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Maghery – History and Heritage

The closure of this sea due to continental plate movement and the subsequent crashing together of the plates thrust these rocks high up to create large mountains. The granites were created during this process about 420 million years ago. The ice age carved the present landscape that we see today.

Human settlement in the area began in the Neolithic period over five thousand years ago. In medieval times Maghery (sandy plain) was glebe land which belonged to the church and the local priest would have been entitled to receive his living from people farming on the land. Maghery Glebe also consisted of the townland of Meenderryaherk which is approximately 13km from Maghery up in the hills. This would have been used for ‘booleying’ which was bringing cattle up to the hills for summer grazing pastures. As late as the 1830’s Meenderryaherk was considered part of Maghery.

Termon (place of sanctuary) was owned by the Bishop of Raphoe and included the townlands of Meenlecknalore and Tangevane.

This land was looked after by the Duffy family who were the hereditary keepers of the Bishop’s land. The Bishop would have been entitled to rent and accommodation if he was in the area. After the plantation in the early 1600’s the lands of Maghery passed to the Protestant Rector and the lands of Termon passed to the new Protestant Bishop of Raphoe.

Prehistoric Monuments

Roshine South Portal Tomb

The Neolithic tomb in Roshine South dates from about 5000 years ago. It is the oldest archaeological monument in the area and is a reminder of the first farming community that settled in the area. Portal tombs are more commonly known as a dolmen. Although the monument is now in a poor state of preservation, a painting of the tomb done in 1799 by Rev.

James Turner shows it much more intact and the capstone in place. The Maghery stone axe is from the same period as the tomb and was found by James Glackin a number of years ago. It is made from a type of rock called porcellanite that originated from the northeast of Ireland. It is now in the possession of the National Museum.

Termon Stone Circle

Although known to locals for many years as the Rath Liath (grey fort) the stone circle was only surveyed for the first time by archaeologists in 2008 and is still under investigation. It is approximately 20 meters in diameter and consists of low granite boulders.

Stone circles are extremely rare in Donegal and there are no recorded monuments of this type anywhere in the west of the county. Stone circles date from the early Bronze age (c.2300 – 1500BC). Another possible smaller stone circle lies slightly to the north east, although there is some debate to whether this could be the remains of a medieval house.

Lough Aghnish Promontory Fort

The Lough Aghnish promontory fort dates from the Iron Age(c.500BC – 432AD). The defensive walls that comprise this monument are usually found on sea promontories but Lough Aghnish fort is located on a lake.

Medieval Monuments

The Crannóg

Known locally as ‘the Crannóg’ the proper classification for this monument is an Island Cashel. Like the stone circles in Termon this was not officially classified as an archaeological monument until 2008. The crannog probably dates from the early Medieval period (400 – 1200AD). Its purpose would have been defensive, probably a place for retreat for people and cattle during times of trouble.

Templecrone Church

Built on the site of the ancient monastic site of St. Crone, the ruins of Templecrone date to around 1200AD. St. Crone is thought to have lived in the sixth or seventh century and she belonged to the royal dynasty of the Uí Neill. The parish of Templecrone and an island on which she spent part of the year (Oileán Cróine) are named after her. A ‘Turas’ or pilgrimage in her honour is held here annually on the 7th of July. The east window in the chancel of the church is a good example of Transitional architecture when means that it is from that period of time when architecture was changing from the round arch of the Romanesque to the pointed arch of Gothic architecture.

The Church was catholic until the plantation when it was converted for protestant use in 1609. It was used until around 1760 when the protestant church in Dungloe was built. The graveyard was used by both denominations and it was used as the burial place for the people of the islands who would take their dead in on curraghs to a small harbour at the bottom of Termon called Port na Marbh which means the ‘Port of the Dead’. Great care is needed in the graveyard as the majority of gravestones are made of thin slate and are very easily damaged and it is also situated on private land. Visits should be limited to organised tours that are held occasionally. Enquire at the Ionad An Mhachaire for further details.

18th-20th Century

The Glebe House

The Glebe house was the residence of the protestant minister of the parish of Templecrone. The present building dates from 1880 and replaced an earlier structure built in 1759.  Valentine Pole Griffith was curate here during the famine, during which he worked heroically on behalf of the poor. Born in what is now Laoise in 1808, Griffith arrived in the Rosses in 1839. Admired by all the community, when famine struck in 1845 he wasted no time in trying to help the poor. He set up public works in Maghery, would attend meetings all over the Rosses and write to anyone who he thought could help.

Another Rector who lived here in the 1860/70s was Alexander Delap. Delap is also remembered for his work with the poor. He was a very learned man and made detailed recordings of the climate here. As he could only afford to educate his son, he taught his daughters himself.

The family then moved to Valentia Island in Kerry and are still highly thought of there. His daughter Maude Delap was born in this house in 1867 and is one of the most famous early marine biologists in the world. Although she never received any formal education she made many important discoveries and observations and has a sea anemone named after her. She also has a prestigious international award for exceptional female scientists established in her honour. When the Delap family left Maghery they took a local boy called John Dudgeon with them who stayed with them for the rest of his life and is buried with them in Valentia Island. The house remained a glebe house until 1922 when the Church of Ireland parishes of Templecrone and Gweedore were united as one parish.

Termon House and the Famine Walls

Termon house was built in the early part of the nineteenth century by a Jamaican born man named Ralph Spence Philips. In the spring of 1822 because of extremely wet weather all the potatoes in the area rotted in the clamps and a terrible famine ensued. Although Philips had no tenants, he provided a public works program for the people in the area.

The extensive system of tall walls built during this famine around his land is a testament to these hungry builders as they have withstood over 190 years of Atlantic storms. The Public Works Committee in Dublin Castle rejected Philips application for reimbursement, and this meant a personal loss to him of £1500.
Today, Termon House is leased by the Irish Landmark Trust and is available for holiday rental.

World War II Look Out Post and Eire Sign

Built in the winter of 1939/40, this Look Out Post (LOP) was one of eighty-three LOPs built around the coast of Ireland to observe ship and airplane movements in the Atlantic. This one was known as Crohy Head LOP 74. These buildings are all identical and were made from 137 pre-cast blocks that were transported to each location and erected. Telephone lines were added later so the members of the coast watching crew could report quickly to a centralised authority. On the headland below the LOP, the word EIRE was written on the ground in large letters to allow pilots to identify that they were flying over Ireland.

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This project is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development and Pobal through the Community Services Programme