Local History by Seán Beattie


Tea with Lord Shaftesbury in Gleneely

Lord Shaftesbury, the twelfth earl, visited the site of the excavation of the Spitfire which crashed in 1941 and which featured in DIGWW2 on BBC2 recently. As landowner of the site, he met Gleneely Development Association to arrange for a car park to be constructed close to where the crash took place. He examined maps and plans which the committee had drawn up and expressed his satisfaction with the proposals. It is understood a lease will be arranged between the Shaftesbury estate and Donegal County Council at a later date. Signage may be provided for the guidance of visitors. 

He spoke to Tommy Lafferty who remembered the day the crash happened. Mass goers emerging from Ballinacrae chapel on the Sunday witnessed the plane crash- landing and the pilot ejecting. Lord Shaftesbury was impressed with the natural beauty of the area and the heather was looking its best in purple. As the father of two small children he expressed a wish to visit the district at a later date. 

Members of the committee entertained him to tea in the village community centre before  he returned to Belfast. 


  1. Marie Wallace

    Hi Sean. I was one of the members of the Gleneely Development Group on the day that Nick visited us to look at the site for the viewing point. It has transpired that the Earl may not be the owner of the piece of land we are proposing to develop. I have checked the Griffiths Valuation and see that the landlord in 1857 was a John Thompson. Do you have any information on this Mr Thompson which could lead us to making contact with his descendents?

    • Comment by post author

      Marie, it is a shock for the committee to find that there is a new owner for the site. I note your reference to John Thompson in Griffiths Valuation which is a good start.
      The name is not common in the parish but exists in other parishes notably Moville; I expect someone may have been in contact with Thompsons of Moville and Glenagivney if only to eliminate these families from the search. There are no Thompsons listed in the data available for the 1700s so we can assume the family settled here in the early 1800s. My suspicions tell me the family was Protestant so a search of Protestant Birth/Marriage records for Gleneely might provide clues. I had a look at the 1901 and 1911 Census and but would need to re-check. I have not come across the name in land sales of the area. In short there is a lot of searching to be done and the church records in Gleneely and Bocan may be the place to start as these will give vital clues about the family. Meanwhile I will keep an eye out to see if anything comes up that may help the committee.

Leave a Reply