Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


September 2016

Protected: Ros Scaite; Carrickfinn, Mullifinns, Carnboy & Dunmore

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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

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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.


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

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