6.6)

Patrick McKeeny £2.10 (arrears £3.15)

Daniel McKeeny £10.8

Patrick McFeely £10.8

John Doherty £10.10

James McFeely £3.15.2 (arrears £5.4

Patrick McFeely £6.5

Con Doherty ££2.10 (arrears £3.15)

Hugh Heggarty £0. 10 (arrears £1.19.2

Edward McFeely £0. 10.0

It is fair to assume that similar rents were payable across Inishowen. The long drawn-out process whereby the tenants became owners was inspired by Charles Stewart Parnell, whose sister drew large crowds in Moville, Michael Davitt, who addressed after-Mass audiences in Clonmany and local activists. In Clonmany, they were Manasses Doherty, Philip Doherty, Edward McColgan, Isle of Doagh, William Diver, Urris and Philip Gibbons of Urris. There was considerable destitution in the famine of 1879 when a relief committee was formed. On 21 June 1881, John Loughery evicted some tenants for non-payment of rents. Afterwards, some of his servants left him and the blacksmith refused to shoe his horses. This was the boycott in operation. Evictions also took place on Loughery’s estate in August 1882 and also on the estate of Ernest Cochrane and Edward Doherty.

On 21 April 1888, an army pensioner called Patrick Kavanagh,who had fought in the Crimean War,was employed by the owners of the evicted farms to look after them. Loughrey provided him with a house. He died on 20 June 1888 and all the carpenters in the village of Clonmany refused to make a coffin for him. Everyone shunned the wake. The parish priest arranged for a grave to be dug but on the morning of the funeral, mourners found it was filled in with stones. Crowds gathered to stop the burial and eventually the sanitary authorities removed the body to the pauper graveyard in the Carndonagh workhouse grounds. Con Doherty and Owen Doherty were later sentenced to six months imprisonment.

As we commemorate the forthcoming centenaries, the fighting spirit of Inishowen tenant farmers may indeed be forgotten.