Local History by Seán Beattie


Donegal mapmaker

The name Francis Jobson may not be associated by many people with Donegal history but he was a man who shaped our county in more ways than one. Between 1591 and 1598, he was engaged in mapping the counties at the request of Elizabeth 1 who was embroiled in the costly and brutal Nine Years War in which 100,000 Irishmen lost their lives and the state ran up a bill of £200,000 (more than a billion in our money). He made precise drawings of the coastline (vital for defense and fisheries) and also delineated the territories of the Irish lords. One can well understand his motives. In his map of Donegal, the Inishowen peninsula gets the most extensive and detailed treatment of any district in the county. Elizabeth believed that Lough Foyle would be used by the Spanish to gain access to the heartland of Ulster and consequently Jobson paid particular attention to its fortifications. It is interesting to note the places he listed – 

Malin – shown as a separate island

Culdaff – marked as a haven obviously for ships

Greencastle  -castle noted

Redcastle- castle noted

Whitecastle- castle noted


Culmore – fort


Carowen – castle

Burt – almost a peninsula in its own right prior to reclamation

Inch – castle noted



Curiously, Carrickabraghy is omitted probably as it was not seen as a viable threat or it may have been in a poor state of repair. With Jobson’s knowledge of the countryside, it is unlikely he was unaware of its existence. He seems, however, to have given priority to fortifications on the east of the coastline of Lough Foyle. 

The  mapping of fortifications in the peninsula highlights the important role of Inishowen to the military strategist in Elizabethan times. Other mapmakers would follow  both prior to and after the Plantation. Most of them were made welcome except for Richard Bartlett, who has provided us with 27 maps which are still extant. In 1608 he was beheaded in the county, an act that no mapmakers forget in subsequent years. In the 19th century, the Ordnance Survey teams were generally made welcome and they built on the template established by Jobson and his contemporaries. Indeed, today, the managers of the Wild Atlantic Way, a tourism promotion, can be very thankful to all of these men. Looking at the newly erected signs, it is fair to say that they – Jobson et al – had a better sense of direction. (Visitors to the county will see what is meant when they arrive and look at the signs, particularly along the Foyle). 


  1. Fascinating post – thanks!

  2. Would love to see the maps

  3. Where can I view his maps?

  4. Where can the maps be viewed?

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