Ros Scaite covering around 300 hectares elevates from a machair adjacent to Donegal Airport to the highest point near St Andrew’s Church. Ros Scaite sometimes referred to as Pointe Ros Scaite is made up of four townlands, namely Mullifinns, Carnboy, Dunmore, and Carrickfinn.
Mullifinns (Na Maola Fionna) meaning the white flat-topped hillocks is the oldest centre of habitation in Ros Scaite and indeed in west Donegal. Evidence of human activity here can be found in a kitchen midden which nestles at the base of a large sand-hill situated northwest of the runway at Donegal Airport.
There have been various finds at this site over the years suggesting at least three phases of occupation. It suggests that there were human habitation here in the Bronze Age, the Middle Ages and as late as the 19th Century when sand storms forced the inhabitants to move inland.
In prehistoric times this area was the edge of a forest, the roots of these trees are constantly been unearthed at Trá na Stacán or the beach of the tree stumps on the westerly edge by the constant pounding of Atlantic waves.
This forest sunk when sea levels began to rise about five thousand years ago. It was close to here that Donegal Airport had its humble beginnings in the 1970s, when a visiting Welshman landed his single engine plane there on The White Strand or An Trá Bhán. Before he could make a successful landing, he swept over the cows grazing below a number of times to clear the “runway”.
Moving north across the sand-hills is the town-land of Carnboy (An Carn Buí) meaning a yellow rocky place. Here we find a working example of a clachan; a small traditional settlement dating to the early 1700s. It was in this clachan that one of the first modern schools in the Rosses was founded in 1782.
The clachan is positioned between the tranquil waters of Carnboy Lake and Trá Shruthán na nEascann meaning the beach by the stream of the eels. The eels of Carnboy Lake pass through this white sanded beach reminisced of an idyllic Caribbean hideaway on their annual migration to the Sargasso Sea.
To the west Oileán na Marbh or the Island of the Dead lies just off a small fishing harbour, aptly named The Boat Strand. The island was used over hundreds of years as a burial place for unbaptised children and unidentified sailors, not received in Christian graveyards.
Donegal’s rugged coast is a graveyard for many shipwrecks down the years. The coastline of Carnboy has its fair share of these wrecks. Some had yielded “treasure” to the local beachcombers. One such wreck floundered close to Oileán na Marbh in the early years of the 18th century.
On inspecting the wreck, two local men received their prize; a large town clock. They put the clock into their currach and made their way about two km north to Gola Roads where they rendezvoused with a sailing ship bound for England. The ship’s captain agreed to sell the clock for them, which he did and on his return passage, he stopped at Gola Roads where he gave the beachcombers 600 guineas.
The men invested their “treasure” by buying the tenant right of Ros Scaite, where their descendants still reside today.
A weekly market day and annual fair in Ros Scaite was recorded at the inquisition held by the English in 1613. It would appear that this fair was then a traditional event similar to the old Irish Aonach where craftsmen came from far in wide to sell their wares and where musicians and bards congregated in the old Gaelic code.
To the east of Carnboy lies the townland of Dunmore (An Dún Mhór) meaning a large hill-fort; now gone in antiquity.
There are two lakes in Dunmore, Loch Cormaic and Loch an Dhún Mhóir, the later though mostly covered by reeds, drains into the Gweedore Estuary. Close by in 1908 naturalist Robert Welch identified a new type of Erigone spider measuring 1.45 mm in length, which named E. Welchii in recognition.
Over the years Dunmore and indeed Roscaite has lost and gained territory through erosion. In the early twentieth century a fierce storm cut off Inis Sionnaigh, a tidal island linked to Dunmore
and accumulated the sand around island of Dún Ramhair meaning thick hill-fort, to the east.
This area developed into a machair and a popular recreation area.
To the south of Dunmore is Carrickfinn (An Charraig Fhinn) meaning Fionn’s (McCumhaill) Rock. Carrickfinn is in many ways the administrative part of Ros Scaite. In 1822, a detachment of the coastguard service was set up here to curb the smuggling of contraband along this coastline.
Numbering up to thirty naval personnel, it remained in operation here until its transfer to Bunbeg in the 1850s. When the coastguard vacated their station it became the Church for the local Church of Ireland community. This Church dedicated to St Andrew has been in continual use until the present day.
There have been various education systems operating in Carrickfinn from Hedge Schools, to Bible Societies, Coast and Island, Robertson, and the National School which closed in 1968.
A number of folk living along the eastern shore provided a ferry to Bunbeg, which was the main shopping centre.
With the construction of a causeway into Ros Scaite in 1945, this mode of transport changed.
Written by Jimmy Duffy 2016