Dúchas Thír Chonaill

Donegal Heritage


January 2017

St Brigid’s Eve Remembered



rambles 2
with kind permission from Irish Newspaper Archive



The townland of Thorr was mentioned last week as the ‘end of the line’ into the very heart of the Highlands-across Sliabh Sneachta (only three miles as the crow flies!) lies the upper or eastern end of the Gweebarra Valley. Had we gone sea-wards from Crolly, the ‘end of the line’ would be located in the vicinity of Carraig Mheadhbha (Meave’s Rock) near the Tragh Bhán or White Strand at Tóin Rann na Feirsde (Bottom of Ranafast).



Tóin Rann na Feirsde (Bottom of Ranafast) to the right of the picture


The most Gaelic-minded community in all Donegal is to be found here-a fountain-head of folklore and a reservoir of resurgent nationalism. This is the rugged rock-strew peninsula which gave to Ireland Séamus (Fheilimidh) Mhac Grianna, known to, at least, three succeeding generations of language-learners and literati as “Máire.”

Father Murray, energetic and enthusiastic revivalist, travelled Tír Chonaill in quest of an ideal environment for the Irish college which he had then in embryo. He found his beav ideal at Rann na Feirsde (the Promontory of the Sea-Ford). And here he founded the now-famous Colaiste Bhrighde. Its emblem is St. Brigid’s rush “crosog” inside the circumscription “Brat Bhrighde Orraibh.”

On the night of Monday next, the last day of January, that old custom of the “rush-crosses” (on St Brigid’s Eve) will be observed in Rannafast and, indeed, all over The Rosses hinterland. The children may be seen at dusk, hooks in hand, down along the banks of some sweetly murmuring stream looking for the longest and most luscious green rushes that grow there.

A full fat sheaf of rushes ready for cross-making

A full fat sheaf of them is bound and brought home-to be placed standing against the gable (binn a’ toighe) until the supper and the festivities of oidhche-choinn-féile are over.

Binn a’ toighe (the gable end)


Among the Big Days of the Christian Year in the Gaeltacht of Tír Chonaill, Christmas, Patrick’s Day and Easter are the most outstanding-and for them much preparation is made, even in the poorest of homes. Who would sup sorrow to such dregs as:

‘Lá Nodlag Mór gan im,
Mairt Inide gan feoil,
Domhnach Cásca gan uibheach:
Sé d’fág mé ‘sileadh deor’?

[Christmas without butter,
Shrove without meat,
Easter without eggs: no wonder I weep!]

The Big Nights, that we look-forward-to during the bleak darkness of the winter in the wilderness, are Hallow E’en, Christmas and Oidhche Fheil’ Bhrighde. Though Samhain is synonymous with the beginning of a spell of ease-by-day and áirneal by night, St Brigid’s Eve is a harbinger of newborn hope-with lengthening daylight, early flowers and, later on, the lambs that frolic in Spring where frozen pastures pined and perished in the icy ear of wind and rain.

But the áirneal or cearbhachas (card-playing) is finished for the night. The big delph tea-pot is purring in the white turf embers. A speckled scone of currant-cake is being cut. And other appetising nuaidheachtaí add a fresh fillip of anticipation to hunger that youth seems ever blessed with! “Sé’n féasta is blasta a thigeas go h-annamh” (the sweetest feast is that which is seldom sampled).
The Man o’ the House has now gone for “Brigid.” He carries the sheaf to the doras mór (front-door) with the exhortation: “Gabhaighidh ar bhur nglúine, fosglaighidh bhur súile agus leigigidh isteach Bhrigid!” (Go on your knees, open your eyes and let in Brigid!”-to which all inside give welcome with: Sé beatha! sé beatha!” Similiar salutations are exchanged at the back-door, and then once more at the threshold. The third response from the kneeling household is:
Sé beatha! sé beatha! sé beatha na Mná Uaisle! (sometimes Brighid Bheannaighthe), ie., The Lady of Blessed Brigid. The sheaf is temporarily deposited under the table until the meal is partaken-of.


After supper, the whole family sit around the humble hearth and set about weaving those wonderfully variegated rush-and-straw crosses that are seen in both the houses and the byres attached to every Gaelic homestead in The Rosses.

Cross-making on St Brigid’s EveCapture 2

Holy Water is sprinkled on them next morning (Lá Fheil’ Brighde) before being placed on high as a protection against all ills and evils of the coming year.
In “olden days of undefiled belief,” each member of the family left some garment, e.g., a scarf, cap or handkerchief, out-side in a basket or creel all night. On the following morning it was collected and treasured as “Brat Bhrighdhe”-to be carried on journeys or in times of danger.
At the final night of the ‘Misiún Mór” over fifty years ago, the gallery in Dungloe chapel was overcrowded and sagging dangerously. A woman from “The Hills” tore off her silken head-dress and waved it “Brat Bhrighde idir sinn agus an urchoid.” No one was injured.
Sophisticated city-folk of to-day may feel inclined to scoff, perhaps; but the Rannafast foundation has become and remains the foremost Gaelic College in all Eire-“faoi Bhrat Bhrighde,” i.e., under the aegis of our Mary of the Gael.

Et floreat!

From a series of articles that appeared in the Derry People in 1949

Antiquarian Books

  1. Ac Fhionnlaoich Sean. Scéal Gaoth Dobhair. FTN Baile Atha Cliath. 1983 1st Ed. Stair Gaoth Dobhair.  F/F €45
  2. Ceallaigh Seosamh. Coláiste Uladh 1906-2006.Leinster Leader. 2006 1st Ed F/F €15
  3. Maille Padraig. Dudhuchas. Sairseal & Dill.1972 1st Ed. VG/VG €25
  4. Rabharaigh Tadhg. Mian na Marbh.2nd Ed 1946 Blue cloth with torn spine.€30
  5. Suilleabhain Diarmaid. Maeldun. Sairseal & Dill. 1972 1st Ed. VG/VG €25
Not for sale
  1. A Supreme Book for Girls. Dean. 1973 Girls Comic Annual. VG €15
  2. Bardon Jonathon. A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes. Gill & Macmillan  1st Ed 2008   Short accounts of Irish History from the Ice Age to O’Neill/Lemass  meeting in 1965. 528pp Gilt title on spine  VG+/F €30
  3. Breheny Martin & Keenan Donal. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Gaelic Football & Hurling. Carlton 2001. VG/VG €50
  4. Bodkin M.McD. True Man and Traitor, Talbot Press, 1921. The story of Robert Emmet and The 1803 Rising. 1st Edition 315 pp Torn Spine  G €40
  5. Butler Rev Alban. The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints. 1st Edition 1871 Duffy Dublin Vol IV (April) of vii. An interesting account of all the saints whose feast days fall in the month of April. 321pp Cloth with leather edges and spine six gilt raised bands NF €70
  6. Campell Donal & Dowds Damian. Sam’s for the Hills. Brockfield Dublin. 1st Ed 2003. An account of Donegal’s All Ireland Odyssey.409pp. Gilt titles on cloth cover and spine  VG/NF€35
  7. Carroll James. Mortal Friends. Raven Books. 1st Ed 1978.Novel. NF/F €15
  8. Coogan Tim Pat. De Valera. Hutchinson London. 1st Ed 1993.A Biography of Eamon De Valera 1882-1975 . Gilt Title on spine 704pp G/VG+ €25
  9. Cormican Brendan. Mozart’s Death Mozart’s Requiem. 1st Ed 1991. Limited Ed 306 of 963. singed by author. F/F €25
  10. Cowles Virginia. Winston Churchill. Hamish Hamilton. 1st Ed 1953. Biography. 378 pp. Red cloth with gilt title. VG €20
  11. Cunningham John B. A History of Castle Caldwell and its Family. Water Gate Press ND dated 1980. Signed by the author. An account of the Co. Fermanagh House  VG/VG     Ex lib €80
  12. Curtayne A. Patrick Sarsfield. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin. ND 1934 An account of Sarsfield and the Jacobite Rebellion. 178pp PDE loose. Gilt back  VG €24
  13. Deighton Len. From the rise of Hitler to the fall of Dunkirk. Book club. 1st Ed 1973. NF/F €8
  14. Fallon Niall. The Armada in Ireland. Stanford Maritime London. 1st Ed 1978. 219pp  reference to Armada Wrecks in the West Coast including Mullaghderg, Cloughglas etc. Gilt title on cloth cover  VG+/NF €90
  15. Fitzhenry Edna C. Henry Joy Mc Cracken. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin 1937 The life of a famous United Irishman.  157pp with b/w plate. Gilt back  VG €35
  16. Flanagan Thomas. The Year of the French. Holt, Rinehart & Winston New York 1st Ed 1979 A novel set in Killala Co.Mayo in 1798 Cloth cover, Gilt Title on spine, 512pp  G/VG €50
  17. Frazier Adrian. Behind The Scenes. University of California. 1990 1st Ed. Yeats, Horniman and the struggle for the Abbey Theatre. Ex lib VG/NF €15
  18. Gallagher Patrick. Paddy the Cope. Devin-Adair Co New York. 1942 1st Edition 5th printing, Preface by Peadar O Donnell. An Autobiography by Paddy the Cope Gallagher founder of The Templecrone Co-Operative Society in 1906 .288pp Gilt title spine slightly rubed. G/VG  €70
  19. Haverty Martin. The History of Ireland Ancient and Modern. Duffy Dublin 1st Ed 1860. Derived from the Annals of the Four Masters from the Partalonians to the Act of Union. 766pp VG+ €280
  20. Hemingway Ernest. The Old Man and The Sea. Reprint Society. 1953. Green cloth with gilt title. VG €25
  21. Herm Gerhard. The Celts. Barnes Noble New York.1993. A 2000 year story of the Celts. 293pp.Gilt title on spine. VG/NF €10
  22. Hughes Robert. The Fatal Shore. Collins 1st US Ed 1986. The story of the transportation of slaves to Australia.603 pp G/VG €25
  23. Kelly Joan Larson. Irish Wit & Wisdom Peter Pauper Press New York 1st Ed 1976. Contains Irish proverbs, folklore etc. 62pp pocket book G/VG €12
  24. Landor A. Henry Savage. In The Forbidden Land. William Heinemann 1st Ed 1898. Vol 2 of 2. 216pp with a map and 250 illustrations including 4 colour plates. Ex Christian Brothers. An account of a journey in Tibet capture by the Tibetan authorities imprisonment, torture, and release.VG  €70
  25. Lawerence D.H. The Lost Girl. 4th Ed 1928. Red cloth with gilt title. VG+ €15
  26. Lawerence D.H. Aaron’s Rod. Secker.6th Ed.1933 Red cloth with gilt title.VG+ €15
  27. Lawerence D.H. The Rainbow. Secker. 4th Ed 1929 Red cloth with gilt title.VG €10
  28. Lawerence D.H. The Plumed Serpent. Secker.4th Ed 1928. Red cloth with gilt title VG+ €10
  29. ^^^Set of 4 Above Books €50^^^
  30. Lloyd George David. War Memoirs. Odhams. 1st Ed c1936.Green cloth with gilt title. NF €15
  31. Lover Samuel. Irish Legends and Stories. Popham Radford & co Plymouth, No Date but signed by owner in 1943. Legends of old Ireland .386 pp  VG- €30
  32. Luce J.V. The End of Atlantis. Book Club. 1st Ed 1973. Red cloth with gilt title VG €8
  33. Mac Call Seamus. Thomas Moore. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin 1936. The life of the Irish composer.124pp PDE slightly loose. Gilt back VG €40
  34. Mac Leod Catriona. Robert Emmet. The Phoenix Publishing Co/Talbot Press Dublin. His life from 1778 to his hanging in 1803. 139pp 1935 Gilt back worn  VG €50
  35. Mac Manus Seumas .The Well O’ the Worlds End.  The MacMillan Co New York 1939 1st Edition illustrations by
  36. Marryat Captain. Childern of the New Forest. Dean. c 1930. Children’s story. VG €8
  37. Matty Grahams G.A.C Glen Maghera 1933-1984 History Book. Imprint Coleraine     1st Ed 1984 A rare copy of the club’s history 181pp with many b/w photos NF €60
  38. Mc Hugh Robert J.  Henry Grattan. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin. The life of the statesman famous for Grattan’s parliament. 188pp Nd 1930’s Gilt back PDE slightly parted. VG €45
  39. Mc Sweeney. Seascapes. Mercier.1st Ed 2008.Maritime heritage by the RTE correspondent. Gilt title on spine.NF/NF €25
  40. Morley John. Life of Gladstone. Vol 2. Macmillan & Co. Much Irish Interest.     Blue cloth  with gilt title. 1905 reprint .VG €15
  41. Morton H.V. In Search of Ireland. Methuen & Co London 1938. His travels round Ireland in the late 1920’s. With 16 plates and cover maps 273 pp Gilt back. VG €30
  42. Casey Sean. Picture in The Hallway. MacMillan & Co London 1942 1st Edition Novel set in Dublin .345pp VG+ €25
  43. Faolain Eileen. Irish Sagas and Folk-Tales. Oxford University Press. 4th Ed 1960. 242pp illustrated by Joan Kiddell Monroe. The Story of the Fianna and Cuchullin VG/VG €28
  1. O’Neill Elizabeth. Owen Roe O Neill. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin The life of Owen Roe O Neill brother of The Earl of Tyrone and leader of the 1641 rebellion. PED slightly parted. 111pp. Nd 1937 Gilt back VG €35
  2. Palmer W. Hazel’s Annual for 1903. Hazel, Watson & Viney.Red cloth. VG €16
  3. Pollock J.H (An Philibin) William Butler Yeats. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin 1st Ed 1935 A story of Yeats published just before his death.TP parted Gilt back PED Loose 112pp. G €28
  4. Prendergast K.M. Joyce. Windyhall. Mercier Press. 1st Ed 1946. Novel. G/G €5
  5. Quinn James. Soul on Fire A Life of Thomas Russell. Academic Press. 2002 1st Ed. A biography of the United Irishman. Ex lib  VG+/NF €50
  6. Schuster M.Lincoln. A Treasury of The World’s Great Letters. Heinemann. 1st Ed 1941. Red Cloth. G €15
  7. Sheridan John D. James Clarence Mangan. The Phoenix Publishing Co /Talbot Press Dublin The short life of the great Irish poet.Gilt back PED loose, b/w silhouette plate 126pp. Nd 1930’s.  VG- €30
  8. Simpson Colin. Lusitania. Book Club. 1st Ed 1972. NF/F €30
  9. Stevenson J Sinclair. Stories of the Irish Saints. The R.T.S Office London. ND. 1908   Ex Library     A lovely account of Irish Saints including Colmcille and Congall told for children. Four colour plates  128pp VG €25
  10. Treasury of World Masterpieces. Octopus.1st Ed 1984. includes Robert L. Stevenson’s Classics. Beautifully bound book green with gilt titles NF €18
  11. Walsh Caroline. The Homes of Irish Writers. Anvil Books 1982 1st Ed. Ex lib VG/NF €15
  12. Wilmot Chester. The Struggle for Europe. Collins. 1st Ed 1952 Blue cloth with gilt title faded. G €15
  13. Wiseman Thomas. The Day Before Sunrise.Book Club. 1st Ed 1976. War Novel. VG- €5
  14. Baden-Powell Robert. Aids to Scouting for N.-C.Os & Men. Gale & Polden London.1915 pocket book with red cover parted from book but intact. contains reference to C.B.S.I. 5th Donegal Troop. G €30
  15. Devenney Donnchadh. Horsefeathers from Donegal. Rossan  Sweeney. 1995 1st Ed. Yarns from the characters of West Donegal. 159pp VG €20
  16. Ó Laoire Lilis. On a rock in the middle of the ocean CIC 358pp NF €30


  1. Donegal Annual 1977. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG €45
  2. Donegal Annual 1996.The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  NF € 30
  3. Donegal Annual 2000. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG €15
  4. Donegal Annual 2001. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  NF €25
  5. Donegal Annual 2002. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG+ €20
  6. Donegal Annual 2003. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG+ €20
  7. Donegal Annual 2004. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG+ €25
  8. Donegal Annual 2006. The Yearbook of the Donegal Historical Society.  VG €25
  9. Mc Clintock May. The Silent Land. History of Derryveagh. 180pp NF €20
  10. Miller James. The Dam Builders, Power to the Glens.2003.250pp with b/w photos of the construction of the North of Scotland Hydro schemes from 1943 to 1975. VG+ €20
  11. Cuinneagain Micheal.On The Arm of Time Ireland 1916-22.Ronan Press.1st Ed 1992. Signed by the author. VG €35
  12. Donnell Vincent. O’Donnells of Tyrconnell. 2 Ed 2000 VG €10
  13. Silke Fr John J. Colum Cille 1400 a Saint and his legacy.ULL 1997. 20pp pamphlet. VG €15
  14. Tullaghbegley Past and Present. ND. 68pp pamphlet in Gaeilge and English depicting the history of the Cloughaneely graveyard. NF €10O Searcaigh Seamus. 2nd Ed 1984. NF €18
  15. Mac Cumhaill Fionn. Slán leat a Mhaicín €8
  16. Mac Cumhaill Sean. Gort na Mara & Scéalta Eile €5
  17. Mac Gabhann Mici. Rotha Mór an tSaoil €10
  18. Mac Grianna Seosamh. Aistritheoir €30
  19. Mac Lochlainn Antain. Ruball an Ein €10
  20. Mac Meannaman Sean Ban.Triú Mam €7.60
  21. Ní Fhearraigh Mairin. Gabhla an tOilean €10
  22. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Cuimhní ar Dhochartaigh Ghleann Fhinne €10
  23. Ó Baoghill Padraig. Amhráin Hiudaí Fheilimí €10
  24. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Nally as Maigh Eo €10
  25. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Paidaí Laidir  Mac Culadh & Gaeltacht Thir Eoghain €16.50
  26. Ó Baoighill Padraig. Scealai Mor Mhin an Lineachain €10
  27. Ó Baoighill Padraig. O Ghleann Go Fanaid €10
  28. Ó Baoighil Padraig. Srathog Feamnai & Scealta Eile €6
  29. Ó Grianna Seamus.Na Bliainta Corracha €6
  30. Ó Laoire Lilis. On a rock in the middle of the ocean €29
  31. Ó Muiri Pol. Mireanna Saoil €12

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Big Herring Harvest of 1916

From an article that appeared in the Irish Standard on April 8th 1916

The fishing community of Donegal has had a remarkably successful season. Up to August things were little better than average years so far as supplies went, but, of course, more advantageous in the better figures realized. Then towards the end of the month shoals of herrings appeared unexpectedly in the fishing grounds, and the whole fishing population was immediately astir.


The Congested Districts Board was apprised of the prospects, and arrangements were forthcoming for making available the motorboats and sailing boats provided by the Board along this section of the coast. In due course a contingent of Scotch and Irish buyers appeared on the scene, and, with keen competition, the Donegal folk have been able to reap a splendid herring harvest. There were times during the season when the price of herrings went up to as much as from £3 to £4 and £4 10s a cran, and even higher. Reduced to a more easily understood basis, the higher quotations mentioned worked out at as much as 2d apiece for the fine qualities which are attracted to these Northwestern grounds, and the fishermen, as might be expected, rejoiced in their luck. The Board’s steam-drifters were requisitioned by the Admiralty.
The New Motor Boats
One of the developments which has accrued to the fishing interests in the district is concerned with the matter of the provision of the motor-boats and steam-drifters by the Congested Districts Board. Up to 1894 only open boats of the Greencastle yawl type
had been in use by the Donegal fishermen.

Greencastle Yawl at Greencastle Maritime Museum, Co.Donegal

In that year a number of large decked sailing boats, known as the “Zulu” type, were introduced by the Board for herring fishing at Downing’s Bay and other centres. These boats were worked by crews on the share system, a boat and gear being handed over to a crew of six as joint owners, subject to a repayment to the Board of about one-third of the net earnings. The system worked satisfactorily for many years, and the Board were repaid the entire cost of the boats and gear originally supplied. There were still several others of these craft, however, in respect of which considerable sums had yet to be discharged before the debt to the Board would be cleared off.

In 1907 a big change had to be met. Steam-drifters, which had been introduced into Scotland and England, took part in the Donegal fishery, with the result that the crews of the local sailing boats were discouraged by their inability to compete with the steam vessels which were able to land large catches both in stormy weather and in calms when sailing boats had to remain in harbour. Even when sailing boats were able to go out, the steamers could go farther out to sea where the best fishing grounds are and get back sooner to harbour, thus securing better prices. The Donegal fishermen, therefore, urged the Board to provide them with steam-drifters and motor-boats, so that they might share upon equal terms in the fishery off their own coast. With the aid of a loan from the Development Commission the Board acquired some steam-drifters and motor-boats.


Changed System                                                                                                                                    
New conditions suggested to the Board that it might be well to vary the terms for repayment for these boats and gear. Under the share system the length of time before repayment in full could be made and caused the crews, after a number of successive poor seasons, to lose sight of the prospect of becoming owners, and men changed from one boat to another. In
many instances, too, the crews did not maintain their boats and gear-in good order, and it was quite evident that, in the interest of the fishermen as well as of the Board, nothing short of ownership would stimulate the crews to take care of their boats and gear. It was, therefore, decided that the Board “would sell each boat and gear on the loan system to some one or more fishermen. The present value of the boats and gear was ascertained, and these
amounts were treated as having been lent to approved applicants, the advances to be repaid by half-yearly instalments. The initial cost of the boatswith gear ranged from £1,000 to
£2,000 each for motor-boats, and present values were fixed according to the condition of the craft, with a discount of 20 per cent for cash paid at the time of sale. The prices of the sailing boats and gear were, of course, very much less.


Activity at the Centers
The principal centers of the industry are at Downing’s Bay, Kincasslagh, Gweedore, Burtonport and Killybegs. Each of these places is a port where the fishermen keep their boats and where buyers attend, and the marketing conditions, influenced by the scarcity existing in the chief centers across the Channel, have been such as to assure fair ruling quotations at
every center. Buncrana, on Lough Swilly, which used to be the chief market, and in years back was the biggest and most important fishing base in the North-West, has suffered
because of the Admiralty Order closing Lough Swilly tor fishing, except in a restricted way within certain local limits, and the principal market is now at Downing’s Bay in Sheep Haven. Here a very large quantity of herring has been cured for export, and at the other centers mentioned the season has been scarcely less busy. At Killybegs in August, 1915, herrings of extraordinary fine size and quality were landed. Only a relatively small proportion of the catches was dispatched fresh to the markets.
Donegal Salmon Fishing
An interesting story appertains to the very appreciable development in the salmon fishing which has taken place off the West Donegal coast in recent years. It was not known that
salmon, when proceeding from the deep water to rivers, followed the same course year after year. To the late Father Bernard Walker, of Burtonport, is due the credit of proving this theory, and that, too, in the most incontrovertible manner. During some boating trips well outside the islands which fringe the Rosses, his observation was directed on a few occasions to the splashing of salmon, as he conceived it to be, and curiosity tempted him to try his luck with a salmon net along a course where he had seen salmon rise. His acumen and his enterprise were rewarded in a fine capture, and his initiative was quickly followed by the fishermen of the West Donegal coast, who found in the new grounds a successful area of operations.

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