A Recent Discovery
The Donagh rectory was once a substantial landmark building commanding a spectacular view across Trabreaga Bay outside Carndonagh. The 200 year old trees are still looking healthy and vibrant but all traces of the structure have disappeared. Fortunately, one of the rectors has left a memorial skilfully hewn on a massive, whitened whinstone on the farmland that encompasses the rectory. The memorial was largely the work of Rev. George Marshall, who held a Master’s degree from Trinity College, Dublin and who served the Protestant community in the area for a record period of 43 years from 1808 to 1851, probably one of the longest in Ireland. He lived through some of the great phases in Irish history – the cholera outbreaks of 1817 and 1832, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, the ruthless Tithe War of the 1830s and the Great Famine and its aftermath. During the Tithe War, the rectory and the Protestant church were the focus of rowdy demonstrations, when the rectory children felt threatened. Outside such events, the rectory was a busy place and saw a steady stream of visitors such as John Norris Thompson, magistrate, members of the Coastguard and Constabulary and other neighbouring rectors such as Revs Chichester and Molloy from Clonmany, who have recorded their impressions of their visits to Donagh rectory. Admiral Heath of Fahan was a regular caller, with his beautiful daughter, Angel. In many cases, local diaries record that social gatherings – of which there were many – in the rectories were often used for match-making as friendships formed on such visits frequently led to matrimony.
Rev Marshall married Eliz. Wilson, the daughter of Capt. Wilson MP, Co Antrim. After her death, he re-married. Some of his children had distinguished careers in the army in India. He had a large family and one of his daughters, Honoria, married Sir Henry Lawrence of India fame; her life and travels across the world have been preserved in her letters and journals, originally deposited in the India Office Library in London. She was the first white woman to visit Kashmir and the first white to visit Nepal so she had some extraordinary tales to tell when she came on holidays to Carn and Culdaff. She died at the age of 46, having been an invalid for many years, possibly as a result of diseases encountered on her travels.
The Marshall Monument lies in extremely rough terrain unsuitable for walking. It is not open to the public as it is on private lands and partly hidden from view. It consists of a number of inscriptions and a collection of around 20 symbols which are being deciphered. The main inscription is the name of the rector REV. GEORGE A MARSHALL, NAT. SEP 1769 OBIT 18—(Nat = short Latin for birth, obit – short for death). There is second inscription H.O. M 1840 with another word beneath still undeciphered, which may refer to his son. There are several symbols – mailed heads, coats of arms, boats, Latin, Arabic (?), a star (probably Star of India but may possibly be Masonic ?), a cross and a crescent together with circles and drawings of different scales. Every symbol and drawing have a story to tell.
The eclectic and indeed romantic lifestyle of the rector and his extended family is not recorded but the rough whinstone outside Carndonagh may throw up invaluable clues about the inhabitants of Donagh rectory when finally deciphered. Truly an historic hidden gem to be treasured by the parish and beyond. RESEARCH BY SEÁN BEATTIE (Please refer to the website in any transcription; please note the site is in private ownership and this profile is not intended as a guide for visitors).