Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


February 2016

Templecrone ; An Interesting Donegal Parish

Templecrone.  An Interesting Donegal Parish. The Irish Monthly, Vol. 58, No. 683 (May, 1930), pp. 258-260. Published by Irish Jesuit Province.

Look at the map of Donegal and study the physical features of the districts which lies, secluded and remote, between Gweedore and Gweebarra on the North-West coast, fringed with the islands. This is the parish of Templecrone, more familiar to the modern ears as “The Rosses”.

The Island of Tory raises its grey crags and giant cliffs away to the North-East, while Arranmore looks defiantly seawards, the largest island on the Donegal coast, high-turreted, long and lone. The long stretch of bog and moorland, mountain and plain on the mainland opposite is Templecrone. It is a district of a scattered population, having a topographical character peculiarly its own. Grey granite boulders obtrude their massive proportions like the bones of some pre-historic giant, and rocky peninsula raise their heads serenely above the storm. A deeply indented coastline of magnificent grandeur presents itself and numerous islands of surpassing beauty adorn the rugged coast.

The Rosses coastline sheltered by majestic Arranmore

Templecrone takes its name from St Crone, a contemporary of St Columbkille, who built a monastery in the sixth century some three miles south-west of the present town of Dungloe, the metropolis of the Rosses. Her feast occurs on the 7th July, and the Fair of Dungloe, held on the 4th July, is known as “Aonach na Féile Cróine,” from association with the Saint. Michael O’Clery has the following entry in his “Martyrology of Donegal’ concerning the Saint: “Little Cróine, Virgin, from Teampall Cróine in Tír Chonaill; she was of the race of Conall Gulban, son of Niall.”

The great St. Columbkille knew the district and loved it well. The beauty of its rugged coast and the majestic grandeur of the mountains which surround it must have appealed with particular force and charm to his poetic nature. Templecrone has always been associated with the Saint, and from Columban days even to the present, “Columbkille’s Blessing on the Rosses” has been piously recited in the vernacular with the beauty of phrase and picturesque diction. Nothing could better describe the physical character of the Rosses than the phrase-not half expressive in English as in its Gaelic original-occuring in his “Beannacht” on the district: “…O Rosses of wild heath and many white strands.”  Standing on any of the numerous eminences of this remote and rugged land the eye can sweep a vista of silvery strands upon which white-foamed breakers fall in the sullen roar.

The recent destruction of the fine old parish church at Kincasslagh, for generations the ecclesiastical centre of Templecrone, has excited an interest in this remote Gaelic-speaking parish of Raphoe.

chapel 1927

The first church erected at Kincasslagh was built in 1786; the church recently destroyed by fire was erected by the late Father Dan O’Donnell in 1856. Father Dan O’Donnell, whose death occurred in 1879, is still affectionately remembered in the Rosses by the older generation.

On the Island of Cruit, opposite the parish church of Kincasslagh, are two holy wells dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St Brigid, respectively, and a Shrine dedicated to the memory of St Francis. There are evidences of some monastic remains here, and there is a strong local tradition, supported by the researches of the late Very Rev. Dr. Maguire in his “History of the Diocese of Raphoe,” that the Franciscan Friars had a monastery in Cruit Island in pre-Reformation days, disappearing probably with dispersal of the Franciscan Order from the Monastery of Donegal in the seventeenth century.

Two at least of the vessels of the Spanish Armada were wrecked on the rocky coast of Templecrone in 1588-one at Mullaghderg and another at Port an Chaisleáin, near Burtonport. The ships recorded as wrecked here were the Baron d’Amburg and La Trinidad Valencia, and the remains of these vessels have frequently been seen at low ebb embedded in the sands at both Mullaghderg and Port an Chaisleáin. It is asserted, more or less vindictively, in the State Papers of the period, that a thousand of the sons of Spain lost their lives on the rocks and strands of Templecrone, but this statement is obviously much exaggerated.  Many of them were rescued from the angry waves by the O’Donnells and O’Boyles of the Rosses, and sent back in safety to their native land after that ill-fated expedition which strewed our Western and North-Western shores with the corpes of many of the bravest and noblest of the sons of Spain.

Dr. John O’Donovan, who visited the Rosses in 1835, has much interesting and informative material appertaining to the district in his Letters, which are now deposited in the Ordnance Survey Office, Phoenix Park, Dublin. There are occasional references to the territory of Teampall Cróine in the “Annals of the Four Masters,” and in O’Donovan’s notes appended thereto.

A holy well at Calhame, in Lower Templecrone, associated with St. Dubhthach, is mentioned in Manus O’Donnell’s “Life of Columbkille.”

Rannyhual Holy Well
Holy Well dedicated to Saint Dubhthach recorded by Manus O’Donnell in the 16th century


It is interesting to note that Manus O’Donnell, one of the heroes of the ’98 period, was of Rosses extraction, and that James Napper Tandy landed at Inis Mhic an Dhuirn, now called Rutland Island, off Burtonport, in 1798, and thence escaped to France. On the Island of Arranmore is a cave called to this day “Uamhach an Air,” or the Cave of Slaughter, where some seventy persons, natives of the island, were butchered in Cromwellian days, as recorded by O’Connell in his “Memoirs of Ireland, Native and Saxon.”

True to its ancient traditions, Templecrone is a veritable stronghold of the native tongue. It is a district teeming with old-world traditions of a Gaelic past. The Rosses people are homogeneous community, poor, struggling farmers and fishermen, descendants of a heroic race driven to this barren, inhospitable shore after the Defeat of Kinsale. There are memories here which link the golden age in Ireland’s story to the living present-memories stimulating and imperishable.

Written by Eoin Ó Searcaigh as Oilean na Cruite (Cruit Island) in 1930


Banríon an Uaignis

Bhí Iarla ina chónaí ar an gCarn Bhuí fadó. Bhí a thuismitheoirí saibhir. Ní raibh aon duine sa chlann ach é féin. Fuair a thuisimitheoirí bás. Fuair an t-Iarla an saibhreas go léir.
Bhí an t-Iarla cneasta agus macánta ach bhí sé an uaigneach. Bhí sé ag lorg mná chun an t-uaigneas a dhíbirt. Ní raibh a lán cairde aige mar níor mheasc sé leis na daoine óga san áit. Ar aon nós, na cailíní a chonaic sé mórthimpeall níor mhaith leis iad.
Bhí uaimh in aice leis an gcaisleán. Bhí tobar in aice leis an uaimh. Bhí scéalta ag na seandaoine go raibh cailín ina cónaí san uaimh. Thagadh sí go dtí an tobar gach maidin agus gach tráthnóna ag lorg uisce.

A magical hare rests in the sand-hills near Carnboy Lake

Níor chreid an t-Iarla na scéalta seo. Tráthnóna amháin bhí sé ag teacht abhaile an-déanach leis na ba. Chonaic sé an cailín in aice leis an tobar. Bhí sí dathúil, álainn agus gleoite. Ní fhaca sé cailín chomh dathúil riamh ina shaol.
Rith sé ina diaidh. Rug sé greim uirthi. Chuir sé ceist uirthi cad ab ainm di agus cá raibh sí ina cónaí? Dúirt sí gur ‘Banríon an Uaignis’ ab ainm di agus go raibh sí ina cónaí sa Charn Bhuí.
Chuir an t-Iarla ceist uirthi an bpósfadh sí é? Thug sí freagra air nach raibh cead ag Banríon an Uaignis pósadh. Dúirt sí nach mbeadh cead ag an bhfear a phósfadh í, fear, bean nó cara a thabhairt ar cuairt go dtí an caisleán. Thuig sí go raibh sé seo an-ait. Gheall an t-Iarla nach dtabharfadh sé aon duine ar cuairt go dtí caisleán. Phós an bheirt acu.
Chaith siad na blianta le chéile. Bhí siad sona sásta. Níor thug an t-Iarla cuireadh d’éinne go dtí an caisleán. Bhí mac acu cosúil leis an athair agus bhí iníon acu cosúil leis an máthair. Bhí an mac agus an iníon dathúil.
Tar éis roinnt blianta bhí an saol ag éirí leadránach. Bhí sé ag éiri tuirseach den saol. Chuala an t-Iarla go raibh rásaí ar siúl ar an Trá Bhán.

An Trá Bhán

D’iáis sé an scéal dá bhean. Dúirt sé gur mhaith leis dul. Thug a bhean cead dó. Gheall sé nach dtabharfadh sé éinne abhaile. Bhuaigh capall an Iarla an chéad áit sa ras gach lá.
Bhí an t-Iarla an-bhródúil. Bhí sé ag caint leis na fir eile ag na rásaí. Dúirt fear amháin go mbeadh bród ar a bhean nuair a rachadh sé abhaile. Dúirt fear eile go raibh amhras air go raibh bean aige. Bhí fearg ar an Iarla. Dúirt sé go raibh bean álainn aige. Thug sé cuireadh dóibh teacht abhaile leis go dtí an caisleán. Rinne sé dearmad ar an ngeallúit a thug sé dá bhean.
Thug an t-Iarla a bhean agus a chuid páistí amach ar bhruach na h-abhann. Thosaigh sé ag míniú an scéil dóibh. Léim an bhean agus na páistí isteach sa tobar gan choinne. D’éirigh an t-uisce sa tobar. Tá loch ansin anois. Loch an Chairn Bhuí. Nuair a thagann lá gréine feiceann tú scáil an chaisleáin san uisce. Bíonn trí eala ag snámh ar an loch.

The three swan swim on Carnboy Lake

Chaith an t-Iarla an chuid eile dá shaol ina aonar. Bhí brón uafásach air. Bhí a chroí briste. Bhí a shaol millte.

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Rambles around Mullaghderg, Cruit and Mullaghduff in 1949

rambles 2
with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archives

From a series of articles that appeared in the Derry People from January to March 1949


To the prosaic passerby with even the smattering of Gaelic, all that Mullaghderg might mean would be something like “The Red-Headed Hilltop” or that sort of translation. On the map it does not look much, either. A commercial traveller speeding along from The Rosses to Gweedore might tell you that he spotted something like a Martello Tower somewhere in the vicinity of Kincasslagh. But to the aesthetic eye and the folklorist soul of the historically-minded Gael, this bare and barren headland is rich in reminiscence as in archaeological wealth.



I left the road between Kincasslagh and “The Red House.” It runs up to the left. A steep road, but interesting as each yard of height reveals a new and more intriguing horizon. At the top it is not so much what there is, as what there is to be seen.

The little village of Kincasslagh (“The Head of The Creeks”) lies below, but far and away, by land and by sea, the eye could never tire of this seemingly unending vista of wild wave and ever-recurring range of mountain-edging and widely-scattered moorland. The far-flung Rosses is laid bare before us. Not since our stand on Caravan Brae have I viewed such a panorama.


Just across is the strand and creek that separates this Martello-towered outpost of the Lower Rosses from the so-called tide-in-only “island” of Cruit. Mullaghderg may be storied land, but Cruit goes further back still. In a modern history of The Rosses, Cruit could easily and authentatively claim to be an Island of Scholars. And of saints, too, for in and around Cill Bhrighde a store of tradition lies buried.

The Turas is still performed here twice annually over a period of a week-on La Fheili Muire san Earrach (twenty-fifth of March) agus san Fhoghmhar (fifteenth of August). With the particular prayers we are not so much concerned just here, but it is of interest to realise that they connote a Franciscan origin dating back at least over three centuries. It is also worthy of note that the two main centres of intercession are Tobar Brighde and Tobar Muire (indicating a very early language-structure in that there is no aspiration of the initial consonant of the personal name in the genitive case, following a masculine name).

Here, too, we have Leac na hAthchuinge or the “Request Flag” and also the Leachta Beag where the Turas is completed with five Paters and Aves for the souls of the dead.


How many more memories of the grand old days of Erin’s hallowed history might be resuscitated on Mullaghderg!  Aye, and of our resurgent struggles to live “our own way of life” (what all modern wars would appear-in propaganda-to be fought for?)

Out behind these golden sand-dunes is the Spaniard’s Rock, where the flagship of the Armada, under Commander Laviniero, was wrecked in 1588. These surrounding acres of Mullaghderg and Mullaghduff (the Red and Dark Headlands) were rented in 1620 from Lord Annandale by Col. Myles Mac Sweeney of Doe (who later lost all-through O’Carroll’s treachery-for the part he had so nobly played in Owen Roe’s campaign).

1-FB Mullaghderg Waves 6
Mullaghderg Strand

Outside this hoary headland Wolfe Tone decided to stay aboard the La Hoche and face the fate that awaited him-on the twelfth of October, 1798. These dark hills to the south resounded to the echo of our I.R.A. guns on the night of the now well-remembered Meenbanid Ambush of almost thirty years ago.


One could pause and ponder many pleasant prolific hours on the height and horizon of Mullaghderg. But, to a rambler through The Rosses, matter more mundane (and materialistic) than monastic or martial reminiscence make inroads on reflection. Not the least of these is a hunger for the hospitality of “The Red House.”  To meet Owen of Clann O’Donnell and his sister, Norah (Mrs MacGinley)-and her intellectual husband, the head –master of Mullaghduff School.


Somebody once facetiously referred to Mullaghderg people as “The Redheads” (from the Gaelic name of the place). In the same jocular vein, the residents of Mullaghduff might be called “The Blackheads”!  But they have all good Irish heads and names-O’Duffys, O’Donnells, O’Boyles, O’Sharkeys and MacGinley mostly


After leaving Mullaghderg’s Martello-tower and golden sand-dunes-and finding rest and refreshment at The Red House, I proceeded eastward along by the football field that has been the cradle of so many prominent Lower Rosses players.


Sitting for a while on that natural grandstand of granite rock at the far-away end, I viewed the pitch, the lake and the chimneys of Kincasslagh’s stately homes.

The lake is now partly dried-up and that accounts for the high bridge at Kincasslagh “Cope” referred to as the “The Canal.” Not even a child’s toy-boat could sail up this narrow, deep-dug, rock-edged waterway. Its purpose was the draining of The Lake, and, to a certain extent, the objective was achieved. But whether it was of much material benefit to the surrounding district is a moot point-highly controversial, indeed. At all events, it gave employment-like the Dungloe “Dry Land Pier”! And that is a great matter (as Paddy Óg would say).


A beautiful place by day these undulating dunes between the placid lake and the ever-moaning sea. But not so nice at night, at least, not to anyone who ever heard of Bean A’ tSioda-the Silken Lady whose husband, a sea captain, came into residence on a promontory not far north from here.

It is a long story, too long for these columns. Anyway, she disappeared-at all events, in the daylight! And believe me, there are few young people who do not feel “the hair standing on their heads”  if they find themselves having to travel alone along by Mullaghderg Banks late at night! So, as twilight was in the air, I, too, decided to head for some more hilarious environment.


The road through Mullaghduff is made pleasant by the many little tricky braes and sequestered glens, so different from those flat tracks usually found along the sea. Beautiful high land here. The sun glints on the windows of Rannafast’s red-tile-roof’d Gaelic College across the winding creek. A full half-mile of shadow-dappled sand-hills extend northward to where the breakers crash on the rocks of Ballymanus.

I knew not why I was so sad. This is the place where it happened. On a sun-bathed afternoon six years ago-the 10th of May, 1943, they saw “the unknown” riding the waves from the northwest. The war was then at its worst. Ships had been seen in flames far out at sea.

1-mine 2
with kind permission from the Irish Newspaper Archive

One of those deadly boat-traps broke loose from its moorings-and was washed on the rocks. The waves were not powerful enough to blow-in its “horns” and, so, it was mistaken for a harmless barrel of oil or such useful commodity. The sequel had best be left to a Memoriam composed at the time by a Rosses poet.


Oh weird and wild the wail of woe now borne

Upon the startled night-winds from the west-

Deep gasps of grief and soul-sighs from men torn

By death, grim hideous unbidden guest-

From where great breakers piling on the shore

Awaken eerie echoes o’er the dunes.

Fell waves! Foul, treacherous for-ever more-

While lethal-laden, chanting age-old runes.

Not more decit the steed that enter Troy

And dumped destruction dire within her walls!


Ye bore to Braide that deadly dark decoy

Its victims now lie ‘neath their eighteen palls.

Brave lives, all full of youthful faith and fire.

Strangers to fear, all anxious more to learn-

And hence inquisitive, in deep desire

To probe at things unknown-for knowledge yearn.


Unto the flotsam of that baneful beach

They saw it sail and wondered what it was…

Then rushed along in headlong haste to reach

Their coming destined doom-their tomb, alas!

Wild howling winds begat a drear banshee…

The gruesome monster slowly sought the shore…

A blinding flash! A thund’rous crash    The sea

Rose up in rage and pain around its roar.


Some to the land were flung, and some to sea…

Some to the skies-to fall in mangled mass:

A silent lull… then shrieks of agony

Now rent the echoes o’er that gory grass.

Tree vacant chairs in two once happy homes,

Two widows weeping nigh their orphan’d weans

How suddenly God’s visitation comes!

How swiftly pleasure turn to poignant pains!


Kincasslagh holds eleven tombs to-day,

While seven rest in peace at Annagry:

The goom at eventide when skies are grey

Is deepen’d by this tearful tragedy.

All Irishmen of every creed and class

Now sympathise with those lone folks forlorn:

For those who live, their grief may slowly pass!

For those now dead, new hopes of life be born!


The dregs of this disaster seem still to saturate the placid pastoral atmosphere around Mullaghduff-like the atomic residue of the Hiroshima holocaust.  FANAIDHE



Rambles around Kincasslagh 1949


with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archive

From a series of articles that appeared in the Derry People from January to March 1949

Down Kincasslagh Way

It was here at Kincasslagh last week that readers of these columns were introduced to that renowned son of the Rosses, Paddy the Cope. A village it might be called, for the houses in it are few; but those few are most imposing for a rural area. Three things impress the stranger to Kincasslagh: its fascinating name, which in Gaelic (Ceann  na gCasloch) means the “Head of the Winding Creeks”; both land and seascape around it are superb; and the detached residential buildings about it seem just a bit too grand to belong to such rocky surroundings. They are more the type one finds in suburban localities. There are more marble and costly tombstones in Kincasslagh graveyard than in any other, perhaps, in the diocese of Raphoe.

chapel 1927


Donegal’s Best Port

Kincasslagh is not a focal point of The Rosses like Dungloe where so many roads meet, and yet its name is more widely known along the coast from Fanad to St John’s Point. In olden days of drifters and trawlers, this little hamlet of the Lower Rosses used to be, like Downings and Killybegs, a very busy place indeed during the fishing seasons.

It possesses the deepest berthage of any port in Donegal, with the added advantage of an excellent pier and the further amenity of having running water laid-on from a lake reservoir near Mullaghderg. Yet it has been more or less neglected of late years. There is more local optimism now since my old friend, Anthony Doogan, has become a Director of the Sea Fisheries Association.


Meet Anthony Doogan

Anthony, like the Copeman, is one of the most unassuming of men. His crest should be circumscribed:  “Suaviter in modo: fortiter in re” (gentle in method but resolute in result)!  He is a man of deep devotion, be it to an ideal or as a personal friend. Anthony Doogan of Gort na saide, midway between the village and the Pier, is truly a man of many parts.

Born into a farm, he combines fishing with agricultural pursuits. He is, in addition, a Fish Salesman-and also Postmaster of Kincasslagh. A Gaelic enthusiast, he has been a lifelong worker in the cause of Irish Freedom. One of those unusual men, sometimes met in backward places, who not alone reads the news of the day, but studies it. Most men have read the story of our land, but Anthony digests the philosophy of its history as well-the whys and the wherefores and the underlying motives that determine propaganda and prejudice.

There is no man in The Rosses i prefer to meet. His conversation is a tonic, for he is not of the “strong silent” type, who generally look wiser than they actually are! He is the “thinking man” who weighs the pros and cons of almost every word he utters-what is called around here: a “reliable” man.

The O’Dubhgain Clann came originally from Raphoe, where they were skilled tradesmen at the Episcopal Palace until the end of the sixteenth century.


Daniel E. O’Boyle, Co.C.

Most of the people one meets around Kincasslagh are outstanding, each in his own individual way. One common characteristic seems to be that of gentleness and tact. There is prehaps no better liked member of Donegal Co. Council than Daniel E. O’Boyle, whose home and business place is along the sea, almost opposite the Post Office and Co-operative Store.

This cultured scion of Clann O’Boyle, whose old home is further up the road at Belcruit, is also a Director of the Tourist Board. His brother, Charlie retired from the Derry GPO, enjoys the “notoriety” of having been mistaken for Eamon De Valera on numerous not-so-pleasant occasions in the Maiden City!  Another brother, Barnie, is teaching in England, and Miss Sally is the popular proprietress of Belcruit House.


“Logue’s Hotel…”

The tallest building in Kincasslagh is the local hotel with its combined bar-and-grocery annexe, owned by another quiet but most efficient ministrator to public requirements, Peter Logue, who hails from the Gweebara Valley district. Its genial hostess, Mrs “Brigid” (as even the local aristocracy are familiarly and affectionately known in the Gaeltacht!), is a lady whose door I “never pass”-even on a bus. And that means, in the Rosses parlance, that even a ten minutes’ conversation with this kindly lady enhances the value of the nectar she retails.

sharkeys hotel

Incidentlly, there would appear to be keen competition between this family and the O’Duggan clann in the matter of the future colonisation of the Lower Rosses. Go mairidh siad!


O’Donnell’s of Rockfort House

If I tell the truth again, there ia  a danger that someone may call me a flatterer. But, verily, a visit to the “Head of the Winding Creeks” community would be in-complete without having met that burly, humorous, good-natured “giant of a man,” Seamus O’Donnell, Harbour Master, at his beautiful home up at Rockfort House. On as solid soil as any residence in the land of Eire!

Seamus is a sort of man who never grows old. He will always find something to laugh at, some politician to abuse, some Communist to kick-and, if all else fails, sure he will preach temperance till the cows come home. With all his wisdom and his wit, Mr. O’Donnell has one predominant weakness-he takes politics too “deadly seriously”!  But up for this failing-in being quite the reverse. “Positive and negative” attraction, one might say.

None are now at home-of all their splendid family: all are in intellectual positions in different parts of the country and outside of it. Father Terence, who was once known as John-and M.A.(hons), too, is a distingushed member of the Capuchian Order in Killarney. One daughter is a Reverand Mother and recently gone to Africa. Another is married to Donal Bonar, B.D.S., of Lackenagh House, Burtonport. Two others are in the Nursing profession and served in and flew over most of the Middle East during the last war. Paddy holds an executive post with the N.I. Transport Board. And last, but most intriguing member of this gifted family, is erudite and vivacious Miss Frances, M.A, H.Dip.Ed., A.C.P., etc, now a prominent Secondary Teacher in the metropolis. A visitor to Rockfort House leaves with fond and happy memories.



It is difficult, indeed, to write-up the beauties of Kincasslagh, both its inhabitants and environs, in the short space at one’s disposal here. Assuredly no exile from the Lower Rosses would forgive me if I did not pay a passing tribute to “Mother Healy” and to Charlie McBride himself, the Grand Old Man of the village. And the name reminds me, what would Kincasslagh be without Charlie Pat (of the O’Doherty clan)? And Neal, too. And “Patrick the Post.” And the McGarveys-famed on many a football field.


But some others are sadly missed, alas. When I called to see Owen O’Donnell and his sister Mrs. MacGinley, the “vacant chair” of their prayerful, folklorefull, saintly nonagenarian mother, Peigí Rua, was there-a reminder of the friendly faces of those dear old people, whose likes we shall never see again. One of the most beautiful situations in Tír Chonaill is that occupied by “The Red House” at Mullaghderg-sheltered from the rolling Atlantic behind those golden sand-dunes… But the sands of editorial patience are running out! And I must away- lonely after Lovely Kincasslagh. FANAIDHE


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