Donegal Annual 2020 Now Available

Donegal Annual 2020 now available

Posted by Sean Beattie on Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Donegal Annual 2020 is now available. Get your copy in your local bookshop, via my online store, or visit to place an order.

Table of Contents

  • Cenél nÉoghain in Patrician Hagiography – Dr. Thomas Charles-Edwards
  • Two Ballyshannon Philanthropists and their Legacy – Anthony Begley
  • Donegal and the Victoria Cross – Richard Doherty
  • Kate McCarry: Letterkenny’s First Woman Urban Councillor – Dr. Angela Byrne
  • Viking Impact in the Inishowen Peninsula – Darren McGettigan
  • Rev. Edward Glackin 1806-1896: Famine Relief in Glenties – Katelyn Hanna
  • Gaelic Surnames and Settlement Patterns in South West Donegal 1659-1857 – Tomás G. Ó  Canann
  •  DNA Analysis: Researching Donegal Ancestry – Dr. Maurice Gleeson and Dr. Sam Hanna
  • The Origins of the Uí Dochartaigh of Inishowen – Brian Lacey
  • Manor Courts in the Early Nineteenth Centur – Raymond Blair
  • Foyle College Donegal Connections – Dr. Robert Montgomery and Seán McMahon
  • Convoy Woollen Mills – Belinda Mahaffy
  • Changing Features of the Protestant Community In North Donegal from an Occupational Perspective – Edward Rowland
  • Andrew Elder (1821-1886), Castlefin: Campaigner For Land Reform – Dr. William Roulston
  • William J. Doherty, Buncrana: Engineer, Antiquarian and Politician 1834-1898 – Dr. Seán Beattie
  • Patrick Sarsfield Cassidy 1852-1903: From Dunkineely to New York – Helen Meehan
  • James Musgrave: Man of Iron – Lulu Chesnutt
  • The Pipe Organs of County Donegal – Derek Fleming
  • From Malin to Wisconsin: The Friar’s Curse by Michael Quigley  – Des Doherty
  • Book Reviews/Officers 2020-21
  • Donegal Bibliography 2019-2020 – Rory Gallagher

Culdaff Village 100 years ago

Download a PDF of Culdaff Census 1901-1911

I have uploaded the 1901 and 1911 Census for Culdaff village which shows how life in the village has changed over 100 years ago. Many names are still there. Following the very popular Facebook page OUR CULDAFF, set up by Jennifer Doherty, would readers please upload any old photos of family, friends or relations who lived in the village in 1911?


Here is a summary of the occupations in 1911 – 3 shoemakers, I retired navy fireman, post office workers, telegraph messenger, domestics, pubs, stone mason, 2 carpenters, a domestic coachman, 2 boot stores, egg packer, baker, 2 tailors, teacher, clergy, rail goods checker, land surveyor, farmer and some fishermen.

RIC – there was a barracks here from 1827. The RIC men were almost all Catholic, despite the perception that the force was Protestant. They were forced out of the station in 1921 during the War of Independence. The local IRA unit proceeded to wreck the interior afterwards.

While most of the population was Catholic, there were over 40 members of the Church of Ireland (also called Established Church or Irish Church), Presbyterians, Methodists and Episcopalians. The local clergy lived in the village as boarders.

Buildings – apart from grocer shops and pubs, there was a Temperance Hall (Wee Hall), Dispensary (since 1827), National School, Church, and a Loan Fund (since 1843).

Coastguards – not listed, but they had their own accommodation at Meenawara.

In 1911, there was a campaign to extend the railway to Culdaff from Carndonagh. Supporters pointed out that the land was flat and therefore the extension would be inexpensive. A strong case was made that the train would help to develop the export market for fish from Bunagee. James Fleming of Carthage had 6 boats, some of which were built  in Killybegs.

  • Sean Beattie, May 22nd 2020, in lockdown!

Mass Rock at Tremone Bay – a silent sentinel in the landscape

The hAltoras Mass Rock
Port na hAltora

The Mass Rock at Tremone Bay, Inishowen,  is a typical example of a hidden gem of our heritage that the tourist never sees. This was a sacred place for our ancestors: they came here to worship in secret and to bury their dead unbaptised children in the Reiligi on the headland above (reilig – a cemetery). Situated 200 m west of Boat Port, it is encased by a weather-beaten, gaunt arch, which has a close resemblance to the entrance of a Gothic cathedral. The stone steps leading to the site are still visible, worn by the feet of past generations. The priest had his back to the ocean as he celebrated Mass, while a lookout stood on the hillside above to  warn of danger. The site is called locally the hAltoras (altóir – altar). It overlooks Port na hAltoras which served as a small port for fishermen but in times of danger offered a safe getaway. To the left is a beautiful natural arch, adorned with wild flowers. Looking seawards from the V of the bend on the Corkscrew Corner, the site is marked by a recently planted fir tree situated on the green pasture above.

In May, there was usually an abundance of seaweed, which in earlier times was harvested as kelp to be used  in the manufacture of iodine and also produced acids. It was called the “May Fleeece” and was an important source of income. It was the job of the womenfolk to carry the seaweed in creels to the drying-walls for collection later. Each family in Ballyharry had access to their own strip of the beach, marked out by the rundale system of land ownership. The land strips are clearly visible today, some fenced off, others marked with odd stones. There are no cross markings on the rock, but I did find a memorial card belonging to John Canavan, who died in 2019. The Mass Rock still holds a place in the memory of local people, especially those who lived around Tremone Bay.

The hAltoras was a hidden refuge where Mass was said in penal times dating from the 1700s. Under the Penal Code, priests had to register. Those who refused went on the run, outside the law, with a price on their heads. The site was hidden from public view and also had an escape route seawards, possibly to Inishtrahull island if necessary. The graves of registered priests can be seen opposite McGrorys in Culdaff and in Cloncha churchyard.

Sadly, some of the most infamous priest hunters were native Irish, desperate to obtain their reward.

The present pandemic has succeeded in emptying our places of worship – something which the notorious Penal Laws failed to achieve.

Seán Beattie. Please share if you wish.