This is an oil painting of Donegal by my niece, Jeannie Marie Allerton. It is the view from her grandmother’s home on Slate Row near Carrigart (http://tomgallen.com/2016/01/the-4th-earl-of-leitrim-and-slate-row/ ) . The view is toward Mulroy Bay with the mountains of the Fanad Peninsula in the background. More of Jeannie Marie’s work can be seen at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/jeanne-allerton.html?tab=artwork. Prints, and other merchandise made from her images (including several of Ireland), can be purchased at this website.
In the 1930s, the Irish Folklore Commission (Irish Free State) began a program to preserve the stories and oral traditions of the people of Ireland. It did so by collecting the reminiscences of the “old folks” by the students of its primary schools. The students wrote the recollections of parent, grandparents, and neighbours in their exercise books, under the supervision of their teacher. These handwritten reports are available at the website www.duchas.ie .
Donaghmore Parish in County Donegal is the parish of my Gallen and Gallagher ancestors. It is principal locale used in my novel, “Donegal Generations.” In my obsession with the history of the parish, I published several posts about Donaghmore here in my website at: tomgallen.com . I’ve already published some of the folklore reports written by students of Meenreagh, Tievebrack, and Lismulladuff Primary Schools. In this post, I am publishing a few of the stories collected at the Gleneely Primary School.
The Irish name of Gleneely is Gleann An Fhaoilidh. Gleneely Primary School is located up the road that runs from Crossroads to the Tyrone border at Carn Hill. The new school is about 300 yards down the road from the original Gleneely school, one of the first national schools in the area.
Gleneely School was built in 1847 in the middle of the Great Famine on land owned by Henry Bradley. It was part of the Irish National School System begun in 1831. Prior to Gleneely School, there was a hedge school nearby taught by Alexander Craig, a Roman Catholic. Gleneely School drew students from a large area of the surrounding town lands. The original school closed in 1958 and was replaced by the modern school shown in the photos. Note that, other than the photo of the old school ruins, the other photos are stills from a video camera and have poor resolution.
The teacher at that time (1938) of the folklore project was Padraig MacFhinn. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mrgr. Francis Carbine, of Philadelphia for making me aware of the Folklore Project and for publishing a number of the stories reported from the Gleneely School. Msgr. Carbine is a descendant of ancestors from the Gleneely area, principally Cornashesk Townland. One of his relatives, Sean O’Cearrabain, is the author of several contributions to the Gleneely School Collection. Here are some of the stories.
THE GREY STONE ON CORNASHEISK MOUNTAIN -
This huge boulder, shaped like a chair, is the property of Mrs. McMonagle of Corrasheisk, Killygordon. A giant, long since dead, is supposed to have used it as a seat long ago. As an explanation of how the stone got there it is said that two giants over in Lismulladuff Glen – about three miles away- were testing their strength to see which could throw the stone the greater distance. The giant who won the test threw his stone on top of Cornasheisk Mt. and decided henceforth he would live there. A little distance below the stone a huge tombstone marks the spot where the giant lies buried. The tombstone is cut out in the shape of the giants’s own body. Writing can be traced on the upper surface of the stone but it is so blurred that it is impossible to decipher it. Local tradition has it that a great treasure lies buried in this grave.
Reported by J. Reid Prine
THE FAIRY BUSH -
In the field the property of Mr. Frank Bradley, Gleneely, Killyordon, there is a holly bush which is supposed to belong to the little-folk. Different people have seen the fairies playing around it and at times have heard strange music coming from it. It is recorded that children returning home from school began to play around the bush. They hung up their bags and coats on the bush. When they returned to look for them, they found that they were gone. Mr. James Bradley once saw three while sheep grazing around the tree but while he was watching them they disappeared into the tree.
Reported by J. Reid Prine
PRIEST HUNTING -
In the town land of Dromore, Killygordon, there lived a Protestant family who had a servant boy who was a Catholic. Wishing to kill the local parish priest, they asked the boy to pretend that he was ill so that they could ask the priest to the house to attend him. When the priest arrived he asked to be shown to the sick man. When they entered the room the people of the house were astounded that the boy was REALLY dead. Before they could recover from their amazement, the priest was safely on his journey homeward.
Reported by J. Reid Prine
ST. BRIDGET’S WELL -
In the townland of Donaghmore, Liscooley, County Donegal, is a holy well called St. Bridget’s Well. It is situated in a field the property of a Protestant farmer called Taylor. This man does not encourage pilgrimages to the well so that no general assemblies take place. On several occasions he vainly attempted to close up the well but as water persisted springing up at the spot he was obliged to open up the well again or else suffer a large part of his well to be flooded. People here in the locality have great faith in the healing powers of this well and several cures have been wrought which support their claims.
Reported by J. Reid Prine
FAIRY TREE -
When a gang of workmen were engaged in constructing a new road in the town land of Mounthall, they encountered a hawthorn bush directly in their path. The foreman in charge gave orders to some of the men to have it removed. Several of them declined to perform this task declaring that the bush was a fairy-tree and they would be inviting disaster if they interfered with it. One of their number however by the name of Jim Gallen, declared that their fears were only rubbish and that he would prove it by removing the tree himself. He first began to remove the small boulders around the foot of the tree and was rather startled but not discouraged when several white mice emerged. He next proceeded to extract the bush roots and all. When he succeeded in uprooting it, a large bird of weird shape and without ant feathers flew out in his face and disappeared. Then the fears of men were realized. Jim Gallen’s cows suddenly refused to give and milk. This was very strange because they did not appear to be ailing. Things went to such a pitch that in despair Gallen went and planted the tree again near where he uprooted it. He was very relieved the next morning to find that his cows were overflowing with milk.
Reported by J. Reid Prine
HIDDEN TREASURE -
There is a treasure supposed to be hidden at the grey-stone. This stone is situated at the back side of Cornashesk Mountain. Giants long ago made this stone their stopping place. These giants were supposed to have plenty of gold, and to store it, they dug a great hole in the ground beside the grey stone. For fear of anyone getting their money, the giants rolled always this big stone on top of the treasure. When these giants died, it was supposed that the treasure was still there. Plenty of people would have tried to get it only for this heavy stone on top of it. The treasure is supposed to consist of gold and silver. The stone where the treasure is is about [?] miles from the county road. There lived certain people in our district called Connaghans. Once they were cutting turf in the bog of Onagradh. They found a bag of money. In this bag there were a large number of pounds. The “bank” where they got this was about one hundred yards from the road. The bag was in the middle of it and it was about eighty pounds, and it was supposed to be hidden by a man called Otchen. This man was known as a highway robber.
Reported by Gerard Doherty (age 14) , Rushey Hill
MY HOME DISTRICT -
Gleneely is the name of the district I’m living in. The town land of Gleneely is in the Parish of Donaghmore. There are about eleven families living in out district. The the eleven families there are about forty-seven people. The names most common in our district are the Rules and the McCormacks. There are two families of each. There are different types of houses in our district. There are thatched houses and slated houses also. Some of the houses are very small and some are large and there is only one two-story house in our district. There are only two people of over seventy years of age in our town land. They do not know Irish. They are not storytellers either for I never heard them tell a story. There was one old man of over seventy who could have told stories all day long. This old man is Johnny Browne who went away from the district and is still living at the Crossroads. The houses are more plentiful than they are now. Some of the families emigrated to other places. The Brownes were one of the families who went away. When they went away, the house they were living in was tumbled to the ground. Some other people went away to Scotland. There is only one or two persons who went away to America and came back home in a few years. There are many old houses to be seen where people lived. There are two large woods growing near our house. One of them is called Monellan Wood. Monellan Wood is larger than the the other and it contains 100 acres. All the trees in Monellan Wood are cut down, but the trees are growing in the other wood yet. There is a large castle in each of the woods. Our town land is not mentioned in any song or old saying. The River Finn is the nearest river to our house. The land is good and fertile. It is hilly land. Most of the land is cultivated.
Reported by Thomas Wilson (age 15) , Gleneely
VENGEANCE FROM HEAVEN -
Some time ago there lived a minister who was very fond of money. He a large congregation and he was asking them for money every Sunday but none of them wanted to pay anything. he tried all means but did not succeed. He gave money to a few of his old friends to encourage others to pay but that did not make them pay any better. He told them that something would happen to them. he said that they would have no luck whatever with their crops or cattle when they did not pay him. Finally he got tired asking them to pay. At long and at last he thought of a plan. The following Sunday he told them if they would not pay that week he would make God pour down vengeance on them. There happened to be a loft on the church and he paid a man to go up to the loft with an armful of “shows”. He told him when he would call to him to pour down vengeance he was to light the “shows” and throw them down through a hole in the roof. When the burning “shows” began to fall, the people rushed up and began to pay. They were throwing down pounds and ten shillings. The minister was enjoying himself for he was fooling them. He thought that he had not got enough and he called for more vengeance. The man in the loft called down,”my shows are finished.” Then they all rushed up and took their money back again and then the minister had to fly or they would have killed him. My uncle Jim Bradley of Corradoey told me this story.
By Jim Wilson (13) of Gleneely
BURIED BUTTER AS A HEALER -
When I was at home I remember going with another girl to a certain man. This girl’s brother had the “evil”. This man had butter that was found in the bog. He gave a piece of it to the girl to cure her brother and she brought it home and whatever way it was used it cured the brother of the “evil”.
By Liam McMenamin from Mrs. Wilson (Gleneely)
THE FAIRY LIGHT -
This story was told to me by a man named Eddie Connaghan. He is about forty years of age and lived in the townland of Ownagadragh. He said that there used to be a light seen in the mountain of Ownagadragh. This was supposed to be fairies. It was seen for a long time but it was seen in the winter. This light is not seen now. By Sean O’Cearrabain (13) Cornashesk
The name Molly Maguire is usually associated with the secret society founded in the 19th century for the protection of Irish-Catholic miners in the coal fields of Pennsylvania. The name, however, belongs to a secret agrarian group that originated earlier in Ireland in the 18th century and carried into the 19th century. The Irish “Sons of Molly Maguire” acted typically as “ribbon men” and “white boys” protecting Irish-Catholic tenants and opposing landowners when they believed the tenants were being persecuted by unfair rents and practices. Their techniques were threats and violence against the landowners and land agents .
There are various opinions about the origin of the name. The most common is that Molly Maguire was an old woman who was evicted from her farm in County Antrim. Another is that she was a crazy woman in Fermanagh who imagined that she had an army at her command. Several of the letters threatening death to their enemies were signed by a Mary Anne Maguire.
The Mollies were often seen at night with blackened faces and wearing women’s clothing. They were sometimes confused with “mummers“, the roving rural entertainers who visited people’s homes singing or acting out plays and then asking for (or demanding) money.
County Donegal was one of the worst counties in Ireland for agrarian crime in the 1850s. From the book “Mevagh Down the Years,” author Leslie W. Lucas reported that the Mollies had a headquarters in Glenmenagh, near the Village of Glen (Mevagh Parish, County Donegal).
The principal offense that angered the Mollies was the change in land usage. There was a move by land grabbers after the famine to use land for livestock-grazing and enclosing the land in fences, thus preventing the small-scale leasing of land for crop growing that was the mainstay of the average rural farmer. The Mollies destroyed fences, and drove off or killed livestock. They were even known to plough pastures at night.
In America, the Molly Maguires came about because of abuses and safety violations in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. The fire in the Avondale Mine in Luzerne County took the lives of 110 miners in 1869. The result of this was an effort to unionize mine workers of whom many were rural Irish from County Donegal. The Workingmen’s Beneficial Association was founded to organize the workers. At the same time, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) was a strong force among Irish workers at the mines. The AOH was originally founded in the USA in the early 1800s to protect priests and Catholic churches from violence caused by the nativist movement, who were Americans rabidly opposed to Irish immigrants taking over “their” country. The Molly Maguires were members of a secret group of Irish workers working within the AOH, but not recognized as a part of the AOH organization.
Franklin Gowan was a rich company owner who wanted to prevent the union from reducing his profits. He hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate the union and AOH and obtain whatever was needed to end their control. The Pinkertons hired James McParland, a native of County Antrim, to infiltrate the AOH (and Mollies) under the name of James McKenna. Through the years, James reported on Molly activities to his bosses. There were many violent acts through those years. Things got worse after a strike in 1875 when the company reduced miners’ pay by 20%. Ed Coyle, a union leader and head of the AOH, was murdered in March, 1875. After that, violence occurred on both sides by the Mollies and by vigilantes on the side of management.
Through information supplied by McParland and other witnesses, 10 men of the Molly Maguires were arrested for the murder of mine bosses. The prosecuting attorney was none other than Franklin Gowan, the president of the mining company. Ten men were convicted of murder and were hanged in 1877. Over the next two years, ten more were sentenced and hanged. As a result of the trials and executions, the existence of Molly Maguires of the Pennsylvania mine fields eventually disappeared.
In 1766, Irish Parliament ordered a Religious Census of Ireland taken by each Church of Ireland pastor to determine the number of Protestant versus Catholic families in their parishes. The reports were kept in the Public Records Office in Dublin.
During the Irish Civil War in 1922, many records held in the Public Records Office were destroyed by the fire at the Four Courts, including the original census records. Fortunately some handwritten transcripts of them survived. They had been written by an archivist, Tenison Groves, years before the fire. The transcripts for Donaghmore Parish are now saved in the National Archives in Dublin in documents M207 and M208.
As usual, there was a little confusion in the records when I searched these documents in 2001. It appeared that the good vicar did the Protestant families first and listed the names of 708 Protestant families. There were a few traditional Irish names among the Protestants like McLaughlin, Dougherty, Gallagher, McBride, and Bradley (but no Gallens). Then it appears as if he recounted and listed only 280 Protestant families. Where did the others go? Maybe he went beyond the parish boundary on his first count. Sorry, I don’t have the answer for the discrepancy. Then he listed the “Romans.” There were 514 Catholic families. The most common names in the parish were Gallagher (various spellings), Kelly, Boyle, Queen (Quinn), McMannemmy (McMenamin), and Dougherty. There were over 20 families in the parish with each of those names. Other prominent names are Gallen (14 names), McGoldrick (9), McCormack (11), O’Donnell (10), and McNulty (12).
The photos in this post are the transcripts of the census of Donaghmore Parish from the National Archives. Only the names of heads of households are shown. Because I was searching for my family name, the pages only show the Roman Catholic families. The names of Protestant families are not included. Sorry.
Click on the photo to enlarge it or double click for even better enhancement:
The 4th Earl’s predecessor, William Sydney Clements, the 3rd Earl of Leitrim, was a hated landlord in the 19th century. He owned land in four Irish counties and lived on his estate in Manorhamilton in County Leitrim. He also possessed an estate in Rawros, County Donegal on the outskirts of Carrigart. Leitrim’s lands in Donegal were located on Mulroy Bay and included a great portion of the Fanad Peninsula. He was famous for evicting tenants for the slightest offense. For this he was murdered in Donegal on the road between Carrigart and Milford in 1878. More can be found about the murder in http://tomgallen.com/2013/09/the-killing-of-lord-leitrim/ .
The 3rd Earl was succeeded by his nephew Robert Clements, the 4th Earl of Leitrim. The 4th Earl reinstated some of the tenants that the 3rd Earl had evicted. He was popular and did much to improve the county and make it prosperous. The 4th Earl decided to live permanently at Manorvaughan, his estate in Rawros in County Donegal.
The 4th Earl of Leitrim wanted more privacy on his estate and didn‘t care to view the cabins of his tenants. He proposed to forest his land between the Carrigart Road and Mulroy Bay. Most of the cabins were in Carrick Townland. From the 1857 Griffith Valuation, these are the names of the families who lived in Lower Carrick in the area where he proposed his forest.
1. John Duffy, 2. Daniel Connor, 3. Daniel McMenamin, 4. Margery and Andrew Boyce, 5. Neal Connor, Patrick Woolhare, Daniel McGinley, 6. Edward McFadden, 7. Gerald Graham, 8. Patrick McMonigle, Denis Coll, Patrick Boyce, 9. Michael Duffy, Daniel Duffy, John Gallagher, 10. Charles McGinley, 11. James Coyle, 12. Patrick McBride, 13. Charles McBride, 14. Neal Dougherty, 15. James Connor Sr & Jr, 16. Michael and John Coll, 19. Fergal Coll, 20. Denis Duffy, 21. John Boyce and Anne McGinley, 22. Daniel McBride, 23. Bryan McBride and Hugh Boyce, 24. George Coyle.
The numbers refer to the lots shown in the map below from the Griffith Valuation.
In April 1881, instead of just evicting his tenants to plant his forest as his uncle would have done, he offered to move ten tenants from Lower Carrick to a hill in Upper Carrick. He built each family a house on their lot. The houses were built with a slate roof and were the first houses in the area with roofs of this kind. The other homes in the region used straw thatch for their roofs. The row of new houses became known as Slate Row.
In the Earl’s own words, “I wanted to shift some tenants off land in the sight of my house. And I happened to have 200 odd acres of land reclaimed. I thought that I would shift ten tenants up there and so clear the land in the sight of my house, and I did it at great sacrifice to myself in an actual and pecuniary point of view, but great advantage to myself in an artistic point of view, and great advantage to them, as they got their farms, not only cheap, but I am building them slated houses and offices at a cost of a couple of thousand pounds, and they don’t really pay as rent the money laid out on their buildings. I told them ‘you will have these lands at the original rent of your own farms, and at the end of five years you will have them at such and such a rent, and that will continue for my life’ but I would expect my successor to raise them for the proper value. I shall put this in writing.”
In addition to providing lots for his tenants, the Earl provided them a large area of the townland for community grazing for their livestock. This area became known as the “Park.”
One of the tenants moved to Upper Carrick was Edward McFadden and his family. He had farmed a narrow 4 acre field that ran from Mulroy Bay, across the old road to Milford and up the hill. His field was next to the abandoned Straham National School. The Straham School was closed by the 3rd Earl in 1868 when he built the Manorvaughn School in Rawros. I know of Edward because he was my wife’s great-grandfather. Edward moved to Slate Row with nine other neighbors. I’m not sure which of the other tenants from Carrick moved with him, but his neighbors on each side of his home on Slate Row were Gallaghers and McGinleys.
Today, many of the original slate row homes have been beautifully redecorated and provided with modern facilities. The McFadden home (no longer owned by the McFaddens) is one of them. However, some of the homes are in their original condition (and some have been abandoned).
In his short lifetime, the 4th Earl did much to help the people of Carrigart and he was much appreciated for it. In 1889, he donated land for the Mulroy National School in Devlinreagh where the children from Slate Row and vicinity could attend. He also began work on building a hotel and golf course in nearby Rosapenna. In 1892, he went to Sweden to obtain wood and technicians for building his Rosapenna Hotel. On his return to London, he became ill and died. He was only 45 years of age. His body was returned to Mulroy aboard his ship, the Rossgull. More than four thousand people followed his remains to Carrigart, and crowds of mourners gathered along the road. In the Mevagh R.C. Church, Rev. Gallagher said “ I am sure you feel with me the deepest sorrow over the sad event that has deprived this locality of its greatest benefactor… I hope.. you will all come and pay the last tribute of respect to his memory by attending the funeral.”
He was buried in the Carrigart (Church of Ireland) churchyard instead of in the family vault at St. Michan’s in Dublin. In 1895, a memorial to Lord Leitrim was unveiled in Carrigart. It was a Celtic cross of white Sicilian marble.
In rural Ireland of the past, families eagerly awaited the arrival of the “mummers” at their doors during Christmastime. The mummers were men who acted out a play which they performed in people’s homes. They dressed in homemade costumes as the characters they portrayed. In some cases, the faces of the performers were covered in straw masks; in others, only the character, Jack Straw, would have a straw mask. Costumes of straw have been used in Celtic ceremonies for centuries. Christmastime mummers should not be confused with the participants at parades on St. Stephen’s Day (Wren’s Day) or at other Celtic celebrations.
Mummery probably arrived in Ireland from England where disguised actors performed at various times of the year such as at Christmastime, New Years, and pre-Lenten celebrations. The players were called mummers, or guisers (performers in disguise), or Christmas rhymers. The dialogue of the play was spoken in rhymes. The characters were usually heroes of old who battled until one was killed. Prince Patrick is one of the good heroes although Brian Boru could have substituted. The enemy hero could be Prince George or Oliver Cromwell representing England. A doctor would show up after the fight scene and bring the dead hero back to life. Money would be collected at the conclusion of the play.
Mummery at Christmastime was performed in Ireland in the early 19th century. It probably continued on and off in Ireland up to the beginning of World War I. From time to time, mummery would re-emerge as interested people resurrected the tradition. (Currently there are several mummer groups performing in Ireland such as the Aghyaran Mummers of County Tyrone.)
From the folklore stories collected by Irish Folklore Commission in the late 1930s (and published online at duchas.ie), comes the following description of this Irish Christmas tradition in Donegal. It was reported to the Commission by a student of the Meanreagh Primary School (Donaghmore Parish (Killygordon), County Donegal). The student’s name is Michael Browne from Tievecloghoge. Michael wrote the story from the reminiscences of Mr. Patrick Gallen (Dan) of Meenreagh Townland. The following is the description of the mummers as described by Michael Brown:
The mummers come around this district about two weeks before Christmas. They go to some house and dress themselves. They start out when it gets dark, and go round the houses until bedtime.
The following are the names of the mummers:
Father Christmas, Prince George, Prince Patrick, Doctor Browne, Big Head, Beljie-Bub, Jack-Straw, Devils-Dout, Master man of the play, and New-Year boy.
When Father Christmas comes into the house he says-
“Here comes I, old Father Christmas. When I come I bring good joy. It was acted on stages and acted on floors, but it never will be acted better than it will be acted inside your door.
Run, run gallant boys give us space to rhyme; we will show you some activity about the Christmas time, and if you don’t believe in what I say I’ll enter in Prince George and he will soon clear the way.”
Prince George comes in and says
“Here comes I Prince George from England. I have sprung with all my noble deeds and valleys to begin. I was seven long years in a prison cage and from that to a grievous home. England is right and Ireland is wrong and where is the man to dare me stand.”
Then Prince Patrick comes in and says
“Here comes I the daring man Prince Patrick with my armour shining bright. I am a noble champion that came out this night to fight. Ireland is right and England is wrong and I’m the man to dare you stand.”
Then the two start to fight with wooden swords until Prince Patrick falls on the floor, dead.
Then Father Christmas says
“Oh George, Oh George what have you done, you have killed and slain my only son.”
Prince George says
“He challenged me to fight and why should I deny it. I cut him in four quarters and there his body lies.”
Father Christmas says
“Oh doctor is there any doctor to be found, to cure this man that is lying bleeding on the ground.”
Doctor Browne comes in and says
“Here comes I wee doctor Browne the best wee doctor in the town. I can cure the plague within, the plague without, if there were nine devils in I could knock ten out.”
Then doctor Browne takes a bottle out of his pocket and cures Prince Patrick.
Then Prince Patrick jumps up and says
“Wonderful, wonderful, what have I seen. Twenty nine devils knocked into nineteen. Eighteen devils knocked into twenty four, and if you do not believe in what I say, I’ll enter in Big Head and he will soon clear the way.”
Big Head comes in and says
“Here comes I that has never come yet, Big head and little wit. Though my head is big my body is small. I will do my best to please you all. My head is made of iron and my body is made of steel and if you do not believe in what I say I’ll enter in Jack Straw and he will soon clear the way.”
Jack Straw comes in and says
“Here comes I Jack Straw, kick the devil through a riddle, through a rock, through a reel, through an old spinners wheel, through a bag of water, through a mill-hopper, and if you do not believe in what I say I’ll enter in Beljie-Bub and he will soon clear the way.”
Beljie-Bub comes in and says
“Here comes I Beljie-Bub, on my shoulder I carry my club and in my hand my dropping pan. I think myself a jolly old man, and if you do not believe in what I say I’ll enter in Devili-Dout and he will soon clear the way.”
Devils-Dout comes in and says
“Here comes I wee Devils-Dout, the best wee devil that ever went out. Money I want and money I crave if I do not get money I’ll sweep you all away to your grave. I’ll enter in Master man of the play and he will soon clear the way.”
When Devili-Dout comes in someone in the house puts money in the box which he has in his hand.
Then the Master man of the play comes in and says.
“Here comes I Master man of the play, pay me the money and let me away. All silver no brass, leather half-pennies won’t pass, and if you do not believe in what I say I’ll enter in the New-Year’s boy and he will soon clear the way.”
The New-Year’s boy comes in and says
“Here comes I the New-Year’s boy, when I come I bring good joy. I bring you joy and I bring you mirth, and I bring you all the best of health.”
When they have the rhymes finished they sing and dance, and the New-Year’s boy
plays a fiddle.
The video below is of a modern day performance of the Aghyaran Mummers at the Killeter Centre in County Tyrone:
St. Columba’s Church, also known as the Long Tower Church, is located outside the walls of Derry in Northern Ireland. It was called the Long Tower Church because it was built near the site of a round tower associated with the old monastery that had once occupied the site. (Some believe that the tower referred to a wind mill, also associated with the monastery, that was used as a bell tower for the earlier churches)
The Long Tower Church is dedicated to St. Columba, who many believe established the monastery near its site around 546 AD. St. Columba was born in Gartan, Donegal, in 521 AD to royal parents and descendants of the chieftain, Conal Gulban. His monastery church was known as Dubh Regles (Black Church) und was made of wood and wattle. Dubh Regles and the monastery were located near present day St. Augustine COI.
From Derry, St. Columba established other monasteries throughout Ireland. In 563, he travelled to the island of Iona (in present day Scotland) and began a monastery that brought Christianity to the native Picts. He died and was buried there in 597 AD.
The Dubh Regles church was burned in 788 and sacked by Vikings in 990. Before being destroyed by fire in 1166, plans were already made for a larger church to be built nearby. Eighty houses were cleared for the building of the Teampall Mor (Big Temple). The church was finished in 1164. It became the mother church of the Diocese of Derry when the diocese moved from Maghera to Derry in 1254. In the 1500s, during the Reformation, many Catholic churches fell into ruin. Teampall Mor was no exception. For this reason, it became common for Mass to be celebrated outdoors. In 1566, the English garrison occupied the church when it was trying to put down rebellions by Shane O’Neill. In April, 1567, the ammunition stored in the church exploded, demolishing the building.
Bishop Redmond O’Gallagher partially restored Teampall Mor in 1590. These were dangerous times for Catholic clergy. The Nine Years War with the English was underway during the time Bishop O‘Gallagher was bishop. He lived under the protection of the O’Donnells in Fahan and only ventured into Derry occasionally. He was eventually captured and killed in 1601. Twenty-one priests were slaughtered when the English attacked during his funeral.
The 1600s and 1700s were difficult times for Catholics. In the late 1700s. the Penal Laws were finally winding down when the Protestants of Derry started feeling a bit sorry for the Catholics who had no place to worship. Mass was celebrated outdoors and in homes. The Parish Priest of Derry, Father John Lynch, said Mass at the Hawthorne tree that traditionally marked the site of Teampall Mor. Father Lynch believed that it was time to raise money to build a Catholic church in Derry and was able to convince the Protestant community to donate money for the project. Funds came from the Protestant Bishop of Derry and even the Council of the City of Londonderry. The building of the new church began in 1784 near the Hawthorne tree and former location of Teampall Mor.
The Catholic Bishop of Derry at this time was Phillip McDevitt. He did not live in Derry but in Clady, County Tyrone where he ran a seminary for Catholic priests.
Father Lynch died in 1786 before the Long Tower Church was finished, but the church was temporarily opened for his funeral. He is buried beneath the Hawthorne tree where he often said Mass. The Long Tower Church was completed in 1787.
Father Lynch was succeeded by Charles O’Donnell as Parish Priest of Derry. Father O’Donnell was the nephew of Bishop McDevitt. He lived in Father Lynch’s home on Ferguson’s Lane where he acquired adjoining houses to establish a seminary. In 1787 he succeeded his uncle as Bishop of Derry. Bishop O’Donnell, with the support again of the Protestant community, enlarged and beautified the Long Tower Church in 1810.
Bishop O’Donnell celebrated Mass at the Long Tower Church every Sunday. He was not loved by everyone in his diocese. O’Donnell was known as “Orange Charlie” for his close ties to the Protestant community and his stance on Irish nationalism. (This is discussed in my novel “Donegal Generations.”) Perhaps his ties to Protestant Derry made possible the many improvements he made to the Long Tower Church during his years as bishop.
Peter McLaughlin succeeded Bishop O’Donnell in 1824. Bishop McLaughlin made many other improvements to the church. Through the years, Long Tower has become a spectacular place to worship with too many features of beauty to point out individually. It is a place that should not be missed by visitors to Derry.
A relic of St. Columba’s time can be found just outside the church where is figures prominently in a calvary built in 1909. It is St. Columba’s Stone which was once located at St. Columb’s Well (down the hill from the church in the Bogside). It bears the impression of the knees of the many worshipers who prayed at the holy well through the 13 centuries since the time of St. Columba.
In the late 1930s, the Irish Folklore Commission (Irish Free State) began a program to preserve the stories and oral traditions of the people of Ireland. It did so by collecting the reminiscences of the “old folks” by the students of its primary schools. The students wrote the recollections of parent, grandparents, and neighbours in their exercise books, under the supervision of their teacher. These handwritten reports are available at the website www.duchas.ie .
Donaghmore Parish in County Donegal is the parish of my Gallen and Gallagher ancestors. It is principal locale used in my novel, “Donegal Generations.” In my obsession with the history of the parish, I published several posts about Donaghmore here in my website at: www.tomgallen.com . In previous posts, I’ve presented some of the folklore collected by Duchas from some of the primary schools in Donaghmore Parish. In this post, I am publishing a few of the stories collected at the Tievebrack Primary School.
Tievebrack (Taobh Breac) School was in the hills above Crossroads in County Donegal. The name comes from the townland where it was located and it means the “speckled hillside.” The teacher at Tievebrack at the time of the folklore project in the late 1930s was Donnchadh E. Mac Congaile.
Mr. MacCongaile took his assignment very seriously. Many of the entries into the school’s folklore book were written by him personally. His entries include many maps and illustrations of historical artefacts. He also wrote the following stories:
This parish is called “Donaghmore” from a popular belief that when St Patrick was on his way to Aileach he stopped at the place where the present Donaghmore church stands and built his church there. From the numbers of people who gathered from “Magh Ith” it was known as the “Big Sunday” i.e. “Domhnach Mor.”
The church at present there is a Protestant house of worship. People tell of their sires having been buried there, and talk of a certain stone and font, which are to be seen there, the only relics of its former Catholic ownership.
It is believed by Mr. John McMenamin, Egglybane, that when the Protestants were rebuilding the church, they endeavoured to do away with a certain stone by throwing it in the river Finn. On the following day, the building had fallen to the ground. This was repeated several times, until they recovered the stone and put it in the church, after which the building proceeded without mishap. The holy water font has had something of a similar setting. It seems that it was thrown into the river Finn on several occasions but again was back the following day in the porch of the church.
That the church was formerly in Catholic hands there is no doubt, for several Catholics have been buried there. I have found the headstone of a Mr. Richard Gallagher, who is a great grand uncle of the present “Big” Andy Gallagher of Ballybun, inscribed thus:
“Here Lyeth the body of Richard Gallaugher -Died May 14, 1775 Aged 56
O’Neills and O’Donnells -
The Finn was evidently a “No man’s land” alternately overrun by the ONeills and ODonnells. Mrs Doherty, Cornashesk, and Mr. James McLaughlin tell me that ODonnells had their castle on this side of the river at Dromore (i.e. the right bank) on the side of which now stands a ruins of a corn mill. The stones of the castle were used in erecting the mill. A part of the river was diverted to form a moat round the castle, thus leaving the castle on an island. One of the ODonnell clan, neither a warrior nor chief, was called a “man of the field” hence Mansfield – the name of the landlords of Killygordon
Another story from Mr. Noonan, Killygordon, says that a Mansfield eloped with one of the ODonnell Ladies, where she manoeuvred the drawbridge across the moat.
Mrs. Doherty tells me that the Castlefin castle was a stronghold for the Gallaghers who were then a powerful tribe under ODonnell. ODonnell is supposed to have asked the Gallaghers to strengthen the castle against the ONeill invasion. But Gallagher and his followers are supposed to have gone across into the ONeill territory and defeated the ONeills, somewhere in the direction of the Raws, as a sign that he was strong enough. The exact location of this castle is also a subject for divergent opinions. I would be inclined to support the idea that it was on the town side of the Bridge, where an old piece of a wall in the water there is known as the “Castle Wall,” and again at the back of the Railway station is a little waste plot known as the “Castle Garden”. The material of the Castle is supposed to have been used in building the present market house, which starts in the “Diamond” of the village.
The Battle of the Finn by Capt. P.J. McGoldrick as told to him by his father -
The territory of Magh Ith which was originally the mensal land of a branch of the Cineal Owen, the Roy damhnas (?) of Aileach represented all the visible land, toward the south from the hill immediately above Raphoe. These lands passed to the Cineal Conell and was always a bone of contention between them.
Hugh O Neill raided Magh Ith from the direction of Ardstraw on one occasion, his objective being Raphoe. The main part of his army crossed the Finn opposite Carricklee [?]; two other sections crossed through the Alt [?] district where they separated, one headed for Castlefin, the other moving by Cornashesk and Edenamoghill to cross the river at Killygordon. The centre section at Castlefin encountered ODonnell where a bloody battle took place resulting in the victory of O Neill.
The Plantation -
The native Irish were in possession of this valley (before the general confiscations after the Nine Years War) from Welchstown to Strabane. They fled before the arrival of the planters who were mostly of Scotch descent. A clearly defined line of demarcation was established by the fertility of the soil. The boundary between Gael and Scot was evident through its entire length from Sessiaghaneill on the west to the vicinity of Carricklee on the North East. Its course was irregular and ran almost parallel to the river. Generally its direction may be said to correspond with the boundaries of the following townlands, all of which were included in the planted area: Knock Glencovit, Carn Lower, Drumavaish, Ballinacor, Ballinaman, Mounthall, Drumfergus, Ballygonigan, Lisamulligan and thence to the alt and Carricklee.
The newcomers to the valley were of Celtic origin and were known as “Scottish Hungry men” they were in the service of James I and that monarch, in return for services rendered, presented the entire Finn Valley to eleven officers of his army, varying from one thousand to ten thousand acres. Each, in turn installed the soldiers of his command as tenants.
The chief family seats founded under the royal decree include the following:
Woodland and Summerhill (Johnston)
Meenglass (Lord Lifford)
The De Laps of Monellan were of Hugenot origin do not come within this category.
Famine Story -
Mrs. Patrick Kane, Tievebrack, tells how her grandmother described the coming of famine stricken people from Pollyarnon, Co Tyrone (Urney Parrish) to eat the skins or peelings of potatoes thrown out on the street. She tells of a man called Kelly, who owned a shop at the Crossroads, and sold oatenmeal at 3½d a lb. It seems in his avarice he held over a large amount in stock in expectation of rising prices, but the rats came and destroyed it. He had to throw the remainder in the Millburntown Burn (stream).
The Penal Times -
Mrs. Kane’s great-grandmother going to Mass had to cross the river below the present bridge, and go to Mass in a secluded nook somewhere about the “Farmer’s Lane”. Two men had a few planks placed across the river, for the people to cross, on payment of 2d. It seems the lady had no pennies and she too went into the river and walked across. [N.B. There is a scalan or Mass Rock on the present site of the Dromore National School and also in Dan Gallen’s garden at the crossroads].
The Late Charlie Gallen of Gortichar and shooting of the cattle – informant Capt. P.J. McGoldrick -
One day as a small boy, he had been sent to mind the cows on the “skrigs” (rocky ground with dwarfish shrabs). At the bottom of a rowan tree, was a little man, no bigger than a tallow [?] candle. The boy watched the little man steadily, and forgot to bless himself as well as the cattle, and the next thing he saw was the little man skipping over the rocks like a weasel in the direction of a red heifer. The little man had a bow and arrow, no bigger than a pin, and fired it at the heifer, afterwards disappearing ‘neath [sic] the rowan tree. The boy took the heifer home where he told his father what had happened. The father knew the trouble as […] and immediately sent for a local man who had the cure. The man arrived, removed his coat and hat, and proceeded to “measure” the cow using the arm (from the elbow to the point of the middle finger) first girthwise and then from the tail is the point of the skull. When this was completed, he got some hot coals on a shared and held it under the heifer’s head, having plucked three locks of hair from the heifer’s back and thrown them on the coals. The heifer got alright in half.an.hour. The man never spoke until the operation was over.
Hunger Grass -
There were patches of grass unrecognizable in fields, and when walked on after nightfall, made the victim feel terrible pangs of hunger, which rendered him unable to walk or stand. If he could crawl to a house, and get a bit of oat cake he would be cared. From this it was a custom to carry round a piece of oat cake in one’s pocket.
“Strays” were patches of ground over which it was impossible to maintain direction at night on every mountain strays were found. Mr. Charles Mortland ceilidhing one night in Cornashesk, ‘strayed’ several miles away in the Cronalaghey district until morning, where he found himself at least 12 miles from home. A “stray” is located particularly on the Tyrone side of Corlea Hill, in the vicinity of Tom Gallen’s (Vics). In order to survive a “stray,” a wayfarer always noted the direction (in relation to the objective) of the wind, because once afflicted, non of the senses could be trusted particularly. The treatment, was follows: The victim should sit down, shut his eyes, and while seated think of something pleasant. He should turn his coat three times, and having done this, he should open his eyes. If a dense fog appeared before him he should repeat this again, until his surroundings assumed a natural appearance.
The following reports are from the Tievebrack students:
Cures- Written by Hugh Kane with info from Mrs. Kane, Tievebrack
It is only since the great war that doctors knew well how to stop diseases. Before this when anyone got sick in a house the people sent for someone who could cure it.
Patrick Duggan of Tievebrack can cure for the whittle. Ennen Catterson of the green road, Pollyarnan, can cure for the jaundice. James Bradly, Corradoey, can cure for the ringworm. He burns the head of a match and writes with ink a saint’s name round it to keep it from spreading. Mathew Harpur of Carnadore can cure a sprain by rubbing it with his hand. Ellen Mc Menamin of Pollyarnan can cure for jaundice. She cures it with certain herb she boils.
If you go under a donkey and over his back three times it is a cure for the Whooping cough. Before you begin you must bless yourself and also when you are finished. While you are going under him and over his back he must be eating oaten meal. What ever meal falls from the donkey’s mouth is made into a cake which is ate in three mornings before your breakfast. Anyone whose father and mother are of the same name before they are married can lead for the mumps. When anyone is led for the mumps a donkey’s halter is put on them and are led three times round the well. Every time you go round you get a spoonful of water out of the well. There is a little well along the road which runs through Lisnamulligans above James Patton’s house. If you can find it yourself it will cure warts. There is a well in […] Roulston’s farm of the Kiltown which can cure toothaches and headaches. Another cure for a toothaches is if you are opening a grave where there was a corpse buried before and get the skull of the person who was buried. Pull a tooth out of the skull with your own teeth and the (toothache) will be cured.
In the Penal Times – Written by Gerald Carlin with info from Thomas Carlin of Dungormen
There are a good many priests graves and Mass-rocks in my district.
There is a Mass-rock in Joseph Carlin’s field of Belalt. There is another Mass-rock in Mrs. Coyle’s field of Dresnaugh.
Here is a list of priest-hunters . These are nick names that someone put on them. The Crows of the Raws, the Cropies of the Kiltown, the Hounds of Dromore, and the Bagles of the Miltown. Here are other priest-hunters. The Leckeys of Gortnamuck. The Craigs of Lisnamulligan and the Browns of Fern. The Raws is between Castlefin and Castlederg on the main road. The Killtown is on the main road leading from Liscooly to Killygordon. Dromore is on the main road leading from Killygordon to the Crossroads. The Miltown is about two hundred yards above the Crossroads. Gortnamuck is on the main road between Castlefin and Castlederg. Fern is also between Castlefin and Castlederg.
Lisnamulligan is on the main road between Castlefin and Liscooly .
The Mass-rock in Joseph Carlin’s field is beside a brook and it is between two very steep hills. And it is a very quiet place.
There was priest killed at Liscooly. It was a doctor named Meehan who killed him. The doctor put an iron bar up his nose and came out at his ear. The blood of the priest ran into a well.
Another day the doctor was going on a side-car along the same road. He fell into the well and was drowned.
There was a priest buried near Castlederg. The grave is along the main road into Castlederg. It is a very steep place that he was buried and it is a very quiet place also
not far from that there was another priest buried. The grave is covered with white stones and whins. There is another grave in an Hugh Taylors farm of Drumcannon. The grave is covered with long grass.
Fairy Forts – by Patrick Carlin with information from Dan McCormack and Patrick Hugh McMenamin
There are a great many fairy forts or sometimes called knowes [sic] in my district. There are about two forts in every farm.
Some of these forts are studies in antiquity.
There is a field in Hugh Taylor’s farm of Drumcannon. There are supposed to be fairies in this field. There is a certain place in this field where the fairies are supposed to stay. It is risen about two feet above the ground.
There is a story told that someone tried to plough down this height. He ploughed all right [?] for the first day. When he arose the next morning his two horses were dead. The field that he had ploughed, the furrows turned back and became green again.
There is said to be a fairy tree in Willie John McMenamin’s farm of Egaltybane. Long ago there used to be a light in the tree every night. It is very seldom seen now.
One Hallow Eve night a man, – I do not know his name – was walking near this tree. He saw the lights in the tree. There were three lights like candles in a ring. The lights followed him. There was music heard at the tree that night also.
There is another fairy tree in Hugh McMenamin of Belalts farm.
A witch is supposed to have cast a spell on the tree. The tree is rotten. It is said that if anyone cuts down the tree or breaks a branch off it that some misfortune will happen to them.
Famine Times – By Dan Mac Cormack with info from Hugh Mac Cormack, Belalt
There are many stories about the famine.
Here is a story which my father told me. There was a man named Kelly who lived at Crossroads, and who had a shop there. He stored in a great number of bags of oaten-meal. He meant to make money because he got it in very cheap. One day an old woman came in for meal. She had no money to pay for the meal that day but she said that she would pay for it the next day she would be in. Kelly would not give the meal to the woman without the money.
The woman went out of the shop and went in to another shop which was beside it. The woman told him that she had no money. The shopkeeper gave her a stone of meal. About a week after that Kelly had to throw the meal in the river because the rats and mice had it all destroyed.
There is another story told about an old woman and four children. They were coming along the road one day and met a poor man who had some meal with him. The woman had not tasted food for four days. The man gave her some of the meal and told her not to eat much of it at a time. She paid not a bit of heed to the man but ate it all at a time. Next day she was got (?) dead along the road. The children were still living but they soon died too.
Festival Customs – By Patrick Carlin with information from William T. Carlin of Dungorman.
There are a great many festival customs celebrated in this district. The best known of them all is the mummers.
The mummers come around about a week or a fortnight before Christmas. They are a gathering of about thirteen young active men of the district. They have hats covered with all colours of paper. These strips cover the face.
Each one of them has a rhyme of his own to learn. They come in one by one and say their rhymes.
When they have all finished their rhymes they sing a song. Then the people of the house give them about threepence or sixpence.
On Shrove Tuesday, which, in this district is called “Pancake Tuesday” or, “bock [?] Tuesday” two customs are fulfilled. One of these is that the woman of every house should make pancakes on that day and let everyone in the house eat some of them.
The other custom is that the woman of every house should kill a cock on that day. If this is not done it is said that the woman will have no luck with her chickens.
There is a custom in this district that every family should leave out a rag on St. Bridget’s Eve. It is supposed that St. Bridget comes around at night and blesses the rag. It is taken in to the house in the morning and when it is left in the room of a sick person it will cure him.
The St. Bridget’s cross is made in this district also. It is made from rushes and sometimes from wheat straw.
The Bonfire night is celebrated in this district. When it is burned down the people take some half-burned sticks and leaves one in every field in the farm.
Potato Crop – by Lizzie MacMenamin with info from Mr. John MacMenamin, Belalt
There are potatoes grown on our farm every year. Each year there is almost five acres of land sown under potatoes. It is always the men that prepares the land for the potatoes. Some people manure the ground before they turn it up.
The people sow the potatoes in drills about this district. Before the drills are made, the field is ploughed, next it is cross-ploughed, then it is harrowed and after that the drills are made. There are ploughs used for making the drills.
Long ago the people used to work with wooden ploughs. Some people work with them. Before the potatoes are sown someone cuts them. The spades that are now, are bought in shop.
The people around this district help one another to put in the crop. Some people gives [sic] their horses to close the drills. Other give [?] to help to drop the potatoes.
During the Summer months the potatoes are saddled harrowed and next they are grubbed. The people dig the potatoes in Autumn after the corn is cut. Men and women pick the potatoes off the ground. The people dig the potatoes with potato diggers. Then they are lifted by the people
The potatoes are mostly pitted in the fields after they are dug. Some people put the potatoes in a barn.
There are different names of potatoes growing around our districts. Here are the names of the potatoes that grow best in our district. – Kerr pinks, Banners, Chiefs, Dates, Majestics and Suttons.
Long ago potatoes were used instead of starch. The people starched shirts blouses and collars with it.
Life Story of Patrick Kelly, Barryarrel- Born July 19, 1853 – Reminiscences of Mr. Kelly as told to Mr. Mac Congaile, teacher of Tievebrack School
My grandfather came from Corteal He was evicted from there. He hade his money on “stilling” or making “poteen” His cattle were so fine, fat and conditioned from “potlin and grains” (a substance obtained from the poteen residue) that the landlord thought the land had some particularly wholesome effect on the cattle. My father bought this farm in Ballyarrel. He was clerk of the Relief Committee established for distributing grants to the poor. The book with the names, and amounts received by each person, was in the house some years ago, but I burnt them. I remember burning a leather bound copy of an Irish Bible I was at Ardnagannagh hedge school, then at another hedge school in Dan Gallen’s of Arltygort. Miss Boyle was the name of the teacher there. Another hedge school was at ‘the Flush’ at McMenamin’s –‘the Farmer” Francis Boyle was the teacher here, and also at the place where the Crossroads chapel stables now stand. When the National school was erected at the Crossroads graveyard, John Brady was the teacher there.
My sisters were going to a school in Castlefin – three of them, I left Crossroads and went with them there. Tom Flannigan was the teacher. His son was editor of the “Derry Journal” later. The mistress was Teresa Farrell. I was eighteen years of age when I left school.
I married on the 23rd Jan 1894. Became a guardian of the Board.
The first penny I ever got, I bought a box of matches with it.
I remember the landlord sending his agent Mr McFarland and Mr Bailey round before the rent was due. He used to say “Mr Bailey will expect you in ‘on Monday” in a very sarcastic and sinister way. My father paid tithes.
Wheat was grown greatly in my young days. I remember the use of rush candlesticks; we killed cows or pigs and used the tallow to make the rush candlesticks Resin [?] was bought at Dillons of Strabane at 1d a lb. There were black and smoky candles made out of the resin.
In almost every house there were two wheels going, spinning and weaving – flax was scutched and hackled by Patton of Gleneely.
There were forges at Clonamel, Gleneely and Liscooley. The difficult mares were sent to Liscooley.
My father spoke Irish, mostly to people who visited from the Glen district. My mother had none.
The best men I know for work in the district were old Joe McGowan, Ballyarrel, Hugh O Neill, and John Quinn. Joe carried a 32 stone sack of oats on his back over the flooded burn at the Crossroads. When he got across some one asked if he were tired, he said: “I could carry a ½ (?) more.
John Quinn and Hugh O’Neill cut a Cunningham ”acre of corn with “hookes” – (sickles) which was good cutting for 4 men. They also lifted, tied , and stooked it for 8 […] the acre.
In my young days, there was as tea – porridge in the morning, boiled potatoes and milk, and perhaps their own pork or beef-home killed and home-cured.
The Biggest flood, I remember in the valley was at the “Holliday time” in the year 1867. There was a terrible thunder-storm, the bridges at the Milltown Crossroads ‘Gardragh and Robertson’s forge were swept away. A cart was sent from home to take me across the Robertson’s bridge but could not cross. Matthew Nielson was there and took me by the hand, to cross the only span of the bridge that was left and before starting, I remember him saying: “Now, for heaven, hell, or home!”
I heard my father talking about the Big Wind, but I forget what he said about it.
There was so much snow and ice in the year ’68 that I crossed the river on the ice.
The field down there used to be called “The Churchill Farm.” I dug up the fort to plough the field and I got 19 graves round in a circle. The skeletons were buried, their feet towards the centre. I measured the skeletons, and most of them were over six feet in length.
I remember my father telling of Liscooley Bridge being built in the year 1800, the year of the Union.
He told me also how the Duke of Berwick’s horse drank at the well at Liscooley. The house there was named “Berwick Hall” and the well “Berwick’s Well.” He (Berwick) was on his way to the Siege of Derry.
I remember Murrough was the land-valuer in Strabane. I was head of the Land League in the district, and went out during the night putting up bills “No Rent.” I put one on McGoarty’s, the landlord’s, and one on the Barrack door at the Crossroads. Our society was on O Brien’s (William Smith) side. We held a convention in Letterkenny. I was along with Bella Brooks, and in the same class at Castlefin (see the following poem).
The Murder of Bella Brooks by Francy the Fiddler (Francy Kelly)
You tender-hearted Christians, I hope you will draw near,
I claim your kind attention, and I won’t detain you long.
It’s all about a foul murder that took place some years ago.
And how the crime was perpetrated I mean to let you know.
It was about three miles from Castlefin in the County Donegal
There lived a farmer’s daughter, handsome, young and tall
She had received some visits from another farmer’s son
But he was sly and cunning too and soon her favour won.
He took her to his father’s home, a while there for to keep,
One night he gave her chloroform which caused her for to sleep
And when he got her sleeping, he went to his servant man.
They hurried off to execute their wild and wicked plan.
But to continue some wicked deed, this fair maid to destroy
To steal her out alone at night between him and his servant boy.
They dragged her to the water’s edge and cruelly threw her in.
Next morning her lifeless body was discovered in the Finn
And the people were all shocked to hear that Bella Brooks was drowned.
The doctor, – he was sent for, to drag her to the shore
But human aid was useless her life to restore.
The police, – they were sent for and the news soon spread around
The coroner met to cruel end, and the people do me tell,
One night he got his neck broke, when off his gig to fell
If her parents had been living she would have got fair play
They would have had this man arrested, by whom she was beguiled
And have him tried and punished
For the murder of their child.
Cahir O’Doherty was the young Irish chieftain of Inishowen, County Donegal who began a rebellion with the English after the other powerful chieftains escaped Ireland in the “Flight of the Earls.” Those chieftains had just lost the Nine Years War and left Ireland to avoid English retribution. Cahir’s rebellion was brief but bloody.
In the years after 1200 AD, the rulers of Inishowen came from the O Dochartaigh (O’Doherty) clan. They protected their peninsula with a chain of castles. During Ireland’s Nine Years War with the forces of Queen Elizabeth (1594-1603), the ruler of Inishowen was Sean Og O’Doherty. O’Doherty maintained a friendly relationship with the English during the war, specifically with Henry Dowcra, the English Commander stationed in Derry. Sean Og died in 1601. His son and heir, Cahir, was only 14 years of age at the time. This was an opportunity for the Irish combatants to install an Irish ally as chieftain of Inishowen. Red Hugh O’Donnell of Donegal had Sean Og’s half-brother Phelim installed as Lord of Inishowen in February 1601.
Phelim’s reign over Inishowen was brief. Commander Dowcra and English supporters installed Sean Og’s son, 14 year-old Cahir, as Lord of Inishowen in May of 1601. Cahir’s foster father, Phelim MacDavitt, a loyalist, helped Cahir in making decisions. Red Hugh didn’t care for this situation and attacked Inishowen at Pollen Bay, but he lost in a bloody battle.
Cahir’s support of the English gave him the name “The Queen’s O’Doherty.” When the war was over in 1603, Sir Cahir O’Doherty was knighted by Lord Mountjoy.
The Irish Earls departed Ireland in 1607. Cahir was foreman of the jury in Lifford who declared the Earls guilty of treason. The Earls’ lands were confiscated by the English, but most of Cahir’s were not. This created hard feelings with some of the English, who believed that Cahir should have lost more of his land and power. Also, there were rumours of a conspiracy that Cahir was planning to retake Ireland with help from the Spanish. His principal detractor was George Paulet who succeeded Henry Dowcra as Governor of Derry. In one occasion, they argued and Paulet slapped or punched Cahir.
Young Cahir quickly became tired of the hostility from Paulet and the English, and he went to Dublin to plead his case. He was surprised to find that he was arrested there and imprisoned for a number of days in Dublin Castle. He was released after posting a sizable bail.
After all these insults, young Cahir organized a rebellion in 1608 with the help of his foster-father, who was no longer a loyalist. This rash action was probably the result of his anger with his former friendly English allies, and with the confiscation of Irish land which was granted to English settlers.
He and his followers captured and burned the cities of Derry and Strabane. His hated antagonizer, Governor Paulet, was killed in the battle of Derry. He then captured Doe Castle in Donegal from the English.
Cahir’s rebellion was short-lived. He was killed near Doon Rock in Kilmacrenan just three months after the rebellion started. He was only in his 20s when he died. His head was sent to Dublin and displayed at Newgate.