county lough coast ulster cent land foyle tyrone acres extent
DONEGAL, a maritime county in the extreme north-west of Ireland, in the province of Ulster, bounded on the N. and W. by the Atlantic Ocean, on the E. by Lough Foyle, and the counties of Londonderry and Tyrone, a,nd on the S. by Donegal Bay and the counties of Fermanagh and Leitrim, It covers an area of 187(4 square miles, or 1,197,154 acres, of which 22,880 are under water.
Coast. - The county possesses a large extent of sea-coast indented by numerous inlets. Ballyshannon harbour, the most southern of them, is small, and. has a bar at its mouth, ashave Donegal and Inver harbours farther w-est. Killibegs harbour is well sheltered, and capable of receiving large vessels. On the western coast are Bruckles or M'Swiney's Bay, and Teelin harbour, suitable for small vessels ; and on the north is Sheephaven, within which is Dunfanaghy Bay, where the largest ships may lie in safety, as they may also in Mulroy Bay and Lough Swilly farther east. Lough Foyle, whieh divides Donegal from Londonderry, is a noble sheet of water, but is shallow and dry at ebb tide, contracted at its entrance, and encumbered with shoals. A few miles from Malin Head, the most northerly portion of the main-land of Ireland, the varied and extensive Lough Swilly runs far into the interior. From these two loughs much land has been reclaimed. Numerous islands and rocks stud the coast. The largest island is North Aran, about fifteen miles in circumference, with a lofty hill in its centre, and a gradual declivity down to the sea. On the northern coast are Tory Island, on which is one of those singular round towers marking the holy places of ancient times, and, further east, innistrahul the ultima Thule of Ireland. The inhabitants of the islands obtain a precarious livelihood by fishing, kelp-burning, and rude husbandry, but are often reduced to extreme destitution.
Mountains. - Mountains and irregular groups of high-lands occupy the whole interior of the county, and a. con-siderable portion is bog and moor land. Arrigal mountain attains an elevation of 2462 feet above the level of the sea, and commands from its summit a fine view over a consider-able portion of the country. Bluestack (2213 feet), Muckish mountain (2190 feet) in Kilmacrenan barony, and Slieve Snaght (2019) in Innishowen are, next to Arrigal, the highest mountains. The eastern and southern portions of the county are comparatively level, and contain the most fertile land. Occasionally the scenery attains a character of savage and romantic grandeur in the highland districts and on the sea-coast, and of much beauty in the eastern part of the county ; but a considerable portion of the surface is occupied. bylbogs, and entirely- destitute of timber.
Geology. - The main body of the county rests npon mica slate, which forms the eastern districts and most of the barony of Bannagh. From Sheephaven to Lochrusmore and the north-western coast, granite forms the surface rock, and quartz is very abundant, often forming mountains of considerable elevation. Carboniferous or mountain lime-stone occurs round Donegal Bay. The geological aspect of the county affords many indications of internal wealth, but very few attempts have been made to ascertain the raineral resources of the district. The minerals hitherto dis-covered are lead and iron. Steatite is worked to some extent at Gartan. Manganese, copper pyrites, and clay for potteries and brick-making are also found. Siliceous sand, raised in Muckish Mountain, was formerly conveyed in large quantities to Belfast and Scotland for the manufacture of glass Indications of coal have been observed near Lough Swilly, and at Inver on the southern coast ; and marble of fine quality exists in many places. Among the mountain streams the pearl-mussel (Unio margaritifera) is sometinaes found. There are several mineral springs, the chief of which is the sulphureo-chalybeate water at Killymard near the town of Donegal.
Rivers. --With the exception of the tidal river Foyle, which forms the boundary between this county and Tyrone and Londonderry, the rivers, though numerous, are of inferior size. The branches of the Foyle which rise in Donegal are the Derg, issuing from. Lough Derg, and the Finn, rising in the beautiful little lake of the same name in the highlands, and passing through some of the best cultivated land in the county. The Foyle, augmented by their contributions, and by those of several other branches from Tyrone and Londonderry, proceeds northwards, discharging its waters into the southern extremity of Lough Foyle, at the city of Londonderry. It is navigable for vessels of large burden to this place, and thence by lighters of fifty tons as far as Lifford. Boats of fourteen tons can proceed up the Finn river as far as Castlefiun. The fine river Erne flows from Lough Erne through the southern extremity of the county into the southern extremity of Donegal Bay. Its navigation is prevented by a fall of 12 feet, generally called the Salmon Leap, in the neighbourhood of Ballyshannon, and by rapids between Ballysliannon and Belleek, on the confines of Fermanagh. The Gnibarra, the Awen Ea, and the Eask are the only other streams of any note.
Lakes, or rather tarns, are very numerous in DonegaL The most remarkable, and also the largest, is Lough Derg, comprising within its waters several small islets, on one of which, Station Island, is the cave named Saint Patrick's Purgatory, a celebrated place of resort for pilgrims and devotees. The circuinference of the lake is about nine miles, and the extent of the island to which the pilgrims are ferried over is less than one acre. The landscape around Lough Derg is desolate and sombre in the extreme, barren moors and hea,thy hills surrounding it on all sides.
Agriculture. - The modes of agriculture present little that is peculiar to the county, and the spade still supplies the place of the plough where the rocky nature of the surface prevents the application of the latter implement. The soil of the greater portion of the county, i.e., the granite, quartz, and mica slate districts, is thin and cold, 1,-vhile that on the Carboniferous limestone is warm and friable. Owing to the boggy nature of the soil, agriculture has not made much progress, although in certain districts (Gweedore, for instance) much land has been brought under cultiva-tion, through the enterprise of the proprietors. In 1871 about 43A- per cent. of the land was returned as bog and wa,ste, about 35 per cent. under pasture, and 21 per cent. under tillage. As an indication of the stationary condition of the husbandry of Donegal, it may be stated that the number of acres returned as under crops in 1853 was 236,097, while in 1876 it was 236,015.
The following statistics will show the details of the agricultural acreage and the numbers of live stock in recent years : - Wheat and barley are quite an inconsiderable crop, and in this as well as in other respects Donegal is much behind the rest of Ulster in the extent of its crops. It bears, how-ever, a more favourable comparison as regards its live stock, possessing, as it does, the larg,est number of cattle and sheep of any county in the province, and after Cavan the largest number of poultry.
As regards the division of the Iand, according to the Return of 1876, the county was held in 1874 by 2174 sepa-rate owners, whose estates amounted in the aggregate to 1,172,526 acres, valued at X340,632. There were 1171 pro-prietors of less than 1 acre of ground, forming a proportion of 54 per cent. of the total proprietors, - that of all Ulster being 48 per cent. The average size of the properties was 539 acres, and the value per acre, 5s. 9d., .while the averages for Ulster were respectively 2391 acres and 15s. 81-d. Sixteen proprietors owned more than 15,000 acres each, and to-gether an aggregate equal to about 45 per cent. of the whole land. They were the following : - Marquis of Conyngharn, 122,300 acres ; Earl of Leitrim, 5-1,352 ; 11. G. Murray Stewart, 50,818 ; W. H. Style (Glemnore), 39,564 ; A. J. R. Stewart (Castlemore), 39,306 ; Jolm Leslie, 28,827'; George Harvey, 25,593 ; Lord G. A. Hill, 24,189; Messrs Musgrave, 23,673 ; Sir Samuel H. Hayes, Bart., 22,825 ; Thomas Connolly, 22,736 ; Church Tempo-ralities Commission, 21,489 ; Wybrants Olphert (Bally-connel), 18,133 ; J. G. Adair (Glenveagh), 16,308 ; Duke of Abereorn, 15,942 ; T. Y. Brooke (Lough Esk), 15,134.
Manufactures. - In Donegal, as in other counties of Ulster, the linen manufacture affords employment to a number of the inhabitants, especially at Raphoe, while the mannfacture of woollen stockings and worked muslin is carried on pretty extensively. The trade in these manufac-tures and in the domestic produce of the county finds its principal outlets through the port of Derry and the inland town of Strabane, county Tyrone.
Fisheries. - The deep sea fisheries are important. They comprise the three districts of Killybegs, Dunfanagliy, and Carndonagh - the last-named including a small part of the Derry coast - and extend to 395 miles of maritime boundary. In 1875 there were 777 boats registered in the fisheries, manned by 3053 men and boys. The salmon fishery is also prosecuted to a considerable extent, the principal seats of the trade being at Ballyshannon and Letterkenny.
Administration, 4.c: - The county is divided into the six baronies of Innishowen, Kilmacrenan, Boylagh, Eaphoe, Bannagh, and Tyrhugh, and into 51 parishes. It contains seven poor Iaw unions, and ecclesiastically it belongs for the most part to the diocese of Raphoe. It is included in the military district of Belfast, and the assizes are held at Lifford on the borders of Tyrone. The population lias decreased within the last 20 years at a greater ratio than the rest of Ulster, and emigration has drawn off a greater proportion of the people than in other parts of the province. For the 24 years ending in 1875 the rate of emigration has averaged 2908 per annum. By the census of 1851 Donegal contained 255,158 persons, in 1861, 237,390, and iu 1871, 218,334, of whom 106,080 were males andl 1 2,254 females - thus showing a decrease within these 20 years of 1-q, per cent. In 1875 the population was estimated at 208,607.
After Cavan, Donegal is the most Catholic county in Ulster. In 1871, 75 per cent. of the inhabitants belonged to that persuasion, while 121- per cent. were Episcopalians and 10i per cent. Presbyterians. Education in the same year was conducted in 7 superior and 407 primary schools. There were, however, 93,285 persons above five years of age who were returned as illiterate, and 18,629 who could speak Erse only. The Donegal dialect is said to be the purest of the Irish language.
This county returned no fewer than twelve members to the Irish parliament, - two for the county at large, and two for each of the insignificant boroughs of Ballyshannon, Donegal, Killybegs, Lifford, and Johnstown. Since the union with Great Britain, it has been represented in the imperial parliament by- two county members only.
Toums. - The towns are small in extent and importance Lifford, the county town (population 660), and formerly a parliamentary borough, is practically a suburb of Strabane, in the neighbouring county of Tyrone. Ballyshannon (population 2958) is the most populou.s and important town in the county. It stands on both sides of the river Erne, but does not derive much advantage from its favour-able situation in consequence of the fall of the river, usually called the Salmon Leap, above the town, and the bar at the mouth of the harbour. Letterkenny at the head of Lough Swilly, with 2116 inhabitants, is, next to Bally shannon, the largest town in the county. Donegal (popu-lation 1422), is situated at the foot of a. range of hills in the midst of scenery of great natural beauty, with a mineral spa in the neighbourhood, and sea-bathing close to the town.
History. - The greater part of Donegal was aneiently called Tir-eonaill, or the country of Conan ; and it was sometimes called O'Donnell's country, after the head chieftains of the distria. The other chieftains of note were the O'Doghertys, MacSweeneys, O'Boyles, O'Gallaghers, O'Corinleys, O'Breslins, &e. Tyreonnell is connected with some of the earliest events recorded in Irish history or tradition. The chief castle of the O'Donnells, who be-came princes of Tyreonnell in the 12th century, was at Donegal, and the place of their inaug,uration the rock of Donne in Rilma-erenan. The celebrated Red Hugh O'Donnell, one of the most distinguished chieftains of the race, in conjunction with the Earl of Tyrone, became a formidable opponent to the Government of Queen Elizabeth ; but being ultimately defeated, he sailed to Spain to solieit fresh succours, WaS there seized with fever, and died at Valladoltd. Rory O'Donnell, who was promoted to the chieftainship by the English Government, and created Earl of Tyreonnel, a title now extinct, became afterwards disaffected to the Government and fled to Rome, where he died in-exile, his estates having been pre-viously confiscated by James I. In 1608, Sir Cabir O'Dog,herty, lord of Innishowen, deceived by hopes of aid from Spain, raised an insurrection against the English Government in Ulster. He burnt Londonderry and maintained his ground. for a short period: but the Lord-Deputy Chichester having offered a reward for his head, he retired to the wilds of Kilmacrenan, and was shot by a Scotch settler in his encampment on the rock of Donne. His extensive estates were confiscated and transferred to Chichester, the ancestor of the earls and marquises of Donegall. Shortly afterwards, the colonization of Ulster with English and Scotch undertakers and settlers, in pursuance of the scheme of James I., was partially carried mit, and the baronies of Boylagh and Bannagh were allotted to'lohn Murray ; Sir James Cunningham,.Sir John Stewart, and others, received the district of Portlough ; the London Grocers' Company obtained Muff in Innishowen ; Sir Roger Bingley, Sir John Kingsmill, and othn English settlers the district round Lifford ; Sir William Stewart, Sir John Kingsmill, Sir George Macburie, Captain Hart, Sir M. M'Swine, Turlogh Roe O'Boyle, MacSwine Bannagh, MacSwine Fannet, and other servitors and natives the district of Kilmaerenan. Since the period of the settle-ment of Ulster, no forfeitures have taken place in this county. The landholders remained loyal in the rebellion of 1641, and also during the war of the Revolution.
This district was formed into the county of Donegal in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in 1585, by the Lord-Deputy Sir John Ferrott.
Antiquities. - The most noteworthy architectural remains of antiquity in the county are to be found at the head of Lough Swilly, where, situated on the summit of a hill 802 feet high, some remark-able remains exist of a fortress or palace of the Northern Irish kings. 'Phese are known as the Grianan of Aileach, and evidently date from a period prior to the 12th century. On Tory island there is one of the best specimens of a round tower and some other interest-ing remains.
Numerous ruins of ancient castles along the coast prove that inuch attention was formerly paid to the defence of the country from invasion. The principal are - Kilbarron Castle, an ancient stronghold of the O'Clerys, near Ballyshannon ; Donegal Castle, built by the O'Donnells, anciently their chief residence, and now a fine ruin standing close to the water's edge ; Burt Castle, built in the reign of Henry VIII. on the shores of Lough Swilly by Sir Caliir O'Doglierty, to whom is also attributed the erection of Green Castle, one of the strongholds of the clan on Lough Foyle.
Near the Castle of Doe, or M'Swiney's Castle, at Horn Head, is a natural perforation in the roof of a cave, called M'Swiney's Gun formed by the workings of the ocean into the o'verhanging When the wind blows due north, and the tide is at half flood, the gun is seen to spout up jets of water to a height of 100 feet, attended with explosions heard occasionally in favourable weather at an immense distance. Gulmore Fort, on the coast of Lough Swilly, supposed to have been erected. by the O'Doghertys, having come into the possession of the crown, was granted in 1609 to the corporation of London. It was afterwards enlarged or rebuilt, and acted a pro-minent part in the celebrated siege of Derry.
Traces of religious houses, some existing only in traditionary or documental records, are also numerous. Ashroe Abbey, on a small stream near Ballyshannon, was of great extent. The ruins of that of Donegal, founded in 1474, also afford proofs of its ancient grandeur. It was there that the celebrated collection of ancient Irish annals were written, known by the name of the Annals of the Four Masters, and sometimes called the Annals of Donegal, com-piled in the year 1632, by Michael O'Clery and his coadjutors.