Trusk Lough is a body of water in Donaghmore Parish, County Donegal. In the past, water from the lough powered 15 mills on its way to the River Finn. These mills were owned and operated by the Johnston family who originally came to Donegal from France. The Johnstons raised the bank of the lough to retain more water and arranged for a single channel to carry the flow to the Finn. Initially there were objections by farmers when the other streams flowing out of the lough began drying up. These objections disappeared when the mills began generating a good deal of employment to people in the area. The Johnstons were known for treating their workers fairly.
A few years after the initial increase of the embankment of the lough, the embankment gave way, and many crops along the stream’s path were washed away in the flood. After this, the Johnstons obtained massive timber planks from a sunken ship in Lough Foyle and used them to strengthen the embankment and raise the water height to 12 feet. A sluice gate was installed as well so that the water could be released daily.
The Johnstons were landlords in the area and controlled the water rights to the lough until the end of the landlord system in the early 1900s. Operation of the mills then came under Henry McGowan. The nature of the mills changed from scutching flax and other tasks related to the linen industry, to a variety of industries such as corn mills, saw mills, threshing mills, and mills for churning milk.
Through the years, the number of mills decreased. Tony Gallinagh recalls four mills on the stream during his lifetime. They were owned by Paddy McGowan, Joseph Crawford, Henry McGowan, and John Foy.
The information in this article comes from Tony’s book “A Long Journey In A Short Time.” (browneprintersltd.com)