Colgan Heritage Weekend, Carndonagh, Co Donegal 17-19 August 2018

The annual Colgan event will take place in August from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th 2018. Note the change of month which has come about due to the Irish Open being held in Ballyliffin. We are delighted that the Colgan weekend will be Carndonagh’s input to National Heritage Week.

Vincent Browne, broadcaster and journalist, has confirmed that he will open the event on Friday 17th August and we are delighted to welcome him to Inishowen. Have your questions ready!

The programme  is being compiled and includes a wide range of events – lectures, guided walking tours, a writing workshop, panel discussions, schools’ competitions and a cultural diversity event. The Heritage Hunters – involving the local library – will take part this year also. Other attractions include exhibitions, and a special bi-lingual session to celebrate Bliain na Gaeilge. Join us on Sunday evening for a variety concert featuring some of our most talented performers.

The theme is linked to the National Heritage Weekend theme of “Carving a Future from Our Past”. We have so much to celebrate.


Further details will be announced on our Facebook page and website.

The Notorious WASP and Moville


queen castle maritime musem.PNG

Greencastle Maritime Museum


The Wasp has gone down in history as one of the most infamous British gunboats that ever entered Irish waters. It was lost off the coast of Tory in September 1884 on a mission to collect a few pounds of arrears in rent from islanders on Inistrahull. It was the era of the Land War, when the Land League was in control and led a campaign of non-payment of rent. It was also a decade which saw the beginnings of a land revolution in Ireland with the passing of a series of Land Acts which would lead to tenant proprietorship. The Wasp on this occasion was en route to Moville, where a contingent of troops was on standby to enforce the rent collection order. It was the first time in Irish history that a British gunboat was employed for this purpose.

Several myths have surrounded the loss of the gunboat. The light keepers on Tory were wrongly accused of shutting down the light and were blamed for the loss of life. Tory islanders were accused of turning a blind eye to the plight of the ship-wrecked sailors. In fact, the islanders took to the seas in an attempt to carry out a rescue mission. The sinking of the ship was due to poor seamanship in bad weather conditions, as a public enquiry later concluded.

The town of Moville has another connection with the gunboat. In the summer of 1884, 96 islanders from Arranmore off Burtonport were taken on board the gunboat. On this occasion, it was a mission of mercy, one of many carried out by the gunboat. The islanders were emigrants from Arranmore who were offered farms in Canada and America and it was considered the land and sea journey from the island to Moville was too difficult. Instead, they were taken on board the Wasp and ferried to a liner in Lough Foyle on a regular voyage from Moville to America. All landed safely and 86 were settled on Beaver Island, while ten others travelled on to Canada. In America, heads of families were offered 40 acres of land to begin a new life and their descendants still live there. This was part of an assisted emigration scheme organised by a Yorkshire Quaker philanthropist, James Hack Tuke. He was one of the founders of Barclay’s Bank.

There is another connection with Greencastle. You can see part of the ship standing outside Greencastle Maritime Museum. Pictures of some of the crew can be seen in my book DONEGAL IN OLD PHOTOGRAPHS (2004). The crew members had called to a studio in Derry to have their photos taken when they visited the Foyle on another occasion.

The captain of the ship, Captain Nicholls is buried in an unmarked grave in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Malin Town, but his name is on the Register of Deaths for the parish.  His body was washed ashore off Inishowen and taken to Malin for burial. A fictional account of the loss of the WASP can be read in MEMOIR FOR THE WASP by Enda McLaughlin.

For more information on Donegal history, see DONEGAL ANNUAL 2018 which will be available in July 2018.

Like many aspects of our history, there are two sides to every story!


Seán Beattie 2018.

Montgomery Bible 1845

Montgomery Bible

Rev Samuel Montgomery was an uncle of Field Marshal Montgomery of Alamein. The family lived at New Park, Moville and the house is still standing beside the Protestant Church but the short path linking church and rectory no longer exists. Generations of the Montgomerys carved their names on the tree outside the main door and this tree was felled to make way for a small housing development. The tree-lined road leading to the rectory has been widened while the former Montgomery homestead  is undergoing repairs. Bishop Montgomery, father of the Field Marshal, prayed in an upstairs oratory, overlooking Lough Foyle. He took a daily stroll from the house to the Square in Moville and visited his neighbours on occasions. Much of the furniture in New Park found its way into homes in Inishowen following an auction of the house contents after Mrs Montgomery died. A black carved cabinet once stood in the hallway of Falmore House, Gleneely and I recall seeing it before the latter was destroyed by fire. Many of the books  in the library found their way to a house in Ballyharry in Culdaff parish. They were taken there by donkey and cart after the auction.

I located the Bible in the archives of Foyle College, Derry with the assistance of the Archivist, Dr. Robert Montgomery of Castlerock, Co Derry and Sean McMahon, a noted Derry author who wrote the history of the college. Members of the Montgomery family attended Foyle College in Derry.

Rev. Samuel Montgomery (1805-1874) was the uncle of Field Marshal Montgomery. At the time of Samuel’s birth, Irish was an everyday language  in Moville and English was rarely heard. Rev Montgomery was fluent in Irish and his Gaelic Bible shows signs that it was constantly in use and not locked away in a library.  He went to Co Derry as a young clergyman; he served as rector of Ballinascreen for 30 years and died at the age of 69. His loyal servant and coachman, John Wilson, is buried at the foot of his grave. Samuel never married and lived with his two sisters. The date of the Bible is significant. In 1845, Rev Montgomery wrote, referring to Co Derry: “The whole atmosphere in September was tainted with the odour of decaying potatoes.” (See John Withington, DISASTERS – A HISTORY OF EARTHQUAKES AND OTHER CATASTROPHES, USA, 1947). He did not forget his former neighbours in Moville at this desperate time. He contributed £10 to the Moville Relief Committee, of which Rev Charles Galwey was secretary. (See DONEGAL ANNUAL  1980, “Workhouse and Famine : Inishowen 1845-1849”, by Sean Beattie). Referring to cottiers and fishermen, Rev Galwey wrote – “Destitution to an alarming extent exists”.

The descendants of Field Marshal Montgomery visited Inishowen recently for a short holiday. They stayed in Culdaff and visited Moville and New Park, which was undergoing renovations. A plaque on Moville Green states that Bishop Montgomery donated the lands that now form the Green to Donegal County Council for public use. Montgomery Terrace is a reminder of the family association with the town. (See Brian Montgomery, A FIELD MARSHAL IN THE FAMILY, London, 1973).



Inishowen 1918 – flu, sea planes and sugar cards.

One hundred years ago, life was very different in Donegal. There was great sorrow in March over the death of John Redmond – who worked tirelessly to bring Home Rule to Ireland but failed. He urged Irishmen to join the British Army in 1914 in the belief that this gesture would be rewarded by the granting of independence! Culdaff Ancient Order of Hibernians passed a vote of sympathy at his passing.

Conscription? No thanks

The war was now four years running and a Military Service Act was passed which was intended to permit conscription in Ireland. There were violent protests. An All-Ireland Pledge was drawn up and people were encouraged to sign in protest at the threat of conscription. Fr. Maguire of Clonmany organised signatures outside the church gate. No conscription took place in Ireland.

Sugar Cards

Food supplies were low so a form of rationing was introduced. Sugar was the first commodity to be rationed. Shops had to keep records on a Sugar Card of amounts sold to customers. RIC members called to check if the cards were up to date. Later, meat was rationed. Emily Little of the Fort Hotel in Greencastle was fined in court for serving meat on “meatless” days and for failing to keep a proper register of meals served.

Killer flu epidemic

Meanwhile, the Spanish flu was taking its toll. In the first week of July 1918, there were 50 funerals of flu victims in Derry with 14 dying of flu on average per day. Horse hearses queued at the gates of the cemetery for burial and extra gravediggers were employed.

Sinn Fein rock the boat

In December, there were elections and a new party called Sinn Fein won 3 of the 4 seats in Donegal and brought the Irish Party at Westminster to its knees. SF refused to take their seats at Westminster and decided to set up their own government in Dublin. Sinn Fein clubs were in operation in every parish, named after 1916 leaders. Eamonn de Valera visited Donegal in 1918 as part of the election campaign. He spoke in the Colgan Hall, Carndonagh,  and the crowds were so large that the seats had to be removed. Two bands, one from Clonmany and the other from Carndonagh led a parade from the railway station to the hall to give him a rousing welcome.

Jazz Dances at Ture Naval Station

At Ture, Americans were at work building a naval air station where 500 men would be accommodated. They held dances in 1918 and “motor vehicles” took dancers – mainly female – to the hall at Ture from Moville and Derry for all-night dancing. Sea-planes landed at the base in mid-summer to hunt U-boats which were attacking ships carrying food and troops. Only one officer died of flu at Ture base and there were at least 4 marriages.

An emigrant returns

My uncle, John, who emigrated to America, joined the US army and fought in France, came home on holidays from the trenches wearing his military uniform. He attended a dance in Ballyharry school. He survived the war and is buried in Brooklyn in the family grave.

Read more about life in Donegal in 1918 in the Centenary edition of Ireland’s Own, to be published shortly, for which I have written 3 articles. Donegal Annual will be available in mid-summer. See my article on the AOH in Donegal.

Three Book Launches

I have been involved in a number of book launches recently. Last month, DONEGAL’S WILD ATLANTIC COAST  was launched by television producer and presenter Joe Mahon (LESSER SPOTTED ULSTER) at Inishowen Maritime Museum. The book is published by well-known publisher Tim Johnston with Ros Harvey, Ballagh Studios and myself as writer. It is available in Donegal bookshops or via Amazon or the publisher, cottage-publications. com.


The video below features the launch of the DONEGAL ANNUAL COLLECTION VOLUME 2 1954-59 some years ago. Proceedings are in Irish as the event took place in Gweedore and I used the occasion to resurrect my knowledge of Irish which I had at UCD in former days. My opening remarks are about some of the former editors. The second speaker was President of Donegal Historical Society at the time, Dr O’Baoighill, and he spoke about some of the writers in the collection. The third speaker was Col Declan O’Carroll. He befriended Hugh Friel of Fanad on the football fields of Donegal many years ago and Hugh kindly offered to fund the project. Dr Lillis O’Laoire, NUIG, launched the book and spoke about some writers such as Margaret Dobbs who feature in the collection. For more details see or contact Una McGarrigle, Hon Sec of DHS.




The third launch took place in Culdaff before Christmas 2017. The book is based on proceedings of two conferences organised by the Lands of Eoghain committee in Inishowen in 2017, one in Malin and the other in Culdaff. The editor is Rosemary Doherty, an archaeologist based in Carndonagh. Contributors include Rosemary Doherty and Denise Henry, a young archaeologist who has been active in promoting the work of Mabel Colhoun and who was involved in setting up an exhibition about Mabel in Derry Museum. Mabel was born in 1905 in Derry and worked as a teacher. She was the aunt of David Trimble, now in the House of Lords, who participated in the peace process in N. Ireland. I met David Trimble at the launch of Mabel’s book, THE HERITAGE OF INISHOWEN some years ago. He told me he often drove her around Inishowen to visit the sites in the book. He also said she would get angry when she found sites had been damaged.

Brian Lacey is an archaeologist who has worked on the DISCOVERY  programme. He befriended Mabel when he lectured in Magee College, Derry. Brian told me he is now planning to move to Donegal when family circumstances permit.

John McCarron is involved in preparing a catalogue of Mabel’s work in Derry.

Amy Young was born in Canada in 1885 and married Robert Young of Culdaff. She wrote the history of the Young family in 1929 in which she described the burning of Culdaff House on 22 May 1922. Only 100 copies were printed so the book is very rare.

Rachel Magowan is related to Amy and has access to her papers. Rachel describes a ball Amy attended in New Park, Moville organised by Bishop Henry Montgomery and his wife Maud in 1908, The ball was to celebrate the completion of training of the Bishop’s son, Bernard, later Field Mashal and a World War 2 hero.

My own modest contribution details life in Culdaff during Amy’s lifetime. For example, the Ancient Order of Hibernians was very active and Unionists were very busy in 1912 with the signing of the Covenant.

John McGrory designed the book and Neil managed sound and organised the launch with Rosemary and with Trish Murphy, secretary of the committee. Music was supplied by Roisin McGrory and her musicians. George Mills, grandson of Amy, attended the launch. He also kindly acted as guide to Culdaff House during the seminar earlier in the year. The Heritage Council financed the publication. Anne Doherty provided catering for the launch.

For more details about the book, see

Thanks for reading this and may I wish my fellow historians and archaeologists every best wish for 2018.



Thomas Jenner, The candle is lit, it cannot blow out (1640s). The 15 reformers are named in the picture. It sums up the determination of Luther’s followers to spread his ideas across Europe. The original print is currently on display in the British Museum.

On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian friar named Martin Luther allegedly nailed 95 Theses on the door of the church of All Saints in Wittenberg and later sent them to the Archbishop of Mainz. Luther was Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Wittenberg at that time. Historians now question whether he actually nailed the notice on the door, but all are agreed that his protest against the issuing of indulgences led to a conflagration across Europe.

In England Henry V111 broke with Rome but England remained a Catholic country during his lifetime. Popular music in churches included the SALVE REGINA (Hail Holy Queen) sung to the music of William Cornysh (You can listen to it on You Tube). Each syllable was allowed to have only one note after Henry’s time. The hymn was sung by Catholic monks in the monastery at Cluny in central Paris as far back as the 12th century and the Archbishop of Armagh,  Eamonn Martin sung it in Latin at the graveside of Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy. Heaney studied Latin in St. Columb’s College in Derry under Fr. McGlinchey as a student in the 1960s.

Lowland Scots helped to spread Presbyterianism throughout Ulster following the Plantation although a Royal Commission of 1622 concluded that many churches were in decay and religion was in places at a low ebb. Some of the early ministers spoke English only and records show that many communities made strenuous efforts to have Gaelic-speaking ministers sent over from Scotland so the congregations could understand them.

John Wesley never visited Inishowen but he did preach in Derry on his mission throughout Ireland. The Wesley Hall in Carndonagh has served as a school, chapel and hall for 150 years since it was built on the site of a thatched place of worship in 1867. At one time, there was a congregation of 200 persons. Students of Carndonagh College also attended class there in the 1960s.

On 4 November 2017, the Ulster Local History Trust will hold a conference on the Reformation in Armagh with a group of distinguished speakers. Alan Ford, University of Nottingham, who is the opening speaker, has just published a new book on the subject. Booking may be made on Eventbrite (Reformation-Armagh).  See the programme below and get updates on the Ulster Local History Trust site on Facebook:


The Silent Monastic Bells of Inishowen



Bell of St. Mura, Fahan, Wallace Collection London


The ancient monasteries of Inishowen owned bells which were used in holy ritual and at times of prayer in the monasteries. Some date back to the tenth century. The Bell of St Mura remained in Fahan parish until after the Great Famine when it was sold to a John McClelland of Dungannon. He exhibited it in the Great Exhibition of 1852 in Belfast. It is made of bronze and is encased in a highly-decorated shrine. The bell was auctioned in 1855 and the Freeman’s Journal described it as “a small antique bronze object”. Sir William Wallace presented the bell to the Wallace Collection in London, with a stipulation in his will that it was not to be removed for any purpose. The centre of the bell shrine is decorated with a large crystal. Various kinds of ornamentation have been added to the bell over the centuries. It has also travelled through the hands of a number of well-known bell collectors. (Note – the Iniskeel Bell was loaned to Donegal a couple of years ago and was displayed in Letterkenny).

The Bell of St Boden is retained in the parish of Bocan (Culdaff). It was originally held by the Duffy family of Glack, Culdaff. At the Inquisition in Lifford in 1609, the Duffys were described as the lay heads of the monastery. It is one of the few ancient monastic bells in the world that remain in the original parish. It is made of bronze and was exhibited in 1852 in Belfast. It has a circular hole which was made when the bell was originally cast and is unornamented. The hole was never closed. Like most of the bells, cures were associated with the Bell of St Boden and it was reputed to have a cure for ailments in cattle.

The Donagh Bell was presented to the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. The Keeper of the Bell was a person of status and was in possession of a “gort” or piece of land. (gort – field). In 1609 at the Inquisition in Lifford, reference was made to the owner of the land and he was described as the custodian of the bell. It was sold by a pawnbroker in Carndonagh to John Connellan Deane. The original owner was Philip McColgan, who died about 1867. The bell has a distinctive appearance with two finger holes. Searches are underway to locate the whereabouts of the bell.

Seán Beattie.


Carndonagh: the Marshall Monument –



Recently discovered inscriptions on a stone monument in Carndonagh parish.

This monument will feature in the Colgan Heritage Weekend in August 2018 – details later.

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, 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 in their journals and letters. Admiral Heath of Fahan – no relation to Ted – 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.

 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 the Glebe 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).

A Clonmany Rector’s Woes: Life in Inishowen in the 1820s

Clonmany Market House, venue for Lands of Eoghan Festival 8-10 September 2017

A remarkable insight into the life of a parish curate in the Church of Ireland has recently come to light. It is generally presumed by Irish historians that the clergy had a comfortable living, having a guaranteed income from the tithe. This was a levy on crops and produce which pre-dated the arrival of the Normans. Among tithe payers, the tax was not too popular, as it obliged all denominations to support the Established Church.

Apart from such considerations, the life of a country curate was not always a bed of roses. The letters of Rev Frances Lucas Molloy provide an interesting account of the ambitions, hopes and aspirations of a Church of Ireland curate in Clonmany throughout the 1820s. In August 1821, he petitioned the King for a transfer to another parish on the grounds of ill health. He had the support of the local physician, Dr. McDermott, who had diagnosed that he suffered from a hernia and was unable to carry out his duties because of infirmity. Such applications were not unusual and among the Chichesters, earlier incumbents of Clonmany, similar levels of dissatisfaction are evident, as they sought appointments in larger parishes to advance their church careers. Rev Molloy grew up in the

Rev Molloy grew up in the comfortable surroundings of a rural rectory in Co Monaghan, where he had a private tutor. He pursued a successful course in Arts at Trinity College, Dublin and graduated with a B. A. degree. He married Jane Hanna and they had three children. Sadly, two of his sons died before him.

Having received no reply from the King, he petitioned the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland seeking his support for a new parish. According to one of his letters, he had been offered a chaplaincy in the more salubrious climate of St Lucia but was unable to take up the post due to poor health. Bishop William Knox of Derry was sympathetic and approved of his plan to move to St. Lucia, if a suitable parish became available.

Molloy was a man who showed concern for the welfare of his parishioners and was highly regarded by his neighbours of the Catholic faith. He said he assisted them with job applications. They were welcomed at his rectory at Glebe House in Clonmany in times of personal distress. He cites one case which caused him a lot of anguish, when he arranged to send two young children to the Foundling Hospital in Dublin following the death of their mother. Perhaps unknown to him, the Hospital had a notorious reputation and death rates of 80% among child inmates were common in some years. The Dublin hospital was forced to close in 1830. He also claimed he helped to have children inoculated presumably by having forms completed and making appointments with the local doctor. Cholera was ever threatening in the 1820s and Ireland faced a major epidemic in 1832. Coastal areas along the Foyle and Swilly recorded large numbers of deaths as the epidemic spread inland along rivers and it moved inland.

His final letter was to beseech the Chief Secretary, Henry Goulburn for a transfer but he never succeeded in securing his dream posting to St. Lucia. He described his parish as having 1,000 families, only ten of which were Protestants. Whatever level of discomfort he experienced, much worse lay ahead, when anger over tithe payments, particularly in poor harvests, led to public unrest and disorder which was ruthlessly suppressed by the police and army. The Tithe War lasted from 1830 until 1833 and contributed to a serious breakdown in community relations in Inishowen. Attempts to change the system led to the Tithe Rentcharge Act of 1838 but reform of the tithe was not finally effective until the passing of the Church Disestablishment Act of 1869. The Church of Ireland was largely disendowed but bishops and clergy were guaranteed their existing incomes for life. This was one of the main achievements of William Gladstone’s administration.

Rev. Molloy died in 1856 at the age of 77 and is buried in Kilmacrenan, outside Letterkenny, without realising his dream of working in a more exotic environment.His grave is marked by a headstone which includes all family members.

Seán Beattie