Rosses Heritage

Dúchas na Rosannach


The Story of Scailpe Mharcuis was told by Eoghan Mac Fionnghaile as Mullach Dubh, Ceann Caslach aged 86 years to schoolteacher Patrick O’Donnell as part of the School Folklore Collection in 1938.

Eoghan heard it from his father Domhnaill Ruadh Mac Fionnghaile (McGinley) from Mullach Dubh in 1862. This story can be viewed here

In 1992,  Neil McGinley, a great grandson of Eoghan Mac Fionnghaile composed a song relating to these events entitled ‘Murder in the Rosses’  to the air of ‘The Homes of Donegal’


Pull up your chair and gather round and a story I will tell

Of two sons of the Rosses, in Ballymanus they did dwell

They were murdered by a Connacht Clan on the steep slopes of Glen Mor

All because a women fed a beggarman at the door.

Seán returning to his Ballymanus home

A travelling man from Connacht knocked and begged to be fed

Sean’s wife said ‘Sure you are welcome but I’ve only oaten bread’

The Connacht man he ate his fill and with water washed it down

He gave a blessing oe’r the house, but his eyes they showed a frown.


I’ve often heard the old folks say round the Homes of Mullaghduff

That the blessing of a travelling man can often mean a curse

And the powerful curse of a Connacht man is well known far and near

The look the stranger gave Sean’s wife, it filled her heart with fear.

A Mullaghduff Home

When Sean O’Donnell heard this tale his heart was full of woe

After the travelling Connacht man he decided he would go

To invite the man to eat a feed of fresh fish from the sea

But all Sean’s good intention alas were not to be.

Fresh fish on the griddle

When Sean reached Cruit Island, there here he caught up with the Connacht man

But the beggarman spurned his greeting when Sean offered him his hand

The Connacht man insulted Sean and a blow to his head Sean did land

It all ended with the Connacht man lying dead upon Cruit Strand

Cruit Strand

Sean rightly knew that the Connacht men revenge would seek with hate

For the Connacht men have fury like a river when in spate

On the red dawn of a harvest morn, from the hills the strangers came

An angry band of Connacht men to avenge their son who was slain.



Sean and his son Marcus fled in a Curragh off the shore

They headed for the Forth of Garth and onward to Glen Mor

The Connacht men they caught poor Sean and no mercy was he shown

They murdered him in a valley that to this day is known as Sean’s.

scailpe map
Places named after Seán Ó Domhnaill


Young Marcus then he took to flight he was chased through woods and gorse

He headed for the Blue Spink Hills by the Old Glen of the Cross

He backed into an open skelp and there he made his stand

That brave Son of the Rosses he fought off the Connacht Clan.

scailpe 1
The Old Glen of the Cross, Marcus’ resting place under the public road

Marcus fought from dawn to dusk he fought off each attack

Each time the Connacht Clan approached he bravely drove them back

But from the top of Beagga Gorma they tumble rocks and stones

They buried brave young Marcus as he proudly fought alone.

Scailpe Mharcuis where Marcus held off the Connaught men’s attack

So fathers tell your children of this tale of grief and woe

That happened in the Rosses oe’r three centuries ago

So long as a curlews cry is heard along the Rosses Shore

We’ll remember Sean and his brave son now and forever more.

The original recording of the story from 1937 can be viewed here

Composed by Neil McGinley (January 1992)  

 Photographs: Dúchas na Rosannach                                                            

The articles published on this website are copyright by their respective authors. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without the authors permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the original author

Ros Scaite; Carrickfinn, Mullifinns, Carnboy & Dunmore

The following is an extract of an article I wrote about Carrickfinn Peninsula which appeared in Take Off magazine 2016. To read it in full, see Take Off magazine at Donegal Airport or one of the many tourism providers in Co. Donegal.



Carrickfinn is located in an area called the Rosses in west Donegal, Ireland. The Rosses is a granite plateau dipping into the Atlantic Ocean. It takes its name from the native tongue Na Rosa or the headlands. The most northerly of these is called Ros Scaite meaning remote headland.

Ros Scaite from Braade

Ros Scaite covering around 300 hectares elevates from a machair adjacent to Donegal Airport to the highest point near St Andrew’s Church. Ros Scaite sometimes referred to as Pointe Ros Scaite is made up of four townlands, namely Mullifinns, Carnboy, Dunmore, and Carrickfinn. Over the years it was a tidal island which became a peninsula just before the construction of a causeway from the mainland at Braade in 1945.


the remains of the once vibrant townland of Na Maola Fionna

Mullifinns (Na Maola Fionna) meaning the white low hill-tops is the oldest centre of habitation in Ros Scaite and indeed in west Donegal. Evidence of human activity here can be found in a kitchen midden which nestles at the base of the large sand-hill situated northwest of the runway at Donegal Airport. There have been various finds at this site over the years suggesting at least three phases of occupation.  It suggests that there were human habitation here in the Bronze Age, the Middle Ages ….

It was close to here that Donegal Airport had its humble beginnings in the 1970s, when a visiting Welshman landed his single engine plane there. Before he could make a successful landing ….

Mrs O’Donnell from Kincasslagh after a spin in the 1970s                     Photo: Hugh Brendan O’Donnell



Moving north across the sand-hills is the town-land of Carnboy (An Carn Buí) meaning a yellow rocky place. Here we find a working example of a clachan; a small traditional settlement dating to the early eighteenth century. It was in this clachan that one of the first modern schools in the Rosses was ….

A traditional lobster punt moored at the Boat Strand

To the west Oileán na Marbh or the Island of the Dead lies just off a small fishing harbour, aptly named The Boat Strand. The island was ….


Donegal’s rugged coast is a graveyard for many shipwrecks down the years. The coastline of Carnboy has its fair share of these wrecks. Some had yielded “treasure” to the local beachcombers. One such wreck floundered close to Oileán na Marbh in the early years of the eighteenth century. On inspecting the wreck, two local men received their prize; a large town clock. They put the clock into their currach ….

Carnboy Lake

A market day held on a Thursday and annual fair in Ros Scaite was recorded by the English ….

To the east of Carnboy lies the townland of Dunmore (An Dun Mhór) meaning a large hill-fort; now gone in antiquity. There are two lakes ….

Over the years Dunmore and indeed Roscaite has lost and gained territory through erosion. In the early twentieth century a fierce storm cut off Inis Shoinnaigh, a tidal island linked to Dunmore and accumulated the sand around Dún Ramhair Island meaning thick island ….

Inis Soinnaigh from Dunmore


To the south of Dunmore is Carrickfinn (An Charraig Fhinn) meaning Fionn’s (McCumhaill) Rock. Carrickfinn is in many ways the administrative part of Ros Scaite. In 1822, a detachment of the coastguard service was set up here to curb the smuggling of contraband along this coastline. Numbering up to thirty naval personnel ….

Rings that were placed by the Coastguard in the 1820s to steady the stays of the communication flagstaff, still guard Carrickfinn


A number of folk living along the eastern shore provided a ferry …..

The Ferry House, Carrickfinn with Bunbeg Harbour and Store in the background

Liam Clarke and Arranmore Island’s First Resident Doctor

Dr Josephine (Josie) Stallard Clarke was the first dispensary doctor appointed to Arranmore Island. She was doctor there from 1929 to 1935. Dr Josephine Stallard Clarke had no car when working as a doctor in Arranmore and travelled around to see her patients on a horse belonging to a local shopkeeper Barney Mc Gill. The Clarkes lived in Ballintra in a house owned by Barney Mc Gill that is now a public house owned by Neil Gallagher. All doctors on the island after Dr Clarke had a car or access to a car. Liam Clarke when in Arranmore had great need of Morphine as a pain killer. It was apparent to some of the islanders that he came in contact with that he was probably addicted to the drug. He died in 1941.

Captain Liam Clarke, a Dublin man, was in the General Post Office Dublin as the head of E Company, 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade, Irish Volunteers on Easter Monday 1916. This was the company that was made up of the pupils and former pupils of Patrick Pearse’s Secondary College St Enda’s at The Hermitage, Rathfarnham, County Dublin (Pearse’s Own). Liam Clarke had taken part in the Howth in and Kilcoole gun landings in 1914.  The yacht Asgard, skippered by Erskine Childers, landed guns into Howth, County Dubliin and the yacht Kelpie skippered by Conor O’Brien brought the guns that were landed at Kilcoole, County Wicklow to the Irish Sea for transhipping to land at Kilcoole. Conor O’Brien was an architect and designed the Cope Hall in Dungloe that was demolished a few years ago to make way for the new road into the Public Car Park. He late sailed his yacht Saoirse around the world. The photograph of men with guns below is one of the few photographs taken inside the GPO. On the afternoon of Easter Monday 1916 Liam Clarke received a serious head injury when a ‘homemade’ canister bomb exploded. According to Joe Sweeney, who was also in the GPO, the hand grenade or canister bomb had been left too near to a radiator and because of the heat from the radiator it destabilised and exploded. However, Joe Sweeney did not see the incident although he saw Liam Clarke being taken away injured. Another account of the same incident said that the canister bomb exploded in Liam Clarke’s hands and makes no mention of it being affected by a radiator. Liam Clarke was treated by Cumann na mBan nurses in the GPO and then was taken to a hall that was used as a first aid station and later to hospital but lost the sight in one eye. He was not arrested after the 1916 Rising but had to go on the run when the British authorities came looking for him at the hospital he was in. He helped reorganise the Irish volunteers after the rising while posing as an organiser for the Prisoners Dependents Fund. He became addicted to morphine arising from his treatment for his injury using that drug as a pain killer.

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Tynan Collection. National Library of Ireland


The above photograph shows the 59 foot yacht, Asgard at Burtonport in May 1970. The Asgard visited Burtonport the same week-end that the Donegal Historical Society unveiled a plaque in memory of James Napper Tandy who came to the Rosses on the French Frigate Anacreon a gun runner in the 1798 Rebellion. The photograph is part of the Denis Tynan Collection in the National Library. Tynan was a professional photographer from Glenties. The late Neil Boyle of Leabgarrow, Arranmore is playing the bagpipes in the aft of the boat.

In late 1916 while in Kilkenny City re-organising the Irish Volunteers Liam Clarke met a medical student Josephine Stallard who lived there where her parents had a shop. He encouraged her to join Cumann na mBan the female wing of the Irish Volunteers and she did that in Dublin.  She said he was lame when she first met him and he was also blind in one eye. She had during the Troubles to meet with him on a regular basis to carry messages from Cathal Brugha (who was Liam Clarke’s immediate superior) to others through-out Dublin and Ireland and once to Liverpool. She sometimes dealt directly with Cathal Brugha. She was a secret member of Cumann na mBan. It was felt that she could more effectively work for Cumann na mBan if it was not known generally that she was a member so although she was a member she never attended any public meetings of Cumann na mBan.

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Herdman Collection

The above photograph was taken by Jack Herdman from Sion Mills, County Tyrone from the top of Nelson Pillar, O’Connell Street and looking down inside the ruined Post Office sometime after 1922 when the Metropole Hotel to the left in the photograph was rebuilt and before 1929 when the GPO was rebuilt. The photograph is part of the Herdman Collection in the National Library.

Joe Sweeney who was from Burtonport was a member of E Company as well and knew Liam Clarke well. Liam Clarke later remained a close friend of Joe Sweeney although they had taken different sides in the Civil War, he the Anti-Treaty or republican side and Joe the Pro-Treaty or Free State side. They had, as I have said, both been at St Enda’s and probably knew each other too well to fall out although many who had been friends did fall out over the ‘21 Treaty. Joe Sweeney may have played a part in Dr. Josephine Stallard being appointed a doctor in Arranmore . In general Anti-Treaty activists were not employed by the State although this ban may not have been applied by Donegal County Council (her new employer) in 1929.

Liam Clarke was arrested by the British in May of 1921. He was imprisoned first in Arbour Hill where he was kept in a padded cell in case he would injure himself as he could not cope without the morphine. He was later imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail and got on better health wise in Kilmainham. When the British arrested Liam Clarke they later the same day arrested Josephine Stallard in the Red Bank Café on D’Oliers Street, Dublin where they met every day. She was taken to Dublin Castle in an armoured car and strip searched but was generally treated well. She was asked if she was Liam Clarke’s secretary. She thought her interrogator was probably English as he pronounced Liam as Lyam. She told her questioner that she was Liam’s fiancée but this was untrue.  She was released the same day. The Truce between Britain and Dail Eireann came on the 11th of July 1921 but Liam Clarke was not released from prison until December ‘21. He married Josephine Clarke when he was on ten-day parole for medical treatment from Kilmainham Jail in September 1921. It seems he proposed marriage to her the day before they married.  She said that the reason why he was married in the uniform of the Irish Volunteers had to do with the fact that he had no other suit of clothes at the time. Liam Clarke took an active part in the Civil War was imprisoned for twelve months from September 1922 to September 1923.

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The Clarke Collection. Bureau of Military History

Dr Josephine Clarke filed this photograph with the Bureau of Military History in 1952, that is on-line, as the wedding of Dr Josephine Clarke and Commandant Liam Clarke, IRA.

Doctor Stallard Clarke said the following in relation to her husband in the document that she filed with the Bureau of Military History in 1952 now on line;

“He had several operations for the wound in his head and in 1918 Mr Mc Connell for the first time operated on him and this was actually the first time Mr Mc Connell performed an operation for gasserian ganglion on anybody. He gave him morphia to kill the pain and this led to the morphia habit which he never could give up. It was when England stopped the supply of vital drugs to Ireland in 1941 that Liam had to be admitted to the Richmond Hospital again under a friend of mine Jerry O’Brien. The hospital even could not allow enough morphia as their supply, which was limited, had to be divided amongst all of their patients and it was spinal anesthesia that Dr O’Brien gave him until he died. He died from lack of morphia which his system could not do without. He never complained though he must have suffered always. I used to give him the first couple of doses of morphia in the morning. After that he administered himself.”

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Easter Rising Collection. National Library of Ireland

The above photograph that was taken inside the GPO is part of a collection to do with the Easter Rising held by the National Library. It shows I believe Liam Clarke wearing a peaked cap and standing at the rear second from the left although that is disputed. The person sitting on the right is I believe the 16 years old Eunan Mc Ginley. Eunan Mc Ginley was the son of Cu Uladh (Peadar Toner Mc Ginley from Glenswilly originally but then living in Dublin with his family). He had attended St Endas Rathfarnham and was in E company as well. The man standing to the left of him may be his brother Eunan but that is disputed as well.

Written & Researched by Seán Boner 2016

The articles published on this website are copyright by their respective authors. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without the authors permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the original author

The “Salacia” A Century Ago Happening in the Rosses

First appeared in Derry Journal 16th October 1953 

Judged from the viewpoints, the 19th century wasn’t indeed the greatest of centuries; but of course, for those of us who enjoyed its twilight and grew up in the dawn of the century to follow, it naturally has an appeal and fascination of its own. Some of its characters we know intimately; others we heard so much about, as to regard them as near acquaintances. For our forebears in Ireland, the 19th century was of course, the century of the “Famine,” the age of despotic landlordism, etc; but for all that it was too, the century of Emancipation in name and in reality.

Across the water in Britain truly great after the Napoleonic collapse, the last century was hailed as the Scientific Age, but Catholic Ireland had but little interest in the world of Lodge, Stephenson, etc; for them it was the era of school-building and church-building. Not a few of the churches and schools of rural Ireland date back to the post-Emancipation period and little wonder that to-day, a century later, most of them call out for replacement and renovation.

In the course of this article it is intended to treat of a rather obscure happening which took place in the remote Rosses of 1854. Even to-day, the Rosses is sometimes referred to as “the back country” by the people of East Donegal, and if the term is justified even to-day, how much more apt was it 99 years ago!

I would say that rather few of the shore-dwellers of the Rosses at that time saw beyond the natural confines of sea and mountain which seems to hedge them in. 1854 was the year of the Crimean War but I’d think that the Rosses folk at the time were more interested in their own struggle for mere existence than, say in Britain’s victories around Sevastopol. 1854, too, was a memorable tear in the Catholic world, being the year of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and of the founding of Newman’s University in Dublin; but education was only beginning in West Donegal then, and I doubt if the great Cardinal had many admirers in the Rosses!


Amongst the few schools in existence in the parish at that time was a humble thatched building that passed for a school in the townland of Keadue. Built by An Sag-Rua, Rev. James MacDevitte P.P. (1835-1848) this crude educational structure wasn’t a lot to look at but the educational value of such places shouldn’t be judged by their outward appearance or by the amount of glass in their windows. The teacher at Keadue at the time was Paddy Ward and the fact that his name is still revered in these parts assures us that not all the good he commanded was interred with his bones, which lie buried in Kincasslagh cemetery, with a simple granite monument bearing the inscription “Padaí Maighistir” to mark his final resting-place.

Mrs Mary Ward (John the Master) Keadue with Brian Ward
Mary Ward (John the Master) Keadue, a relation of Padaí Maighstir with baby Brian Ward              Photo: Deirdre Silbourne


On the 29th of November, 1854, the schoolchildren of Keadue had an unexpected holiday. There was no compulsory education those days but, nevertheless, learning was always prized in the Rosses and the children attended school well during the winter months when there was no work to be done at home. As I have said, the comforts of the Keadue Old School were indeed few, and yet it is said that a Bishop once attended it-viz., Most Rev. Dr. James MacDevitte, nephew of the Parish Priest, mentioned above, who became Bishop of Raphoe during the year 1871-1879. It is said that as a boy, the future bishop stayed for a while with his uncle at Mín –Chonchubhair- Duibh in Keadue and attended school there.

bishop mcdevitt
copyright ‘The Raphoe Diocese, a brief History’ by Fr John J. Silke, 2000

On 29th November, 1854, the fury of the elements rendered school impossible. Everywhere men could be seen moving about with bundles of sugáns trying to secure their thatched cottages. The Gaeltacht and CDB housing grants were then undreamt of and that time very few slated houses at the time around the coast.


At mid-day, when the men of the Rosses had got the situation in hand a ship appeared on the scene which gave them something to talk about for generations to come! She was the “Salacia” and a rock and a strand in the Rosses bear her name to this day. “the Year of the Salacia” (1854) was a milestone or social landmark in the Rosses for many a day and seventy years afterwards Pension Officers were tired of the story; “I have no birth certificate but I was –years when the “Salacia” came to Keadue!”

A sailing ship was no unusual sight in Rosses waters those days, particularly as the sands of destruction hadn’t yet swallowed up the glory of Rutland and Rutland Harbour; but when it was seen that this strange ship was taking the unusual course through the rock-strewn waters of Keadue, men, women and children crowded the hilltops!

One man in Cruit thinking it impossible for the “Salacia” to reach Keadue Strand without being smashed to pieces, bekoning to the captain to steer for a relatively safe cove along West Cruit; but as the man in question used a red handkerchief for signalling, the captain of the “Salacia” interpreted his signals to mean danger and kept the ship off the shore. Miraculously enough, the “Salacia” managed to escape all the shoals and breakers of Keadue Bar but struck the last remaining obstacle on the way, i.e, the Salacia Rock a few yards off the shore! The Master of the “Salacia” did almost the impossible; he steered his ship through waters where a local pilot would in nine chances out of ten, have failed!

Keadue Bar is one of those places of which the “Irish Pilot” advises mariners that it would be futile to steer on a chartered course and that entry is by no means to be attempted without somebody aboard having a local knowledge of the dangerous shoals. How the master of the “Salacia” got so far is still a mystery because with heavy seas running a gale of wind, Keadue Bar breaks right across so that no channel is discernible. It has been said that he followed the movement of Cormorants, a sea-fowl which, it is believed always keeps out on deep water. “The Salacia” despite the great seamanship of her master, Captain Forrest, was left “high and dry” on the Salacia Rock beside Oilean-Carragh not knowing what moment the terrible sea would swallow her up.

a similar wreck copyright


The good people of Keadue in that age of illiteracy and poverty rallied to the rescue and fortunately all the crew were saved. The Coast-guards at Innishcoo were quickly on the scene, but for reasons best known to himself, it is said that Captain Forrest refused them permission to board the ill-fated vessel. It is thought that his refusal under threat to shoot, resided in the fact that he had some unacustomed goods  aboard-whiskey and tobacco presumably-which he distributed among the local residents when nightfall came.

The “Salacia” bound from Quebec to Glasgow with a cargo of timber, was still in danger of breaking up and it was decided to salvage the cargo first in order to refloat the ship. The man entrusted with the task of salvaging the cargo and ship by the Collector of Customs and Excise at Derry, was a certain Capt. Coppins, of Derry, who had been engaged on similar jobs all around the coast of Donegal about 100 years ago. Indeed, the name Coppins is still remembered in the Rosses to such an extent that some people think that Captain Coppins and not Captain Forrest was the ship’s master. The master and the crew of the “Salacia” were taken to Burtonport by the Coastguard where they were fitted out with clothes in the premises of Mr. Keon to enable them leave the Rosses.


Capt. Coppins maust have spent some weeks salvaging the cargo of the “Salacia” before towing away the damaged vessel by means of a paddle tug to Derry. While in the Rosses, Capt. Coppins stayed with Charles O’Donnell of Lower Keadue, one of the leading men in the parish in his day. One night in a shebeen in the Rosses, Captain Coppins met a local resident who came to the premises in order to get a drop of spirits to celebrate the birth of his newly-born child. The child’s name was Nancy and the fact that Capt. Coppins attending the christening party explains why she was afterwards called “Nancy Coppins” by the people of the neighbourhood. A native of Glenahilt, her proper name was Nancy Bonner. She has been called to her reward many years ago.


The “Salacia” timber was taken to Innishcoo Island as Rutland Harbour was then the headquarters of Coastguard and Customs in the Rosses.

Innishcoo Island on the right from The Lawrence Collection copyright National Library of Ireland

It was later anchored by the Customs Officer at Innishcoo and the principal buyer was the parish priest, Father Dan O’Donnell, who wanted the timber in order to build a new church at Kincasslagh. It is said the Father Dan got the timber rather cheaply as the only opposition received came from a local Protestant resident who bid at the sale in order to ensure that the timber wasn’t sold to cheaply, from the Customs point of view. This timber was put to various uses in the construction[sic]. The pine beams and pillars used for the gallery of the church were always said to have come from the “Salacia.”

salacia sale 1854
copyright The Glasgow Herald – Dec 22, 1854 pp.8

St Mary’s Church, , Kincasslagh, which was opened in 1856 and accidentally destroyed by fire is the subject of a fine article in Irish by the late Niall Mac Suibhne, O.S., Meenamara, in the “Irish Press” of December 1932 or 1933.

chapel 1927
St Mary’s Church, Kincasslagh pre 1900

Years ago Lloyds of London were asked to give the date of the “Salacia” shipwreck by people from the Rosses who were born around 1854 and who wanted the exact date in order to appy for the Old-Age Pension; but Lloyds weren’t in a position to supply that information. N.B. The “Salacia” had always been called or pronounced “Silecia” in the Rosses and again Lloyds demand that at least the year and the name of the shipwreck be given before they cause a search to be made in their records. The following reference to the “Salacia” is to be found in “The Derry Journal” files dated 6th Dec.,1854. “On the 29th November, the barque “Salacia,” Captain Forrest bound for Glasgow from Quebec, laden with timber, was wrecked in the Rosses on the North-west coast of Donegal, in a heavy gale of wind. The crew were all saved. The vessel, it is feared, will become a total wreck.”


For days afterwards, the Keadue school-children watched Captain Coppins and his men at their task of salvaging and heard the then official language of the school (English) spoken for the first time in their young lives by those strangers to the locality! The Rosses, it will be remembered, was 95% Gaelic-speaking in 1854, but I doubt if it would be even 10% Gaelic-speaking in 1954! I only make that remark casually, as it were, but, nevertheless, there is much food for thought in these regrettable facts. 1854, or rather 1847, to be more precise, marked the high-water mark of the Gaeltacht and when or where may we ask will the low-water mark be fixed?  The terms high-water or low-water levels as applied to the Irish language are indeed ill-becoming as they presuppose flow to follow the ebb. Will that flow ever come?  Time wil tell, and 2054 should have the answer although we won’t be alive to see it!

Leaving this digression of thought let us return to the “Salacia” and the fun of the school-children in a remote country without a bus, car, train, radio or newspaper! The present writer remembers first hearing about the “Salacia” from an old woman who watched Capt. Coppins and his band of workers salvaging the timber from the stricken ship. This old lady told how, as a girl of 12, she sat on Oilean-Carrach watching the operation and especially the killing of huge rats from the beached vessel as they attempted to escape! The sailors, she told me, clubbed these rats, and one sailor at least seemed to derive satisfaction from hanging up bunches of dead rats on nearby spars. Some of those rats escaped but whether or not naturalists can trace Canadian rats in Keadue still I cannot say!


I stair tíre is beag le rá é 100 bhlain ach i sceál parráirte dé, teitear dúinn é bheith na tréimhse fada go loer. Tá trí gluíne daoine imithe uainn ó bhí aimsir an tSalacia ann. Tá said na luí i “n-Acra Maire” agus reiligeacha eile na Rosanna ag fanacht leis an scairt chun Eiseirghe agus guidhimid eiseirghe ghlormhar go raibh aca uilig. Go dtugaidh an Bainrion A Tógagh Ar Neamh céim ard daofa uile go le measc Noamh na Fódhla

No author given, but it is thought to be the work of the late Pádraig Ua Cnáimhsí.


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Thatch Cottage Construction 1909

I [Henry Morris] saw the founding of a new house near Dungloe about the year 1909. The bride, about nineteen years of age, had been selected, the match made, and the day of the wedding appointed. One morning, I saw an unusually large number of men building a house. These had been at the wedding early that morning, had come back to the bride’s house, where they got a good meat breakfast, washing it down with a couple of glasses of whisky. Then they tackled the house-building for the young couple. The site was a small space cleared in the heather, convenient to the road, on land belonging to the bridegroom’s father or father-in-law. In the wedding group were three or four masons for every third or fourth man in Donegal is a stone-mason! A couple of the group were carpenters, and those unskilled in either trade made up mortar and attended the masons and carpenters. I should state that the bridegroom and his friends had previously collected stones, sand, lime and some timber on the spot. The house grew like a mushroom.

An original thatch house from the mid 1800s still in use in Miullaghdubh

The carpenters had the door case and window cases ready when the masons had the walls built high enough to receive them, and when the walls had reached the eave course the “couples” and the roofing timbers were ready. When these had been set up they were covered with “scraws”, tough sods of old lea cut very thin and rolled up. This also had been done in advance. It was a short winter’s day, but before the daylight faded the shell of the house was complete. The workers then repaired again to the bride’s house and were rewarded with another good meal, and more uisge-beatha drunk to many wishes of good luck for the young couple. The bridegroom bade his bride good-bye and went home to his father’s house. During some weeks he visited the house almost every day, put in a door and window, thatched the roof with straw, prepared the floor, plastered roughly the inside of the walls, and generally made the house habitable, while the air dried the walls. Then a night was appointed for “dragging” home the bride. She was supposed to be unwilling to leave her parents’ abode. This event was attended by all the neighbours and friends of the young couple. No one attended without bringing a wedding present, all practically useful in an empty house. One brought a pot, another a kettle, a third some delph, and so on. Except a bed and a kitchen table, the bridegroom had nothing to buy in the way of furniture and equipment. The bride now entertained them all in her new house, and a very jolly night was spent, rivalling the wedding day.

Mary Sharkey knitting while her son Patrick repairs the thatch roof of their home in Mullaghdubh Mountain in the 1960s (photo by Time Magazine)

A couple of months go by, and the bridegroom goes off to Scot land, while the bride brings her sister or some other female relative to stay with her. All the summer and harvest the young fear-a’ loighe toils in Scotland, and then comes home for a few months in the winter. In this way a young pair, who perhaps had not £5 when they got married, will live and rear a family of a dozen or more children, fine hardy boys and girls, their cheeks bronzed by the air of the heather all around them. When the boys reach nine or ten years of age they hire out in the neighbourhood for herding, and then after the age of twelve or thirteen they hire out with farmers (mostly Presbyterian) in Derry and Strabane. Later they go to Scotland with their father, if he is still alive, and about the age of twenty they marry like their parents, and thus life goes on.

Author(s): Henry Morris, Seamus Ó Duilearga and Domhnall Ó Cearbhaill.  Béaloideas, Iml. 9, Uimh 2 (Dec1939), pp. 288-298

Published by: An Cumann Le Béaloideas Éireann/The Folklore of Ireland Society

Murder in the Glen; Scailpe Mharcuis

Told by Eoghan Mac Fionnghaile, Mullach Dubh, Ceann Caslach aged 86 years in 1938, Eoghan heard it from his father Domhnaill Ruadh Mac Fionnghaile (McGinley) from Mullach Dubh (Mullaghduff) in 1862.

Just the other day I have past an island in Mullaghderg lake and they call it Óilean Seán and it brought back to my memory when about 75 years ago I had passed the same island along with my father. I asked my father the reason for the foundations of a mud-cabin which had been built there and he told me the following story.

Scailpe Mharcuis

Once there was a man called Seán Ó Domhnaill and he lived in the townland of Baile Mhanuis or Mullagh Dubh Irish

a ruin close to the Ó Domhnaill home in Ballymanus

and that occupation was hunting and fishing.One day he was at sea fishing and his wife was at home, when who should come into the house but a beggar man looking for some help. Sean’s wife rose and gave him plenty oaten cake and some water to drink with it. The beggar said nothing but ate the bread and drank the water. Then he wished to God that she always would have plenty oaten bread and water. Seán’s wife took this prayer very highly, as it was the people’s notion at the time that whatever prayer the beggar would ask he would get from God. The beggar then left. It was not long after the beggar left when Sean came in and his wife was crying. Seán asked her the reason she had for crying but his wife did not like to tell him, but Seán said at last that he would surely kill her if she would not tell him what was wrong. So as last she told him. So after Seán took some bread and water, he rose and got on his hat, took his sword, and asked his wife, which end of the house did the beggar pass when he left. She told him he passed from the west and that meant by Kincasslagh road. So off went Seán and it is said that he came up with the beggar at a place called Cruit Strand. Sean and the beggar fought a duel there but having only a dagger, Sean got the better of the beggar and killed him there and then. Seán came home then after killing the beggar and told the wife all about what happened. Sean’s wife was grief stricken about what happened.

It was said that the beggar was a Connaught man. All the Connaught beggars at that time used [to] frequent Donegal and the Donegal beggars used [to] frequent Connaught. That was all the communication was between Donegal and Connaught. It was not long until the news went to Connaught that this beggar was killed by Seán Ó Domhnaill and Seán got word also that the Connaught men were going to have revenge on him. So Seán prepared and built a mud cabin in Oileán Sean which gave the name Oileán Seán to the island ever since that time. When the mud cabin was built Sean and his son Marcus went to live on the island. They got in contact with the Dohertys of Belcruit and the Dohertys of Meenbannad. The Dohertys of Belcruit were to watch the sea side of the island and the Dohertys of Meenbannad were to watch the mountain side of the island. If the Dohertys of Belcruit were to see the enemy coming from sea, they were to signal to Seán and his son to take the mountain side for safety. The Dohertys of Meenbannad were to signal Seán and his son to sea, if the enemy was coming from the mountain side. So when the enemy did come the Dohertys of Meenbannad waved on Sean and his son against the enemy.

Seán had a currach on the island. When he got the signal himself and his son went into the currach and made by way of Glenmore.

Glenmore today

That night the enemy saw the currach coming up the lake. They divided themselves into two squads, one party staying close to the lake and the other party farther off from the lake. So when Sean and his son landed on the shore the party nearest to him went between him and the currach for fear he would get on the lake again. Seán and his son had to run for their lives. They did run for when the enemy got Sean and killed him there and then. The son being strong and supple went farther up the glen, until he reached the second party who stopped him. Marcus the son had to make for the cross glen. Once in there he thought he was safe as there is a very high spink (cliff) in this glen.

scailpe map
The Blue line is the boundary line between Belcruit and Mullagherg Mountain Pastures. It also show the route taken by Marcus from Oileán Sean at the startof the blue line to Glenmore or Áilt Seán Ua Domhnaill

Marcus got his back to the spink and faced his enemies but none of them had the courage to come closer to him. It was then getting late in the day and they did not know how they would get him rooked (chased) out of glen. At last they thought of rolling a big stone off the top of the spink on top of Marcus.


The spink where off the Connaught men tossed the large stone over to kill Marcus

This stone killed him at once. The enemy then covered Marcus’ body with tons of stones so that they would be sure he would not rise from the dead again. And I am sure myself that it would be impossible for him to rise under the weight of stone that were built over his body. Because it is not “hear say” (rumour) with me about the stones that were built over Marcus’ body. I saw the stones hundreds of times as I used to be looking after cattle and sheep in my young days. I remember to be very many times sitting on top of the wall of stones built over Marcus, and I was not afraid that Marcus would be able to rise. The wall of stones over his body at that time was about two feet high, two feet wide and seven feet long.

There is now a public road passing over Marcus’ body. The place is now called “Scailpe Mharcuis” and the glen is now called “Áilt Seáin Uí Domhnaill.

scailpe 1
The public road  at Scailpe Mharcuis which passes over the final resting place of Marcus Ó Domhnaill

Notaí … Áilt Seáin Uí Domhnaill is a big glen situated between the townlands of Belcruit and Mullaghderg Mountains.

Scailpe Mharcuis  is a narrow glen which crosses the larger glen at right angles. Through this glen runs one of the roads leading from of Belcruit and Mullaghderg Mountains.

Oilean Seán an island in Mullaghderg Lake

Recorded by Pádraig Ó Domhnaill O.S (Teacher) as Béal na Cruite, Ceann Caslach for the School Folklore Collection on 30th March 1938

This story is set towards the end of the 18th century. The following are some historical facts that supports this time frame. The Dohertys came to live in Cruit Island and Belcruit around 1750, and it would be another 10 years before they would have be trusted with such an important role as ensuring the native Seán Ó Domhnaill’s safety. I say that Seán was a native, but local genealogical knowledge would show that the Seán or a generation before him would have came from one of the islands off the Rosses’ western coast.

Oaten bread was the main fare in Seán’s household. This event may have taken place in the days before the introduction of Indian Meal (Maize) to Ireland to alleviate hunger in the early years of the 19th century.

The Piper from The Rosses

Shane O’Donnell, the popular musician of the Lower Rosses, was returning home from a dance. Darkness and storm caused him to wander from the usual path. He accidentally met a still-house, where he took refuge. Anna Herrighty, a very aged woman, came with refreshments to the men, who were detained by the severity of the weather.

Lower Rosses pipers playing in Annagry

One nigh in bleak December, the air being keen and chill,

The piper he decided they all had danced their fill.

When the dance it was concluded O’Donnell felt inclined

To push his way across the moor and leave the youths behind.


He was not far upon his way when a light he did espy;

Towards it went the piper himself for to enjoy.

It was an old sod-cabin perched by the mountain road,

Where oftimes Shane O’Donnell had made it his abode.


There he got a welcome, as he often got before,

From Rodgers and his comrades, and drink he had galore.

The night was passed in merriment, with songs and pleasant lore,

When to their sad amazement a “peeler” barred the door.


The “comrades” cleared in safety, and the “bobbies” did defy,

But Shane and frail old Anna could not vanish if they’d try.

They were conveyed as prisoners, and presented at Dungloe

Before a bench of magistrates, who let old Anna go.


O’Donnell he was sentenced three months to Lifford Jail.

A Petition in his favour was fated not to fail;

The meek old piper soon came back to see his friends once more,

To be welcomed by his family in Rosses and Gweedore.

The late Den “Eoghain” Gallagher Ranafast and Calhame

This mild and modest piper was greeted far and near,

A hundred hearts rejoiced his music for to hear.

To meet the people’s fancies he always did his best,

But never to a “still-house did he go again to rest.

Heroic Sea Rescue in the 1830s

Rosses Rescue in the 1830s

Skilful and courageous act of Rutland Pilot

Here history, too, finds a stirring page,

Makes a record that engrosses,

And folklore tales do full oft engage,

The well-versed minds of the Rosses


On a day in the thirties of the last century, a barque of 1800 tons (registered at Lisbon in Portugal) was driven by a violent hurricane from the south west into Boylagh Bay. When some distance off the rough rocky coast south of Croughy Head and a little west of Traigheannagh bar at a place known as “tin house” the captain gave orders to his crew to  “let go both anchors and give her every link of available chain”. The command was instantly obeyed for too well they all knew that this offered the only possible means by which they might manage to avoid disaster. For a long time, however they were feeling anxious and uneasy lest the ship would drag her anchors or, worse still that the chains might snap under the tremendous strain. Placing their trust in God and Our Blessed Lady, each member of the crew took his brown scapular, tied it to the chains at the rail and prayed that they might be saved from their imminent danger. The anchors held fast and the chains continued to withstand the awful strain while the storm tossed vessel, battered and buffeted by the tempestuous winds and waves tugged and heaved with might and main.


Signals of distress were now sent out the unhappy barque. The coast guard officer at Portnoo on seeing this sent the following urgent message to the station at Inniscoo-“ Large ship in distress of Triennagh bar, unable to go to her assistance from here. Send pilot to her, if possible, without delay.”

Inniscoo Island on the right ( Copyright National Library of Ireland)
Immediately on receiving this communication, on the prompt execution of which might depend the lives of the helpless and hapless crew, the officer in charge of the station got in touch with Captain Micheal O’Boyle (locally known as “Buckie” Boyle) of Rutland Island. In such dreadful conditions of wind and sea this experienced seaman knew well that if it was altogether impossible to round Croughy Head in the small craft at his disposal. But Buckie’s resource, like his daring and determined spirit, was equal to the needs of the desperate situation and enabled him to surmount all difficulties in his way. Taking with him a skiff of 23 feet long and a crew of four good tried men, he proceeded in the lee of the islands until he reached a point in the townland of Ranna Dubh, about three miles west of Dungloe.

Bartlett, William Henry; Stormbound on the Rosses, North West Donegal, Ireland; Reading Museum;
A similiar skiff from the painting named “Stormbound on the Rosses” by William Henry Bartlett (copyright Reading Museum)
Here he procured a horse and cart by which to transport the boat over the mountain road, a distance of five or six miles, very little of which could then have been anything better than a rough uneven track. On reaching the “Tin House”, these brave men were reluctantly forced to make a short delay, “waiting their chance” to launch the frail little craft for even one slight mistake during the attempt would most assuredly prove fatal to their hopes of success. At last a comparative “lull” afforded them the eagerly hoped for opportunity and soon they were “speeding” from the shore to the toilsome and dangerous errand of mercy.


It was indeed a struggle of superman, seemingly hopeless against the angry, unloosed forces of nature. Coolly and skilfully directed the work of his gallant crew, O’Boyle encouraged them to almost superhuman efforts till at last in the mercy and providence of God, they had won against such fearful odds.  The tiring, almost exhausted, oarsmen gradually inched nearer the wildly heaving, storm tossed vessel and how such a little cockle shell coracle survived in the mountainous cauldron of billows was, God be ever praised, a miracle of seamanship. All the time they were tensely watched by the anxious sailors, who offered many fervent prayers for the success of their exertions. The captain and the mate were standing together in the poop-deck watching the heroic struggle, surprise and admiration stamped on every line of their bronze and weather-beaten countenance.

Buckie never relaxed for a moment but continued with consummate skill and coolness to urge on and direct his men while all the time he stood firmly erect in the stern. Noticing his remarkable exhibition of seamanship and the steady stance the mate turned joyfully to the captain saying- “Thank God, there comes a pilot.” The the other’s anxious inquiry as to how he could be sure of this, the mate simply replied-“I known because in such a raging sea no man but a pilot could stand in a small boat like that with his hands in his pockets.”

Once aboard the ship O’Boyle lost no time in getting her under small canvas and though he had little room in which to manoeuvre or handle her properly he brought her to safe anchorage at Oilean Crona (Island Crone) off the mainland of Termon and near to Arranmore.

Some months later the vessel reached her home port where the captain made report of his dreadful experience and the wonderful exploit of pilot O’Boyle, the Irishman. The newspapers of Portugal, Spain, Holland and England paid the greatest tributes to O’Boyle for his daring act and his skilful handling of the ship in terrible conditions, “beating her tack for tack” through the dangerous shoals of Boylagh Bay and accomplishing that day what seemed to all to be impossible.


N.B. The narrator expressed regrets that he could not recall the name of the vessel though he “had heard it often enough from an old aunt” (Buckie’s daughter).

Written by a member of the Boyle family of Rutland Island and published in Donegal Democrat, Friday 23rd September, 1955.

Gunner Lanty Gallagher

Today, on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, we remember the late Lanty Gallagher from Dunmore. The Rosses, west Donegal, Ireland who fought and survived the decisive battle.

World War I at Sea Jutland

Lanty Gallagher was born in Dunmore, Carrickfinn about 1878 to Johnny “the Sailor” and Bridget Gallagher nee Forker. After recieving a good standard of education from Richard Given, schoolmaster at the local Island and Coast funded school, he followed his family’s seafaring tradition and joined the Navy in 1898. Lanty was fishing off Gola Island when he stopped a naval vessel and asked the captain if he could join; getting approval they towed his punt into Downings.

Lanty served on the corvette HMS Champion in 1895/96
During his naval career he sailed the seven seas on the corvette HMS Champion and in the Mediterranean aboard the flagship HMS Queen. He also served on the pre-dreadnought battleships HMS Resolution and HMS Russell as well as the cruiser HMS Galatea and the King Alfred before joining the new state of the art battleship HMS Lion when it was commissioned on June 4th 1912. HMS Lion became flagship of the Grand Fleet during World War One under the command of Vice Admiral David Beatty.

hms Lion_001672
HMS Lion
Promoted to the rank of gunner, Lanty was to the fore at the first battle in modern naval warfare at Heligoland Bight in August 1914 and Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915. At the decisive Battle of Jutland that began onMay 31st 1916, he was responsible for firing the first shots from the Lion’s new 13.5 inch guns. During this battle HMS Lion suffered a serious propellant fire that could have destroyed the ship had it not been for the bravery of the turret commander, who posthumously received the Victoria Cross having ordered the magazine to be flooded. Lanty saw out the remainder of the war aboard the Lion; retiring in July 1918 after a long and successful career. Both his brothers also served in the Navy but they weren’t as fortunate. Michael Gallagher also known as Buckie died after contracting malaria from one of his naval voyages and his brother Dan was last seen rounding the Cape of Good Hope on board a merchant navy ship during World War One. Shortly after Lanty’s retirement, he married Margaret Gallagher from Crolly Bridge, and raised their family in his native Dunmore.

Lanty (in uniform) with his wife Maggie, family and friends outside his home in the 1930s (copyright: The Gallagher family)
He died on July 6th 1957 and is buried in the family plot in Annagry cemetery.

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