Book captures events in mid-West Donegal over the years

A great shot of the Nesbitt Arms Hotel in the Ô20s/Õ30s. (Courtesy of Bart Whelan)

SOCIAL, religious, education, political and sporting events from a number of parishes in Midwest Donegal down through the years have been brought to life in a new book that was launched on Saturday last.

A Chronology of Midwest Donegal: The Civil Parishes of Inishkeel, Lettermacaward & Killybegs Lower from Earliest Times to 2019 is the latest work by Tom Plunkett, principal of St. Conal’s N.S., Narin, Portnoo.


This 100-page chronology, features events from earliest times until 2019 and all profits will be donated to the Board of Management of St. Conal’s N.S.

Speaking to the Donegal News this week Mr Plunkett explained that the purpose of the work was to chart the development of the communities and to record how areas prospered or regressed at various times, depending on circumstances.

He hopes that the book can be a useful starting point for those wishing to locate information on the history of this region.

When reading the entries for a given year, the reader can get a sense of how the people were interacting and competing with each other, while fashioning a social, political, commercial, sporting and cultural life for themselves.

“It catalogues the growth of the villages and towns mentioned in the title, record events during the Famine, illustrate the local agrarian and political agitation of the late 1800s and early 1900s, record the many local deaths in the Great War, highlight incidents during the revolutionary years, and tease out domestic controversies which, at times, garnered national attention. A citation to the fact in question is always provided, so readers can locate the source material for themselves and explore further,” Mr Plunkett said.

The excellent research of several top-notch local historians is acknowledged throughout, not to mention the treasure troves that are Dearcadh and Dúchas magazines.

Copies will be on general sale in local shops and will retail at €15. For any other information, contact Tom Plunkett at



Horse-racing on Narin Strand in the thirties. (Photographer, Charles McGill; courtesy of Bosco McGill)

A random sample of the entries below illustrates the form the book will take


A road was built from Ardara to Killybegs over a ten-year period commencing in 1760. (Mhic an Ultaigh, Áine; Nic Giolla Easbuic, Bríd; Uí Sheibhlín, Colette; Ó Domhnaill, Seán Mícheál; Ó Dónaill, Charlie; Mac a’Ghoill, Éamonn; “Smaointe agus Scéalta, Scoil Leac Conaill 1900-1969”, (2007), p. 169)


Absentee landlord, Valentine Ryan personally attended the eviction of eight of his tenants on his estate in Downstrands/Inishkeel, permitting the evicted tenants to re-enter as caretakers until new tenants were arranged. He had increased rents by 232%. There was much tension in the area as a result. Evictions were carried out by Mr. Ryan in Lackagh, Lackaweer, Loughfad, Clooney and Clogher. Rents on his estate were settled by arbitration before Mr. Gibson, Q.C. in 1873. (Belfast News Letter, July 2nd; also Belfast Morning News, February 14th, 1881)


Large anti-conscription meetings were held outside Lettermacaward Catholic Church on April 16th and in both Narin and Ardara later in the month when 3,000 people gathered at each. (Donegal News, May 4th)


The Portnoo Dramatic Club presented “The Auction in Killybuck” in the A.O.H. Hall, Kilclooney in aid of church funds. Fr. Boyce, C.C. organised the show. Ms. Nicholson and Leo Stuart added a small concert to the night’s entertainment. (Donegal News, October 31st)


The first tractor (a Massey Ferguson) in the Ardara parish was bought by John McHugh of Clogher. Dr. McLoughlin of Kiltoorish bought a small tractor plough called “The Iron Horse” in 1949. (Shovlin, Conal, “Old Threshing Mill and First Tractor”, Dearcadh 1993; Donegal News, March 19th, 1949)


Brendan Behan and his wife were staying in Portnoo in June. The Donegal People’s Press had recorded them as also staying in the Portnoo Hotel in June 1960. (Donegal News, August 26th, 1961)


A Leatherback Turtle was caught in nets at Rosbeg. It weighed 1130 lbs, a then record for these islands. (Donegal News, September 24th)


The legendary Christy O’Connor Snr. was joint winner with Leonard Owens and Jimmy Purcell of the Narin and Portnoo Pro-Am. (Donegal News, June 23rd)


Teach Pobail Cholmcille Naofa in Fintown was built. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr. Séamus Hegarty on December 8th. It was built in six months and cost £¼million. (Donegal News, December 17th)


The Dolmen Eco-Tourism Centre in Kilclooney Beg was opened by Minister of State at the Dept. of Public Enterprise, Joe Jacob on September 26th. It was the county’s first green energy public building. It drew its energy from solar panels, a wind turbine and a geothermal pump system. (Donegal News, September 29th)



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