Historic Glencolmcille

The history of Glencolmcille spans some 5,000 years, back to the Stone Age when the first farmers toiled the lands here. Traces of these early settlers are the Court Cairns, examples of which can be found at Malinmore, Cloghanmore and Farranmacbride.

The next group of people to leave traces of habitation were those of the Celtic period, dating from 300 b.c. onwards. Traces of their Dúns, Raths or Liosanna ... circular earth or stone works, can be seen above the Silver Strand at Malinbeg and on the cliffs of Doonalt.

Most of the Standing Stones, many of them cross inscribed, form what is know as Turas Cholmcille. The stones had pre-Christian connotations but were adapted to Christian usage. There are fifteen stations or stops in the Turas, which include Colmcille's Chapel, chair bed, wishing stone and Holy Well at Beefan.

There are signs of many other early Christian settlements marked by the ruins of the Church of St Kevin at Malinbeg and that of Teampall na Manach at Kilgoly.

The Church of the Spaniard in Faugher was built in 1729 and the story is told that a shipwrecked Spanish sailor was given the Last Rites by the local priest and that he gave the priest some gold coins and asked him to build a church, hence the name Cill an Spainnigh; another Spanish Church was built in the 18th century just west of Kilcar.

With the coming of Christianity to Ireland from the 5th Century onwards, tradition has it that Columba (521 - 597 a.d.), who was born into a leading Donegal dynasty, played a major part in the development of Christianity in Ireland, Scotland and the north of English, established a monastery here and gave his name to the Glen.

There can still be seen in Gleanncolmcille examples notably in the surviving thatched cottages, with their particular feature of the rounded roof, the thatch being held down by a network of ropes (súgán) spaced over and fastened to pins beneath the eaves and on the gables. Built of local stone and white washed, these buildings harmonise with the landscape.

Examples of industrial and agricultural architecture survive in the byres and out houses and in the remains of lime kilns, mills and forge.

Visitors can re-live the past through the medium of the Folk Museum where there are replicas of buildings used by local people over three centuries. The Folk Museum was founded in 1967 as part of the cultural revival inspired by the late Father James McDyer.

Glencolmcille is a place of colours and sounds and has attracted over the years, painters, writers and composers. In his book "Farewell My Youth" Sir Arnold Bax (b. 1883) Master of the King's Music penned the following lines..... I like to fancy that on my deathbed my last vision of this life will be the scene from the upper window, on the upper floor, at Glencolmcille of the still, brooding, dove grey mystery of the Atlantic at twilight, the last glow of sunset behind Glen Head .... the calm slope of Scraig Beefan, its glittering many coloured surface of rock, bracken and heather, now one uniform purple glow".

"Sir Arnold Bax developed an infatuation with Ireland and began travelling extensively there. He visited the most isolated and secluded places, eventually discovering the little Donegal village Glencolumbkille, to which he returned annually for almost 30 years. Here, he drew inspiration from the landscape and the sea, and from the culture and life of the local Irish peasants – many of whom he regarded as close friends." Bax had already had some of his poems and short stories published in Dublin and to the circle he was simply known by his pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne (the name was possibly inspired by a renowned family of traditional musicians in Donegal). As Dermot O’Byrne, he was specifically noted for Seafoam and Firelight, published in London by the Orpheus Press in 1909 and numerous short stories and poems published in different media in Dublin. For more about Sir Arnold Bax visit Wikipedia.