Bands and Song Collectors in Inishowen – Sean Beattie

Last night (18-3-2016) I attended the musical NUNSENSE  in Carndonagh and enjoyed a fine evening of music and song. The 7 member band under Helen Haughey did  a great job with flute, clarinet/sax, trumpet/guitar/ bass, percussion and keyboards. Today, such bands do not give themselves a name unlike the bands of the past, when there were over a dozen bands in the peninsula, a spin-off from the Celtic Revival and the Temperance Movement. The earliest date for a band in Carndonagh is 1877 when the Carndonagh Flute Band played at the open air wedding reception of John Loughrey and Miss Rogan (Dublin) to which most of the tenants appear to have been invited at Binion House. Lots of “refreshments” were available. It is possible that smaller bands played in the town before this date but records have been lost. At this time,  Buncrana had St. Patrick’s Flute band. Flutes and fifes were very popular during this period but their traditions are now preserved in northern flute and bands which make their public appearance on July 12th. .

The revival of the Brass Band in Carndonagh is of interest as it clearly has its roots in a 140 year old history post-Great Famine. Bands were part of the social fabric and could turn up at political demonstrations, concerts, Land War rallies or, as in the 1950s, Corpus Christi processions. The newly revived Brass Band from Carndonagh will play on Easter Sunday in Culdaff to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

There has been a revival of interest in traditional music in Inishowen and perhaps more attention could be given to a remarkable woman collector of Irish music who was the daughter of the Moville rector, Rev. Charles Galway whose letters seeking aid during the Famine are in Dublin (See WORKHOUSE AND FAMINE by Sean Beattie in DONEGAL ANNUAL 1980). Her name was Honoria Tompkins Galway (1830- 1925) and her tunes are in a book she published in 1910 called CROONAUNS. Her mother was Honoria Knox of Prehen. She claimed that the Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) was actually a Donegal melody. She collected lilting melodies and music for jews harps which were very popular.

Also forgotten is a great Moville piper called Tom Gorden who collaborated with her. She was a leading contributor to the Irish Folksong Society (1914), another offshoot of the Celtic Revival which blossomed before the 1916 Rising. (See DONEGAL IN TRANSITION  by Sean Beattie, published by Merrion, 2013 and DONEGAL ANNUAL 2016, forthcoming). She was a close friend of Douglas Hyde and Alfred Graves, composer. She also collected the song Over Here ( “The praties they are small…..”) As we delve more into our musical heritage, her contribution will some day get the recognition it deserves. She was a collector of national importance. It would be appropriate to erect a plaque in her honour in Moville where she enjoyed a long life or perhaps to have a public concert of her music to restore her place in public life.   (Research by Sean Beattie – please acknowledge if used in a publication). Please share on Facebook. 

Virtually 1916 – Schools’ Competitions

The County Donegal Historical Society is running a number of competitions for schools related to 1916. For more information, and to download an application form, follow this link:

If anyone would like to contact me for advice, I’d be happy to help out. For starters, have a look at the Donegal County Council education pack on 1916, available free from any County Donegal library (more info here: There is also some very helpful information in the ‘Donegal Annual 1966’ which is available in Letterkenny library and contains articles which were written by participants in the Rising.


Clonmany Irish Nation League

From 1914 thousands of Donegal men joined the ranks of the British army having been advised by John Redmond that England would guarantee Home Rule once the war was over.

But in January 1916, Lloyd George announced that if the war had not ended by March 1916, Home Rule would not be granted.

The writing was on the wall and partition loomed ahead. The Home Rule Act had been suspended for the duration of the war but now it was to be dropped.

Clonmany reacted by forming an Irish Nation League at a meeting which was well attended. A branch of the Irish Nation League was formed to fight against partition. Elsewhere, such committees were often known as the Anti-Partition League. The committee was headed by Rev. T. Hegarty, CC, President. Other members were

L McCarron, DC, Cleagh VP

J. M  Doherty, Ballyliffin, Treasurer

Dr. O’Doherty, JP, Clonmany, Secretary.

Committee – P. Quigley, JP, the Castle

P.Doherty, DC, Giblin

N. Noone, Cloontiagh

N. Doherty, Annagh.

Farmers were not too happy with an order confiscating all hay and grain crops in support of the war effort. Only local fodder would be excluded if retained for home use.

More information about the impact of the war on Donegal will be found in two articles which I have written, the first in IRELAND’S OWN (special 1916 edition ) and the second and more detailed in DONEGAL ANNUAL  2016 to be published in September.

Carndonagh’s Most Artistic Building-1896


CARNDONAGH’S  “most artistic building”

It was built by James Gallagher and Sons in 1896 at the top of Chapel St. in Carn. Gallaghers were based in Moville and the property was ownedby the Harkin brothers. It earned its title because of its cornices, mouldings, 2 plate glass windows, pilasters by Fairmans of Derry, fancy woven lattice work, and ironwork. The report went on to describe Carn as a “thriving little town”. The architect was J. Nolan. The building was 56 ft long and 30 ft wide. It is now 120 years old. This was a vibrant business thoroughfare at the time and benefitted from its proximity to the market in the Diamond. The yard at the back was ideal for farmers and traders to leave their horses and carts.

The contract and bills for the house are still available and the total cost was £556.18.6.

The site was originally the home of Michael Harkin, better known at Maghtochair, historian and author. He operated the Carn Loan Fund from here (a sort of credit union for the poor).  He is listed in the 1850s as the owner. The older buildings were demolished and the modern house was built and he also bought the house next door. Michael had 2 sons. James and Frank and for a time there was a large shop here which at one time was owned by Celia Canny. Frank left the house to his son, Michael, who was born in 1908 and became a factory manager in Carn and his family are well known in the town today. In 1927 James MacDonagh bought the property which now has two businesses, hairdressing and accountancy. A son of James was vice-principal in the Community School when it opened and I worked with him for many years. He designed many of the houses in the district. The current business owners are all past pupils of the school.

I recall visiting the premises with a long, low counter made of solid wood when it was used as a vet clinic by Jim McCarroll over 50 years ago. My father had livestock and if a cow developed “weed” (a milk disease), the milk had to be inspected by the vet before it could be consumed, and so I found myself cycling to Carn and calling into the clinic. It gave me a brief introduction to the world of agriculture.

As I ramble down the street today, I am impressed by the building – painted in dark grey, with white blocking at the edges. It is just a few yards from Donagh Café run by Pascal Trabac from the Bordeaux area and Pascale Chometon from the Lyons area. The original characteristics are still intact and it stands out from the other buildings in the street. I have visited the hairdressing salon which has a very attractive interior but I have not visited the accountancy offices. (My tax affairs are pretty basic). The signage is functional and looks well. It is good to see that the original artistic features are maintained in the exterior and interior of the building and the current occupiers/owner deserve commendation.

As most towns celebrate their writers, and Maghtochair has done Carn proud, it would be an ideal site for a plaque in his memory and help the thousands of visitors who pass through the town to take another look at its architectural history. This aspect of Inishowen history is taken for granted but we can be proud of our crafts people, tradesmen, builders, artists and architects who have made the town a better place to live in. Visitors, who pass through, often judge a town on the appearance of its buildings. (Sean Beattie)

Banking on the past in Carndonagh

FairDay CarndonaghExactly 150 years ago this year, the people of Carndonagh and district were enjoying an upsurge in prosperity. The Great Famine was 20 years behind them and the rural economy was making good progress. In the picture above, the dominant building on the left is the Northern Banking Company, the first commercial bank to open in the town. Post Office Savings Banks, a Loan Fund and agricultural banks would follow in the district. The bank was established following the presentation of a memorial by the gentry and business folk to the directors of the banking company.

On Friday 11 May 1866, there was an air of anticipation as two directors from the bank arrived in Carn. A warm welcome awaited William Valentine and Robert Hanna from Belfast as they viewed sites in the Diamond, the business heart of the town. Both knew the bank had great potential as the company already had a branch in Derry. After much discussion, they selected a site between the houses of Philip Doherty and John Gillespie. The local contact was John “the Cloth” Doherty of C & P Doherty, who was also the agent for the English and Scottish Law Assurance Society. At the official opening, speakers welcomed the bank describing Carn as “a rising town”. Historian Michael Harkin proudly noted in 1867, “The Northern Banking Company have a branch here”. 

The staff of the bank were popular in the town. When a cashier, William King, was promoted, townspeople gathered in the Doherty Arms Hotel and presented him with a purse of sovereigns. He founded the Literary and Debating Society in the town during his tenure. Meetings were usually held in the Temperance Hall (before the Colgan Hall was built). Bank staff have played a major role in development of the town over the years. (Note the Enterprise Weekend recently)

Evidence of prosperity was to be seen in the construction boom of the period. There were two shirt factories and in 1859 Tillies sent out a tender for the construction of a factory and manager’s dwelling. Agents of English shirt makers had offices in the Diamond. The Convent of Mercy was also built at this time. Constructed at a cost of £1,300, it was not occupied by the time Michael Harkin wrote his history of Inishowen in 1867. William Scott of Tulnaree invited applications for the construction of a Presbyterian Manse at Tulnaree in 1857. On 9 June 1868, the Wesleyan Chapel was opened – “a neat and substantial” building according to reports. The design was by Thomas Brady of Carndonagh and the builders were Hutcheson and Colhoun of Derry. The cost was £400. With  a population of 641, the town was well served by 23 public houses, of which Michael Harkin did not approve; four local bakeries kept bread on the table. Apart from the fairs and markets, the town was at the heart of Inishowen society as it also had the head quarters of the police, the Union workhouse and the courthouse. 

Further north at Malin Head, tenders were invited for the construction of a Coastguard Station in 1869. Tourist guides often referred to the thatched cottages which housed the first Coastguard Station at Slievebane, the architecture of which was slightly different from local houses: “We arrived at the village of Slievebane which has a Coastguard Station”. (I recall the old thatched cottages at Trean, Tremone, now converted to out offices, which were erected before Tremone Coastguard Station was built; they stood out because of their unique porches and windows).

The town also had a Temperance Band, called after St. Macarten’s,  and a Temperance Association.

I was a customer of the Northern Bank for many years but following the subsequent takeover by Danske Bank I was invited to close my account as the bank was moving out.

The bank was opened 150 years ago this year and is therefore one of the oldest businesses in the town, although now closed. Fortunately, a new business venture is expected on the site in the near future, but it certainly will not be a financial institution. (Research by Sean Beattie)

Happy New Year to all visitors to this site.

Glacknadrummond Methodist Church, Culdaff

I recently attended the annual Harvest Thanksgiving in Glacknadrummond Church, which is situated about 2 miles from Culdaff. The sermon was delivered by the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland so it was an important event. Afterwards, I met Rev. Alison Gallagher, the minister in charge and enjoyed the hospitality provided by the congregation. It was my first visit to a Harvest Thanksgiving in any church and I was impressed with the harvest decorative displays. It was a joyful celebration for all who work on the land and enjoy its fruits. As a resident of the district, I knew almost everyone in the church and met a number of former students of the school where I worked. The building has been used for worship for over 100 years and many of the artefacts associated with its construction are preserved. I recall seeing them during the centenary celebrations some years ago.  

Prior to the construction of the church, a local resident Charles McCandless proposed in 1850 to have a school house erected in the vicinity of his home. The Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Society was active in Inishowen preaching the gospel prior to the Great Famine and the Protestant School in Culdaff village was often used for prayer meetings. Poverty was rife so fund-raising was a challenge. Charles McCandless secured a site from Robert Young of Culdaff –  a member of the Church of Ireland – and a school capable of holding 200 pupils was built. A master’s house was attached. The new school was under the patronage of the Primitive Methodist Society which made a small contribution to the cost. Services were held weekly in the school house and a Sabbath School was also in operation. Plans for the new building were drawn up by a Derry architect J. H. Bible and the building was erected by Alex Ferguson of Derry. (I think the firm of Bible belonged to the company Bible and Simmons of Derry which had an office in the Diamond until recently; the poet James Simmons is a member of the latter family). 

A local minister Rev W. Flaherty, a native of Co. Offaly,  collected £34 in Dublin for the new school. R. Young paid £5. Miss McCandless in Mass., USA contributed £5. A total of £36 was collected in Inishowen and about £40 was outstanding when the building was completed. 

The official opening of the school took place on 9 June 1857 so in 2017, it will be the 160th  anniversary. A Presbyterian community in Scotland offered to pay £30 per annum for a teacher.  A teacher called Lindsay worked here for a period. As the school was also used as a place of worship, it did not come into the national school system run by the Commissioners of National Education and consequently, problems arose in running the school. The school in fact became established as a place of worship rather than a school and it formed the nucleus of the modern church at Glacknadrummond. The Methodist congregations attend worship at Whitecastle and Moville also. Over many years I got to know most of the ministers of the Methodist congregations as they would arrive on a weekly basis in Carndonagh Community School to provide religious instruction for students of their congregation. 

St. Columba’s Church, Straid, Clonmany


The Hervey Trail appears to omit Clonmany but it includes two sites in Inishowen. Hopefully, Straid will be added to the map sooner rather than later.

Straid Protestant Church, Clonmany

A new committee is about to restore the fabric of the old church at Straid. It is great to see a voluntary group being set up because so much of the protection of our heritage comes down to volunteers, people who give their time generously to make our country a better place to live in. This is a very historic site as it was a place of worship over 1500 years ago and has associations with Colmcille. Among the many records of its history I mention two.  In the 14th century, in 1394 Bishop Colton reported on a Visitation  to Clonmany and recorded David O’Morrison as erenagh, or lay head, land holder , Keeper of the Columban relic the Miosach and collector of the Biashop’s dues.  In the 17th century, the Donegal Inquisition of 1609 revealed how 6 quarters of church land were divided.

The Bernician Studies group from England which has been surveying monastic sites in Inishowen over the last 4 years and have shown great interest in Clonmany. Their work has been named the Lands of Eoghan project. This magnetic survey will add new information to our knowledge of the archaeology of the environs of the church itself and help to raise its profile in the community. Rosemarie Moulden is involved.

Now fast forward to the 1700s – a period of great church building by the Board of First Fruits of the Protestant church. Before the Plantation, churches were the preserve of great Irish families but with the Flight of the Earls and the Plantation, this patronage ended and many churches fell into disrepair. A new phase of church building was driven by landlords and so we have landlord-patronised churches in Culdaff, Malin, Carn and Moville, to give Inishowen as an example. By a stroke of good fortune, there was also a new Protestant bishop, Bishop Harvey, (sometimes Hervey) 1730-1803, who was a man of great wealth and also a patron of the arts and architecture. His best known projects are at Downhill and Ballyscullion.  At the same time, there was a rector in Clonmany with a very famous name and pedigree, Rev William Chichester, and there are two Chichester tombs in the graveyard. It was through the initiative of both the Earl Bishop and Rev Chichester that Straid church was built.

A third man makes an appearance in this story –  master builder, architect and designer, Michael Shanahan. The Earl Bishop brought him from Cork and he was engaged in the Downhill project and Straid for a period of 12 years in the 1770s. Special characteristics of his style are evident at Straid and he may have been involved with Malin Hall and Prehen House (in the opinion of the late historian/surveryor Annesley Mailey). Some of the drawings made in Venice have survived dated 1770 and 1772 and can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln Fields also has some of his work. Soane was a rival with Shanahan for the contract to build Downhill but Soane lost – hence the connection with the museum. So today at the official launch this project, we can salute these 3 men – Chichester, Harvey and Shanahan – and say this is no mean monument we are dealing with. I would see Shanahan as in the same mould as our own Liam McCormick.

The personal associations of this church link it to some of the great personalities of our Inishowen heritage. In the folklore of Clonmany, few stories can equal that of Domhnall Gorm and  Peadar McLaughlin.  Both are buried in the old church. Mary O’Neill is a pivotal and revered figure in the story of Shane’s Castle, being responsible for the preservation of the O’Neill line  and she is buried in the graveyard. Rev  Chichester was a great letter-writer and we learn of the visit of Lord Cavan before Dunree was constructed. From his correspondence, it is clear that Chichester was a great preacher. Rev. Kennedy of Carn had a family which brought distinction in medicine, the law, railway construction and administration and they were regular visitors here. We also have the Carys of Tiernaleague as regulars. Buried in the graveyard is the infamous Col McNeill, the Waterloo priest who was jailed during the Tithe War, the poet Denis O’Donnell, priests like Fr. McFaul, Fr. Daniel Doherty, Rev Mungo Thompson and Francis Little, Clonmany postmaster and many local people. It is also worth recalling that many of the earliest Protestant ministers were Irish speakers and contributed to Clonmany being named by John O’Donovan as having the best Irish in the country. As the launch was in Glen House, we must mention the Dohertys who lived here working as tithe proctors in a very unsettled society and the last member of the family, James Walker Doherty is also buried in Straid. Despite their unpopularity we can thank them for maintaining the church until 1925 and perhaps preventing its demolition. We have to thank Charlie McGlinchey and Master Kavanagh for preserving the folklore.

The McGlinchey Association has played a great role in keeping the heritage of the church alive, and Catherine McWilliams, Fr. Ciaran Devlin and Conal Byrne have done magnificent research which is published in the third journal of the McGlinchey Summer School. I recall being here in 2000 when Fionn Morgan O’Neill was due to give a talk in the churchyard on her ancestors but it was postponed due to rain and she delivered a lecture on the church and the Chichesters in the hall instead. I was fortunate that she also supplied an article to DONEGAL ANNUAL the following year giving her impressions on the heritage and history of the church. As she reveals in that article, members of the O’Neill family, which includes former Prime Minister Terence O’Neill, have been regular visitors to the church.

We live in an age of ecumenism, of cross-border alliances and peace-making and this church stands as a model for all of these things. This church will be a lasting memorial for the parish of Clonmany, and also stand as a monument not only to its ancient monastic fathers but the thousands of Christians that have worshipped here. So I wish the committee every success with this important project.

See Rev William Reeves, Metropolitan Visitation of the Diocese of Derry AD MCCCXCV11, Dublin, 1850.

Also Catherine McWilliams and Conall Byrne in It’s Us They’re Talking About, 2000.





Ballyliffin and Foyle College Camp 1913

Boasting two of Ireland’s great links, Ballyliffin Golf Club has a long and colourful history. In the boom years before WW1,  it hosted the annual summer camp of Foyle College, Derry for one week. Why Ballyliffin? Well, it had a rail link to Derry and it was ideal for young students and staff on an outdoor activity. They dropped off at Ballyliffin station and a carter was on hand for luggage. Bikes were carried in the guard’s van. 

In mid July, 1913, 5 white canvas tents appeared overnight on the edge of the old links. One of the tents was a kitchen where the college cooks were deployed to feed  the hungry lads. Boys took a swim before the cooks yelled at them to take their breakfast which began with a steaming pot of porridge, a traditional boarding school staple. Then it was on their bikes for a run to Malin Head, via Carn, to see the new wireless telegraphy station. Dinner was at 3 pm and consisted of stew, rice pudding, and lemonade. Tinned food was rarely on the menu.

Budding archaeologists gouged the earth for arrow heads, shell middens and bits of pottery which were useful souvenirs. Cricket was played in the afternoon while staff played a few rounds of golf. The Yorkshire Regiment dropped in from Dunree and gave the boys a run for their money on the cricket pitch on at least two evenings. For the soldiers, it was the calm before the storm. Other visitors included the Dills from Muff who were old Foyle boys. Foyle had a long tradition of catering for Donegal students. Rev. Edward Chichester of Culdaff was a student here as were the Montgomerys from Moville and Youngs from Culdaff. Pattersons of Grouse Hall, Gleneely also attended Foyle. 

As night drew in, it was time for a  sing-song around a turf camp fire. Occasionally the night watch was disturbed by dogs foraging for pieces of meat.

The camp continued throughout the war years but the College would pay a heavy price as the war progressed. There were only 200 students on rolls at this time but a total of 420 old Foyle boys served in the armed forces. 72 would later join the Roll of Honour for deceased soldiers. Major Myles was an old Foyle boy who came from Ballyshannon, one of many from Donegal in the college and he survived the war and became an MP for Donegal. Harry Swan was also a student and probably attended the camp here.  Myles survived the war and played cricket for Ireland. His caps are in the museum in the college. 

Local shops supplied food for the camp. Mrs. Doherty of Ballyliffin baked loads of bread when supplies of bakery bread ran out because of the bread strike at this time. Local bakeries objected to bread coming in from Derry on the train. J. Doherty supplied groceries at a cost of £1. 18.5 for the week. George Doherty was the butcher and he received £1.12.6 for supplies of meat. Mrs Doherty also provided fresh milk, turf and jams. Rent was £15. A local carter received 6s for ferrying luggage from the station at Ballyliffin. The camp continued after the war but ceased to operate once the border came into operation. Thereafter it was Castlerock or Portrush but Ballyliffin was a place they would never forget and records show how much the students enjoyed the camp. Long before the Wild Atlantic Way was created, this is a small addition to the colourful history of the village of Ballyliffin and its place in the history of tourism in Donegal.  (Sean Beattie – please acknowledge website in future publications, websites or blogs)

Tom O’Neill, son of Speaker Tip O’Neill and Prof Ronan Fanning, former Prof of History, UCD


Tom O’Neill, son of Speaker Tip O’Neill, whose grandparents came from Inishowen, in conversation with Prof Ronan Fanning, UCD who gave a lecture on how Tip O’Neill managed to establish a special relationship between Ireland and USA despite opposition from the UK government. Pre-1977, Ireland did not feature in US foreign policy. Tip O’Neill changed all that and the Good Friday Agreement followed in 1998. The lecture was at the Slieve Snacht Centre, Drumfries near the ancestral O’Neill home. Only the wallsteads remain and the family now own the ruins and lands. Loretta Brennan Glucksman was given the Tip O’Neill Award and her involvement will further cement the link between Donegal and Boston. Her grandfather came from Greencastle.

WW1 Conference – the Border Counties and WW1

Brochure 2

A major cross-border conference will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan on Saturday 3 October on the border counties and WW1. It is organised by the Ulster Local History Trust and Monaghan County Council.

Lectures will include nationalism and recruitment, Cavan’s Roll of Honour, PRONI records, the story of 7 Monaghan brothers who enlisted and the fate of Belgian refugees who fled from Europe and set up the Belbroid lace factory which thrived.

There will be an exhibition from the Belbroid, a reading of war poetry, booksellers, and a debate. Fee – £15/ 20 euro incl. refreshments. Opening at 9.30, close 4.30. See brochure to book or