Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


April 2016

Pilot Charles O’Boyle


One stormy night in winter, when the sea rolled mountains high,

A barque with all sails spread O’Boyle, the pilot did descry

“To the boat, my men,” his order was, and hurried be ye all,

And try and save this distressed ship of the Coast of Donegal.

north island queen 1900s
North Island Queen moored near Rutland Island copyright National Library of Ireland


The men complied with willingness; O’Boyle his skill did show,

By guiding his boat o’er shoals and reefs while his men did ably row

The barque she flew her signal-distress it did proclaim-

And O’Boyle cried to his oarsmen “You are worthy of your fame.”


The barque was reached in safety; O’Boyle on deck he sprung,

The captain warmly greeted him saying, “your work it is well done.

“This barque I give you in command, to guide her safe to port,

“You’ll save our lives and cargo, if our ship you’ll keep afloat.”


O’Boyle he quick assented to the captain he did say,

“Your barque will be in harbour safe by dawning of the day;

“And for my risky labour and that of all my men

“You’ll pay in golden guineas a modest eight pounds ten.”


The captain smiled vexatiously, and of a trap thought he,

Saying “O’Boyle, for breaking pilot rules, my prisoner you must be;

“This rope in your possession is from my barque Mary Anne,

“Taken without permission, so your trial you must stand.”


As prisoner to Lifford Court the law did O’Boyle compel,

That brave and skilful pilot whom his neighbours loved so well;

The Judge he heard the accuser, and the jury to a man

Agreed that the pilot was a very guilty man.


The sentence it was heavy, shocking people far and near.

Banishment from home and kin and land he loved so dear.

To far off Van Diemen’s Land seven years he had to go-

The pride of Rutland Island, ‘twas a sad and cruel blow.

Author unknown


The Gauger from Gweedore

The Excise Officer resident in Gweedore in the 1890s, when on a visit to the townland of Lettercaugh in the Upper Rosses, accidentally came across a still-house in the townland of Meendernasloe in the Lower Rosses. He was seized and confined in an unoccupied house until the poteen fully manufactured had been safely removed, and he was the liberated. He at once went to the Royal Irish Constabulary (Police) Barracks, Annagry, where he recounted his adventure of the night, and gave a description of the poteen-makers. The following come-all-ya was written in the 1930s.

Constable M. Walsh RIC while stationed in Annagry circa 1900  copyright Bridget Sharkey McGlynn

In a deep and lonely mountain vale convenient to Dungloe

Poteen was a-making some forty years ago.

Patrick Rodgers was the maker on a dull November day,

When the Gauger from Gweedore he chanced to pass that way.


To an empty house he was consigned until the dawn next day,

Then he had permission to pass upon his way.

To Annagry, snug village, in haste he did repair,

And in the Barrack day-room his adventure did declare.


The constables in eagerness searched town-lands short and tall,

From Bunaman to Meenaleck, and on to Meenascawl.

Ranafast was not forgot-nor neglected Loughanure,

But gone were the poteen makers across the lonely moor.


Rodgers, with Herrighty, they crossed th’ Atlantic foam

To seek far off comforts they were denied at home.

Sweeney went to Scotland, but a prisoner home was brought,

His trial he stood in patience-his destiny was wrought.


A servitude in prison away from his friends so dear,

His wife and lonely children bewailed with many a tear.

Rodgers by accident returned to Erin’s shore,

But was not long in residence-he crossed to Arranmore.

ss sligo
Steam Ship Sligo copyright Sligo Library

Thence on the steamer Sligo he sailed to Glasgow town,

And so returned in safety, while the law did on him frown.

God grant him health and plenty on the far Columbia’s shore,

The man who tricked the constables and the Gauger from Gweedore.

Rosses & Gweedore Sinn Féin meet in 1919

From an article that appeared in the Derry People in April 25th 1919

Easter Sunday in Gweedore;  Sinn Féin Demonstration

Surpassing in enthusiasm and numbers even the largest of the fateful gatherings during the Plan of Campaign in Gweedore a great Sinn Féin demonstration was held in Derrybeg on Easter Sunday. Bunbeg cross-roads was the trysting place, and there at 10.30 the Local Volunteers and Cumann na mBan,

Gweedore and Rosses Cumann na mBan companies (c) Vincent O’Donnell


headed by the Father MacFadden S.F. Band,met the Mullaghduff, Annagry, and Ranafast Volunteers with their bands and banners.

The Father MacFadden Band Derrybeg in 1927

An immense procession, almost a mile long, was formed, and headed by the Annagry band, proceeded to St Mary’s Church, Derrybeg, for Mass. The accommodation in the spacious church was severely taxed, though the energetic and popular curate, Father Carr, did much to relieve the congestion.

Annagry Band just after the troubles (c) Óglaigh na Rosann


After Mass and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the huge procession formed up once more, and bearing aloft the beautiful banner of Father MacFadden, encircled the church, while the narrow glen rang with the music of bagpipe and fife. Among the elder members of the congregation many an eye was dimmed with tears as it fell for the first time on the life-like image of their beloved patriot priest. In memory he was with them again at the historic church, Pictures of the Flood of 1880 rose before their minds.

Tim Rodgers from Bunaman, volunteer and member of the Mullaghduff Sinn Féin Band during War of Independence (c) Irish News Archive

Passing from the chapel yard the Mullaghduff band led the vast procession to Derrybeg, where a meeting was held, with Father O’Donnell presiding. The chairman extended to the Rosses contingents a hearty céad mile fáilthe to Gweedore.

The Bun a Leaca Band with a banner commemorating Fr. O’Donnell (c) Story of Gweedore

He congratulated the Sinn Féin organisation of Gweedore and the Rosses on their fine display in honour of men on the purity of whose motives and the nobility of whose aims even their worse enemies dare not cast a doubt. He exhorted them to remain faithful to the ideals of Tone, Emmet and Pearse, and said the long-watched day of Irish Independence was already breaking. Mr O’Boyle Rutland, dwelt on the willful destruction of Irish trade and commerce and the falling away of the Irish population by one half in the last half century of English rule. He wished to know from their political opponents why, if it was right to glory in the fighting of Emmet and Tone, if ’98 and ’67 were hallowed, it was not right to fight in these our days, and he dwelt on the different treatment accorded to the Ulster rebels and to the “mere” Irish” rebels. Messrs. Gallagher, Crolly; MacNulty, Gortahork; P. Sharkey, Annagry; E. O’Boyle and P. O’Boyle,Gweedore, also addressed the meeting.

Mullaghduff Sinn Féin Band during the War of Independence (C) Vincent O’Donnell

The procession formed again about five o’clock and visited in turn the residence of the three parish priests, where the bands discoursed selections of Irish airs. The Rosses contingents then headed for home. They were escorted on their way as far as Knockastolar by the Father MacFadden Club and Cumann na mBan.

A letter of apology was read from Father O’Flanagan, who said he was delighted with the invitation from Gweedore, but a prior engagement forbade him to visit that historic spot.

with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archive

The Asgard

The Congested Districts Board was set up in the 1890s to develop industries such as textiles and sea fishing on the western seaboard. The board developed a redundant herring fishery around north and west Donegal providing seasonal employment to alleviate poverty. Boats averaging fifty foot in length capable of sailing up to ten miles from shore were introduced by the CDB from 1895. In 1910 with the development of vessels driven by paraffin engines, the Board provided thirteen of these motor boats to the fishermen of the Gweedore and Rosses parishes and their offshore islands,  west Donegal. These boats had an average length of 70 feet manned by a crew of eight. They could now follow the herring shoals to the Irish Sea, the Western Isles and the North Sea as far south as Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. After the local fishing season it was customary to fish herring in the Irish Sea landing in Ardglass, Howth and other ports.

Orient Star
Motorboat “Orient Star” at Bunbeg harbour

In 1913, while fishing out of Ardglass Co. Down a fisherman named Patrick McGinley from Gola Island off the west Donegal coast made an acquaintance with a Belfast solicitor Francis Joseph Biggar.  Biggar who was of Anglo Irish stock, a leading nationalist and antiquarian collector invited Patrick to sail with him in his yacht on his next visit to Ardglass.

Gola Island from the Rosses Hills

Patrick McGinley could not return to fish the Irish Sea the following year due to the outbreak of war. It would be most dangerous to travel the coastline from Tory Island all the way to the Irish Sea as it was mined. That year he got a berth with his fellow islanders to fish for salmon. During this fishing season, in the summer of 1914, Patrick received a telegram from Mr Biggar asking him to go to Belfast. When he got to Belfast he was given a letter directing him to go to Bangor in Wales, where he would contact a naval lieutenant by the name of Erskine Childers. When he arrived in Bangor, Mr Childers took him to the quay where a sailing boat called the Asgard was moored. When the boat was loaded with provisions, it was moored out in the bay. Mr Childers asked Patrick if he could get another seafaring man to help with their sail. Patrick wired to his neighbour Charles Doogan to come and join him in the expedition. His journey from Gola Island took one week. When Charles joined the crew along with others, Erskine Childers told the Gola men for the first time that the intended purpose of the cruise was to collect a cargo of rifles that Erskine bought earlier in the year from the Germans. McGinley and Doogan accepted their role and the Asgard hoisted her sails and set off on the morning of July 3rd. They rendezvoused with a tug boat called the Gladiator, off the German coast on July 12th and loaded 900 rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition into their yacht.  Going undetected they stopped at Milford Haven in Wales. Continuing their journey they proceeded to Howth harbour just north of Dublin city. After a rough crossing, the experienced Donegal men with grit and determination insured that their cargo was safely dispatched. A cargo that would change the course of the history of Ireland and indeed the Empire!

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