The story of Miseóg and her ability to predict the future is legendary in the Lower Rosses and beyond but it’s not widely known that Miseóg was indeed a real life character. She was born Peggy Boyle in Ballymanus in 1816. It was after her father Manus Dubh Boyle that this townland was named. Peggy had two sisters and one brother. Her sister Anna married Andy McGonagle from Owey Island, her sister Sorcha married Frank Sharkey from Annagry and her brother Seánín married in the neighbouring townland of Braade. After her marriage to Paddy Harley from Ranafast (but of Braade ancestry), she went to live at the head of the White Strand or An Trá Bhán.

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Peggy and Paddy had at least five of a family.

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Transcript of the 1851 census, original was destroyed in the Civil War

Betty married to Owen Ward and lived in Kerrytown, Séimidh married Miss Harley and lived in Annagry, Condy married Gráinne Duffy from Braade and lived there, Mary was unmarried and lived with her grandparent’s in Ballymanus and Manus. Manus emigrated to his uncle Manus Boyle in San Francisco in 1868, but was reported missing in the Boston Pilot newspaper. His father Paddy Harley was working in Pennslyvannia at that time. Paddy later retired home and died in Braade in 1886 aged 68 years.

manus harley

Peggy earned the name Miseóg because she predicted many happenings in the Lower Rosses and beyond, most of which has come to pass. Some say that she found a book while walking along the Trá Bhán and that she took her prophecies from it. Interestingly there is a book shrine called the Miosach associated with Clonmany in north Donegal, now keep in the National Museum in Dublin. The shrine is an ornate book cover, but the book has gone missing. Was this the book Peggy Mhanuis Duibh found? Was she named after it? Without evidence, we can only speculate.

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The Shrine of the Miosach (www.clonmany.com)

We are not sure if Miseóg/Miosach was literate but there certainly were hedge schools in her locality. She may have received an education at the Carrickfinn Hedge School or night school in Braade National School which opened in 1845 adjacent to her home.

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The ruin of Braade National School which opened in 1845

While the newly formed Calhame Band was marching to Kincasslagh Chapel on St Patrick’s Day 1881 Miseóg asked them if they knew Napoleon’s Grand March. They said they didn’t, so she whistled it for them. This march was composed by Johann Strauss II in the 1850s.

This band later moved down the road and is still in existence as The Mullachdubh Band and The Grand March is still part of their repertoire.

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Mullacdubh Band in Dungloe 1939

The question is how did Miseóg know this tune? Maybe she heard it from a travelling musician, one can only assume.

Here are some of Miseóg Prophesies.

  • Trees will grow on hills without branches
  • Men and women would look similar
  • They’ll be big bridges over rivers
  • Cnoc a’ Deirigh will come down to the shore and the shore will go up
  • Ships will travel in the sky and under water
  • A black pig with smoke coming out of it’s mouth will come over the hills
  • An Trá Bhán will be alight and big white birds carrying people will come down the strand
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An Trá Bhán 1963
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An Tra Bhán with Donegal Airport 2015, photographed from the remains of Miseóg’s homestead
  • A chapel at the top of the strand and the day will come when no one will attend it
  • The clergy will take down the church

She also predicted the coming of the World Wars and the Ballymanus Mine Disaster in 1943, which exploded at Purt Ábhóige,just below her former homestead. Many of her predictions have come true while some haven’t as yet.

Miseóg died in about 1899 and is buried in Cruit Island graveyard.

© Jimmy Duffy November 2015

 

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