TWO visitors’ books for the Gweedore Hotel from the years 1842 to 1874 are now available online. The 19th century Gweedore Hotel was hugely popular with wealthy tourists from Ireland and abroad.
The hotel was owned by Lord George Hill, brother of the Marquess of Downshire, and he acquired much land in the north west of Donegal in the early and middle years of the 19th century.
Both hotel books were donated to Donegal County Archives a number of years ago. They were digitised and the digitised images were placed online on the Donegal County Council Cultural Services Archives website.
The books contain vivid handwritten comments by visitors on all the controversies of the day. There are stories, poems, treatises, sketches, opinion pieces and drawings relating to the hotel itself and to life in rural Gweedore, including relating to Lord George Hill’s dealings with his tenants.
Themes include poverty and the Great Famine, farming, the rundale system, land reform, tenant rights, landscape, emigration, politics, illegal distillation of whiskey, and tourism.
Visitors include the rich and famous of the time, such as Robert William Wilde, Sir James Dombrain, Thomas Carlyle, John Mitchel, Thomas Emerson Headlam and the Marchioness of Londonderry.
The books were both in extremely fragile physical condition, with almost all the pages torn or damaged and the spines broken. Both bound volumes could not be handled by the public, and needed urgent conservation work to the covers, binding and to the pages themselves.
The Ox Bindery in County Sligo has repaired the bound volumes and the conservation work was funded by Creative Ireland and Donegal County Council.
The books can be viewed online at: http://www.donegalcoco.ie/culture/archives/selected%20digitised%20archives/